http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgCherokee Nation employees walk in support of Indian Child Welfare in May. With about 120 employees, ensuring the safety of Cherokee children is ICW’s primary job and has procedures in place to act quickly once a referral is received about a child possibly in danger in a home. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation employees walk in support of Indian Child Welfare in May. With about 120 employees, ensuring the safety of Cherokee children is ICW’s primary job and has procedures in place to act quickly once a referral is received about a child possibly in danger in a home. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Indian Child Welfare prioritizes tribal families, children

Charla Miller
Charla Miller
08/07/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – For the Cherokee Nation’s Indian Child Welfare, ensuring children’s safety is its essential job component. And to do that, ICW has about 120 employees at five locations who follow specific protocols.

Charla Miller, ICW program manager and Child Protective Services intake, said ICW acts quickly once a call is received regarding a possibly endangered Cherokee child.

Miller, a CPS intake for 16 years, said although ICW receives the same guidelines as state child agencies, it approaches situations differently.

“We are Native people working with Native children and families. We understand, and we try to, as best as we can, honor their culture and traditions while maintaining the safety of children. Sometimes you don’t receive that on the state side,” she said.

ICW receives referrals from throughout the United States, but most are from the 14 counties in the tribe’s jurisdiction, she said.

“We treat all of our referrals as an emergency. We don’t delay going out or initiating them. At the beginning it is just an allegation, but we still treat each case quickly,” Miller said. “From the onset of when we do an investigation to determine if the child is safe or not happens within a day.”

Once a call is received and a child is in known danger, an ICW investigator is assigned and begins making contact with the child. After contact, the investigator interviews the child and the family. Miller said the investigators ask questions to determine every child’s safety and have to make quick determinations about a child’s safety because ICW will not speculate about a child’s safety.

“We do make efforts to prevent removal because...removal is not part of our goal,” she said.

Although the process is fast, ICW undergoes many checks and balances to provide approval for removal from the home. Once a worker calls Miller, she consults with the ICW executive director to decide if it is an emergency situation.

“If the executive director does approve, we go to the next level of approval, which is the (CN) attorney general’s office. If approval is given, we contact our tribal court judge and ask for removal,” she said.

During the first 48 hours, ICW staff members work without leaving the scene and work through checks and balances to be certain the case is on the right track. Miller said during this time ICW is investigating, looking for placement, purchasing items needed by the child and scheduling parental visits.

“It is almost five days of little sleep, no lunch and no breaks. It is just full on. We are hands on with our children by being back in the home or placement within three days,” she said “Our ultimate goal is always reunification. We transport our parents back and forth to court if we need to.”

ICW has cases assigned to four investigators who cover the tribe’s jurisdiction. Assignments may include covering Claremore Indian Hospital, W.W. Hastings Hospital, health care clinics on tribal land, Cherokee Heights in Pryor, the Birdtail Housing Addition in Tahlequah and individual allotment lands under ICW responsibility.

Miller said being familiar with tribal land ensures that referrals aren’t going unnoticed. “We have to look at an address and say, ‘I think I know where that area is at and it could be tribal land.’ We constantly are verifying to make sure we aren’t missing referrals that come through.”

Because it doesn’t have the high numbers of cases like the state’s Department of Human Services, ICW can focus on the problem’s source and try to fix it for each family. Miller said ICW always has the best interest of Cherokee families in mind.

“We aren’t just running in and running out trying to make a fix. We truly try to get to the bottom of what is happening. Nobody knows our families better than we do because we are their tribe,” Miller said. “Nobody can have more care and concern about how our children are raised than us.”

