http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgMuscogee (Creek) Nation citizen Jackie Tyler shows lettuce grown at Native Oklahoma Aquaponic Harvest, or NOAH, in Blackgum, Oklahoma. She and her husband, Richard, raise crops via an aquaponics system, which combines raising fish and soilless plant growth. KENLEA HENSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Muscogee (Creek) Nation citizen Jackie Tyler shows lettuce grown at Native Oklahoma Aquaponic Harvest, or NOAH, in Blackgum, Oklahoma. She and her husband, Richard, raise crops via an aquaponics system, which combines raising fish and soilless plant growth. KENLEA HENSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Aquaponics answers prayers for couple, community

Cherokee Nation citizen Richard Tyler and his wife, Muscogee (Creek) Nation citizen Jackie Tyler, check their lettuce crop at Native Oklahoma Aquaponic Harvest in Blackgum, Oklahoma. They raise their crops through an aquaponics system, which creates safe and healthier food. KENLEA HENSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Richard Tyler and his wife, Muscogee (Creek) Nation citizen Jackie Tyler, check their lettuce crop at Native Oklahoma Aquaponic Harvest in Blackgum, Oklahoma. They raise their crops through an aquaponics system, which creates safe and healthier food. KENLEA HENSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
10/30/2017 12:00 PM
BLACKGUM, Okla. – It’s been nearly two years since Cherokee Nation citizen Richard Tyler and his wife, Muscogee (Creek) Nation citizen Jackie Tyler, broke ground on their aquaponics business called Native Oklahoma Aquaponic Harvest, or NOAH.

Today, their 8,000-square-foot greenhouse, the first and largest commercial aquaponics farm in Oklahoma, is doing everything they “prayed” it would.

“We built this with the concept of 30 percent of everything we do would back and offset the food pantry and help our community,” Richard said.

In 2013, Richard operated the Vian Peace Center, a food pantry serving around 100 families monthly in and around Vian. That same year the area suffered job losses, and the center had to serve about 780 families a month. The increase hit hard Richard’s and the community’s finances.

“At the end of 2013, we were able to help 265 families with Christmas dinner and toys, but it depleted all my finances. So in March 2014, I was homeless and I was sleeping at the pantry in my truck. A lady rescued me, and God gave us the vision (of aquaponics) to turn us around,” he said. “I started a small hoop house to show it would work, and everybody was excited about it, but you couldn’t get a commercial system because nobody was willing to lend on it. So when me and Jackie got together she said, ‘you know I think the Lord wants you to re-apply,’ and we did and here we are. It’s been a real blessing.”

Aquaponics combines raising fish and soilless plant growth in an integrated system. The fish waste provides organic plant food, and the plants filter the water for the fish. With this aquaculture and hydroponics mixture, the food is safer and healthier, Richard said.

He said by growing food in water there are no bug and erosion problems, and the food absorbs more nutrients. “What happens is since the roots are in water they can absorb 100 percent of the nutrients, so that makes (the produce) 25 to 35 percent more healthy. And without any chemicals, preservatives and pesticides on it, there are no cancers, childhood obesity or a lot of things that are associated with pesticides and preservatives.”

The aquaponics business has also allowed the Tylers to reach their goal of providing the community with safe and healthy produce as part of a “Give 30” program they developed. The program gives 30 percent of what is grown to the community, supplementing the Vian Peace Center and the Vian Public Schools’ backpack program.

Richard said he’s also working on contracts with entities such as Harps Foods, the University of Oklahoma and Ben E. Keith Foods. However, he said it’s going to take more greenhouses to supply the Oklahoma-based companies.

“Where were at right now we need more growers to meet that higher demand. We’ve had interest from large Oklahoma-based companies that want one million heads (of lettuce) a week, but we can’t meet that demand until we get more of these going, but they are there,” he said. “In Salinas, California, where 98 percent of your lettuce is grown, they’re going through a tremendous drought. Where they’ve been in a seven-year drought now they’re looking at another seven to nine-year drought, so their supply chain is going to start breaking down on lettuce. With the indoor environment, it’s safer because we aren’t subjected to that (drought), and it doesn’t matter if it rains or snows. We are still inside of a building, so we can grow 365 days a year.”

He said he hopes the CN and other tribes would install aquaponics to create jobs, profit and increase health benefits.

“It opens job opportunities. It helps the economy. We were reading an article today, and Oklahoma is the highest in the unemployment rate and there’s less job security. We need to move those coastal businesses because it’s over a billion dollars a year back into Oklahoma, and it creates jobs for this area and for our people,” he said. “If the tribes grab a hold of this they could put this produce in their commodity warehouses, their casinos, their hospitals, their elderly feeding programs and all over the schools, and the people would get the best nutrition they could.”

