A cultural classroom displaying colors, shapes and animals in the Cherokee language is part of the Cherokee Children’s Cultural Connection or 4C program, one of two new programs the Cherokee Nation’s Indian Child Welfare created after getting two federal grants. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation ICW serves children with new programs
The Cherokee Children’s Cultural Connection or 4C program has computer stations equipped with Skype webcams for Indian Child Welfare children to have video conversations with Cherokee National Treasures if they cannot meet in person. Pairing children with Cherokee National Treasures is part of 4C’s art therapy curriculum. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – With two new programs, the Cherokee Nation’s Indian Child Welfare is expanding its efforts to assist children and reunite Cherokee families.
“What the law requires for an Indian child through the Indian Child Welfare Act is active efforts in order to try and reunite a family,” ICW Executive Director Nikki Baker Limore said. “I tell my workers, ‘we’re going to go to extreme efforts. We’re going to go as far as we can to provide these parents opportunity to reunite with these children.’”
The desire to go above and beyond led ICW officials to apply for two Victims of Crime Act of 1984 grants. The first was approved in September 2016 and used to create the Cherokee Children’s Cultural Connection program, or 4C. In April it began accepting children ages 4 to 18, giving them an educational and cultural foundation to build upon while in foster care and later in life.
Activities include canine and equine therapy, as well as time in a cultural classroom where children complete activities that teach them Cherokee colors, numbers and history.
“What I do is instill Cherokee culture and history into the children that come into our care,” Ruth Shade, ICW parenting paraprofessional, said. “They may not know anything at all, or some that do, they might not know they’re already living it.”
4C has also partnered with The Spider Gallery to provide children art therapy. For children wanting to learn a specific medium, such as bow making or basket weaving, 4C officials will put them in touch with a Cherokee National Treasure to get expert knowledge either in person or via Skype. The program has slow, fast and medium tracks depending on how long ICW workers think the case might take.
“When our children come into our care, sometimes we can really work their case plan, and if they’re only with us a certain amount of time we put them in our classroom and with our horses in equine, and they can do an eight-week course,” Shade said. “If some of our kids stay with us until they actually age out, we can work with them. We can structure the curriculum and therapy around that.”
The second grant created the Safe Babies program, which will begin accepting children from 0 to 3 years old in October.
“We wrote a grant called Safe Babies, and what it does it tries to go over and above to get those parents active in those babies lives because what recent statistics and data will tell you is children zero to 3 (years) do suffer trauma when they’re removed,” Limore said. “They’ve figured out it does just as much damage to small babies as it does to the older children who are able to explain it to you.”
ICW has created an apartment-type setup across the street from its offices with hopes that parents will spend more time with their children and increase the likelihood of reunification.
“Our goal is to have those parents come in and instead of just getting to see their children an hour or two a week, we want them to come in keep them all day while a worker sits right outside the hall,” Limore said. “We’ll help teach them how to care for that child if they’re a new parent, but we hope that instills better bonding and in turn, because they’re better bonded with the child, maybe they’ll work harder on fixing the issues that they have and then the child will thrive.”
Limore said while ICW children receive counseling, most do not get “concentrated services” to help cope with being taken from their homes and hopes the programs will fill the void.
“Through all of our teachings we just hope we instill in them what it is to be Cherokee so they become a stronger person, so they can overcome the trauma they’ve endured,” she said.
For more information, visit www.cherokeekids.org
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Phoenix is now taking names of elders and military veterans to provide free subscriptions of its monthly newspaper.
In November, Cherokee Nation Businesses donated $10,000 to the Cherokee Phoenix’s Elder/Veteran Fund. The fund provides free subscriptions of its monthly newspaper to elders 65 and older and military veterans who are Cherokee Nation citizens. Subscription rates are $10 for one year.
“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 veterans 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 veterans, so every dollar donated to the Elder Fund is significant.”
Using the Elder/Veteran Fund, elders who are 65 and older as well as veterans 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 email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
The Cherokee Phoenix also has a free website, <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org" target="_blank">www.cherokeephoenix.org</a>, 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.
