Native American identity absent from urban Oklahoma schools

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
01/04/2018 12:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Most of Oklahoma’s nearly 130,000 Native American students attend school in small towns, often in communities where their tribe’s history is woven into the town’s patchwork.

But for the 20 percent of Native students who attend a school in the state’s two largest metro areas, cultural connections can be harder to find, especially when it comes to a specific identity.

“Our Native program doesn’t include Native language because I have 77 tribes represented (throughout the district), so if I pick one language someone is going to be upset or left out,” Star Yellowfish, Oklahoma City Public Schools Native American student services director, said.

The state Department of Education counts more than 1,100 American Indian students in the Oklahoma City school district. But that number represents students with different tribal affiliations, the largest being Choctaw, Cherokee and Creek.

While Oklahoma City schools have more Native students than most districts, those students are spread out among nearly 100 schools, which can make it tough for a student to see others who share the same cultural identity.

Connecting Native students with each other can be especially important in an urban school system, said George Shields, director of Indian Education for Putnam City Schools.

“In a rural setting, a lot of Native kids are going to get to see grandma and grandpa, uncles and aunts, and feel more connected to their family and their heritage,” Shields said. “Our kids don’t get that. A lot of the (Native American) families in my district have moved here for a job and it might involve taking that student out of their culture.”

School districts with Indian Education programs, like Putnam City, often provide tutoring, mentoring, test preparation workshops and cultural classes for Native American students.

Districts use parent committees and advisory groups to make decisions on how to disburse funding from Title VI and the federal Johnson-O’Malley Program.

However, some of the federal funding was frozen based on Native American student counts in 1994, even though most school districts in the area have seen their Native American student populations significantly increase since then.

The adjustment to a large urban school is a challenge for some Native American families, especially if the parents’ own experience was attending a tribal school when they were younger.

Sheril Thompson, director of Indian Education for the Mid-Del school district, said she often works with Native American families who recently moved to the city and struggle with getting acclimated.

“A lot of your rural schools are sitting in a tribe and they have so many resources right there. Whereas we are up here with not a whole lot,” Thompson said.

Jillian Palomino, who is Cherokee, is one of around 55 Native American students at Del City High School. But she said it’s hard to know those other students because of the school’s large size.

“I’m sure if I lived in Tahlequah my heritage would be more of a part of my life,” said Palomino, referring to the Cherokee Nation’s capital. “But being here in the city it’s not as much a part of your life.”

Logan Seeley, a senior at Carl Albert High School who is Choctaw, said he’d like to see his classes go deeper with Native American history, especially in a community where there aren’t as many chances to learn about the culture outside of school.

His great grandfather’s skin was dark and he faced racism because of it. Logan wants to know that history and he wants to learn it in the classroom.

“In Oklahoma history we went over how tribes got here, but that’s about it,” Seeley said.

Phil Gover grew up in the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony in Nevada and he now wants to create a school in Oklahoma City that not only teaches Native American history but also incorporates a Native perspective in all curriculum areas.

“We have a critical mass of Native students in the city that we can serve with a very different take on curriculum and content,” said Gover, who is leading an effort to launch the Sovereign Community School.

Gover’s group is awaiting a response from the Oklahoma City Public Schools after filing an application to open the proposed charter school in 2019, the Oklahoman reported. The application sets a goal to serve 500 mostly Native students within a few years of opening.

“Underlying our school is the notion that Native students will learn better because they are given access to a curriculum that shows Native people in classes outside of history,” Gover said. “We are going to read awesome books in our literature class, but we are going to read books by Native people that talk about Native experiences.

“The real idea is you see yourself reflected in the things you are learning about and that raises your engagement.”

Nationally, American Indian students are often highlighted as an academically underachieving student group, especially within the federal government’s Bureau of Indian Education school network, where many students have had to overcome generations of forced disenfranchisement.

But there is evidence American Indian students in Oklahoma’s public school system perform well, especially compared to other states.

In early 2017, the state Department of Education highlighted Oklahoma’s nation-leading scores in fourth- and eighth-grade math and reading for Native students.

In Mid-Del schools, Thompson said over 200 of the district’s Native students participate in a gifted and talented program.