Take an Aquaponics Tour
Native Oklahoma Aquaponic Harvest offers tours to schools, groups and individuals wanting to learn more or interested in starting an aquaponic greenhouse. A business tour is $75 and includes the process of owning and operating an aquaponics business. A regular tour is $10 and covers the facilities with no business information. Visit

NOAH Farmers Market
Native Oklahoma Aquaponic Harvest also opens its farmers market on Fridays and Saturdays at its Blackgum facility. Foods for sale include strawberries, kale, tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, okra, lettuce and fish. Local farmers bring crops as well as goat cheese, beef, Berkshire pork and regular pork. For more information, visit


01/18/2018 04:00 PM
TULSA – Cherokee Nation Technology Solutions is one of six companies awarded a $249 million indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract supporting research activities at four Army medical agencies during the next 10 years. “We are proud to support the Army and to serve an integral role in maintaining and promoting the health and well-being of our service members and their families,” John Hansen, CNTS operations general manager, said. “This award builds on our existing relationship with the Department of Defense and our growing reputation as a premier provider in the field of medical research.” Officials said CNTS will work to preserve and advance the health and well-being of soldiers and military retirees, their families and Army civilian employees. The four participating agencies — the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, the U.S. Army Public Health Center and the Extremity Trauma and Amputation Center of Excellence — can award task orders through the contract. CNTS will have an opportunity to provide biomedical research and surveillance, information management, and business operations and information technology activities in support of burn, trauma and combat casualty care and rehabilitation, chemical warfare mitigation and public health services. For more information on CNTS’ medical research support, email <a href="mailto:"></a>. CNTS, formed in 2008, provides technical support services and project support personnel to its defense and civilian agency partners. The company provides a tailored management approach for complex government programs and disciplines, including information technology, science, engineering, construction, research and development, facilities management, program management, and mission support. CNTS is headquartered in Tulsa and is part of the Cherokee Nation Businesses family of companies. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
01/12/2018 08:15 AM
STILWELL – January 2018 marked one year in business for two brothers with a dream to start a clothing brand that expresses their love for the outdoors and represents their roots. Cody Killer, 26, and Dakota St. Pierre, 19, named their brand Baron Fork Outfitters. The Cherokee Nation citizens and brothers grew up in Stilwell and appreciate being outdoors and engaging in outdoor activities. But it was spending time on Baron Fork Creek that inspired the brand’s name. “It brings back memories of summers from our childhood we spent with family fishing and swimming in the Baron Fork Creek. It was a big part of our childhood to go and spend family time at there,” Killer said. “And when Dakota presented the name to me I thought this was a pretty sweet name, a name that people from around here would recognize. And for the people that don’t, it sounds like a pretty cool name.” The idea of starting a T-shirt brand developed more than a year before they launched the company in 2017. Killer said getting the name really got the “ball rolling.” The goal was to create a brand that captures northeast Oklahoma’s beauty as well as the area’s significance to which locals could identify. “A lot of this is about local recognition. Obviously starting out we aren’t expecting to go big, so we weren’t worrying about other people buying it out of (Adair) county. We really wanted to build it up for the locals,” St. Pierre said. They designed their first T-shirt after the place that inspired the brand, with a hint of “humor.” “We wanted our first design to be our signature design, which has the Baron Fork Creek with the old railroad bridge above it. But we also added mountains in the background. A lot of people kind of pointed it out, but we did it as a joke because almost everyone around this area either lives on or near a mountain like Rocky Mountain, Spade Mountain, Killer Mountain, Jackson Mountain. So the mountains represent that,” Killer said. With name and design in place, printing the shirts was next. But buying equipment and materials to print their shirts wasn’t feasible for the young entrepreneurs, so after saving money they used a relative’s printing business in Tulsa. However, the brand didn’t take off until its public debut at Stilwell’s annual Strawberry Festival in May. The brothers offered one design in four colors as a test run and sold about 140 shirts. In a short time, Baron Fork Outfitters went from offering one design to offering 10. The most popular is the “yona” design, which means bear in Cherokee. St. Pierre said adding Cherokee elements to designs is another way they represent their background. “We wanted to be able to express our Cherokee heritage through the business because that’s a big part of who we are and the area we grew up in.” In addition to offering T-shirt designs, Baron Fork Outfitters offers beanies, hats, tank tops, long- and short-sleeve shirts and items such as campfire mugs and cups. “Realistically everything we make from this we turn right around and put it back into new stuff because it hasn’t been about making a profit but more about expanding and making the best products possibly and more affordable for everyone,” Killer said. Along with receiving positive feedback from locals, Baron Fork Outfitters is grabbing attention beyond the area. “I go to school at OU (University of Oklahoma) and people are like ‘whoa what’s that shirt? I want to buy it.’ And even through our Etsy page we have received orders from other states. So with the popularity we are gaining we can expand into other markets and offer more outdoor designs as a whole, but still be under the same name that started it all,” St. Pierre said. Killer said they are going to introduce more clothing items and designs this year, some featuring collaborations with local artists Hilary Hume and Daylon Diver. “A big part of what we are trying to do is support other locals, too. So coming up with a design and asking artists to draw the artwork for our shirts is a way to promote them and get their name out there too,” he said. “Hilary has been working on two designs. She completed one and is going to represent an area of Oklahoma (where) a lot of people will know what it means. So we are really excited.” Although Baron Fork Outfitters doesn’t have an official store the brothers sell their products from a Stilwell tax office, but want to offer products to local stores. Eventually they hope to own a Baron Fork Outfitters store equipped with their clothing and supplies. “It was everything we hoped for and more. As with any business, we, of course, are looking to expand, but we could not be happier with where we are today,” Killer said.
01/04/2018 08:15 AM
PRYOR, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Red Wing recently earned Nadcap accreditation and Supplier Merit Status by demonstrating an ongoing commitment to aerospace quality, as well as satisfying customer requirements and industry specifications. “This marks Cherokee Nation Red Wing’s third consecutive year earning the Nadcap Electronics accreditation, and this year we achieved the added recognition of Supplier Merit status,” Adam Due, Cherokee Nation Businesses’ engineering and manufacturing division director of quality assurance, said. “The CNRW team is committed to exceeding customer expectations, and these well-earned accomplishments are proof of that continued commitment and hard work.” Nadcap is an industry-managed assessment approach that brings together technical experts from both industry and government to establish requirements for accreditation, to accredit suppliers and to define operational program requirements. “Achieving Nadcap accreditation is not easy; it is one of the ways in which the aerospace industry identifies those who excel at manufacturing quality product through superior special processes. Companies such as Cherokee Nation Red Wing work hard to obtain this status, and they should be justifiably proud of it,” Joe Pinto, Performance Review Institute executive vice president and chief operating officer, said. “PRI is proud to support continual improvement in the aerospace industry by helping companies such as Cherokee Nation Red Wing be successful, and we look forward to continuing to assist the industry moving forward.” More than 5,000 Nadcap audits are conducted annually around the world. Industry experts, whose role is also to evaluate each audit for compliance, determine the audit. Red Wing was formed in 2009 to provide quality employment opportunities for CN citizens within an organization that supports today’s warfighter through innovative and quality solutions with a focus on aviation and weapon systems life cycle support management, critical sustainment, reset and repair services. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
12/19/2017 08:30 AM
TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Chuck Dixon found a way to turn his passion for vertical flight into a helicopter tour business called Tulsa County Helicopters. Born in Wichita, Kansas, Dixon was introduced to flying when his father worked as an accountant for the Cessna Aircraft Company. “From a young age I’ve always had a fascination with aviation. It started out with airplanes. I thought I wanted to be an airplane pilot. What little boy doesn’t think about being an airplane pilot?” Dixon said. When he got older, Dixon took flying lessons in a Cessna 150 airplane, but it didn’t give him the satisfaction of flying he wanted. By happenstance, he saw a helicopter land and take off from a convenience store parking lot, and it caught his interest. He began taking lessons in vertical aviation in 2006 at Silver State Helicopters, which operated at the Tulsa International Airport. “So I went and signed up there and decided to go to school. I basically took out a $70,000 student loan to go from zero hours in a helicopter all the way to a certified flight instructor,” he said. From there, he and a pilot friend looked for ways to increase their flight times and potentially create a business. “We actually started out as two friends that were just renting helicopters and trying to find a way to make some money with it so that we could further our flight career. We were young pilots and we didn’t have a whole lot of flight time. Flight time is very expensive in helicopters, so the best option for us was just try to find a way that paid for it rather than us taking money out our pocket to buy our own flight time,” Dixon said. They began by renting a helicopter, setting up at different events and offering rides for $35 a person. From there, they sought more and more avenues for business. Operating Robinson R44 helicopters, they began offering utilitarian tours such as birthday/anniversary/marriage proposal flights, Tulsa metro tours, sweetheart tours for Valentine’s Day, Christmas Light tours. They also work events such as Easter egg drops, balloon festivals, Fourth of July events and the