http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgJennifer Barger Johnson
Jennifer Barger Johnson

Q&A with ‘Remember the Removal’ participants

The 2018 “Remember the Removal” Bike Ride participants are, standing left to right: Sky Wildcat, Autumn Lawless, Courtney Cowan, Parker Weavel, Lily Drywater, Dale Eagle and Daulton Cochran. Seated left to right: Amari McCoy, Emilee Chavez, Jennifer Barger Johnson. WILL CHAVEZ/ CHEROKEE PHOENIX Emilee Chavez Daulton Cochran Courtney Cowan Lily Drywater Dale Eagle Autumn Lawless Amari McCoy Parker Weavel Sky Wildcat
Emilee Chavez
BY KENLEA HENSON
Former Reporter
05/02/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – On May 29, the Cherokee Nation’s “Remember the Removal” Bike Ride participants will travel to Cherokee, North Carolina, to meet the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indian’s cyclists and embark on a nearly 1,000 mile journey to Tahlequah, retracing the Trail of Tears’ Northern Route.

The Cherokee Phoenix caught up with the CN participants for a question-and-answer session to learn about why they applied for this year’s ride, the training and the history and language classes they’ve been taking since January.

Mentor Rider: Jennifer Barger Johnson
Age: 47
Hometown: Oklahoma City
Occupation: University of Central Oklahoma professor/ municipal judge/attorney


CP: Why did you apply?

Barger Johnson: I wanted to honor those who were faced the removal; I also want to help bring awareness to these events in our history. I also want to show my children how important the tribe and these events are to our heritage.

CP: What do you hope to take away from this experience?

Barger Johnson: I hope to take away a better understanding of our tribal history including the trials and tribulations faced by those on the removal journey.

CP: How has the training and history and language classes been so far?

Barger Johnson: The history and language courses have re-enforced much of the knowledge I had in this area, but brought forward many events that I hadn’t been exposed to. Hearing our language has been the most difficult part for me but at the same time the most rewarding. The physical training has been so rigorous but we have gotten to know each other so well. Sarah (our trainer) does an amazing job, and I cannot say enough about the alumni (RTR) riders who have been present helping us every step of the way. Kudos to them all.

Name: Emilee Chavez
Age: 18
Hometown: Tahlequah
School: Sequoyah High School


CP: Why did you apply?

Chavez: I wanted to prove to myself that I could do something as big as this, with people I had never met before, because my anxiety and depression had prevented me for years from doing things I wanted to do.

CP: What do you hope to take away from this experience?

Chavez: I hope to become strong and more understanding of my history as a Native American.

CP: How has the training and history and language classes been so far?

Chavez: The classes have been interesting. It’s been difficult to hear of all the things my ancestors went through while on the trail and knowing they lost several loved ones on the way. Training has been hard, but it’s slowly getting easier now that I know what I’m doing. I am gaining a better understanding of my limits.

Name: Daulton Cochran
Age: 21
Hometown: Bell
School: Tulsa Community College


CP: Why did you apply?

Cochran: I applied because I wanted to know more and because I wanted to reconnect with my roots.

CP: What do you hope to take away from this experience?

Cochran: I hope to take away a great respect and understanding of what my people went through so that we could have a chance to prosper.

CP: How has the training and history and language classes been so far?

Cochran: The have been great, especially the history classes. Hearing the accounts of what our people endured gives me that extra push to climb the last hill of the day when training.

Name: Courtney Cowan
Age: 24
Hometown: Kansas, Oklahoma
Occupation: Cherokee Nation special assistant


CP: Why did you apply?

Cowan: Well I didn’t grow up traditionally, and I’ve struggled to find my identity after finishing college basketball and graduating. From what I’ve heard this ride brings you back with different perspective. I’ve felt like things have been missing throughout my life, and I’m hoping this ride can put the pieces back together. This ride marks the next step in my life. I am very excited I get to represent Cherokee Nation and myself as a person on this journey.

