http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgCherokee language instructor Rufus King teaches a community language class at the Lost City Community Center from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays. King is a Cherokee Nation citizen and first-language speaker who became certified to teach in 2001. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee language instructor Rufus King teaches a community language class at the Lost City Community Center from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays. King is a Cherokee Nation citizen and first-language speaker who became certified to teach in 2001. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Classes encourage learning Cherokee language

The book “We Are Learning Cherokee Level 1” was developed by the Cherokee Nation’s Cherokee Language Program and is distributed to each student who partakes in community language classes. Text highlighted in blue means a first-language speaker has spoken the language and it has been recorded. Students can download audio files at www.cherokee.org. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee language instructor and Cherokee Nation citizen Helena McCoy showcases the syllabary and phonetics for the word “gravy” in Cherokee to her students on Oct. 17 at the Brushy Community Center in Sallisaw, Oklahoma. McCoy is a first-language speaker and also taught at the Cherokee Immersion Charter School for six years. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Several students attend Helena McCoy’s Cherokee language class on Oct. 17 at the Brushy Community Center in Sallisaw, Oklahoma. The class meets from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The book “We Are Learning Cherokee Level 1” was developed by the Cherokee Nation’s Cherokee Language Program and is distributed to each student who partakes in community language classes. Text highlighted in blue means a first-language speaker has spoken the language and it has been recorded. Students can download audio files at www.cherokee.org. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
10/27/2017 08:30 AM
Video Frame selected by Cherokee Phoenix
LOST CITY, Okla. – Cherokee language classes recently started online and in communities across the Cherokee Nation’s jurisdiction, as teachers encourage students to read, write and speak the language to save it.

Part of the CN’s Cherokee Language Program, the free classes are held each spring and fall for 10 weeks.

“It’s preserving our language,” instructor Rufus King said. “We are all losing it, some of them say. There’s not that many speakers anymore here in Cherokee Nation. It’s an everyday business, and I’ve said this before, but we need to get into this business a little deeper than what we are now if we’re really going to stay up with it.”

King, a CN citizen and first-language speaker, teaches at the Lost City Community Center. His classes meet from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays. He became certified to teach Cherokee in 2001 and stresses practicing the Cherokee syllabary daily and the idea that learning takes time.

“Even after 20 lessons, you have to come back the next term,” he said. “You can’t quit. Those (symbols) are the most important things in the Cherokee language. You’ve got to know them if you’re going to write or read.”

Only those who attend community classes like King’s receive a copy of the book “We Are Learning Cherokee Level 1,” which was introduced this past spring.

The “See, Say, Write” book, which was previously used in classes for more than 20 years to teach beginners, was designed to teach fluent Cherokee speakers, Cherokee Language Program Director Roy Boney said.

“The previous book was mainly a lot of simple word lists for those that could already speak Cherokee and wanted to learn how to write it,” he said. “This new book is more designed for people that are learning the language, so we have things like grammar rules and how to make something possessive or plural. This way people actually create their own thoughts about what they would want to say to somebody, rather than just rote memorization.”

Boney said the new book took more than a year to develop and accompanies free supplemental material found online. “If you look in the text, you’ll see things that are highlighted in blue. Those items have been recorded, so on the www.cherokee.org website we have the link where students can download all of the audio files that go along with the book so they can listen to it on their phone, their computer, if they want to make CDs.”

While the book provides structure, Boney said language instructors could teach as they see fit.
CN citizen Helena McCoy, instructor at the Brushy Community Center near Sallisaw, holds class from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday.

Though she uses the new book, she also asks students what they are interested in learning. “At the beginning, I try to teach what they want to learn, that way they’ll be more interested in coming back. I don’t try to push anything on them. I just ask them, ‘What do you want to learn?’”

She said students asked about Cherokee names for family members and how to order foods at a restaurant.

“We write everything in syllabary and phonetics to let them know what it sounds like,” McCoy said. “It’s important to me for someone that is a fluent speaker to teach them the sounds because I hear so many people saying, and I’m not saying they’re wrong, but I hear so many people saying words different from what I’ve heard. Cherokee is my first language, that’s why it’s so important for me they hear it from me. I don’t tell them it’s wrong, but I tell them, ‘This is how we say it from my area.’”

