http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgCherokee Nation citizen B.J. Latta discusses his role on the new Discovery Channel series “Bushcraft Build-off” while detailing what survival items he carries on his person at all times. Latta was a team leader on the show and challenged to build a shelter in the Aspen Grove forest of Utah in only seven days with three hand tools and the resources from the environment. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen B.J. Latta discusses his role on the new Discovery Channel series “Bushcraft Build-off” while detailing what survival items he carries on his person at all times. Latta was a team leader on the show and challenged to build a shelter in the Aspen Grove forest of Utah in only seven days with three hand tools and the resources from the environment. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Latta competes on Discovery Channel series

Cherokee Nation citizen B.J. Latta also teaches at a survivalist school owned by fellow CN citizen and friend Matt Tate. Latta said he never goes anywhere without a backpack full of items that might be used in a survivalist situation, including a knife, Mylar energy blanket, waterproof matches and pliers. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen B.J. Latta also teaches at a survivalist school owned by fellow CN citizen and friend Matt Tate. Latta said he never goes anywhere without a backpack full of items that might be used in a survivalist situation, including a knife, Mylar energy blanket, waterproof matches and pliers. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Former Reporter
11/21/2017 08:00 AM
Video Frame selected by Cherokee Phoenix
WESTVILLE, Okla. – When expert bushcrafters were invited to square off against one another on the Discovery Channel’s new series “Bushcraft Build-off,” Cherokee Nation citizen B.J. Latta was featured among them.

“Back in March, I get a phone call and this lady calls me from Hollywood, California, and she says, ‘hey, we would like to interview you on Skype for a upcoming TV show. You got recommended by (Latta’s friend) Matt Tate.’ It was just crazy being interviewed, and of course, I didn’t think it was going to go anywhere because there’s so many guys who are way more talented,” Latta said.

Hosted by primitive skills expert Matt Graham, the show debuted Nov. 14 and takes survival to the next level by asking two teams of three bushcrafters to outdo one another in challenges meant to test ability and skill.

Latta led his team on the series premiere competing to build the best shelter during a seven-day span in Utah’s Aspen Grove forest. Each team was allowed three hand tools to accomplish the task while being graded by Graham in areas of creativity, sustainability, livability and protection.

“One tool a piece, per person and then we were just turned loose in the environment for seven days,” Latta said. “The part where I filmed was in the mountains of Utah, and we didn’t know what we were doing until we got off the plane, got out of the hotel room and they took us to the mountains. We were kind of kept in the dark, so the challenge was more real.”

In addition to being limited on tools, Latta faced challenges from an unfamiliar environment.

“I was totally out of my environment,” he said. “When you go to the mountains of Utah, there’s no cedar trees up there. There’s not one and that’s one of the main resources, especially for Native American people, here. Cedar trees are very life giving. We use that in everything in Cherokee culture, but when you get up there, there’s none.”

The location itself was also a factor.

“Even just working in the altitude was very tough for us because I’m not used to that, the oxygen levels,” Latta said. “There’s no high altitude here in Adair County. Your body’s different. You’re burning more calories. You’re exhausted more and in a survival situation, all that stuff really, really matters.”

In the premiere episode titled “Built to Survive,” Latta said Graham was quick to offer advice when things started to go sideways.

“I ran into a problem with my shelter,” he said. “I thought it out and thought, ‘man, my idea is not going to work. I need a bigger and better idea,’ and so I ask (Graham), ‘hey, what do you think about this?’ And so this guy, who is world renowned got to sit with me and I got to pick his brain, which is really, really cool.”

The experience also allowed Latta to spend more time with his father, who was on his team.

“To be able to spend that time with my dad, was probably the most rewarding,” he said. “Being on TV is going to be really cool, but that’s like third or fourth compared to spending 15 days with my dad.”

Despite seeing himself on the Discovery Channel, the Stilwell teacher remains humble.

“To know that maybe the world doesn’t see me as maybe successful on paper, but that’s because I’ve been a good steward at everything I’ve done and just worked hard like the Lord says, just showing up and doing your best can elevate you,” he said. “I didn’t put in an application to be on the Discovery Channel. They seen my work ethic working somewhere else and noticed me and asked me to come there.”

For more about “Bushcraft Build-off” or to watch Latta’s episode, visit www.discovery.com. A new episode is aired at 9 p.m. every Tuesday night.

