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.
Girl Attorney sent a letter on April 8 to Senate and House members. The letter, containing 628 signatures, stated: “The purpose of this visit is to meet with members of the 56th Legislature to discuss their plans to fully fund public education in Oklahoma. Various stakeholders have proposed possible solutions, and we expect our elected representatives to be able to speak intelligently about the merits and potential pitfalls of each. We also expect that a representative who is ideologically opposed to a particular proposal will be prepared to present a detailed alternative. We are business owners and taxpayers ourselves; if there is a means of providing a quality public education to our children without increasing taxes, then we would love to hear the details.”
Among the group were several Cherokee attorneys, including Nikki Baker Limore, the Cherokee Nation’s executive director of Indian Child Welfare. She said she became involved after learning there were 27 children in his class to one teacher.
“For a teacher with no aide, no intern, no assistance whatsoever to have to handle 27 5-year-olds, it was like herding cats,” Baker Limore said. “That’s what began my looking into the public school system, and that was eye-opening for me back at the beginning of the school year. I felt compelled.”
She said she also sees how the lack of funding affects the 84 children attending public school while in ICW custody. She said it’s hard for those children, who sometimes deal with personal trauma, to receive individual attention, encouragement and redirection because of class sizes.
Nikki Baker Limore, executive director of the Cherokee Nation’s Indian Child Welfare and attorney, waits outside the Capitol building holding a sign in support of Oklahoma teachers on April 9 in Oklahoma City. BRANDON SCOTT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Reach Higher is a flexible program that provides an adult student the opportunity to work full-time, have a family and complete a degree online. The curriculum is specifically designed to help working adults succeed in the workplace.
“Without this flexible and affordable option, many adult students would not be able to realize this lifelong dream of completing a bachelor’s degree,” Michelle Farris, Reach Higher program advisor, said.
In May, senior Shawna Glass will complete a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership through Reach Higher at NSU.
“I’m a single mother in my mid-30s, so I have to work during the day and be there for my kids and their busy schedules in the evenings. Traditional school was no longer an option for me,” she said. “The Reach Higher program has allowed me to still take care of my daily obligations while completing my degree online. My experience with the Reach Higher program has been a blessing. While it hasn’t always been easy, I have been able to reach my goal of completing my bachelor’s degree while still being able to work and take care of my children.”
“Into The Woods” will be held at the Sequoyah’s The Place Where They Play on the SHS campus.
Showtimes are 7 p.m. on April 26, 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. on April 27 and 2 p.m. on April 29.
For more information, visit http://sequoyah.cherokee.org or the Sequoyah Speech/Drama/Debate Students Facebook page.
Members of Sequoyah High School’s drama department rehearse lines for their adaptation of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s musical “Into the Woods.” ROGER GRAHAM/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The camp is offered to rising juniors and seniors and provides 16 hours of intensive ACT prep instruction, as well as college workshops focusing on admissions, financial aid, scholarship opportunities and time management. At the end of the weeklong camp, students will take the official ACT test at NSU.
All lodging, meals and testing expenses are provided by CNF, Cherokee Nation Businesses and NSU.
Applications will be accepted through April 21 and are available at cherokeenation.academicworks.com.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 918-207-0950.
The Symposium’s theme is “Walking with our Ancestors: Preserving Culture and Honoring Tradition.”
The keynote speakers are Daryl Baldwin, Dr. Lee Francis IV and Dr. Daniel Wildcat. All keynote speakers will be located in the University Center Ballroom.
Dr. Lee Francis IV will speak at 9:30 a.m. on April 18. He is the national director of Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, the position he assumed after the passing of his father, Wordcraft founder, Dr. Lee Francis III. His work as a poet and scholar has appeared in journals and anthologies. He will explore the history of Native and Indigenous people in popular culture and highlight some of the efforts of “Indigenerds” worldwide to actively change the representations of Native people through dynamic and powerful expressions of self and culture.
Daryl Baldwin will speak at 1 p.m. on April 18. Baldwin is a citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. His ancestors were active in the affairs of the Miami Nation dating back to the 18th century, and he continues this dedication through his work in language and cultural revitalization. Since 1995, Baldwin has worked with the Myaamia people developing culture and language-based educational materials and programs for the tribal community. Baldwin’s presentation will look at the role of the Myaamia Center at Miami University, a Miami Tribe of Oklahoma-supported research center, whose mission is to serve the needs of the Myaamia people, Miami University and partner communities through research, education and outreach that promote Myaamia language, culture, knowledge and values.
A 2011 graduate of the Oklahoma State University College for Osteopathic Medicine, Bighorse chose osteopathy after seeing her father face cancer and her grandmother face diabetes.
“I always had the heart for helping people. That’s something that’s always been a part of who I am. Medicine always appealed to me. The different disease processes and medications always appealed to me,” she said.
She said she was interested in seeing how diseases work and how treatments are used on ailments.
“My grandmother was full-blood Cherokee, and her father was a medicine man. He had taught her a lot of that type of medicine. So he had kind of passed some of those things down to her. Growing up, that was a huge influence on me,” Bighorse said.
The 2018 theme is “Engaging Families.” The summit will run concurrently with NSU’s annual Symposium of the American Indian. Topics to at the summit will focus on how to get families more involved with language learning. Registration for the event starts at 10 a.m. on April 18.
Entry to all summit sessions is free and open to the public. However, the summit luncheon on April 18 will require a $20 ticket. The meal includes an Italian meal and a performance by the Cherokee Immersion Charter School Youth Choir.
Roy Boney, Jr., Cherokee Nation Language Program manager and Inter-Tribal Council Language Committee president, said he encourages all who can to attend. “Finding ways to make our Indigenous languages become the primary languages in homes again is a major component of language revitalization for future generations. We invite everyone to join us at the 2018 Inter-Tribal Council Language Summit which will focus on strategies on how to engage our families and communities.”
For more information regarding the summit, email Teresa Workman, Chickasaw Nation Language Revitalization Program manager, at email@example.com or Boney at firstname.lastname@example.org. The registration form for the summit can be downloaded at www.fivecivilizedtribes.org. Make checks payable to “ITC Language.” Please bring the registration form(s) and checks to the first day of the summit. Receipts will be provided.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation last week granting 15 to 18 percent higher salaries to teachers. But some educators — who haven't seen a pay increase in 10 years — say that isn't good enough and walked out.
"If I didn't have a second job, I'd be on food stamps," said Rae Lovelace, a single mom and a third-grade teacher at Leedey Public Schools in northwest Oklahoma who works 30 to 40 hours a week at a second job teaching online courses for a charter school.
Oklahoma's three largest school districts, Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Edmond, will remain closed Tuesday to honor the walkout. Some schools are offering free meals to students aged 18 or younger, while various churches, faith organizations and charitable agencies are providing free day-care services. Spring break was last week in many Oklahoma districts.
Fallin warned Monday that the state budget is tight and there are other critical needs besides education.