This is the second year McCoy has taught language classes. She previously taught at Marble City Public Schools for 20 years and the Cherokee Immersion Charter School for six years.

“I always try to make them say the words because you have to see it and say it, and if you want to write it in the syllabary, you have to hear yourself saying those words,” she said.

CN citizen Melvin McCoy, Helena’s brother-in-law, said he hopes attending classes will help him with the language and syllabary.

“My parents were fluent, I mean really fluent, but they just didn’t teach us,” Melvin said. “They taught us English first, but we should have learned Cherokee first because it’s a whole lot easier to learn when you’re young. I can speak a little bit, but not fluently so I come here to try and learn a little bit more and we do have a really good teacher. I think if you can learn the syllabary, you can probably learn to talk Cherokee pretty good.”

CN citizen Gary Bolin was also raised in a fluent-speaking environment but moved from the area as a child and is now trying to reconnect with the language.

“I’m not around speakers every day,” he said. “About the only time I get to hear any (Cherokee) at all is when we’re in class, so that helps me, too.”

Bolin said anyone interested in learning should consider the community classes. “You kind of get your foothold at class, but you’ve got to take it home with you to really learn it. It’s really something that everybody should know. It’s a part of who you are and where you came from, and it’s something that nobody should want to lose.”

For more information, call 918-453-5151.

Locations for Fall Classes

• Tulsa: Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma

• Jay: Jay Community Center

• Hulbert: Lost City Community Center

• Porum: Oak Grove Baptist Church

• Webbers Falls: Webbers Falls Museum

• Tahlequah: Elm Tree Baptist Church

• Salina: New Jordan Baptist Church

• Sallisaw: Brushy Community Center

• Locust Grove: Ballou Baptist Church

• Salina: Salina Early Learning Academy

• Muldrow: Muldrow Cherokee Community Organization

• Kenwood: Kenwood Community Center

• Tahlequah: Northeastern State University

• South Coffeyville: Tom Buffington Heights

• Marble City: House of Praise Church
About the Author
Brittney Bennett is from Colcord, Oklahoma, and a citizen of the United Keetoowah Band.  She is a 2011 Gates Millennium Scholarship recipient and graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and summa cum laude honors.
 
While in college, Brittney became involved with the Native American Journalists Association and was an inaugural NAJA student fellow in 2014. Continued mentorship from NAJA members and the willingness to give Natives a voice led her to accept a multimedia internship with the Cherokee Phoenix after college.  
 
She left the Cherokee Phoenix in early 2016 before being selected as a Knight-CUNYJ Fellow in New York City later that same year. During the fellowship, she received training from industry professionals with The New York Times and instructors at the City University of New York. As part of the program, she completed a social media internship with USA Today’s editorial department.
 
Now that Brittney has made her way back to the Cherokee Phoenix, she hopes to use the experience gained from her travels to benefit Indian Country and the Cherokee people.
brittney-bennett@cherokee.org • 918-453-5560
Brittney Bennett is from Colcord, Oklahoma, and a citizen of the United Keetoowah Band. She is a 2011 Gates Millennium Scholarship recipient and graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and summa cum laude honors. While in college, Brittney became involved with the Native American Journalists Association and was an inaugural NAJA student fellow in 2014. Continued mentorship from NAJA members and the willingness to give Natives a voice led her to accept a multimedia internship with the Cherokee Phoenix after college. She left the Cherokee Phoenix in early 2016 before being selected as a Knight-CUNYJ Fellow in New York City later that same year. During the fellowship, she received training from industry professionals with The New York Times and instructors at the City University of New York. As part of the program, she completed a social media internship with USA Today’s editorial department. Now that Brittney has made her way back to the Cherokee Phoenix, she hopes to use the experience gained from her travels to benefit Indian Country and the Cherokee people.

