http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgCherokee language instructor Rufus King speaks to his class at the Lost City Community Building in this 2017 photo. King, along with several other Cherokee instructors, began their 10-week classes at the end of February and beginning of March. STACIE BOSTON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee language instructor Rufus King speaks to his class at the Lost City Community Building in this 2017 photo. King, along with several other Cherokee instructors, began their 10-week classes at the end of February and beginning of March. STACIE BOSTON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Cherokee Language Classes: Get to know your instructor

Cherokee language instructor Helena McCoy shows her students how to write “fry bread” in the Cherokee syllabary and phonetically while teaching at the Brushy Community Building. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee language instructor Helena McCoy shows her students how to write “fry bread” in the Cherokee syllabary and phonetically while teaching at the Brushy Community Building. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett &
STACIE BOSTON
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
03/07/2018 08:00 AM
TAHELQUAH – Community classes have started for those interested in learning how to read, write and speak the Cherokee language.

The free classes take place every spring and fall for 10 weeks and are part of the Cherokee Nation’s Cherokee Language Program. Its goal is to perpetuate the language “in all walks of life ranging from day to day conversation, ceremonially, as well as in online arenas such as social media.”
Students learn from both first- and second-language speakers in communities within the tribe’s jurisdiction.

The Cherokee Phoenix recently spoke with several instructors to highlight their Cherokee backgrounds and discuss what students can expect in their classes.

Are you a native Cherokee speaker? If not, when did you start learning the language?

Rufus King:I was born and raised in a Cherokee language-speaking home. That was all I could speak when I was a kid. When they sent me to school, that’s all I knew was Cherokee, didn’t know a word of English.

Helena McCoy: Cherokee is my first language. That’s why it’s so important for me that everybody else hears it.

Lawrence Panther: Yes, Cherokee is my first language. I began to learn English when I started school at 6 years old.

Sandra Turner: Yes, Cherokee was my first language.

Lois Deason: Cherokee was my first language.

When did you become a certified language instructor and why?

King: I was certified to teach Cherokee language in 2001, I think it was. So that makes me about 16 years that I’ve been doing this all together. Different places around Jay mostly and Grove, but since we moved down here (Lost City) we picked it up over here now. I kind of feel home when I get here, and I think everybody else feels that way.

McCoy: I went to the Cherokee Immersion (Charter School) and taught there for six and a half years. And then these classes came up, (CN Language Program Manager) Roy (Boney) I think it was, asked if I wanted to teach these adult classes and I said, ‘I’ll try it.’ It’s fun. We really have fun.

Panther: I taught myself to read and write. Afterwards, I took the Cherokee language test and became a certified Cherokee language teacher in 2012.

Turner: I became an instructor about 12 years ago and why – I told myself if I speak the language I should know how to read and write the language. So I took a class at the old jailhouse (in Tahlequah) with Anna Sixkiller as my instructor.

Deason:I got my certification December 2016.

Why are these classes important to teach in our Cherokee communities?

King: Preserving our language is one thing because we are losing it, some of them say. There’s not that many speakers anymore here in Cherokee Nation. Last year they gave us an estimate. I thought about that myself trying to start from the north end and try to find out about how many fluent speakers that I could find. That would give me how many fluent speakers, the ones that you can talk to all day long. I think that’s why we need to preserve it.

McCoy: Well like everybody says, it’s dying and it really is. I like teaching it. I think it’s important for people to hear it and understand it from a fluent speaker to teach them the correct sounds.

Panther: Not only is our language (speaking) in dire need of revitalization, the written language needs to be addressed just as well.

Turner: It is important to provide this service to the community members that want to learn the Cherokee language even if they learn very basic words using the (Cherokee) syllabary.

Deason: Most of them will tell you that they have no one to teach them. So that’s why I decided to teach the Cherokee language.

For those interested in taking your class, what can they expect to learn?

King: I teach them the sounds of the syllabary, that is the most important too. To make them sound like they are supposed to be because if you don’t sound them out like the way they supposed to be, you’re words are not going to come out right, and nobody’s going to know what you’re saying.

McCoy: I try to teach what they want to learn, that way they’ll be more interested in coming back. Just whatever they want to do, like breakfast foods or names for family. Come out one day and sit in. We won’t make you participate, but the only way you’re going to learn is by saying it (in Cherokee), so I just tell them to come on out.

Panther: I will advocate the syllabary writing for my Cherokee classes. The syllabary chart discourages many learners and speakers. I will have hands-on activities including kinesthetic and tactile, auditory, visual and lecture analytically about the syllabary chart. This will help them utilize the knowledge of the syllabary. There are a lot of speakers who do not know how to read and write. I feel the need to reach out to them, including learners as well. It’s very important the teacher is adamant when it comes to teaching.