Multimedia

BY ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
07/09/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Local and regional members of the LBGTQ community on June 30 held the fifth annual TahlEquality Pride march and picnic. The march began at Choctaw Street and ended at Norris Park downtown. Cherokee Nation citizen and Oklahomans for Equality: Tahlequah Chapter President Carden Crow said he was pleased with the turnout. “We started in 2014. Now it’s 2018 and we’re going strong,” Crow said. “This is a chance for our LBGTQ community and our allies to come out and show our sense of camaraderie and community. This is an opportunity for our culture to celebrate themselves, celebrate their survival, celebrate who they are in this community.” This year’s event consisted of the march, a daytime family drag show where performers dressed like Disney characters, vendors, speakers, a picnic and an adult drag show held later in the evening.
BY LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
07/06/2018 12:00 PM
PARK HILL – After running 777 miles of the Trail of Tears’ Benge Route, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians citizen Kallup McCoy II completed his run on June 28 at the Cherokee Heritage Center. On his last day, McCoy made the final stretch from Stilwell to Park Hill with his girlfriend and EBCI citizen, Katelynn Ledford, and a group of Oklahoma Cherokees. The runners were greeted at the CHC by Cherokee Nation and United Keetoowah Band citizens, as well as CN Principal Chief Bill John Baker, CN Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden and UKB Chief Joe Bunch. McCoy ran into the CHC wearing a cape made of CN and UKB tribal flags tied together. He said the run was not for him but for all Cherokees and to honor his ancestors who made the original journey due to the forced removals in the 1830s. “I didn’t know what it meant to be Cherokee. I didn’t know what it meant to be proud of my culture, my people. Being out on this run, coming from where I came from and just getting up every day like our people had to do on their way out here and having to push through, I know what it means to be Cherokee, strong, resilient, tenacious, and to love and to forgive,” McCoy said. He began the run to Oklahoma on May 14 in Cherokee, North Carolina. He averaged about 20 miles per day and stopped at several Trail of Tears markers. McCoy documented his journey via Facebook and met people along the way in support of his efforts. He said he ran to raise awareness for people struggling and recovering from drug addiction and to raise funds for his nonprofit organization Rez HOPE Recovery. He said he was able to raise nearly $5,000. “Whenever we see people for their experiences, we see people any differently than us, we’re falling short of the mark,” he said. “It’s not a drug problem we’re in, it’s an opportunity to win souls. It’s an opportunity to heal our people. And the only way we’re going to do that is by banding together and putting aside our differences. God saved me from six overdoses and so many near death experiences, and three of those times I was flat lined.” McCoy talked about his experiences at the CHC such as doing drugs at age 11 and drinking at age 13. He said he lost college scholarships to run track and play football and began stealing pain medication and money when his father was ill. “I got to a point to where I couldn’t stand myself. It ultimately led me to getting sick. It turns us into people we don’t realize who we are,” he said. McCoy said is now looking for the next opportunity, which is opening a recovery house in Cherokee and to start placing recovery houses around the country, including Oklahoma. “Building leadership, people that’s struggling with drug addiction and alcohol or whatever it may be. I think that we need to realize that they’re more than just addicts and junkies and felons and the list goes on and on. I was once there, and I was more than that. I think it’s important for me to tell people to reach back and say you are more than that. That’s somebody’s son, daughter, sister, brother. It’s getting Rez HOPE out here, spreading it across the country. That’s my vision,” he said.
BY LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
06/28/2018 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation officials honored CN citizen Sammy Houseberg on June 21 with the Medal of Patriotism award for his service in the military. The Medal of Patriotism Awards is given at monthly Tribal Council meetings. Tribal Councilors can nominate a person to receive the award. Houseberg is also a “Remember the Removal” alumni rider who rode in 2016 as a CN Elder Ambassador. He was in town to watch this year’s riders come in the same day he received the patriotism award. Originally from Stilwell, Houseberg has resided in Pearl City, Hawaii, since he was honorably discharged from the Army. During his 22 years of service, he rose in rank from private to first sergeant, armor senior sergeant, platoon sergeant to senior scout/section leader. He also attended Air Assault reconnaissance and surveillance training with his cavalry squadron where he became capable of short notice deployments in support of combat operations all over the world to provide reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence assets to commanders. Houseberg was honorably discharged as an E-8 first sergeant in 1994. He said he was proud to receive the Medal of Patriotism and that it “probably beats all of my other awards.” In addition to the Medal of Patriotism, he earned several decorations, medals and ribbons during his service including an Army Commendation Medal with five Oak Leaf Cluster, an overseas service ribbon, two Purple Hearts with one Oak Leaf Cluster, an Army Service ribbon, a Combat Infantryman’s badge, four overseas service bars, a Bronze Silver Star medal and six Vietnam Campaign medals. “The military was good for me. It got me out to see the world. I got to learn how to work and deal with people. It was good to me. It was fun,” he said. After receiving the award, Houseberg attended the welcome home ceremony for the 2018 RTR bike ride. “The Removal bike ride taught me a lot about my history. I knew nothing about where my family comes from, where they were or anything,” he said. He said he learned his family originated from Georgia and was one of the first families to be removed. He added that he could not express how important it was for him to be back in Oklahoma to see the cyclists come in. “I just feel like a part of them and riding with the RTR you become brothers and sisters when you do that. Kind of like being in the military, once you’ve done it you all get together, and you stay in touch with all the young riders I rode with,” he said.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