The Oklahoma Indian Student Honor Society is a program that not only celebrates academic success among Native American students, but it also offers a chance for students to connect with their heritage in deeper ways, Thompson said.

“In order to get cultural points for the Oklahoma Indian Student Honor Society, many of our (Native) students go out and read to our elementary school kids ... from culturally relevant books the district purchased,” Thompson said.

Gover said the challenge many Native students in an urban school system face is connecting to their cultural identity, rather than conforming to the world around them.

“Among urban Indians, at least this was my experience ... if you are not already very closely tied to your culture (when you enter school) it can be really hard to keep that part of you,” Gover said. “Everything about our system and our schools ... pressures them to conform, to assimilate, to become less like their cultural identity is and become more of the mainstream culture.”

Gover hopes he can prevent a whole new generation from losing their Native American culture, especially those growing up in Oklahoma City.

News

BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
01/19/2018 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The attorney general’s office cites perjury as a reason why it’s asking the Supreme Court to dismiss a petition from two Tribal Councilors and six Cherokee Nation citizens challenging Freedmen citizenship. In a Dec. 29 filing in the Cherokee Nation v. Nash and Vann v. Zinke case, the attorney general’s office states five of eight citizens listed in a Dec. 11 petition committed perjury and because so the petition should be dismissed and “the Court should take other appropriate action, including sanctions.” “Council Member David Walkingstick, in his individual capacity, Twila Pennington, Randy White, Norman Crowe and Vicki Bratton all swore in notarized statements they ‘voted in the 2007 referendum election…to only allow citizenship in the Cherokee Nation only to people who are Cherokee by blood.’ They did not (vote),” states the response. The response states Election Commission records show Walkingstick, Pennington, White, Crowe and Bratton did not vote in the March 3, 2007, election in which voters amended the Constitution to require Indian blood for citizenship. The Cherokee Phoenix contacted the attorney general’s office regarding the perjury allegation, but was told “there is no further comment on the perjury allegation other than what has already been filed.” Walkingstick said he voted in the election and that the records are incorrect. “In (20)07 I ran for council. I remember voting in that election. I know the records in the Election Commission, you know, they’re not always accurate.” The 2007 general election in which Walkingstick’s name first appeared on the ballot was June 23. Walkingstick added that he didn’t perjure himself. “Perjury, the definition of perjury is getting up on the witness stand and putting your hand on a Bible and take an oath that you’re going to tell the truth and then getting up there and intentionally lying. That’s perjury,” he said. “This is a desperate attempt for (Attorney General) Todd (Hembree) to not face the consequences of him not adhering to his own AG Act. This has nothing to do with who voted or who didn’t vote in the (20)07 election. It has everything to do with the Cherokee Nation trying to uphold its Constitution.” According to Black’s Law Dictionary, perjury is the willful assertion as to a matter of fact, opinion, belief, or knowledge, made by a witness in a judicial proceeding as part of his evidence, either upon oath or in any form allowed by law to be substituted for an oath, whether such evidence is given in open court, or in an affidavit, or otherwise, such assertion being known to such witness to be false, and being intended by him to mislead the court, jury, or person holding the proceeding. In a Jan. 8 affidavit, Crowe states he voted in the election and that EC records are wrong. John Parris, the petitioners’ attorney, spoke on behalf of those alleged of perjury stating they all “remember voting” in the election. “The position of the interveners is that they remember voting and don’t know why the records are inaccurate,” he said. “The interveners hope that we get to the main issue and not deal with these side issues.” In regards to the EC records being “wrong,” EC officials said they do “not feel it would be appropriate to comment” on litigation before the Supreme Court. On Dec. 11, Tribal Councilor Harley Buzzard, Kathy Robinson, Marcus Thompson, as well as the five accused of perjury, filed a petition as individual citizens against the CN and Hembree. It stems from Hembree’s decision not to appeal the District of Columbia District Court’s ruling to bind the CN to the 1866 Treaty and provide Freedmen “all the rights of native Cherokees,” including the right to citizenship. Freedmen are descendants of slaves once held by Cherokees. The petitioners ask the Supreme Court to set aside its Sept. 1 order to enroll Freedmen as citizens and instruct the attorney general’s office to