CP: What do you hope to take away from this experience?

Cowan: I hope to have more confidence in myself. Knowing not many people today have completed this journey. I hope to have more knowledge about my ancestors and our Cherokee ways. Overall I just hope to come out of this as a stronger Cherokee.

CP: How has the training and history and language classes been so far?

Cowan: So far everything has been really interesting. I didn’t grow up traditionally, so pretty much everything that we are being taught is new to me. As far as the training goes it’s been a whole new challenge for me. It’s a lot different that playing basketball and working out. I love a challenge, and I’ve always been active but there’s nothing like riding a bike all day. It’s really tough.

Name: Lily Drywater
Age: 20
Hometown: Tahlequah
School: Northeastern State University


CP: Why did you apply?

Drywater: I applied for the ride because I saw an opportunity to learn more about my history, heritage and the hardships we have overcome as a people.

CP: What do you hope to take away from this experience?

Drywater: I hope to learn more about my people and the hardships they endured on the trail. I want to know more about who we were before the removal and how we might use that knowledge to help us move forward. Also, I hope to bond with my teammates, because I look forward to being a family after we accomplish the ride.

CP: How has the training and history and language classes been so far?

Drywater: I have found the classes so far to be very beneficial because I hope to one day know a lot of the language. Maybe one day I could be a fluent speaker. Training has been a great bonding experience with my team. It’s been a lot of fun because everyone is always laughing, which makes the pain of exercise a little easier.

Name: Dale Eagle
Age: 23
Hometown: Tahlequah
Occupation: W.W. Hastings Hospital transport driver


CP: Why did you apply?

Eagle: I applied to not only learn more about my culture and the history of the Trail of Tears but to also make new friends and hopefully help my depression.

CP: What do you hope to take away from this experience?

Eagle: I hope to grasp better knowledge of my people and understand my culture more. Making new friends is a plus.

CP: How has the training and history and language classes been so far?

Eagle: So far training hasn’t been too bad, however history and language is harder, more so the language than the history.

Name: Autumn Lawless
Age: 21
Hometown: Porum
School: Northeastern State University


CP: Why did you apply?

Lawless: So many reasons. 1. I knew that this was a direct route to be involved and more about culture. 2. I wanted to prove to myself I could do this. 3. I love being part of a team, something bigger than myself. 4. I know past riders, I saw how the ride impacted them, changed them, and I know I wanted that for myself. 5. I wanted to learn about my family, my genealogy.

CP: What do you hope to take away from this experience?

Lawless: This is such a powerful experience. I hope to take away strength, confidence and more knowledge about myself and my people. No matter what, I know I have gained a new family from this experience.

CP: How has the training and history and language classes been so far?

Lawless: I think it’s been going well. Some days the history weighs on your mind while you ride. Recently, it has been very cold during training. But when you read about your ancestors not having shoes or only a sheet to keep warm it makes it harder for you to complain. We know that no matter what, once it gets dark we’re done for the day. They had no idea when their suffering would end. This experience definitely humbles you and gives you perspective.

Name: Amari McCoy
Age: 21
Hometown: Sallisaw
School: Carl Albert State College


CP: Why did you apply?

McCoy: It’s difficult to specifically say why I applied but one of my reasons is identity. Growing up, I defined myself as an athlete, and I didn’t know who I was without a ball in my hand. I was raised at the stomp ground, so I was surrounded by my culture and that was something that always felt right to me.

CP: What do you hope to take away from this experience?

McCoy: I hope to gain a deeper connection to my ancestors and my culture by trying to understand the involuntary sacrifice they made for me.

CP: How has the training and history and language classes been so far?

McCoy: The whole process has been challenging mentally, physically and spiritually, but it has been the most fulfilling experience.

Name: Parker Weavel
Age: 20
Hometown: Tahlequah
School: Northeastern State University


CP: Why did you apply?