06/25/2018 10:35 AM
TAHLEQUAH – After three weeks of riding through seven states, the “Remember the Removal” cyclists on June 21 rode into downtown through a sea of family and friends waiting to greet them. They stopped at the new Cherokee National Peace Pavilion where leaders from the Cherokee Nation and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians honored them with a ceremony. Before riding from Stilwell on the ride’s last day, Cherokee Nation Businesses Executive Vice President Chuck Garrett discussed what he learned about the ride and its participants. He rode the first week through Georgia and part of Tennessee with the cyclists. He said his pre-ride perception was that the annual event was primarily a bike ride rather than being about history and a shared experience. “Working as a team together and visiting the historical sites that we visited, it became clear to me that this is a lot less about the bike, and it’s a lot more about our people and our history and a shared experience,” he said. Garrett said he had not spent much time with young people like he did while riding the Trial of Tears’ Northern Route, but that it was “a good experience” to understand them better. “I have to say that, we, as a nation, I think our future is bright. These young people are tough. They’re smart, and they’re persistent, and I think these are qualities that will serve the nation well,” he said. Garrett also told spectators that seven cyclists are his cousins. Each year before the ride, a genealogist works on the cyclists’ Cherokee ancestries to determine if any of them are related. “This journey was a reminder that we are all family,” he said. “This opportunity to share this extraordinary experience, I am so grateful for.” He said the Cherokee people’s forced removal was “a crime against humanity beyond our imagination.” “Our ancestors were put through trials and tribulations that no people should have to experience, and yet they preserved and they thrived, and we’re here today as evidence of that,” Garrett said. “We owe a gift to the extraordinary efforts of our ancestors. It’s a gift that I know these young people, and those of us that aren’t so young, feel a very special need to give back to the Nation and to each other.” Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin said the ceremony celebrated both the cyclists’ return and their Cherokee ancestors. “What these young people have on the uniforms they’re wearing says a great deal. It says, ‘we will never forget.’ What we’re here to do today is to not only celebrate our riders but to celebrate our Cherokee ancestors. That’s what this is all about. I thought at one time that it might be appropriate to ask for a moment of silence, but then I thought, ‘no,’ our ancestors today are joyful. They’re joyful that what they accomplished through the numerous hardships they endured is being rewarded today by their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren…still being here, still being Cherokee.” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said he and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden had a “debriefing” with the 18 cyclists in Stilwell the night before they rode to Tahlequah. He told the cyclists’ families that the riders are not the same people who left three weeks ago. Baker said they are stronger leaders who know more about their history and culture. “They fully understand that the riders on either side of them are now their family for now and forever. They get it. They get what has made Cherokees strong since the beginning of time. It’s family,” he said. “They were talking about being Cherokee. They survived. They adapted, and they excelled. Some of them had a harder time than others, but they talked about the ones who were stronger who stayed back and helped them succeed.” EBCI rider Bo Taylor said he spent two years as a part of the ride. In 2017, he trained for the ride but wrecked his bike days before it began, breaking nine ribs. “It’s been a long two years for me, but through prayer and my team I have learned a lot about myself.” Taylor also touted this year’s women riders, saying the tribe has “some amazing women.” This year, 11 of the 18 riders were women. Taylor gave special recognition to CN trainer Sarah Holcomb as well as riders Lori Owle, Amari McCoy and Jan Smith, who was the oldest rider at 62. He said the Trail of Tears does not epitomize “who we are as Cherokee people.” “We have been around for thousands of years, and we’re going to be around a lot longer than that. The Trail of Tears cannot be who we are. We are not defeated,” he said.
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
06/12/2018 08:30 AM