Tulsa State Fair. Dixon said they also added Federal Aviation Administration 135 flights, known as air charter flights or taking people from airport to airport or other locations. “Now we can take people out to the Hard Rock Casino and drop them off there, or out to Molly’s Landing in Catoosa and let them eat dinner. We can take them to Kansas City or Dallas or wherever they want to go,” he said. Aside from tours, Dixon’s business offers helicopter flight instruction and conducts power line and pipeline inspections for companies such as Oklahoma Gas and Electric. Tulsa County Helicopters operates out of the Christiansen Jet Center where Dixon leases hangar and office space. He said his business is unique in that there was no business model for him to follow. “I’ve owned some other businesses in the past (such as) a car auction and a landscape company, and nothing compares to this as far as the business model for it because a lot of it we’ve had to make up as we go as we saw what would work and what avenues wouldn’t work.” Dixon said he’s seen great reviews about his business on social media and other websites. He said his primary goal is safety and to give the customer “the best possible aviation experience they’ve ever had in their life.” “When they get off that helicopter we want to see them smiling,” he said. “Ninety percent of the people that go for a flight have never been on a helicopter before in their life. So you’re the person that gets to introduce them to vertical flight. That was what gave us good feeling about what we did. So that’s why we like to go out and do those things,” he said. Tulsa County Helicopters is located at 200 Lear Jet Lane. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>, Tulsa County Helicopters on Facebook or call 918-948-3579.
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
12/18/2017 09:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – It’s 2018, and the new year means tax season. And the Cherokee Nation will once again help individuals within its 14-county jurisdiction with tax preparation through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance service. Cora Lathrop, CN mortgage loan officer and VITA coordinator, said each year the tribe works with the Internal Revenue Service to train volunteers how to provide free, basic, income tax return preparation for low-to-moderate income taxpayers. She said the tribe generally offers aid to all people, not just its citizens, who annually make $60,000 or less and need assistance preparing tax returns. “This is an IRS program. Cherokee Nation partners with IRS to offer free assistance because we want to help community members save the exorbitant fees charged by businesses,” Lathrop said. “Many (businesses) charge between $50 and $400 for simple forms that VITA sites can prepare. This program is designed to help lower-income people save tax preparation fees.” The tribe’s VITA service is expected to run from Feb. 5 to April 12. No appointments will be made before Jan. 15. The VITA locations will be in Tahlequah, Stilwell, Claremore, Sallisaw, Salina, Westville, Catoosa, Jay, Muskogee, Vinita, Ochelata, Nowata and Pryor. “VITA sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries and other convenient locations,” Lathrop said. All locations are by appointment only excluding the Tahlequah and Westville locations, which takes walk-in filers. When filing this year, Lathrop said the Affordable Care Act, known as ObamaCare, would play a part in people’s 2017 tax returns. “You will need to answer if everyone in your household had insurance during 2017. Each individual has to have insurance, adult and child or be eligible for an exemption,” Lathrop said. She said volunteers not only prepare and file tax returns but they also inform taxpayers about special tax credits for which they may qualify such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. According to, the 2017 EITC’s maximum adjusted gross income with three or more qualifying children is $48,340 ($53,930 if married filing joint) with the maximum credit at $6,318. Lathrop also said tax returns are filed electronically, which allows refunds to be deposited into taxpayers’ accounts within 10 days if using direct deposits. “The IRS has announced that any return claiming Earned Income Credit will not receive tax refunds before Feb. 15. The IRS is working hard to reduce tax fraud. Some refunds can take up to 21 days while the IRS is double-checking returns. Returns claiming Earned Income Credit and the additional Child Tax Credit will be affected,” she added. “You can use the Where’s My Refund? tool and the IRS2Go phone app to check the status of your refund.” Individuals can also prepare and file their own federal and state taxes for free online if their respective incomes are under $64,000 at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. For more information, call 918-453-5536. To find a VITA site anywhere in the United States, call toll free 1-800-906-9887 or visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. <strong>What You Need To Bring</strong> Proof of Identification (photo ID) Social Security Cards for you, spouse and dependents Wage and earning statements (form W2, W-2G, 1099-R, 1099-Misc) from all employers Interest and dividend statements from banks (form 1099) All Forms 1095, Health Insurance Statements (forms 1095A, 1095B, 1095C) Copy of previous year tax return Proof of bank account routing and account numbers for direct deposit such as blank check If Married Filing Jointly, both spouses need to be present Total paid to Daycare Provider with Tax ID number If itemize on Schedule A, statements of expense from Charities, Mortgage Lenders, Property Tax, Medical expenses. <strong>VITA Locations and Information</strong> Tahlequah: O-Si-Yo Room, 17695 S. Muskogee