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
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.
About the Author
Coming Soon
kenlea-henson@cherokee.org • 918-931-9116
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People

BY STAFF REPORTS
05/24/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Four Cherokee Nation employees recently graduated from the University of Oklahoma Economic Development Institute held in Fort Worth, Texas. Career Services Executive Director Diane Kelley, Career Services Special Projects Officer Hunter Palmer, Commerce Entrepreneur Development Manager Stephen Highers and Jobs Business Development Coordinator Travis Gulley graduated on May 3. OU EDI is a 117-hour certificate program that provides advanced education for economic development professionals. “I’m excited that the Cherokee Nation now has four new graduates from the University of Oklahoma’s Economic Development Institute,” Kelley said. “This is a prestigious program, and the knowledge and training we received will improve many of the services we provide to tribal citizens and businesses.” OU EDI classes focus on business retention and expansion, real estate and credit analysis, as well as areas of concentration in marketing, strategic planning, entrepreneurship and managing economic development organizations. Students typically take one to two years to complete the program through a series of in-person seminars, workshops and discussion groups. “OU EDI is the premier organization dedicated to training economic development professionals,” Mary Ann Moon, dean, said. “These graduates represent some of the finest economic development practitioners in the U.S. working to support their local communities. My congratulations to them.” OU EDI began in 1962 and is celebrating its 56th year of service to the economic development community. Fully accredited by the International Economic Development Council, the program has trained more than 5,000 graduates and remains the world’s leading economic development teacher.
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
05/22/2018 08:45 AM
KALGOORLIE, Western Australia – From Europe to Western Australia, Cherokee Nation citizen Jeylyn Sharpe is making a name for himself overseas as a professional basketball player. “I get to continue to play the sport I love, get paid for it and see the world,” Sharpe said. “If I didn’t take the opportunity then I would never get that chance again and probably regret not doing it.” The 6-foot-5-inch standout from Ketchum, Oklahoma, said he didn’t seriously consider playing professionally until after his senior season at Rogers State University, where he accumulated 1,125 career points and was named the 2017 Heartland Conference Player of the Year. Emails and Facebook messages from agents overseas wanting to represent him eventually led Sharpe to signing a professional contract in 2017 with BBC Grengewald Hueschtert of the Nationale 2 League in Niederanven, Luxembourg. With help from an RSU assistant coach, the transition from collegiate to professional play was seamless. “After my senior season in college, he put me through a lot of workouts to get me prepared,” Sharpe said. “The pace of play at the next level is faster. The shot clock time is shorter. You always hear ‘Europeans are very fundamental’ and you don’t really get an understanding of that until you play there. We were doing drills I use to do in elementary school. That’s how we would start our workouts and work our way up to the more difficult things.” Sharpe also gave a “special thank you” to the same coach for fostering a connection with Australia after his season in Europe ended. Listed as a guard and forward, Sharpe is one of three Americans playing for the Goldfields Giants, a professional club in the State Basketball League of Western Australia. “I am very fortunate to be at a place that feels like a big family, all the way from the owner down to the water boy,” he said. “The owner, GM (general manager) and coaches have all had us over at their house multiple times for dinner or just to relax and hang out. My teammates are great. I have never once questioned their effort on the court.” Though struggling in the win column, Sharpe said he’s confident in the team’s direction. “Our games have been a fight all the way to the end. Sadly the win and loss column doesn’t show that,” he said. “But we are a team that has stuck together the whole time and never pointed fingers at one another. By the end of this we hope to be a playoff team and keep playing into September, hopefully being a championship contender.” As for the style of play overseas, Sharpe said there are differences. “In college, we had a lot of set plays and quick hitter offenses to score, but out in Australia and Luxembourg we just have different type of motion offenses and they let us play out of it. They know we are good smart players and they expect us to make the correct decision.” Sharpe recorded one of his best games against the Mandurah Magic on May 12, accounting for 38 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and five steals as the team won 105-104. He is also the only Giant named to the 2018 SBL All-Star Games to be held June 4-5 in Mount Claremont. When asked what he brings to the team, Sharpe said his energy and basketball IQ. “In college I played a little bit of guard some times and a little bit of a post. I would