PARK HILL – Cherokee Nation citizen Cooper Keys is a 4-year-old with a passion for motocross. Born in 2013, Cooper began riding his 2004 Yamaha PW50 in February after finding tri-cycling slow and monotonous. With half a dozen races under his belt on the peewee dirt track at Jandebeur’s Motor Sports Park in Okmulgee, he’s notched five third-place finishes and one second-place finish. Cooper competes in the 50cc shaft drive/air cooled and 50cc beginner divisions and is the only 4-year-old racing against 5-to 7-year-olds. “We got him a starter balance bike when he was about a year and a half old,” CN citizen and Cooper’s mother Emily Keys said. “Balance bikes don’t have pedals or training wheels, so he just kind of pushed himself around until he eventually got to where he could ride around without using his feet.” Emily said Cooper soon began riding down hills, balancing perfectly on the bike that was designed for pushing around the yard. “When he outgrew the balance bike, we got him a bicycle that resembled a dirt bike, which he mastered in no time,” she said. It was around then that Emily and her husband, Justin, began thinking that Cooper’s abilities” weren’t “normal.” Cooper’s agility was only surpassed by his constant request for a real (motorized) dirt bike,” she said. “He was just gung-ho, and would not be quiet about it. My husband had a mini-bike when he was little but only rode it around the field, so we really knew nothing about dirt bikes or the sport,” Emily said. She added that it was eventually her parents who sprang for Cooper’s first dirt bike, as a Christmas present. She said she thought he would just want to ride around the field with it. But that wasn’t the case. Cooper wanted to ride all the time. “We were concerned about him racing at such a young age, so we just started at the bottom, learning everything we could on teaching Cooper how to ride safe and smart. We purchased every piece of safety gear a kid could have. Now the poor (child) looks like (a) mix between an astronaut and the Terminator when he’s all suited up to go,” Emily said. “He’s had some crashes but that hasn’t deterred him in the least.” Cooper’s father and CN citizen Justin Keys said Cooper’s can-do attitude was only one of the qualities he noticed. “It makes me really proud that he has such good sportsmanship and how he strives to make himself better. I mean he’s pushing himself more than anybody. He gets out there with a ride, ride, ride attitude and he never gives up. More than once, I’ve seen him fall down, get up and want to go again. You can’t teach that.” “We don’t want him hurt, and it is scary putting him on such a fast bike, but we’ve done all we can,’ Emily said. “We continue to teach him about safety, and we can’t let our fears get in the way of something he’s that passionate about.”
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Former Reporter
06/06/2018 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH – Students with the Native Explorers program participated in various traditional activities while visiting Cherokee Nation landmarks on May 22-23 as part of the program’s mission to increase Native Americans in science and medicine. “The older generations had a lot of knowledge in medicine and we think we can contribute as Native people to the current medical world,” Native Explorers Executive Director Jeff Hargrave said. “If we can get Native kids interested in medicine we can hopefully get them into medical school and they’ll be doctors and return home to Indian Country and service their fellow citizens.” Founded in 2010 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Native Explorers is offered through the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa. It partners with educational institutions and entities, including the Cherokee Nation to encourage Native American youths to explore how their cultures can intersect with science and medicine. Barbara Girty, Cherokee Heritage Center board and staff liaison, said she helped craft a “specialized itinerary” for the group during its stay. “They actually slept in the houses in Diligwa Village on the ground, and it’s a one-of-a-kind experience,” she said. “They also took a tour of the different Cherokee Nation museums around town, the John Ross Museum, the Supreme Court building, the jail. They went over and toured the Native Gardens. They were immersed into the Cherokee culture, and we hope that this will help them in their future endeavors when they go on to become doctors hopefully in our (W.W.) Hastings Hospital (in Tahlequah) taking care of our own Cherokee people.” The Native Explorers also participated in archery, blowgun and stickball competitions, as well as ate at a hog fry and witnessed ceremonial friendship and social stomp dancing. Girty coordinated the visit with program co-founder Dr. Kent Smith, professor of anatomy and associate dean for the Office for the Advancement of American Indians in Medicine and Science at OSU’s Center for Health Sciences. Smith said nine students participated this year and represented various tribal nations, including Cherokee, Comanche, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Standing Rock Sioux. “The group is made up of undergraduate students as well as professional medical students and graduate students,” he said. “The medical students and the graduate students in the group serve as mentors for the undergraduate students who are interested in pursuing a career in science and medicine. Some of our medical students participate in clinical rotations as well as residency programs at W.W. Hastings with the Cherokee Nation.” Smith said program costs are covered for students, and in addition to the learning and networking opportunities students earn three hours of college credit from OSU. Cherokee Nation citizen Jacalyn Hulsey, an East Central University student in Ada, said he was eager to participate in the program. “It’s really important to me to be in this program because it gives me an opportunity to learn who I am and get more college credit than I’ve already gotten, and it allows me to interact with other cultures besides my own.” Hulsey said she knew before gradating high school that her interest was within the medical field. “I actually knew before I graduated high school that I wanted to be a physical therapist, and so that’s kind of where I’m going in life,” she said. “I would definitely encourage anybody to do this because it’s not just learning what I know already, but I’m getting to learn other stuff about different cultures I never would have known. It’s a very wide range of stuff we’ll get to learn.” The program, which ran from May 21 to June 1, visited educators from the Chickasaw Nation, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the National Park Service in addition to Cherokee Nation staff. The group also visited select environmental regions across Oklahoma t0 study topics such as anatomy and paleontology. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.nativeexplorers.org" target="_blank">www.nativeexplorers.org</a>.