Turner: So many people have seen the Cherokee syllabary but have never learned how to read the syllables. I use the format of teaching “What, Where, When, Why, Who and How.” The first night of class when I review the vowel sounds participants are amazed of making a full sentence using “??.” They cannot believe these two syllables make up the sentence, “a-i” which means “he or she is walking.” I also ask the participants if there are certain words they would really like to learn, and I also use their Cherokee names if they have one, and if not I will give them one to use in class or I will ask them to ask an elder if they do have a Cherokee name.

Deason: They will learn about the syllabary chart to learn how to pronounce them. So they can learn how to pronounce Cherokee words a lot better. They would learn how to count in Cherokee, days of the week things like that, just basic things to start off with.

For more information, call 918-453-5487.

Click hereto read the Cherokee language class schedule.
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 STAFF REPORTS
05/23/2018 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation Foundation is accepting applications until June 1 for the seventh annual Cherokee College Prep Institute taking place on July 15-20 at Northeastern State University. The weeklong camp will connect students with admissions counselors from across the U.S to analyze, prepare and complete college applications, identify scholarship opportunities and explore schools of interest. Participating universities include the University of Arkansas, Bacone College, University of California-Los Angeles, University of Central Oklahoma, Duke University, NSU, University of Notre Dame, Oklahoma State University, Pomona College, Rogers State University, Stanford University, Swarthmore College, and Yale University. CCPI’s curriculum, developed in conjunction with College Horizons and other participating university faculty, includes interactive sessions focusing on ACT strategies, essay writing, interview skills and time management. CCPI is free to CN citizens who are preparing to enter their junior or senior years of high school. Lodging, meals and testing expenses are also provided by CNF, Cherokee Nation Businesses and NSU. Applications are available at <a href="http://www.cherokeenation.academicworks.com " target="_blank">cherokeenation.academicworks.com</a>. For more information, email Jennifer Sandoval at <a href="mailto: j.sandoval@cherokeenationfoundation.org">j.sandoval@cherokeenationfoundation.org</a> or call 918-207-0950.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/21/2018 04:00 PM
TAHELQUAH – Sequoyah Schools is again offering summer basketball camps for girls and boys who will be in first through ninth grades in the fall. The camps are designed to help youngsters develop skills, master techniques and learn basic concepts of basketball. Sequoyah coaches and members of the Sequoyah high school basketball teams instruct the camps. The boys’ camp is May 29-31 at The Place Where They Play gym located on the Sequoyah campus. Grades first through fifth camps will be held from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., while grades sixth through ninth will be held from noon to 3 p.m. For more information on the boys’ camp, call coach Jay Herrin at 918-822-0835. The girls’ camp will be held June 4-6 at The Place Where They Play gym. Grades first through fifth camps will be held from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., and grades sixth through ninth will be held from noon to 3 p.m. For more information on the girls’ camp, call Larry Callison at 918-557-8335. Registration forms and fees may be turned in to coaches Herrin and Callison ahead of time or on the first day of camp. Early registration is appreciated. Free lunches will be available for both camps and all age groups from 11 a.m. to noon in the school cafeteria. These will be the only youth basketball camps offered at Sequoyah this year. To view the information online visit <a href="http://sequoyah.cherokee.org/Athletics/Summer-Youth-Camps/Basketball-Camps" target="_blank">http://sequoyah.cherokee.org/Athletics/Summer-Youth-Camps/Basketball-Camps</a>. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2018/5/32277__brief_180515_HoopsCamps(boys).pdf" target="_blank">Click here</a>to download the boys' camp registration form. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2018/5/32277__brief_180515_HoopsCamps(girls).pdf" target="_blank">Click here</a>to download the girls' camp registration form.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
05/18/2018 12:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Three Oklahoma City schools named after Confederate generals may soon be renamed. The school board on May 14 was expected to consider new names for Lee, Jackson Enterprise and Stand Watie elementary schools, which are named after Confederate generals Robert E. Lee, Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson and Isaac Stand Watie, a Cherokee. Committees made up of community members, school staff and parents selected two potential names for each school, which were presented to students at each school who then voted on their preference, district spokeswoman Beth Harrison said. The students’ choices will be presented for the board for approval, although the board could select any name it chooses, Harrison said. The suggested names haven’t been made public. Board member Carrie Coppernoll Jacobs told The Oklahoman that children and employees should feel welcome in the places where they learn and work. “To make amends for the past, we have to own it,” she said. “School names may seem like a small gesture, but all progress has value,” Coppernoll Jacobs said. The board voted in October to rename the schools following violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the removal of a Confederate statue. The Tulsa school board recently renamed Robert E. Lee Elementary as Lee School, although critics say the change doesn’t go far enough. It also renamed Andrew Jackson Elementary as Unity Learning Academy. The Oklahoma City board conducted an online survey for names and the names of Lee, Jackson and Watie received the most votes, while past state and local leaders were also popular. The other names receiving votes include minster and former school board member Wayne Dempsey, educator and civil rights activist Clara Luper, writer and Oklahoma City native Ralph Ellison and Wilma Mankiller, who was the first woman to be principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. The cost of changing the names is estimated at about $40,000, which a local attorney has agreed to pay.