TAHLEQUAH — Cherokee Nation citizen and licensed practical nurse Dora Luna is receiving national recognition for her successes in the health care field after participating in the CN Career Services’ employment and training programs.
The National Indian and Native American Employment and Training Conference chose Luna, of Claremore, as this year’s Outstanding Participant. Only one candidate from across the U.S. is chosen for the award annually.
Luna first sought assistance from Career Services in 2015 when, as a single parent with three children, she found herself struggling to support her family and seeking a new career path. With Career Services’ help, Luna received a grant for dislocated workers and enrolled at Northeast Technology Center in Pryor, where she became a certified nurse aide in 2015.
“I’d always wanted to get into the health care field or, more specifically, become a registered nurse, with the end dream job being working for my tribe within a hospital or clinic,” Luna said. “It has been a long journey, and I could not have accomplished it without the help of Cherokee Nation.”
When Luna was accepted into Northeast Technology Center’s Practical Nursing Program in 2016, the Career Services’ vocational training program helped cover the costs. She found a health care job in the Pryor area, and in March, earned her LPN license. She is now continuing her education and plans to become a registered nurse.
“The vocational training program continues to be extremely beneficial for clients who are engaging their chosen career paths,” Career Services Executive Director Diane Kelley said. “Through the vocational training program, participants have an opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills and attributes they will need in the workforce through classroom training and hands-on experience. Dora’s recognition by the National Indian and Native American Employment and Training Conference is proof that the tribe’s employment and training programs are a great benefit to Cherokee citizens.”
Luna was expected to be honored by the NINAETC on April 11 in Louisiana.
The National Indian and Native American Employment and Training Conference was established in 1979 and is the largest and most representative national employment and training association for Native Americans.
Career Services department develops and encourages tribal citizens to achieve and maintain work habits and skills that promote employability and self-sufficiency through education, training, rehabilitation and support services. For more information, call 918-453-5555 or log on to <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/Services/Career/Office-Locations" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org/Services/Career/Office-Locations</a> for a list of Career Services offices.
AUSTIN, TEXAS – For more than a year, many Native Americans affected by dating and domestic violence have turned to the StrongHearts Native Helpline for support and referral services in pursuit of freedom from abuse.
“It seems like the year has gone by so quickly, and it’s just really rewarding to be able to offer a service that so many people need,” said Lori Jump, StrongHearts assistant director. “I think we’re fortunate to have the support of so many tribes and advocates across the country.”
By calling 1-844-7NATIVE (1-844-762-8483) callers affected by intimate partner violence can be connected with a StrongHearts advocate trained to provide confidential, culturally appropriate advocacy and referral tools at no cost.
The helpline is the first of its kind to serve Native Americans nationally, according to StrongHearts. It’s a collaboration between the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program.
During its first year, it expanded from its reach of Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma to 68 tribal communities across 40 states.
“Every call is different. We try to see things from the point of view of the person calling us, so what their needs are can be varied,” Jump said. “Things that we see most often are requests for shelter and legal services. Those are also probably the least common services that are available to people living in Indian Country.”
StrongHearts also maintains a database of organizations within Indian Country that can help tribal citizens unsure where to turn.
“We have a database that we have worked very hard to develop and its Native-centered programs that provide services to victims of domestic violence, whether that be crisis intervention, personal advocacy, civil and legal representation, shelter, transitional housing, all of those things that come into play when somebody is a victim of domestic violence and trying to leave,” Jump said.
More than four in five Native women and men have experienced violence in their lifetime, with more than one in three women having experienced violence in the past year, according to the National Institute of Justice.
Jump said the high rates of domestic violence in Indian Country show that services like StrongHearts are “desperately needed in tribal communities.”
“The incidents of violence is higher against women than it is men, but we do know that it certainly happens, and we want to be there to support all victims of domestic violence, whether they are male or female,” she said.
Another challenge Native Americans face in abusive situations is access to services, which can be hundreds of miles from their communities.