also have to guard posts and guards in college, so I can do the same at this level. I try to be the guy that you can put anywhere on the court and you can have confidence that I will get the job you are asking done.” Sharpe’s dedication and leadership have not gone unnoticed by coaches and teammates, who voted him vice captain after arriving in February. “I was honored that they picked me as vice captain after only being there a few weeks. I think that they saw the knowledge and leadership I bring to the table. You don’t have to be a leader with just your voice. You can set the example by your actions, and I think the team saw me do that day in and day out.” Playing overseas has also allowed Sharpe to take the Cherokee culture to that part of the world. “It is cool to be able to tell them that I am Native American and that I am Cherokee,” he said. “I get to show them some pictures of my ancestors, and I know a little bit of Cherokee language, so I am able to show them what that sounds like. It’s great to get an opportunity to show other young Native Americans that goals are achievable if you work hard enough.” As for the future, Sharpe said he’s “going with the flow.” “I have been going with the flow lately, just letting this basketball take me around the world,” he said. “I would really like to play in China and Dubai before I am done playing. After this season I will be spending some quality time at home with family and friends. I really do enjoy it out here and can see myself coming back for another season.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/17/2018 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation citizen and employee Stephen Highers on May 3 graduated from the University of Oklahoma Economic Development Institute. “Having graduated from the OU EDI program, I can now set for the test to become a Certified Economic Developer through the International Economic Development Council,” CN Entrepreneur Development Manager Stephen Highers said. According to the IEDC website, it’s a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization serving economic developers. It also states that with more than 5,000 members, the IEDC is the largest organization of its kind. “Economic developers promote economic well-being and quality of life for their communities, by creating, retaining and expanding jobs that facilitate growth, enhance wealth and provide a stable tax base,” the site states. “From public to private, rural to urban and local to international, IEDC’s members are engaged in the full range of economic development experience.” Highers, who also serves as a Tahlequah city councilor, said he was excited to bring back knowledge he gained at the OU EDI to Tahlequah. “Economic development is not easy, especially if you don’t understand the data and process by which to make informed, sound decision. Through my coursework and training at the OU EDI, I’m able to bring back to Tahlequah concrete ideas and solutions that will enhance our future growth in a healthy, competitive, and objective manner,” he said. Highers said the program is a two-year program, and he has plans to become certified in the winter of 2019. For more information, visit <a href="https://pacs.ou.edu/edi/about/" target="_blank">https://pacs.ou.edu/edi/about/</a>.
BY KENLEA HENSON
Reporter
05/17/2018 01:15 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Family, friends and community members gathered on May 11 at the Cherokee Casino Tahlequah grounds for a surprise ceremony for 9-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen Grant York. York suffers from several health conditions, including mitochondrial mutation. His mother, Kasie Mendenhall, said with mitochondrial mutation he is unable to absorb nutrients and hasn’t been able to eat solid food since he was 3 years old. In April, he was admitted to Physicians Choice Hospice. “The last two years have been hard on him. He has spent most of all of it in the hospital,” Mendenhall said. “Physicians Choice Hospice has allowed Grant to have his pain adequately controlled and for him to remain home and not in the hospital.” Caring for their patients is not the only thing PCH nurses do. They also grant wishes – Butterfly Wishes. York’s wish was to go to the “Dixie Stampede” in Branson, Missouri, and through the Butterfly Wishes program he and his family received an all-expense paid trip for him to fulfill that wish. However, before York and his family left for Branson, the nurses surprised him with a special ceremony that included York’s class at Keys Elementary School. This was the first time York met his classmates and teacher in person, Mendenhall said. The Tahlequah Police Department also joined the ceremony making York their first junior officer, and he even took the official TPD oath. He was also presented a certificate, T-shirt and badge. “Grant loves police and now he is a real police officer,” Mendenhall said. After a photo shoot for the family, the TPD gave York a police escort out of town. Once they reached Branson, the Branson police, fire department and Missouri Highway Patrol were waiting to escort him into town. Mendenhall said she was thankful for the community’s support her son and family received. “Seeing our entire community come together to support Grant and our family leaves me speechless. Without the support of the community things like this wouldn’t be possible,” she said.