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/16/2018 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH – Sequoyah High School recently named seniors Katelyn Morton and Aspen Ford as the class of 2018’s valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively. At 6:30 p.m. on May 18 in The Place Where They Play gym, 99 seniors will graduate from SHS. The class of 2018 has accumulated more than $2.5 million in scholarships and grants so far. Morton, 18, of Tahlequah, is the daughter of Kathryn Wood and Nason Morton. She graduates with a GPA of 4.56 and is attending the Oklahoma City University Wanda L. Bass School of Music this fall and plans to double major in music and Spanish. After her audition at the Wanda L. Bass School of Music, Morton received a music scholarship worth $25,600. She also earned a Presidential Leadership Scholarship worth $19,200. “Being accepted into one of these programs creates a lot of connections,” Morton said. “First, I’m going to focus on those connections and probably intern at a casting agency or under a director so I can know the behind-the-scenes. Then, I’ll begin to audition for anything I can.” Through concurrent enrollment, Morton completed nearly 30 credit hours at Northeastern State University during high school. She also participated in National Honor Society, Student Council, Stand for the Silent, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Fellowship of Christian Students. Morton is vice president of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Youth Council and is a member of the Cherokee National Youth Choir. She has also been a member of Tulsa Youth Opera and was cast in Tulsa Opera’s American premier of “The Snow Queen.” She has been the captain of Sequoyah’s competitive speech and debate/drama team and president of the drama department. She became the first student in Sequoyah’s history to reach All-State for speech and debate/drama. Ford, 18, of Tahlequah, graduates with a 4.51 GPA. She will attend NSU in Tahlequah this fall with a Presidential Leadership Class scholarship worth around $40,000. She also earned the Cherokee Nation undergraduate scholarship and the James R. Upton Memorial Award through the Cherokee Nation Foundation. “My mom and dad have always pushed me ever since I was young to focus on school and my studies first, before anything else,” Ford said. “I think that stuck with me throughout high school, and I know it will in college. It gave me a mindset to know my priorities and what’s important and what will make me successful.” Ford, the daughter of Amber Arnall and Damon Ford, plans to major in media studies while at NSU and expects to study abroad. She said she hopes to find a career in photojournalism, a passion she garnered during educational trips to Greece and Italy in 2017. While attending Sequoyah, Ford completed 39 hours of concurrent enrollment at NSU and three credit hours at the University of Oklahoma. She also participated in Student Council, Sequoyah’s academic team, National Honor Society, History Club, 4-H and the Oklahoma Indian Honor Society and attended North America’s largest powwow during the Gathering of Nations in New Mexico in 2016 as a member of the Honoring Our People’s Existence Club. Ford is also a member of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Youth Council and the Cherokee National Youth Choir.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/15/2018 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – A recent $5,000 donation by the Cherokee Nation to the RiverHawks Women’s Basketball team will make it possible for Northeastern State University to participate in a two-game basketball classic in Los Angeles over Thanksgiving break. In addition to competing against Division II basketball programs, the trip will provide a memorable student athlete experience for team members. “I am so grateful to Cherokee Nation and (Tribal Council) Speaker Joe Byrd for their generosity and commitment to the RiverHawks women’s basketball program,” NSU women’s coach Fala Bullock, said. “Speaker Byrd made a great statement to me following the photo by reminding me of the positive impact the Cherokee Nation, Tahlequah and University can have on each other through possible future partnerships,” NSU Director of Athletics Tony Duckworth said.
BY KENLEA HENSON
Reporter
05/15/2018 12:00 PM
JAY – Cherokee Nation citizen and Jay High School senior Gabe Simpson, 19, was recently named a 2018 Gates Scholar. The prestigious Gates Scholarship is a highly selective, full-ride scholarship for exceptional, Pell-eligible, minority, high school seniors who have shown academic excellence, as well as strong leadership abilities. Simpson is one of 300 high school students out of nearly 30,000 applicants from across the United States to be awarded the scholarship. “I know a lot of people apply for it (Gates Scholarship), so I was really happy when I found out,” Simpson said. He also said upon graduation in May, he plans to attend Oklahoma State University in Stillwater this fall to play football. “There was a lot of Division IIs that wanted me and a few DI schools,” he said. “OSU offered me a preferred walk-on, and I always wanted to play at a big powerhouse college like that, so I thought I would give it a shot.” He said although he plays other sports such as basketball, baseball and competitive cheerleading, he’s been playing football since he was “big enough to play” and his “love” for the game is what led him to want to play in college. As for a career choice, he said he hopes to pursue a career in pharmacy or physical therapy. “Pharmacy is because I love math and science, and it’s a lot of that like chemistry. And physical therapy is because I love sports, and they work with a lot of athletes through that,” he said. Simpson’s words of advice to other students thinking about applying for the Gates Scholarship is to “start young because there’s a lot of people who slack off during freshman and sophomore year, and when they realize they want to go to college their grades weren’t as good to apply. But also, apply for as many scholarships as you can.”