“We can look at whole blocks across the United States where there really are not any Native-centered resources,” Jump said. “For those people to be able to have a place to call for immediate help is critical and to be able to speak to somebody that understands where they’re coming from, understands their situation, the legal aspects, it’s really important.”
StrongHearts employs three advocates who have undergone training, including 60 hours on the helpline learning how to locate services for specific areas of the country and the laws that come with living on tribal land.
“They train around a database that we use so when advocates are on the call with somebody, they’re able to find resources for them where they’re at in their community, or at least as close to it as they can get,” she said. “Additionally, we focus on sovereignty. There are a lot of jurisdictional issues that we cover, so our advocates are able to help navigate those systems.”
The helpline is not operational 24 hours a day, though Jump hopes continued funding would allow expanded hours and digital services.
“It would be really great to have our helpline be operational for 24 hours, so that regardless of where you were or when you were victimized, there would be someplace that you could call in and actually speak to somebody,” Jump said. “The other thing is that we would like to expand to digital for chat services. I think a lot of the younger people find it easier to send a chat message into something and communicate that way.”
For help, dial 1-844-7NATIVE (1-844-762-8483) between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Central Standard Time. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.strongheartshelpline.org" target="_blank">www.strongheartshelpline.org</a>.
TAHLEQUAH – The Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation is accepting applications for low-rent housing openings in Claremore and Vinita.
Applications are available at <a href="http://www.hacn.org/" target="_blank">http://www.hacn.org/</a> under the low-income rental housing tab or mailed upon request. Completed applications can be submitted at any HACN office.
The Will Rogers Senior Complex in Claremore and Tom Buffington Heights in Vinita have one-bedroom apartments available. Applicants for Will Rogers Senior Complex must be at least 55 years old.
The apartment complexes are managed by the HACN and provide affordable homes for low-income families. Rent is not to exceed 30 percent of the family’s adjusted income. Security deposits will also be waived.
Eligibility requirements for housing are:
• A member of the family must be a citizen of a federally recognized tribe,
• Household income must be below 80 percent of the national median income, and
• Must be able to pass a background check.
Preference will be given to Cherokee Nation citizens who are elderly (62), disabled or handicapped.
For more information, call 918-456-5482.
TAHLEQUAH – For nearly 20 years, the National Indian Women’s Health Resource Center has supported Native American women, their families and the communities in which they call home.
“We’re a national women’s resource center, but it’s not just for women. It’s for women and their families, so of course men and children are also involved, especially if we have parenting classes,” Janie Dibble, NIWHRC executive director, said.
The nonprofit organization began in 1999 with an Indian Health Service grant to provide Native women resources and prevention education on various topics.
“Prevention education is the key,” Dibble said. “We do a lot of prevention education on topics including HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, drugs and alcohol, suicide prevention and hepatitis C.”
The NIWHRC operates under a board of directors that covers all 12 IHS areas and relies on grant funding for its services.
“It’s based on our funding as to how much we’re doing and what we’re doing,” Dibble said. “We write for grants, and sometimes we get contracts with different organizations to do things that they would like for us to do.”
It recently partnered with Northeastern State University to teach students between ages 18-24 about safe sex and drug and alcohol abuse.
“Statistics show that at an early age, many (youth) are already drinking, doing drugs, having unprotected sex,” Dibble said. “At the college level, a lot of them do not know and understand. They’re meeting all these people and heavily drinking and things like that that maybe an adult hadn’t spoken with them about.”
Dibble said she recruits people for NIWHRC trainings by explaining what will be covered.
“Everyone is different about the reasons why they will or won’t come to certain trainings,” she said. “People will think, ‘I’m past all that,’ and then I’ll give some examples of stuff that’s their age or older and trying to show them that, ‘yes, there’s still a need.’ When you can kind of share some examples they think, ‘oh, maybe I will come to your class.’”
The NIWHRC also advocates for people to get HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C testing.