Weavel: I applied to the bike ride to get a better understanding of what Cherokee culture is truly about. Throughout the years I kind of lost my love and appreciation for Cherokee culture. Hopefully this ride can rekindle the flame and teach me things that I’ve never known before.

CP: What do you hope to take away from this experience?

Weavel: I hope that I can become more involved with my culture and comprehend the tragedy that occurred during the 1830s.

CP: How has the training and history and language classes been so far?

Weavel: The history and language portion of our required training has been amazing. Wyman Kirk has done a tremendous job at educating us in the language and history of our tribe. Also, our physical trainer, Sarah Holcomb, has also done a great job at making sure all of the riders are at the same pace.

Name: Sky Wildcat
Age: 22
Hometown: Muskogee
School: Northeastern State University graduate student
Occupation: Graduate assistant at NSU Center for Tribal Studies


CP: Why did you apply?

Wildcat: I have seen the impact the ride has had on many of friends. I wanted that same experience and to develop my identity as a Native even further. I’ve had opportunities to see who we as Cherokees in current society, but lately I felt like I needed to see more of where we come from, how we got here and what it took to keep us going.

CP: What do you hope to take away form this experience?

Wildcat: I hope to away a better understanding of our resilience. I have a lot of personal struggles, as we all do, but a lot of times I forget the strength I come from. I want to be able to remember how hard it was to keep going, but know that I got through it. I also want to develop more connections with other Cherokees who have similar ideals, and I’m glad that I’m already doing that with my team.

CP: How has the training and history and language classes been so far?

Wildcat: I won’t lie. The training has been difficult but fulfilling. It is almost a lifestyle change for me because I know I needed to focus on healthier options, at least more than before, and exercising. The classes have been equally as fulfilling and are essential to the entire process. The (Butrick) journal gives us real accounts of what the removal was like, and we all try to remember them (ancestors) when we are struggling during training.

RTR By the Numbers

4
Number of major rivers crossed while on the ride: Tennessee, Ohio, Mississippi and Arkansas.

7
Number of states traveled the cyclists will travel through: Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

8-10
Number of 16-ounce bottles of water consumed daily on a 90-degree day.

19
Days they will spend on the road. Seventeen days will be riding and two will be rest days.

75
Approximate number of miles for the longest ride of the trip from Lebanon, Missouri, to Springfield, Missouri.

950
Approximate number of miles the cyclists will travel on the “Remember the Removal” Bike Ride.

1,572
Number in feet of the highest elevation that will be climbed near Pikeville, Tennessee.

4,000
Number of estimated calories burned by a cyclist on a 50-mile day. Calorie burns vary depending on a person’s weight and the day’s terrain.

