Cherokee Nation citizen Martha Hardbarger will spend a year teaching English to Japanese students in Osaka, Japan, through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program. According to the JET Program website, the program receives 4,000 to 5,000 applications each year and 1,000 to 1,100 people are selected to participate in Japan. COURTESY
Hardbarger selected for JET Program
OSAKA, Japan – Cherokee Nation citizen Martha Hardbarger is putting together her inherent love for Japan with her newfound love for education so she can teach English for the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program.
“I am going to be paired with a Japanese teacher of English, so hopefully we will be able to cover each other’s weaknesses,” Hardbarger said of the yearlong program that began in August. “Ideally what will happen is we will team teach, the Japanese teacher giving explanations in Japanese when necessary, and me speaking only English to give them exposure to what native English speakers sound like and to get them to use the language in class more.”
The Sequoyah High School and Stanford University graduate first entertained the idea of living abroad after two visits to Japan, during one in which a host mother mentioned the JET Program.
After seeking her advice and that of a friend who had applied, Hardbarger completed the program’s three-phase application process.
The first phase requires the applicant to write a personal statement detailing what he or she would bring to the program and two recommendation letters. The second phase encompasses personal interviews that must be conducted at Japanese embassies or consulates around the United States. The final phase is acceptance and placement before orientation in Tokyo.
Hardbarger said that while the process takes nearly 10 months, it “makes sense” because of the program’s reputation and the responsibilities of being a participant.
“The JET Program is pretty competitive as they offer some of the greatest benefits for teaching abroad and are often employed by local governments,” she said. “Not only are JET participants expected to teach English, but they need to also expose students to different cultures and countries. I have had to do a few introduction PowerPoints and usually talk about my family camp at Stokes (ceremonial ground in Sequoyah County in Oklahoma), show pictures of me and my family at powwows, my graduation photos where I have beaded caps and a feather, traditional foods, our flag, what the Cherokee written language looks like and how it is on street and store signs around Tahlequah (Oklahoma) and pictures from Diligwa at the (Cherokee) Heritage Center.”
Though Japan and the CN are more than 6,000 miles apart, Hardbarger said her third visit abroad is revealing surprising similarities between the two cultures.
“Both lifestyles are more interdependent-oriented compared to independent,” she said.
“Relationships and working together are highly valued. Both cultures also have a high respect and honoring of nature. Another thing is the respect and value of elders. Something else that I’ve recently noticed is that during spring and summer, we have a lot of powwows and gatherings, and Japanese people have festivals and Cherry Blossom viewings, all of which are very social gatherings and celebrations.”
Hardbarger encourages anyone interested in teaching abroad to apply for the program and reach out to past participants for application help.
“Teaching abroad is one of the most rewarding, challenging experiences you can go through,” she said. “You will grow so much as a person, but you will also more than likely have some really difficult rough patches. The short times I had been to Japan before have been so memorable and life-changing that I am excited to see what happens when I have a whole year to spend here. Also, get as much help as you can with your application if you want to apply to a competitive program like the JET Program.”
Hardbarger earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2016, but hopes that the JET experience will help determine if a teaching career is in her future instead.
“If I really enjoy teaching and am able to develop and grow that skill set while here, then I would consider doing a master’s program to get certified to teach in the U.S.,” she said. “If I do decide to become a teacher, then this experience will be great to share with students and show them that they can do more and explore the world if they work towards that goal.”
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Sequoyah High School girls basketball team defeated Kingston 53-51 to win the Class 3A girls state championship at the State Fair Arena. It’s the Lady Indians’ second-straight state title and third in the past four years.
After winning state in 2017, they started the 2017-18 campaign ranked No. 1, with pressure to reach state again. Head coach Larry Callison said he expected this year’s team to qualify for state.
“We had the nucleus of our team back,” he said. “We just felt like we had that chance to have a good year. As the year went on, it just seemed like it got better and better.”
For a team of mostly underclassmen, getting better as the season went along was not easy considering the schedule.
“We play a tough schedule. We do that on purpose,” Callison said. “We just think if you’ve got good kids, you need to play good people. I think it definitely helps us for when it gets to playoff time.”
The Lady Indians finish the season 27-3, losing to Class 6A Yukon, Class 4A No. 1 ranked and eventual state champion Fort Gibson and Class 3A rival Adair.
“I think those losses help us,” he said. “I’ve always said you don’t get better by playing teams that aren’t very good. It’s hard to get kids up to play when you know you’re going to beat people pretty bad.”