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
05/17/2018 08:15 AM
BROKEN ARROW – An old Vaudevillian joke goes something like this: “She shall now hang upside down while juggling pianos...on horseback.” Adding a horse to an impossible task makes the joke funnier and even more impossible. That is, unless you’re 10-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen Sophie Duch. Take away the pianos and that’s exactly what she does as a professional trick rider at rodeos. On May 11-12, Sophie and her trusted horse, Jesse, took their act to Broken Arrow for the 2018 Rooster Days Festival and Rodeo. Born and raised in Stilwell, Sophie’s love for western trick riding began when her parents took her to a rodeo in 2011 where the All-American Cowgirl Chicks trick riding team performed. “I knew we were in trouble the moment Sophie saw the Chicks perform. She was only 3 years old but latched onto the fence and watched their every move,” said her mother and CN citizen Shawna Duch. “After the rodeo, Sophie had to meet each one of them. I could tell even then she was hooked.” Sophie has received much help learning her craft during her young life, including from her first coach, CN-sponsored professional trick rider Haley Ganzel. “There’s a lot of people around here to help you,” Sophie said. “They’ll even loan you a horse if you need one.” This has never been a problem for Sophie. The other half of Sophie’s team, Jessie’s Girl, is a good-natured bay mare and has been with her since she fell in love with trick riding. “She (Jessie’s Girl) just kind of took to it,” Sophie’s father Troop Duch said. “She’s a natural show-off. She really shines once she gets in the arena.” Having a well-trained horse is key to the success and safety of the trick rider because many of the most difficult and dangerous tricks are performed with little or no control of the horse’s reins. Sweeping and precise ovals of the arena must be completed at the right speed to be successful. For safety’s sake, tricks are performed from the inside or left as the horse runs counter clockwise, thus keeping the horse between the acrobatic rider and the arena’s fence line. At the Rooster Days Rodeo, Sophie performed not only as entertainer, but she also carried the American flag into the arena for the national anthem. In her act Sophie performed three tricks and demonstrated twice during Jessie’s giant loop giving spectators on both sides of the arena a look. On the second night of the rodeo, Sophie performed her mounted shooting act, in which she shoots targets while on horseback. For more information, call 918-696-1648 or 918-696-1648 or email <a href="mailto: Shawnaduch@gmail.com">Shawnaduch@gmail.com</a>. ??
BY KENLEA HENSON
Reporter
05/14/2018 08:00 AM
PRESCOTT, Ariz. – With more than 30 years of experience in public service, Cherokee Nation citizen Dale Deiter was recently selected as forest supervisor of the Prescott National Forest. Growing up in Arizona, Deiter said he developed a love for public service from his father, who served as a district ranger in Arizona and New Mexico. In 1983, Dieter began his career in the U.S. Forest Service, first as a volunteer and then as a wild land firefighter for the Gila National Forest in New Mexico for three summers and one summer for the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Jackson, Wyoming. During that time he also attended Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, where he earned a bachelor’s degree and a later a master’s degree in forestry. After college, Deiter landed a job as a pre-sale forester and then a hydrologist for the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. The hydrologist job took him to the Fishlake National Forest in Richfield, Utah, where he spent more than seven years in that position dealing with watershed management and restoration. In 2007, he went back to Wyoming where he served as the district ranger for Bridger-Teton National Forest, a position he held prior to his promotion as forest supervisor with Prescott National Forest. With a long resume under his belt, Dieter said the best part of having a career in the Forest Service is “leaving a legacy for public lands.” “The (national) forests are a place where people can go to have fun, so knowing you’re part of making that happen is very rewarding,” he said. Deiter said during his time with the Forest Service he’s traveled extensively throughout the western United States, even into Quebec, Canada, fighting fires. He said it’s “neat” to be able to work in places where a lot of people go for vacation. “You get the opportunity to fly the national forest either in a helicopter or a plane or on horseback or by snowmobile into the back country or even hiking as well. You just get see a lot of unique lands in a lot of places that people don’t tread,” he said. In his new role as forest supervisor, his job is to help with the oversight of the management of PNF’s 1.25 million acres of public land located across north central Arizona. He said the biggest challenge for him is adapting to challenging conditions facing climate change. “Even in my career, fire season has gotten longer and fires have gotten bigger, and we are seeing its impact even in terms as snowpack and spring flow and that then presents a lot of challenges in long-term-sustaining management of national forests,” he said. Deiter said he’s happy to be in his new position with PNF and plans to finish out his career there. “I am planning to spend quite a bit of time there. There are a lot of challenges to deal with there, and it’s a really neat forest with great people, and so I will finish out my career there,” he said.