As of publication, nearly 80 children were in ICW care with most being in 45 foster homes. Each year, ICW works on roughly 1,400 cases. For more information about CN ICW, visit


01/17/2018 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s Seed Bank is set to go live for online orders on Feb. 1. The Heirloom Garden and Native Plant Site produces enough seeds to disperse around 2,000 to 5,000 seed packets per year, depending on growing conditions. “We’re actually in two years of what I would considered fairly poor growing conditions. It hasn’t been catastrophic, but it wasn’t the best. We’re going to say just a little bit above average. It takes some really bad stuff for us to not be able to make a product for folks,” Environmental Resources Senior Director Pat Gwin said. He said the growing season is dependent on 4-inch soil temperatures. The ideal temperature for most plants to grow in is 65 degrees to 70 degrees. “Last year, unfortunately that didn’t happen until June 1. We’ve actually put some things in the ground prior to that and it was just a disaster,” he said. A planting guide comes with each seed order that contains information such as when to plant, soil temperatures, amount of sun exposure and germination. The Seed Bank generally offers around 20 to 30 variations of seeds per year. However, in the Seed Bank proper there are more than 100 varieties of plants growing. Gwin said this is because some plants are not flowering every year. He said crops such as corn, tobaccos, and gourds are “fairly simple” to grow and are not weather dependent unlike native heirloom plants. “The native plants are just as much, or even a little bit more so, a part of the Cherokee culture than are the crops. The native plants are harder to deal with because most of the native plants, about 99 percent of the plants that we have over there, that’s not where they want to be. A lot of very important cultural Cherokee plants are grown in an understory, wetland-cool-type environment. We’re out in the middle of a field over there so it’s pretty tough,” Gwin said. The Heirloom Garden was started in 2006 and produces native plants and crops important in Cherokee culture. The Cherokee Language Program ensures that the Cherokee names of the plants and crops are not lost. Most of the plants and crops are found around the CN and North Carolina. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has shared many native plants with the CN. To create an account and order seed packets, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. Follow the instructions to order. Seeds are only available to CN, United Keetoowah Band and EBCI citizens. For more information or to submit questions, email or call 918-453-5336. <strong>Seeds Available in 2018</strong> <strong>Heirloom Crops</strong> <strong>Corn (Zea mays):</strong> Cherokee Flour – a large flour corn Colored (multi-colored) White Yellow Cherokee White Eagle – a dent corn <strong>Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris)</strong> Cherokee Long Greasy Trail of Tears (a small jet black bean) Turkey Gizzard Black Brown <strong>Squash (Cucurbita maxima)</strong> Georgia Candy Roaster (a long storing squash that can be prepared as squash, sweet potatoes or pumpkin) <strong>Gourds (Lagenaria siceraria)</strong> Basket Dipper Jewel Buffalo Gourds (Cucurbita foetidissima) <strong>Trail of Tears Beans</strong> Indian Corn Beans (Coix lacrima) <strong>Tobacco</strong> Native Tobacco (Nicotiana rustica) – ceremonial tobacco, not smoking tobacco and restricted to those at least 18 years of age <strong>Native Plants</strong> Buttonbush Cutleaf Coneflower Hearts-a-bustin Jewelweed New Jersey Tea Possum Grape Purple Coneflower Rattlesnake Master Rivercane Sunchoke Wild Senna
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
12/29/2017 01:30 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation Businesses in November donated $10,000 to the Cherokee Phoenix’s Elder/Veteran Fund, which provides free subscriptions of its monthly newspaper to elders who are Cherokee Nation citizens. “The Elder/Veteran Fund was put into place to provide free subscriptions to our Cherokee elders and veterans,” Executive Editor Brandon Scott said. “Some of our elders and vets are on a very limited budget, and other items have a priority over buying a newspaper subscription. The donations we receive have a real world impact on our elders and vets, so every dollar donated to the Elder/Veteran Fund is significant.” Using the Cherokee Phoenix fund, elders who are 65 and older as well as any Cherokee veteran can apply to receive a free one-year subscription by visiting, calling or writing the Cherokee Phoenix office and requesting a subscription. The Cherokee Phoenix office is located in the Annex Building on the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex. The postal address is Cherokee Phoenix, P.O. Box 948, Tahlequah, OK 74465. To call about the fund, call 918-207-4975 or 918-453-5269 or email <a href="mailto:"></a> or <a href="mailto:"></a>. Subscription rates are $10 for one year, $18 for two years and $26 for three years. The Cherokee Phoenix also has a free website,, that posts news seven days a week