Ave., 918-453-5536 Open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday by appointment and walk-in Pryor: Career Services, 2945 Hwy 69A, 918-453-5000, ext. 5972 Open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Thursday Westville: Westville Public Library, 116 N. Williams Open for walk-in only from 9 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 22 and March 8 and 29 Stilwell: Wilma Mankiller Clinic, Hwy 51 East, 918-453-5536 Open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday Sallisaw: Housing Authority, 2260 W. Cherokee, 918-774-0770, ext. 221 and 222 Open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday Catoosa: Housing Authority, 310 Chief Stand Watie, 918-342-2607 Open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday Claremore: Housing Authority, 23205 S. Highway 66, 918-342-6807 Open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Monday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday Jay: Housing Authority, 1300 W. Cherokee, 918-253-4078 Open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday Salina: CN Food Distribution Site, 904 Owen Walters Blvd., 918-207-3939 Open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday Muskogee: Three Rivers Health Clinic, 1001 S. 41 St. E., 918-453-5536 Open from 9:15 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday Vinita: Vinita Health Center, 27371 S. 4410 Road, 918-342-2607 Open from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 8, March 1, 15 and 29 Ochelata: Cooweescoowee Health Clinic, 39500 W. 2900 Road, 918-342-2607 Open from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 15, March 8 and April 5 Nowata: Will Rogers Health Clinic, 1020 Lenape Drive, 918-342-2607 Open from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 22, March 22 and April 12 <strong>Earned Income Tax Credit and Adjusted Gross Income Limits</strong> The tax year 2017 earned income and adjusted gross income must be less than: <strong>If filing… Qualifying Children Claimed 0, 1, 2, 3 or more</strong> Single, Head of $15,010, $39,617, $45,007, $48,340 Household or Widowed Married Filing Jointly $20,600, $45,207, $50,597, $53,930 Maximum Credits $510, $3,400, $5,616, $6,318 <strong>History of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program</strong> More than 30 years ago, the Cherokee Nation’s Career Services Learning Center helped CN citizens by preparing simple tax returns. The program has been moved through several departments and is now administered by the Commerce Department’s Mortgage Assistance Program. The program was originally founded 1971 by Gary Iskowitz at California State University Northridge. The concept was to provide local taxpayers with free tax return preparation by accounting students, in effort to provide both a valuable community service and a powerful hands-on learning experience for the accounting students. The program grew from a small group of dedicated accounting students to what is now a nationwide program that serves thousands of taxpayers and provides a valuable learning experience for accounting students. Iskowitz (now a prominent CPA, and former IRS agent) recently was commended on the 40th anniversary of the program.
11/29/2017 08:15 AM
SALLISAW, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Tyler Choate grew up learning the construction business from his father. He eventually parlayed those lessons into a successful business called TTA Construction. Choate’s construction venture, however, didn’t have an easy start. After the recent economic recession took a toll on his father’s business, he started doing pipeline work. When that didn’t work out, Choate’s first business venture was selling portable buildings, which didn’t last. Being out of business and work, Choate built his way back into the construction world in 2012. He collected tools and equipment to start a business, and the CN’s Tribal Employment Rights Office certified him as a vendor. One of his first jobs was helping construct the South Ridge apartments in Tahlequah. “I literally drove down, walked into the job trailer and ask the guy ‘do you have anyone that’s hanging you all’s dry wall?’” Choate said. While working at the apartment complex, Choate discovered he won a CN contract to hang dry wall in 30 tribal homes. From there, Choate’s business grew. He spent days working jobs and driving to job sites handing out business cards. When he came home, he caught up on paperwork. In the first year, Choate’s business made approximately $50,000. However, it’s doubled in revenue each year since. “The first year I made $50,000 and I’d have to pay people out of that and buy tools. I barely just survived. But I managed to pay my credit card bills that I had taken out to buy tools,” Choate said. “Every year since then we’ve doubled our revenue. So hopefully we can keep doing that.” In 2016, TTA Construction was named the Construction Company of the Year at the tribe’s annual TERO awards banquet. “We’re 100 percent Native American-owned, and I’m pretty proud of being Native American-owned,” he said. “I feel like in this part of the country there’s actually more doors open to me because Cherokee Nation has such a great influence.” Choate said his company in 2016 built 50 CN homes and that it’s built more than 100 homes in the past few years. His business also constructs custom homes. As a construction management business, TTA Construction provides services such as general contracting, design build, pre-construction, sustainable and green construction, facility maintenance, emergency services and repairs and specialty projects. Choate said he wants to grow TTA into a multi-million dollar business and take on entire construction projects. For more information, call 918-773-7127 or visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.