Sequoyah closed the season with 18 straight wins. The Lady Indians avenged two of the three losses they suffered in the season by defeating Fort Gibson on the road and Adair at home.
They cruised through the district and regional championships by beating Westville 72-35, Verdigris 52-24 and Holland Hall 41-34. SHS beat Beggs in the area final, 57-55.
Many people anticipated an Adair/Sequoyah state final, however Kingston spoiled it by defeating Adair the semifinals.
“Kingston was the real deal though. They were really good and they came in under the radar,” Callison said. “They weren’t expected to be where they were.”
SHS beat Kansas 59-48 and Comanche 50-36 to reach the final.
The Lady Indians expect to return to the state tournament next season as they retain their nucleus of Alexys Keys, 6-footer Jonia Walker and Aubrey Brown. However, Callison said the regular season would be tough as usual.
As for Sequoyah’s boys, the Indians returned to the state tournament for the sixth time in eight years. However, their title bid ended with a 39-36 loss to Hugo in the first round.
“We were the two best defensive teams in the tournament, and when they put us together, there was nothing easy,” head coach Jay Herrin said. “It was really tough game, and I mean very physical. They (the referees) let us play somewhat. It was just one of those games where people weren’t running free and people weren’t getting open shots. You really had to work hard to get a decent shot.”
The Indians tied the game at 36 with eight seconds left. The Buffalos inbounded the ball and G’Quavious Lennox dribbled up the court. With the Indians’ Bobby Cade guarding him, Lennox threw up a long 3-point shot. A foul was called, putting Lennox on the foul line for three shots. He made them all.
“When it first happened, I was like ‘man, they are just blowing it off and they’re not going to do anything and we’ll go into overtime,’” SHS senior Bradyn Smith said. “Then when that guy (referee) came running over pointing in the air signaling three free throws…I just couldn’t believe it.”
The Indians finished 24-5, one win more than the previous season.
“We were able to win all three of our tournaments this year. We won the Shrine Tournament…and then we won the Lincoln Christian tournament,” Herrin said. “Through the course of the year we lost three games in the regular season. We lost to Keys and Lincoln Christian and Fort Gibson, and we were able to beat all three of those teams in rematches.”
SHS cruised through the district and regional tournaments beating Westville 95-39, Verdigris 91-58 and Holland Hall, 61-48.
“In the area tournament, we met up with Star Spencer, and that is the team that put us out in the semifinals of state last year,” Herrin said. “They beat us in the area championship (64-49), so we had to turn around and play on Saturday (March 3), and we beat Beggs in a tough game. Beggs was a really good team, and that’s what put us in the state tournament.”
The Indians lose four starters and some size next season. Herrin said they would play an up-tempo game to make up for it and that making state would be challenging.
“Next year our team will be different. Our guards will be smaller…We lose a lot of strength, size and toughness,” he said. “Those guys are going to have some big shoes to fill, but they’re very good players. This summer will be very important for us to get together and play well and to kind of come together as a group. Hopefully, we’ll be a well-oiled machine next year when the time comes to make the playoffs to make a run and try to get back to the state tournament again.”
MUSKOGEE – Pop punk. Video games. Friendships. What do they all have in common? The band When the Clock Strikes, which released its EP “Overnight” on March 16 and was set to play it the next day at The Vanguard in Tulsa.
The Cherokee Phoenix spoke with the pop punk band as it practiced. It’s comprised of singer and bassist Daniel Basden, guitarist Steven Walker and drummer Blake Westerby. Basden and Walker are Cherokee Nation citizens.
All three began playing their respective instruments as teenagers, and bands such as Blink-182, Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance have influenced their style.
“We try to make our melodies as accessible as possible so people can sing along and just enjoy it,” Basden said.
He added that the band’s love of video games has also influenced its music.
“I first got into punk music by playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater on PlayStation,” Basden said. “We’ve covered the Pokémon theme song. We’ve done some songs from (The Legend of) Zelda.”
Formed in 2014, When the Clock Strikes has released EPs with cover and original songs and has toured regionally. With the new EP, Basden said he believes these are the “best” songs they’ve written. “They run a pretty wide emotional range.”
Walker said he believes the “Overnight” EP showcases their most “real” songs.
“I really like how much the songs have become more realized. Actually working with Blake and working with Basden to make what I feel like are probably our most real songs, something that’s fleshed out, has a real art to them,” he said.
Walker said they were able to achieve this because at the end of the day they’re not just a band but friends. “Little things that you can’t quantify that you get from working with Basden as many years as I have and working with Blake. Little things that just…kind of happen on their own that you may not get when you jump into a room full of strangers and start working on music. It feels like the new EP and our music in general is really a testament and a byproduct of our relationship in general with our friendship.”