“So many of the sexually transmitted diseases, they’re called silent diseases because so many people don’t even know they have them, not for years,” Dibble said. “That’s one reason sometimes that women are infertile, or men too, because they’ve had sexually transmitted diseases for years and didn’t even know it.”
The NIWHRC offers free HIV/AIDS testing in its Tahlequah office at 228 S. Muskogee Ave., though Dibble said much of the testing happens at events when it’s partnered with coalitions. “It really is confidential, and it is free, so when they want to be tested the tester explains all that to them. When we’re doing the prevention education and why we’re doing these classes is to stress to them the importance of testing at an early age because if they were infected with HIV or hepatitis C the sooner they find out the better for getting on medication and live a healthy long life.”
Another emphasis is suicide prevention and how to recognize signs of someone struggling with suicidal thoughts.
“For the suicide prevention, we provide trainings to the staff, the teachers at the schools that want us to,” Dibble said. “It’s called QPR, or question, persuade, refer. It’s an hour to an hour-and-a-half class, but it gives them the tools to recognize the signs and symptoms of somebody who might be struggling with depression, different things that could eventually lead to suicide.”
Dibble said the subject matters are often “difficult” for Native communities. “It can be difficult, you know, because a lot of Native communities aren’t open to hearing about it or think that it won’t happen to them. Or even if it has happened, they don’t want to talk about it to anybody. These people and these communities really need education.”
For more information, visit <a href="http://www.niwhrc.com" target="_blank">www.niwhrc.com</a> or call 918-456-6094.
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation Male Seminary Recreation Center employees on March 16 partook in an ALICE active shooter training at the center with the CN Marshal Service. ALICE stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate.
The training is to teach employees what to do in an active shooter situation. They were given scenarios and had to decide what was the best plan of action if they came across an active shooter – whether to run, hide or fight.
The CNMS has conducted trainings the past three years for several tribal departments.
“I think this training’s important for both the police and the public, so one, the public knows what to expect when the police come to the scene, and for the police to observe and help with training helps the police teach the public how to react to a violent situation. You can’t always fight. A lot of times you can run. Sometimes you can hide. But you need to be prepared to do all three,” marshal Mike Roach said.
Roach, who played the shooter in the March 16 training, used a firearm that fired 9-millimeter blank cartridges and had a paintball on the end to mark where shots were fired. The blanks emulated the smell of gunpowder.
“We use it for a variety of situations. But in here the actual gunfire, the smell of the gunpowder being burned, the people hearing rounds hit and ricochet off things adds that element of realism that really gets them bought into the scenario and gets them up and moving,” Roach said.
MSRC Director Julie Kimble said she and her employees have taken the trainings for nearly a year.
“We’re trying to prepare our staff as much as possible. The one thing that marshals always talk about is trying to be preventative as far as being suspicious, look for large bags, look for people wearing winter clothing in the summer time and then if they see something that may be suspicious to contact the marshals just so they can check it out,” Kimble said.
She added that the trainings make her staff more confident in knowing what action to take in an actual active shooter situation.
“It was very nerve-wracking at first, but since we’ve done it quarterly, staff has actually become really confident every time they come in because we’re just doing it as a refresher every time, and so now they’re more confident,” she said.
She said the trainings are different every time, with marshals bringing in new scenarios.
“The marshals do a really great job of practicing different scenarios. Every time we’ve done a training, they’ve done different scenarios and we’ve kind of upped the scenarios. Like today, we had two shooters in the facility, which was different than what we had before,” she said.
She said her staff also learned from the March 16 training about the importance of cell phone usage and how it can benefit during an emergency.
“We talked a lot about cell phone usage. Is it good to have your cell phone? We learned that it is good, make sure that it is turned off so that it doesn’t ring or whatever when you’re hiding from the active shooter. Also, we learned to make that phone call to 911 so that we can tell somebody that an active shooter is happening, listen for the shots and how many shots were fired. If you can tell them any information as far as ‘are there two shooters? Is there one shooter?’ you know, what’s going on,” Kimble said.
Roach said the trainings allow marshals to see what reactions employees might have and what they can do to better prepare for an emergency.