Education

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
04/20/2018 12:00 PM
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) – Stephen C. has been taught only math and English at a U.S.-run elementary school for Native American children deep in a gorge off the Grand Canyon. Teachers have left midyear, and he repeatedly faces suspension and arrest for behavior his attorneys say is linked to a disability stemming from traumatic experiences. The 12-year-old is among children from Arizona’s remote and impoverished Havasupai Reservation who are a step closer to their push for systematic reform of the U.S. agency that oversees tribal education, alleging in a lawsuit it ignored complaints about an understaffed school, a lack of special education and a deficient curriculum. The students’ attorneys say they won a major legal victory recently when a federal court agreed that childhood adversity and trauma can be learning disabilities, a tactic the same law firm used in crime-ridden Compton, California. They say the case could have widespread effects for Native children in more than 180 schools nationwide overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education and in schools with large Native populations. “Education is our lifeline and our future for our kids – and all students, not just down here, but nationally,” Havasupai Chairwoman Muriel Coochwytewa said. The BIE has “an obligation to teach our children. And if that’s not going on, then our children will become failures, and we don’t want that.” Havasupai students face adversity and generational trauma from repeated broken promises from the U.S. government, efforts to eradicate Native culture and tradition, discrimination and the school’s tendency to call police to deal with behavioral problems, attorneys say. U.S. District Judge Steven Logan wrote in a late March ruling that the students’ lawyers adequately alleged “complex trauma” and adversity can result in physiological effects leading to a physical impairment. He moved the case forward, denying Justice Department requests to dismiss some of the allegations but agreeing to drop plaintiffs from the lawsuit who no longer attend Havasupai Elementary School. Noshene Ranjbar, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona, said medical literature has expanded in the past 20 years to include trauma that isn’t linked only to singular events. In Native communities she’s worked with in the Dakotas and Arizona, “they agree the root of everything they suffer with is this unresolved grief, loss, trauma, anger, decades of disappointment on a huge scale,” she said. When students act out, schools too often turn to suspension, expulsion or arrest instead of finding what’s driving the bad behavior, she said. Usually, it’s “a hurt human being that is using the wrong means to cope,” Ranjbar said. The Public Counsel law firm pressing the Havasupai case also sued the Compton Unified School District – which is majority black and Latino – in 2015 over disability services for students with complex trauma. A judge said students with violent and traumatic pasts could be eligible for such services but didn’t apply the ruling to all who experience trauma. The U.S. Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment on the Havasupai ruling. Government attorney Cesar Lopez-Morales said at a hearing in 2017 that while trauma could result in a disability, federal agencies cannot assume every Native student with shared experiences is disabled. They would need specifics of individuals’ impairments and how those affect their lives. He said attorneys also failed to show the students were denied benefits solely because of disabilities. Havasupai Elementary School has three teachers for kindergarten through eighth grade on a remote reservation home to about 650 people and world-renowned for its blue-green waterfalls. The village of Supai can be reached only by mule, foot or helicopter, making it the most isolated of the BIE’s schools in the Lower 48 states. The reservation doesn’t have a high school. The students’ attorneys say the area is beset with high levels of poverty, unemployment, substance abuse, family violence and low literacy levels. All 70 elementary school students qualify for free or reduced lunch and most are limited in English and math proficiency, and have special education needs. “What we know from the science is that, particularly unaddressed, the impact of trauma can impact the ability to learn, read, think, concentrate and communicate,” public counsel attorney Kathryn Eidmann said. The lawsuit seeks to force the government to provide services for special needs, a thorough curriculum, culturally relevant education and staff training to respond to trauma. Stephen C., whose full name is not listed in court documents, enrolled as a kindergartner but can hardly read or write now that he’s in seventh grade. His attorneys say he has an attention deficit disorder and experiences trauma from witnessing alcohol abuse at school and from his relatives being forced into boarding schools. At one point, he pulled a plug out of a computer monitor and faced a federal indictment, the lawsuit says. Some Havasupai parents have sent their children to boarding schools off the reservation rather than deal with inadequate educational services. Stephen’s guardian has considered it, too. But he said in a statement that tribal members want children with them in the canyon, to watch them grow and be a part of the community.
BY LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