When coming to live shows, Basden said people should expect a high-energy good time.
“All of our songs are pretty fast,” he said. “Usually our home shows we have people sing along with us, which is really cool.”
During the years of performing, Walker said they’ve created friendships with fans.
“I’d been kind of remiss to call them fans at this point, especially with how tight the community is,” he said. “You make a ton of friends, and you get a lot of cool stories. Everybody that comes to that show went there for a reason. They came there to feel things, and you did, too. I don’t really have a family. This has become my family.”
Westerby said he had a special experience with the band by first being a fan and later joining it.
“I actually took lessons at the music store that Steven use to work at, so that’s kind of where I was first introduced to him. I was probably their biggest fan to start out with, and eventually I came in and been here for about two years now. It’s been a little surreal because I use to be the guy out there listening to them, and now I’m up there so it’s kind of a cool thing.”
Aside from drumming, Westerby also works on audio engineering for their tracks and did so before joining.
“That’s kind of where our video game covers came from. First thing I did with them, before I was even in the band, was record the Mega Man cover. I did that and that’s how we sort of started the dialogue that ended me up here,” he said. “Also, with the engineering that’s how we do our demos, too. With the new EP, we put everything on tape to kind of hear it back, to kind of make adjustments that way we’re kind of stepping back from the whole process and getting to listen to it.”
Looking forward, Walker said WTCS has plans to travel “as far east and as far west” as it can.
To keep up with WTCS, “follow” them on Instagram or “like” them on Facebook.
“Listen to our music. Come to shows. Anything helps,” Westerby said.
TAHLEQUAH – With the warmer weather and longer days, parents and children are preparing for softball and baseball, and Cherokee Nation citizen Leslie D. Hannah is doing the same. However, he’s getting ready to umpire.
Hannah primarily umpires softball and called his first game in 1979 as a college freshman. He said it was to earn extra money, and he’s called at least one game per year since.
“I never thought I would still be doing it nearly four decades later,” he said.
When he began umpiring, there was one major softball association, the Amateur Softball Association, and everyone played by the same rules. Today, he said, there are different associations with different standards and rules. He said once those associations appeared, the game’s spirit began to deteriorate.
“I feel the game has degraded some since I first began. By that I do not necessarily mean the game itself, but more the spirit of the game. More accurately, it’s those who should be invested in the spirit of the game,” he said, “Respect for the officials began to degrade. Respect for the game began to disintegrate. I officiated probably 10 years before I had to eject anyone, and as I recall it that was also the first time I was verbally assaulted as an official.”
Hannah said the lack of respect for officials comes from parents, coaches and players.
“I think the game needs to return to its roots – the spirit of the game, not the spirit of ‘look at me’, especially the youth game,” he said. “If we could just let the kids play without the interference of the adults. Too many times adults ruin the game when they think it is an arena to showcase their talents as a terrible influence. They see the officials as the enemy, and make every effort to dehumanize those in blue.”
Despite the criticism umpires endure, Hannah said he does his best to keep calm and set a good example as a professional. He said he endures the abuse because of his love of the game.
“Umpiring keeps my involved in the game. It keeps me close to the game,” he said. “Plus, I just enjoy it. I get a sense of satisfaction knowing I gave the teams the best game they can get from an umpire. I get a sense of pride knowing that I did my absolute best.”
With the different associations, Hannah said he primarily umpires for USA Softball (formerly ASA), but also umpires at the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association level. He has also umpired in some National Collegiate Athletic Association conferences.
Hannah said it takes a certain type of person to be an umpire.
“I believe an umpire must be incredibly smart, not just about the game, but about people as well,” he said. “People create situations that often times make the umpiring job very difficult, and most of the time for no good reasons. Umpires must be patient, to a point, tolerant, to a point, stern, to a point, but also forgiving, to a point. That point will be different for each umpire and for each situation, that’s why umpires have to be incredibly smart — to be able to ‘read’ each situation.”
He said for people interested in umpiring, they must read the rulebook, attend an umpire clinic and go through annual training. He said even after nearly 40 years of umpiring he still tests annually.
Along with being an umpire in USA Softball, Hannah is its deputy district commissioner for the northeastern district in Oklahoma. He said the association is in need of umpires. “We need more umpires, younger umpires, to take the baton and keep running with it.”
For more information, call 918-822-4423 or email <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>.