People

BY STAFF REPORTS
07/17/2018 04:15 PM
MUSKOGEE – As of July 14, Cherokee Nation citizen Johnny Tehee, of Vian, was expected to take over as the new chief for the Muskogee Police Department. Tehee has been with the MPD for more than 30 years. For the past 15 years he’s been the deputy chief to Chief Rex Eskridge, who was to retire on July 13. For about 10 years on the force, he’s specialized in investigating child abuse. Before the promotion, Tehee served as the deputy chief of the Investigation Division. Tehee said he believes the most important thing to concentrate on is community relations. He wants the community more involved on what the police are doing, and the police more involved on what the community is doing. “Back about 20 years I ran the Muskogee Police Athletic League, which means all the police officers would coach young kids’ football, baseball and basketball,” Tehee said. “We quit doing that about five or six ago, and I definitely want to get that back in place. I just think it’s a big asset for the community if you have officers involved in young kids’ lives.” In the 1990s, Tehee said Muskogee had a problem with drugs and gangs with the murder rate high going into the 2000s. Since that time, he said the MPD has put more officers on the street and crime rates have gone down. “We went from having double digits homicides to one or two a year. For the most part it’s a matter of keeping things going in the right direction,” Tehee said. He added that he’s “excited and looking forward to the challenges” of being the police chief. “I want to continue to move the Muskogee Police Department forward and carry on the legacy that was created by Chief Eskridge to remain one of the top law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma,” he said. Tehee graduated Vian High School in 1982 before studying criminal justice at Northeastern State University. He also graduated from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. He said he’s been a member of First Baptist Church of Muskogee for more than 30 years and has spent years travelling the world on mission trips. He also said he’s been a long-time teacher in the church’s youth department. “Deputy Chief Tehee has the experience, the community relationships and leadership skills needed to be an outstanding chief of police,” Muskogee City Manager Mike Collier said. “He has big shoes to fill, but I know he’s more than capable and will do great things in our community.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/10/2018 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Three local Cherokee youths competed in the U.S. Kids Golf – Tulsa Spring Tour held between March and June that consisted of seven tournaments. Kylie Fisher, Edwin Wacoche and Chase Jones also competed in the season-ending Tour Championship at the Cherokee Hills Golf Course at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tulsa on June 10. They received points based on how they finished in each tournament with each player with the most points winning the division. Fisher, of Tahlequah, competed in the Girls 7-Under Division and won all seven tournaments played at Tulsa-area golf courses, plus the championship on June 10 with a score of 36 for nine holes. Wacoche, of Tahlequah, won the Boys 6-under Division and Jones, of Park Hill, won the Boys 10 Division. Fisher also recently won the U.S. Kids Golf Texas State Invitational for girl’s 7-under held June 18-19, by shooting 35 and 35 for a score of 70. The competitors in the tournament played 9 holes each day at the Brookhaven Country Club in Farmers Branch, Texas. “We were surprised she won it. She shot her best score to date in that tournament,” her mother Shauna Fisher, said.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/03/2018 12:45 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Arts Center, in conjunction with the Spider Gallery, will host an art exhibit by local Cherokee artist J. Wade Hannon titled “Returning to the Cherokee Nation: A Selection of Paintings from Before and After” from July 6 to Aug. 3. In 2014, Hannon moved to Tahlequah from Chicago’s south side where he lived and worked. His family was part of the migration out of the Cherokee Nation between 1930 and 1950. The paintings in the show feature works completed in Chicago as well as works finished since relocating to Tahlequah. His work is primarily abstract done in acrylics with items added such as glitter and mica flakes as well as shells and feathers he’s collected. He’s been referred to by some as the “Jackson Pollack of the Cherokee art world.” “Being Cherokee has always been a part of my identity. When I found the opportunity to move to Tahlequah it made perfect sense to me. I have enjoyed the camaraderie with other Indian artists and have grown as an artist and a person being here,” he said. “I started painting in the ninth grade and continued painting off and on until about five or so years ago when I took up the brushes full time.” Hannon earned a doctorate in counseling from the University of Arkansas. He worked in mental health counseling after that until obtaining a position at North Dakota State University in Fargo where he was a professor in the master’s and doctoral programs in counseling. Along the way he fathered two children. A reception, featuring wine, cheese and crackers and other adult beverages will be held at 5:30 p.m. on July 6 in the Cort Mall located downtown. The show will run during the Spider Gallery’s business hours. For more exhibit information, call 918-453-5728. For more information about Hannon, call 539-832-9858 or email <a href="mailto: wadehannon@gmail.com">wadehannon@gmail.com</a>.
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 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 ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
06/07/2018 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH – Spectators who attended the Cherokee Nation’s All-Indian Rodeo on June 2 at the Cherokee County Fairgrounds got to see team and calf roping, mutton busting, steer wrestling, trick riding, sharp shooting, calf riding, bronco riding, barrel racing and bull riding. Overall, there were 270 entries to the traditional rodeo, but because of roping team deviations and multiple event entries, the exact number of competitors was unknown. Cherokee Phoenix was there and produced a highlight video of the event. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2018/6/42327__peo_180606_CNrodeo_rg_ts.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the list of All-Indian Rodeo 2018 winners