about the Cherokee government, people, history and events of interest. The monthly newspaper is also posted in PDF format to the website at the beginning of each month. No income guidelines have been specified for the Cherokee Phoenix Elder/Veteran Fund, and free subscriptions will be given as long as funds last. Tax-deductible donations for the fund can also be sent to the Cherokee Phoenix by check or money order specifying the donation for the Cherokee Phoenix Elder/Veteran Fund. Cash is also accepted at the Cherokee Phoenix offices and local events where Cherokee Phoenix staff members are accepting Elder/Veteran Fund donations. Those who donate can also have entries submitted for them into the Cherokee Phoenix’s quarterly artist giveaway. For every $10 donated or spent on Cherokee Phoenix merchandise, a person gets one entry into the quarterly drawing. The next drawing is Jan. 2 when it gives away handcrafted wooden art by Cherokee artist Jay Cox of Notchietown Hardwoods.
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
12/27/2017 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Since 1977, the Cherokee Nation Women, Infants and Children Program has assisted more than 6,700 Native and non-Native American individuals each month with food, wellness and health services. “Cherokee Nation WIC is unique in that we are located and operate within our health clinics and hospital operations and offer a more one-stop-shopping to health care,” CN WIC Director Brenda Carter said. The federally funded program began in 1974 and extended to CN clinics and hospitals in 1977 to help pregnant and nursing women, as well as infants and children from birth to 5 years old living in the tribe’s jurisdiction. It seeks to improve the well-being of mothers, infants and children by helping predict future and public health challenges for families, communities and the health care system. “Studies have shown that the WIC Program is effective in protecting or improving the health and nutrition status of low-income women, infants and children,” Carter said. Enrollment in WIC has led to “fewer premature births and low-birth weight infants, fetal deaths, and infant mortality,” as well as a decreased incidence of iron deficiency in children, Carter said. Nutrition education is one of the program’s main services. Eligible families receive an Electronic Benefits Transfer card, or eWIC, to shop for healthy foods at authorized grocery stores, and it allows them to complete nutrition counseling. “Nutrition education is offered primarily through one-on-one nutrition counseling,” Carter said. “WIC nutrition education is participant-centered, designed to meet the needs of each participant. Through WIC nutrition education, families can learn to make healthy food and lifestyle choices.” Nutrition counseling discusses topics such as best feeding practices for children and how women can eat healthy during pregnancy. WIC also assists new and expecting mothers by promoting and providing breastfeeding support. Whether through education or giving free breast pumps to eligible participants, Carter said all WIC employees undergo breastfeeding training and “have a role” to play. Additionally, WIC can assist women and children through its ability to make referrals. “Partnerships with other public health and social services programs are a key to WIC’s success,” Carter said. “WIC encourages all participants to receive complete health care and does make participant referrals to health care services…” For individuals who identify as Native American, public health service referrals can be made in areas such as drug and alcohol counseling, smoking cessation counseling, behavioral health, family planning, immunizations and general medical care. Referrals to social services programs can also be given regardless of Native American descent to programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SoonerCare, emergency shelters, housing assistance, food banks and domestic violence programs. “Cherokee Nation WIC also works within the communities to offer our non-Indian participants with referrals to health and social services programs available in local areas,” Carter said. For more information, call 918-453-5000, ext. 5589 or visit any WIC clinic. Individuals interested in applying will need an appointment to determine nutritional risk and must provide an address, proof of identification and income statements. <a href="" target="_blank">Click here to read</a>the WIC Income Eligibility Guidelines. <strong>Cherokee Nation WIC eligibility criteria</strong> 1. To be categorically eligible, a WIC applicant must be a/an: • Women who are pregnant (through pregnancy and up to 6 weeks after birth or pregnancy ends), • Breastfeeding woman with an infant under the age of 12 months, • Non-breastfeeding woman up to 6 months postpartum, • Infant under 12 months of age, or • Child 1 to 5 years of age. 2. Meet the CN WIC Program’s residency requirements. 3. Have an income that is at or below the WIC income guidelines. 4. Meet identification requirements. 5. Be physically present at the eligibility screening appointment or meet one of the exceptions. 