WAGONER – Each time Lance Osburn climbs into the ring as part of the wrestling tag team Delta Delta Theta it’s an opportunity for him to live his childhood dream of championship title matches and pinfalls.
“It’s crazy. It’s insane. I was a little kid just wanting to do this, so it was just fun for me,” he said. “It’s so surreal, and I’ve met some people that I never thought I would meet. It’s just one of those things you can’t really explain it.”
The Cherokee Nation citizen began wrestling three years ago after contacting friends who ran a show in Tulsa, but it wasn’t until meeting Colt Killbane that Osburn crafted a persona that connected with fans.
“My tag team partner now, Colt, he did like a high school jock-type gimmick with a letterman jacket and everything,” he said. “We were talking one day and I was like, ‘why don’t I break out my old letterman jacket and we’ll just team up and we’ll do this thing.’ So we started out, I had my blue and white, my Colcord (jacket) and we just started from there and now we got our own gear. We got matching letterman jackets.”
Delta Delta Theta, or DDT, formed in 2017, and Osburn said the name “is a play” on the DDT, a wrestling move in which a wrestler traps an opponent in a headlock and falls to push the opponent’s head into the mat. The team is known for its “Delta Driver” move, which Osburn describes as “a double-package DDT.”
They showcased their signature move while squaring off against BFFS, the Wrestling For a Cause tag team champions, during the “Fight For Luke” event on March 3. DDT didn’t win, but Osburn said he enjoys that his passion allows him to raise money for children with cancer.
“The company (Wrestling For a Cause) is nonprofit. We help raise money for kids with childhood cancer,” he said. “A lot of these families, they’re not high-income families, and so these medical bills stack up pretty heavily when it comes to their kids and the cancer they’re dealing with and everything.”
Osburn said wrestling is sometimes the perfect distraction that lets kids enjoy themselves. “It’s nice for us to be able to do this for them, help raise a little money to help the families out, and the kids just get to enjoy everything for a while. They get to enjoy the show and have a good time, have an actual life and not have to worry about chemo or whatever they’re going through.”
When not wrestling, Osburn trains to keep in shape for matches with the WFC and other organizations such as United Wrestling Entertainment. “Some companies do a lot of high-intensity cardio. Some of them, they just do a little bit of workouts like pushups, jogging, high-knees, stuff like that. Nothing intense, just mainly work you out in the ring, taking bumps, hitting the ropes, stuff like that.”
DDT is unsure of its next championship shot after the March 3 match, but Osburn said the next time opportunity comes around, the duo will be prepared. “Yeah we didn’t get it done this time, but that just means we gotta go back to the drawing board, hit the gym harder, and come out with the straps next time.”
DICKSON – Sequoyah High School’s Laynee Pennington won her weight class at the Oklahoma High School Girls Open State Meet on March 5, making her Sequoyah’s first state champion in girls powerlifting.
The sophomore won the 132-pound weight division by lifting a total of 695 pounds in squat, bench press and deadlift. The Cherokee Nation citizen also set a state record in girls powerlifting in bench press at 165 pounds and deadlift at 315 pounds.
“I was very excited to win. There was a girl who was very close. We were battling out the whole time. She beat me in squat and she beat me in bench and she is 30 pounds ahead of me, so I knew I had to do something on deadlift. I beat her by 5 pounds so it was a really close run the whole way,” she said.
Pennington said she’s always been into weightlifting. Her father, Nathan Pennington, was a crossfit coach, and she started participating in crossfit at age 10.
As a freshman she got involved in powerlifting, competing alongside the boys. She’s now in her second year, and now that she’s won state in girls powerlifting, she said she hopes to win another state championship and compete in the boys state powerlifting meet.
“My plan this year was to make it to the guys state, and I missed it but not by very much,” she said.
As for her powerlifting future, she’s had an offer from Bacone College in Muskogee to powerlift for its team. However, she’s unable to commit until her junior year.
She also said she’s thankful for the opportunity to be involved with a sport she loves.
“I just want to say thank you to all the coaches for allowing me to powerlift because I am the first girl to powerlift at Sequoyah. I haven’t really enjoyed playing many other sports. I just haven’t connected with anything like I have with lifting,” she said. “I want to leave a legacy here, and I think that’s my way by being the first girl powerlifter at Sequoyah.”
Also placing at the meet was Cherokee Nation citizen Kailey Lasley, a SHS sophomore. She placed seventh in the 210-pound weight class lifting a total of 565 pounds in squat, bench and deadlift.
Lasley said she felt like she could have done better but was happy she placed.