appeal the federal court ruling until the Tribal Council approves or disapproves of Hembree’s decision not to appeal. According to the attorney general’s response, the petition should also be dismissed because its grievances against the CN and Hembree do not have “any basis in law or fact.” “Movants fail to demonstrate a legally cognizable interest in the present action that establishes a right to intervene under Cherokee Law. Nonetheless, even if Movants can establish a right to intervene – which they cannot – the Court must dismiss the Writ of Mandamus because this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction,” the response states. “Specifically, Movants fail to cite any jurisdictional statute which permits Movants to maintain a lawsuit against AG Hembree – an appointed official of the Nation that enjoys sovereign immunity from this type of suit. Moreover, Movants fail to establish standing to bring this action against AG Hembree and fail further to plead a claim for relief.” The attorney general’s office also asks the court to maintain its Sept. 1 order by stating the request to continue litigating the case is “simply not available under Cherokee law.” Walkingstick said, hypothetically, if the tribe doesn’t appeal the federal ruling the Constitution would still have to be amended. He said Cherokee voters could accept the ruling or “vote in contradiction to it.” “The consequences are if the Cherokee people vote in contradiction to (federal) Judge (Thomas) Hogan’s ruling, or opinion, then federal program dollars could be frozen. Those are the consequences, and it just kind of depends what our Cherokee people want and, you know, me as being elected official, I take the Cherokee people’s voice very seriously,” he said. According to the Sept. 1 order, the Supreme Court deemed the special election void and without effect. Walkingstick said he’s “never taken a stance” on citizenship rights for Shawnees, Delaware, intermarried whites or Freedmen but that he did take an oath to uphold the Constitution. “The disappointment in all of this is our Cherokee Supreme Court contradicted our own Constitution. That’s a catastrophe. The other catastrophe is our chief and our attorney general supports contradicting our Constitution,” he said. “If we were wanting to protect our Constitution to the highest degree possible we would appeal this decision, which that’s the highest degree we can go with in regards to what that outcome is. It may be favorable. It may not be favorable, but we can look our constituents in the face and say we did everything possible to uphold your voice.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/17/2018 04:00 PM
The Cherokee Phoenix and Cherokee Family Research Center at the Cherokee Heritage Center teamed up to create this series on Cherokee genealogy. Thanks to CFRC genealogists Gene Norris and Ashley Vann, we are able to show you the genealogies of the Cherokee Phoenix staff and the CFRC’s genalogy inner workings at the CHC as well as the people behind them. For the next several months, we will highlight Cherokee Phoenix staff members’ genealogies and bring you information regarding Cherokee genealogy. You may even spot an ancestor on a staff member’s genealogy chart. This month we spotlight Advertising Representative Danny Eastham and Advertising Specialist Samantha Cochran's genealogies Wado! <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2018/1/11902__Samantha.pdf" target="_blank">Click here</a>to read Advertising Specialist Samantha Cochran's genealogy.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
01/17/2018 12:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The first trial date has been set for a lawsuit by a state against pharmaceutical companies over the opioid epidemic, according to Oklahoma’s attorney general. Oklahoma, one of at least 13 states that have filed lawsuits against drugmakers, alleges fraudulent marketing of drugs that fueled the opioid epidemic in the lawsuit filed in June 2017, and seeks unspecified damages from Purdue Pharma, Allergan, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals and several of their subsidiaries. “We appreciate the urgency Judge (Thad) Balkman saw in getting the case to trial,” Attorney General Mike Hunter said. “Oklahomans who have suffered immeasurably from the years of fraudulent marketing campaigns will see this case resolved sooner rather than later.” Hunter said Balkman scheduled the trial to begin May 28, 2019. The companies deny wrongdoing and say they complied with Federal Drug Administration requirements that include warning labels showing potential risks that come with using their drugs. “We are deeply troubled by the prescription and illicit opioid abuse crisis, and are dedicated to being part of the solution,” Purdue Pharma said in a statement. “We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense.” Teva spokeswoman Kaelan Hollon said the company “is committed to the appropriate use of opioid medicines,” and complies with all state and federal drug regulations. “Teva also collaborates closely with other stakeholders, including providers and prescribers, regulators, public health officials and patient advocates, to understand how to prevent prescription drug abuse without sacrificing patients’ needed access to pain medicine,” Hollon said. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office said other states that have filed lawsuits are Alaska, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, South Carolina and Washington state. The state lawsuits are separate from pending lawsuits in Ohio by dozens of local governments, and lawsuits by Native American tribes in the Dakotas and Oklahoma. In Ohio, a federal lawsuit by local governments nationwide that makes similar allegations is pending. And in South Dakota, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe and the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate filed a federal lawsuit in January against 24 opioid industry groups. In Oklahoma, a federal judge has ruled that another similar lawsuit by the Cherokee Nation cannot be tried in tribal court, and CN Attorney General Todd Hembree siad the tribe would file the lawsuit in state court.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/16/2018 04:00 PM
The Cherokee Phoenix and Cherokee Family Research Center at the Cherokee Heritage Center teamed up to create this series on Cherokee genealogy. Thanks to CFRC genealogists Gene Norris and Ashley Vann, we are able to show you the genealogies of the Cherokee Phoenix staff and the CFRC’s genalogy inner workings at the CHC as well as the people behind them. For the next several months, we will highlight Cherokee Phoenix staff members’ genealogies and bring you information regarding Cherokee genealogy. You may even spot an ancestor on a staff member’s genealogy chart. This month we spotlight Staff Writer Brittney Bennett and Former Intern Chandler Kidd's genealogies Wado! <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2018/1/11898__ChandlerKidd.pdf" target="_blank">Click here</a>to read Former Intern Chandler Kidd's genealogy.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/16/2018 03:30 PM
The Cherokee Phoenix and Cherokee Family Research Center at the Cherokee Heritage Center teamed up to create this series on Cherokee genealogy. Thanks to CFRC genealogists Gene Norris and Ashley Vann, we are able to show you the genealogies of the Cherokee Phoenix staff and the CFRC’s genalogy inner workings at the CHC as well as the people behind them. For the next several months, we will highlight Cherokee Phoenix staff members’ genealogies and bring you information regarding Cherokee genealogy. You may even spot an ancestor on a staff member’s genealogy chart. This month we spotlight News Writer Brittney Bennett and Former Intern Chandler Kidd's genealogies Wado! <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2018/1/11895__BrittneyBennett.pdf" target="_blank">Click here</a>to read News Writer Brittney Bennett's genealogy.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
01/16/2018 12:00 PM
MUSKOGEE (AP) — Cherokee Nation leaders marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 15 by acknowledging the tribe needs to come to terms with its treatment of former slaves, known as Freedmen. The tribe — one of the country’s largest — recognized the King holiday for the first time with participation in a King parade and a visit to the Martin Luther King Community Center in Muskogee. Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said Principal Chief Bill John Baker decided the tribe should honor the King holiday this year because of ongoing racial tensions nationwide and because the tribe is seeking to make amends with slavery. King’s writings spoke of injustices against Native Americans and colonization, but Hoskin said the tribe had its own form of internal oppression and dispossession. “The time is now to deal with it and talk about it,” said Hoskin. “It’s been a positive thing for our country to reconcile that during Dr. King’s era, and it’s going to be a positive thing for Cherokee to talk about that history as part of reconciling our history with slavery.” Such talk from tribal officials would have been surprising before a federal court ruled last year that the descendants of slaves owned by tribal citizens had the same rights to tribal citizenship, voting, health care and housing as blood-line Cherokees. One descendant of Freedmen, Rodslen Brown-King, said her mother was able to vote as a Cherokee for the first and only time recently. Other relatives died before getting the benefits that come with tribal citizenship, including a 34-year-old nephew with stomach cancer, she said. “He was waiting on this decision,” Brown-King, of Fort Gibson, said. “It’s just a lot of struggle, a lot of up and down trauma in our lives. It’s exciting to know we are coming together and moving forward in this.” Derrick Reed, a city councilman in Muskogee, and director of the King Community Center there, said the Jan. 15 event was the first attended by citizens of the CN in honor of the holiday. Baker later spoke at an after-party the tribe sponsored, and Hoskin served breakfast earlier in the day. “We have a wonderful story to tell but we need to tell the whole story,” Hoskin said.