6. Have a nutrition risk – a health condition or diet problem that can be helped with nutritious WIC foods and nutrition education. <strong>Cherokee Nation WIC locations</strong> Claremore Indian Hospital 101 S. Moore Ave. Claremore, Oklahoma Cherokee Nation W.W. Hastings Hospital 100 S. Bliss Tahlequah, Oklahoma Sam Hider Health Center 859 E. Melton Drive Jay, Oklahoma A-MO Salina Health Center 900 Owen Walters Blvd. Salina, Oklahoma Redbird Smith Health Center 301 S. J.T. Stites Ave. Sallisaw, Oklahoma Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center Hwy 51 East Stilwell, Oklahoma Indian Health Care Resource Center 550 S. Peoria Ave. Tulsa, Oklahoma Will Rogers Health Center 1020 Lenape Drive Nowata, Oklahoma Three Rivers Health Center 1001 S. 41st St. East Muskogee, Oklahoma Westville WIC Office Bushyhead Heights Community Building Westville, Oklahoma Cherokee Nation Vinita Health Center 27371 S. 4410 Road Vinita, Oklahoma Kansas WIC Office 211 N. Hwy 10 Kansas, Oklahoma
12/14/2017 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation will accept College Housing Assistance Program applications for the spring 2018 semester starting Jan. 2. The CHAP will provide up to $1,000 per semester for housing costs up to 125 students. Eligible applicants must be a citizen of a federally recognized tribe and reside within the Cherokee Nation. Applications will be accepted through Jan. 12. Applicants must also meet Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act income guidelines as well as other eligibility requirements, according to the CHAP policy. Priority will be given to CN citizens and students who were served on the program the previous semester. The CHAP is a NAHASDA-funded program designed to assist low-income CN citizens and other Native American students in securing safe and affordable housing while seeking a first-time bachelor’s degree and maintaining full-time student status at an accredited institute of higher education. For more information, call 918-456-5482.
12/06/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Experience the first Cherokee Christmas through a holiday exhibit at the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum. Cherokee Christmas shares the story of how Moravian missionaries brought holiday celebrations to the Cherokee people in 1805. The exhibit features information about how traditions began and displays decorations similar to what was used at the Vann’s Georgia home during the first Cherokee Christmas. The Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum is at 122 E. Keetoowah St. It is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Originally built in 1844, it is Oklahoma’s oldest public building. The 1,950-square-foot museum features exhibits in three historic aspects: the Cherokee national judicial system, the Cherokee Advocate and Cherokee Phoenix newspapers and the Cherokee language, with historical items, including photos, stories, objects and furniture. For information call 1-877-779-6977 or visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
12/04/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation issued its 100,000th photo identification citizenship card on Nov. 29 to Terry Shook, 58, of Siloam Springs, Arkansas, who expects to use it for traveling and tribal services. “I’m a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service in Springdale and took a vacation day – one of the few I ever get to take during the holidays – to come over and get a photo ID,” Shook said. The tribe’s Registration Department began issuing photo IDs in 2012. Department officials have traveled to various and Washington, D.C., to issue the cards to at-large citizens. “We’ve issued a Cherokee Nation photo identification card to almost one-third of our 350,000-plus tribal citizens, and that is a significant achievement,” Chief S. Joe Crittenden said. “Over the past five years, the tribe’s Registration Department has traveled to 11 states and Washington, D.C., so our at-large citizens also have the opportunity to receive a photo ID. They are not only useful for traditional photo ID needs such as traveling, but have also proven effective when used for tribal services. Having a Cherokee Nation photo ID is a source of pride for our people, and I would encourage all citizens to check into getting one at their earliest convenience.” The tribe’s upgraded photo ID citizenship cards are similar in appearance to a driver’s license and feature the citizen’s CN registration number, photo and signature along with the official registrar and principal chief’s signatures and a CN hologram seal for validation. Citizens can opt for their official Bureau of Indian Affairs Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood on the card’s back. Photo IDs are free, but a replacement ID is $5. To upgrade to a photo ID “blue card,” visit the Registration Department from 8:15 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday in the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex at 17675 S. Muskogee Ave. Children 18 and under can also get a photo ID card but must have a parent or legal guardian present. For more information, call 918-456-6980 or 1-800-256-0671, or email <a href="mailto:"></a>.