Tribe: Ruling could reform U.S. agency for Native education

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
04/20/2018 12:00 PM
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) – Stephen C. has been taught only math and English at a U.S.-run elementary school for Native American children deep in a gorge off the Grand Canyon. Teachers have left midyear, and he repeatedly faces suspension and arrest for behavior his attorneys say is linked to a disability stemming from traumatic experiences.

The 12-year-old is among children from Arizona’s remote and impoverished Havasupai Reservation who are a step closer to their push for systematic reform of the U.S. agency that oversees tribal education, alleging in a lawsuit it ignored complaints about an understaffed school, a lack of special education and a deficient curriculum.

The students’ attorneys say they won a major legal victory recently when a federal court agreed that childhood adversity and trauma can be learning disabilities, a tactic the same law firm used in crime-ridden Compton, California. They say the case could have widespread effects for Native children in more than 180 schools nationwide overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education and in schools with large Native populations.

“Education is our lifeline and our future for our kids – and all students, not just down here, but nationally,” Havasupai Chairwoman Muriel Coochwytewa said. The BIE has “an obligation to teach our children. And if that’s not going on, then our children will become failures, and we don’t want that.”

Havasupai students face adversity and generational trauma from repeated broken promises from the U.S. government, efforts to eradicate Native culture and tradition, discrimination and the school’s tendency to call police to deal with behavioral problems, attorneys say.

U.S. District Judge Steven Logan wrote in a late March ruling that the students’ lawyers adequately alleged “complex trauma” and adversity can result in physiological effects leading to a physical impairment. He moved the case forward, denying Justice Department requests to dismiss some of the allegations but agreeing to drop plaintiffs from the lawsuit who no longer attend Havasupai Elementary School.

Noshene Ranjbar, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona, said medical literature has expanded in the past 20 years to include trauma that isn’t linked only to singular events.

In Native communities she’s worked with in the Dakotas and Arizona, “they agree the root of everything they suffer with is this unresolved grief, loss, trauma, anger, decades of disappointment on a huge scale,” she said.

When students act out, schools too often turn to suspension, expulsion or arrest instead of finding what’s driving the bad behavior, she said. Usually, it’s “a hurt human being that is using the wrong means to cope,” Ranjbar said.

The Public Counsel law firm pressing the Havasupai case also sued the Compton Unified School District – which is majority black and Latino – in 2015 over disability services for students with complex trauma. A judge said students with violent and traumatic pasts could be eligible for such services but didn’t apply the ruling to all who experience trauma.

The U.S. Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment on the Havasupai ruling.

Government attorney Cesar Lopez-Morales said at a hearing in 2017 that while trauma could result in a disability, federal agencies cannot assume every Native student with shared experiences is disabled. They would need specifics of individuals’ impairments and how those affect their lives.

He said attorneys also failed to show the students were denied benefits solely because of disabilities.

Havasupai Elementary School has three teachers for kindergarten through eighth grade on a remote reservation home to about 650 people and world-renowned for its blue-green waterfalls.

The village of Supai can be reached only by mule, foot or helicopter, making it the most isolated of the BIE’s schools in the Lower 48 states. The reservation doesn’t have a high school.

The students’ attorneys say the area is beset with high levels of poverty, unemployment, substance abuse, family violence and low literacy levels. All 70 elementary school students qualify for free or reduced lunch and most are limited in English and math proficiency, and have special education needs.

“What we know from the science is that, particularly unaddressed, the impact of trauma can impact the ability to learn, read, think, concentrate and communicate,” public counsel attorney Kathryn Eidmann said.

The lawsuit seeks to force the government to provide services for special needs, a thorough curriculum, culturally relevant education and staff training to respond to trauma.

Stephen C., whose full name is not listed in court documents, enrolled as a kindergartner but can hardly read or write now that he’s in seventh grade. His attorneys say he has an attention deficit disorder and experiences trauma from witnessing alcohol abuse at school and from his relatives being forced into boarding schools.

At one point, he pulled a plug out of a computer monitor and faced a federal indictment, the lawsuit says.

Some Havasupai parents have sent their children to boarding schools off the reservation rather than deal with inadequate educational services.

Stephen’s guardian has considered it, too. But he said in a statement that tribal members want children with them in the canyon, to watch them grow and be a part of the community.

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.”