04/13/2018 03:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – A group of more than 100 female attorneys, also known as Girl Attorney LLC, on April 9 marched to the Oklahoma Capitol to stand in solidarity with public school educators who had been rallying for increased funding since April 2. Girl Attorney sent a letter on April 8 to Senate and House members. The letter, containing 628 signatures, stated: “The purpose of this visit is to meet with members of the 56th Legislature to discuss their plans to fully fund public education in Oklahoma. Various stakeholders have proposed possible solutions, and we expect our elected representatives to be able to speak intelligently about the merits and potential pitfalls of each. We also expect that a representative who is ideologically opposed to a particular proposal will be prepared to present a detailed alternative. We are business owners and taxpayers ourselves; if there is a means of providing a quality public education to our children without increasing taxes, then we would love to hear the details.” Among the group were several Cherokee attorneys, including Nikki Baker Limore, the Cherokee Nation’s executive director of Indian Child Welfare. She said she became involved after learning there were 27 children in his class to one teacher. “For a teacher with no aide, no intern, no assistance whatsoever to have to handle 27 5-year-olds, it was like herding cats,” Baker Limore said. “That’s what began my looking into the public school system, and that was eye-opening for me back at the beginning of the school year. I felt compelled.” She said she also sees how the lack of funding affects the 84 children attending public school while in ICW custody. She said it’s hard for those children, who sometimes deal with personal trauma, to receive individual attention, encouragement and redirection because of class sizes. CN Assistant Attorney General Alayna Farris said she sought ways to contribute to education reform and answered the call to march to the Capitol. “I would like people to know that the teacher walkout was a selfless act done for the students. Years of education cuts have landed us in this situation. I know the many teachers I have had over the years directly contributed to my success as an assistant attorney general for Cherokee Nation. I would not be where I am today without public education.” Cherokee Nation Business attorney Tralynna Scott also said she sees the struggles public school teachers face. “I get to see firsthand just how abysmal our school systems are now. There aren’t enough books. These kids can’t take books home in the evening to do their homework because they share books with other students. I just don’t understand how any expects them to really learn in that fashion.” She said she got the sense that many lawmakers were playing the “blame game” and that they were backtracking on deals that were made and then repealed. “Circumstances have changed, number one. Number two, the other thing that was on that deal supposedly, was the hotel-motel tax, which they turned right around and took off the plate. They repealed it. (Gov. Mary) Fallin signed that into that in law Monday, and in my world, in my legal world, if you make a deal, and you turn right around and don’t do part of that deal, that’s called breach of contract,” Scott said. Scott said the representatives she spoke with supported certain exemptions but weren’t able to get their bills heard. “None of them are willing to start a petition to suspend the rules where they can bypass (House Majority Floor Leader Jon) Echols and get it heard on the floor. That would take 68 votes to suspend the rules. But I directly point blank asked them ‘will you start that petition?’ No,” she said. She said Girl Attorney would continue advocating for adequate funding. “To the legislators, we are very serious. The entire state is very serious about changing public education, and if they don’t move forward with solutions then they will be voted out.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/13/2018 12:00 PM
MUSKOGEE – Northeastern State University is joining with universities around Oklahoma in its efforts to help working adults finish the requirements for bachelor’s degrees through the Reach Higher program. Reach Higher is a flexible program that provides an adult student the opportunity to work full-time, have a family and complete a degree online. The curriculum is specifically designed to help working adults succeed in the workplace. “Without this flexible and affordable option, many adult students would not be able to realize this lifelong dream of completing a bachelor’s degree,” Michelle Farris, Reach Higher program advisor, said. In May, senior Shawna Glass will complete a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership through Reach Higher at NSU. “I’m a single mother in my mid-30s, so I have to work during the day and be there for my kids and their busy schedules in the evenings. Traditional school was no longer an option for me,” she said. “The Reach Higher program has allowed me to still take care of my daily obligations while completing my degree online. My experience with the Reach Higher program has been a blessing. While it hasn’t always been easy, I have been able to reach my goal of completing my bachelor’s degree while still being able to work and take care of my children.” Students who are at least 21 years old, have completed at least 72 hours of college credits or have an approved associate degree with a minimum 2.0 GPA and who have completed general education requirements can earn a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.nsuok.edu/reachhigher" target="_blank">nsuok.edu/reachhigher</a> or call Farris at 918-444-5034.
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