“I felt like I could have gone a lot heavier. I got ahead of myself thinking ‘oh yeah, I am going to place. This is going to be easy.’ But I got set back. I was upset about it, but at least I placed,” she said.
This is Lasley’s first year in powerlifting, and she said she loves it. She said it was “intimidating” at first, but the boys team is supportive. “All the boys on our team are very supportive of what we are doing. Not one of them will talk down to us. They pick us up when we get down and let us know that we are good enough.”
Lasley said she plans to continue lifting and hopes to win a state championship at the girls state meet next year. She said her goal is to powerlift for Louisiana State University or Texas Tech University.
Powerlifting coach Brad Jones said he is proud of the two girls.
“This is second year we have had girls powerlifting and these two girls have really dedicated themselves to the sport. They have worked hard and they have shown me that it’s not something they’re just doing for fun, they’re actually out there wanting to compete,” he said.
Jones said he hopes their interest encourages more girls to participate.
“With more and more participation happening with girls powerlifting, girls powerlifting could branch off and be their own sport whereas they have to compete with the guys most of the time,” he said. “This is the only girls meet that they have right now. So hopefully the sport can grow where there is more girls invitationals and girls can start competing against other girls and maybe one day one of these girls can make it and beat some of the guys too, which is something I would like to see.”
TULSA – Gender and Native American identity struggles are at the forefront of Cherokee Nation citizen Brandon Hobson’s coming-of-age story “Where The Dead Sit Talking.”
“Identity issues are a big part of this book for Sequoyah, the main character,” Hobson said. “I think that’s a very common question that we see among teenagers is who am I? Is it okay that I feel this way? What do I identify as? I think these are all questions that relate to identity.”
Released Feb. 20 via New York City-based publisher Soho Press, the book tells of 15-year-old Sequoyah as he navigates his way through the foster care system in the fictional town of Little Crow, Oklahoma. While living with the Troutt family he meets 17-year-old Rosemary and develops deep bonds and “dangerous obsessions” with her.
“He becomes strangely obsessed with Rosemary,” Hobson said. “Not so much in a way that he’s attracted to her, but in a way that he wants to, in a sense, become her. He wants to look like her and dress like her and that leads to some problems with identity and sort of dangerous obsessions between Sequoyah and Rosemary. There’s so much about Rosemary that he likes and is attracted to, that he sees in himself.”
Hobson said the book is the result of nearly two years of work and that its inspiration stemmed from his questions concerning his Cherokee heritage.
“I’ve not written about Cherokee identity in the past, but I became very interested and I am still very interested in it,” he said. “In terms of identity, ‘What am I? Do I call myself a Cherokee? What do I call myself?’ And I think that Sequoyah is dealing with sort of those same sorts of issues in terms of his heritage… He’s a boy who is really unsure what his identity is because he’s not a full-blood Cherokee.”
Hobson said Sequoyah has been a strong voice for him. He originally wrote the character in short stories. “I’d written and published a few stories… Sequoyah’s voice just kept coming into my head and I thought, ‘I got to keep writing with Sequoyah. He’s really become this powerful voice in my head.’ So I did and everything just kind of fell into place. It’s a lot to do with Sequoyah’s voice.”
Hobson said in addition to exploring issues affecting many adolescents today, he hopes to raise awareness for the Native American youth in the foster care system.
“We have a lot of damaged kids in foster care,” he said. “In Oklahoma, we have a lot of Native youth in foster care, and many of them are trying to figure out, number one who they are, where they come from, how do they fit into this world right now and this country right now? What is family? I’ve seen that a lot in my experience with social work, especially in Oklahoma where there’s a lot of Native American children in foster care.”
“Where The Dead Sit Talking” is Hobson’s fourth book but his first in hardback.
“It’s the first book I’ve written that’s been a hardback,” he said. “It’s the first book I’ve written that’s explored Native American culture, which is important to me. This is very special to me, very special.”
Hobson called himself a “late bloomer” in finding his passion for creative writing.
“Not until I turned 20, did I really start. I didn’t start (writing) until college,” he said. “Once I got to college and took literature classes, I took creative writing classes. It was like a new world to me. That’s the class where I really became interested in creative writing.”
His advice for aspiring writers is to understand there will be sacrifices.
“If someone’s interested in writing, you have to make sacrifices,” he said. “That means I don’t watch much TV. I rarely go out to the movies… It’s where you put your energy. We all have 24 hours in a day. What do we choose to do with the 24 hours?”
To learn more about “Where The Dead Sit Talking” or Hobson, visit <a href="http://www.brandonhobson.com" target="_blank">www.brandonhobson.com</a>.