04/13/2018 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Phoenix peeked in on Sequoyah High School’s drama department as it rehearsed for its upcoming adaptation of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s musical “Into the Woods,” which musically tells the darker side of the classic fairy tales Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk. “Into The Woods” will be held at the Sequoyah’s The Place Where They Play on the SHS campus. Showtimes are 7 p.m. on April 26, 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. on April 27 and 2 p.m. on April 29. For more information, visit <a href="http://sequoyah.cherokee.org" target="_blank">http://sequoyah.cherokee.org</a> or the Sequoyah Speech/Drama/Debate Students Facebook page.
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/10/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation Foundation is accepting applications for its fifth annual ACT prep camp from June 4-9 at Northeastern State University. The camp is offered to rising juniors and seniors and provides 16 hours of intensive ACT prep instruction, as well as college workshops focusing on admissions, financial aid, scholarship opportunities and time management. At the end of the weeklong camp, students will take the official ACT test at NSU. All lodging, meals and testing expenses are provided by CNF, Cherokee Nation Businesses and NSU. Applications will be accepted through April 21 and are available at <a href="http://www.cherokeenation.academicworks.com" target="_blank">cherokeenation.academicworks.com</a>. For more information, email <a href="mailto: j.sandoval@cherokeenationfoundation.org">j.sandoval@cherokeenationfoundation.org</a> or call 918-207-0950.
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/08/2018 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The Northeastern State University Center for Tribal Studies will present three keynote speakers, two film screenings and presentations April 16-21 as part of the 46th annual Symposium on the American Indian. The Symposium’s theme is “Walking with our Ancestors: Preserving Culture and Honoring Tradition.” The keynote speakers are Daryl Baldwin, Dr. Lee Francis IV and Dr. Daniel Wildcat. All keynote speakers will be located in the University Center Ballroom. Dr. Lee Francis IV will speak at 9:30 a.m. on April 18. He is the national director of Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, the position he assumed after the passing of his father, Wordcraft founder, Dr. Lee Francis III. His work as a poet and scholar has appeared in journals and anthologies. He will explore the history of Native and Indigenous people in popular culture and highlight some of the efforts of “Indigenerds” worldwide to actively change the representations of Native people through dynamic and powerful expressions of self and culture. Daryl Baldwin will speak at 1 p.m. on April 18. Baldwin is a citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. His ancestors were active in the affairs of the Miami Nation dating back to the 18th century, and he continues this dedication through his work in language and cultural revitalization. Since 1995, Baldwin has worked with the Myaamia people developing culture and language-based educational materials and programs for the tribal community. Baldwin’s presentation will look at the role of the Myaamia Center at Miami University, a Miami Tribe of Oklahoma-supported research center, whose mission is to serve the needs of the Myaamia people, Miami University and partner communities through research, education and outreach that promote Myaamia language, culture, knowledge and values. Dr. Daniel Wildcat will speak at 9:30 a.m. on April 19. He is a professor at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, and an accomplished scholar who writes on Indigenous knowledge, technology, environment and education. A Yuchi citizen of the Muscogee Nation, Wildcat’s presentation examines the climate change-induced trauma already occurring and likely to dramatically increase in the next decades. This presentation will argue that to deal with this trauma, Indigenous people will need to rely on culture to express tribal resilience through exercises of Indigenous ingenuity. Two films will be screened during the symposium, “The Old School House” and “Te Ata.” “The Old School House” can be seen at 5:30 p.m. on April 16 in the Webb Building Auditorium. The film is the sixth feature documentary from the Native American Paranormal Project. It explores a building on the campus of NSU known as the Bacone House, which serves as the university’s Center for Tribal Studies. Over the past few decades, many staff and students have encountered unexplained sights and sounds in the Bacone House. In August 2017, the Native American Paranormal Project visited the old building and documented its time there. The findings and the history of the 150 year-old home are featured in "The Old School House.” “Te Ata” (TAY’ AH-TAH) “Te Ata” can be seen at 5:30 p.m. on April 17 in the Webb Building Auditorium. The film is based on the inspiring, true story of Mary Thompson Fisher, a woman who traversed cultural barriers to become one of the greatest Native American performers of all time. Born in Indian Territory, and raised on the songs and stories of her Chickasaw culture, Te Ata’s journey to find her true calling led her through isolation, discovery, love and a stage career that culminated in performances for a United States president, European royalty and audiences across the world. April 16-18 will also offer panels and presentations in the University Center Ballroom. Symposium activities are free and the public is encouraged to attend. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.nsuok.edu/symposium" target="_blank">www.nsuok.edu/symposium</a>.