A decade before the Trail of Tears, the Cherokee Nation’s first Supreme Court Justice, John Martin, brought his family from their home in New Echota, Georgia, to Indian Territory. His son, Joe, was only 8 years old in 1828 when they settled on the Grand River. He took to his new home quickly. In 1840 when he was just 20, he had already established a ranch that would become known as Greenbrier near the community of Strang.
To call Greenbrier a ranch is a bit of an understatement. By the time the Civil War started in 1861, the Martin family ranch and the river beside it both could be referred to as Grand. It consisted of around 100,000 acres of leased Cherokee land, about the size of what is now Mayes County. On this land was a good portion of the route then referred to as the Texas Road or the Military Highway. Before the war, the route saw many cattle drives from Texas to Kansas.
As the war progressed, it was described as “a critical route for information and supplies” for troops of both the North and the South. It was the shortest route from Fort Scott, Kansas, to Fort Gibson, Indian Territory, and Fort Worth, Texas. Two battles during the war were fought on the route. The North was the victor of the first battle. A year later the South had a much bigger victory by capturing hundreds of mules and wagons. This victory also interrupted supplies bound for Fort Gibson valued at over $1.5 million.
After the War Between the States ended, Greenbrier never regained its former glory. Today there is little more than a few historical markers to prove it once was there. Within a few years of the end of the war, the KATY Railroad followed the route from Kansas to Texas. In the early years of statehood the route developed into what is now known as U.S. Highway 69 and remained a critical route for information and supplies.
In today’s world, the term “information super highway” refers to the internet. While this term is modern, the idea behind it is as old as civilization. The idea is to create the shortest and most efficient route to move information. For as long as a thousand years, Indigenous people have used a route of travel not far from here because it was the most efficient route to deliver information and supplies. This route has been referred to at various times as the Osage Trail, the Seminole Trail, the Texas Road and the Military Highway.
Recently, I proposed – and the Tribal Council approved – a lump sum payment of $5,000 to all certified teachers, effective immediately. Additionally, certified teacher pay will increase by $5,000, effective the beginning of teacher contracts in fiscal year 2018-19.
Over the past decade, the state of Oklahoma has made drastic budget cuts to public education. At the same time, teachers continue to meet additional demands beyond simply fulfilling the daily lesson plans. From monitoring student safety to test preparation to finding ways to help students in need of food or school supplies, Oklahoma teachers go above and beyond the call of duty each day and with fewer resources each year.
We have the best colleges in Oklahoma (several in our jurisdiction such as Northeastern State University and Rogers State University), which train our brightest minds for the educational workforce. Yet, sadly, when they graduate, they often leave to teach in other states or are forced to leave the children they love teaching for higher-paying jobs. The state absolutely must address teacher pay this legislative session because we are in a crisis. However, the CN will not wait any longer.
This pay raise is in keeping with the CN’s longstanding commitment and support of public education. We started the first institution of higher learning for females west of the Mississippi River. We established a system of free public education well before Oklahoma statehood. We continue to achieve excellence today at Sequoyah High School, the Cherokee Immersion Charter School and through our support of public schools and students across northeastern Oklahoma.
As the chief of the Cherokee Nation and the son of public schoolteachers, it has troubled me to see the inaction at the state level as teachers across our great state struggle. The time for action is now, and the CN is taking the lead by granting our certified teachers the pay raise they deserve.
The Cherokee language is in the Iroquoian language family. Various Iroquoian speaking tribes now live in the eastern Great Lakes region of the U.S. and Canada. Although there are shared tenets among most American Indians, Native nations experienced different histories, spoke different languages, were comprised of a variety of compelling individuals and lived in particular environments all of which serve to provide particular qualities and practices making each nation profoundly unique.
According to early Cherokee oral history our arrival in our homeland involved travelling over a sea, or through a flood (Meredith and Sobral 1997: 33). The displaced Cherokee population ultimately settled in the forested terrain of what is now the southeastern United States. Surrounded by tribes speaking other languages, we were compelled to display superior strength in order to thrive. Our successes at adapting to change proved useful throughout time.
James Mooney, an early anthropologist, cited a remark provided by a Cherokee man in late 19th century, “…the animals and plants were first made . . . we do not know by whom (Mooney 1898: 240).” The lack of commitment to a single creator is often noted in early Cherokee thinking. The flood story includes statements that Cherokees “commenced to repair the damage done by the gods.” It was also noted they sought to build a structure reaching to the heavens. It seems Cherokees believed they could live equally with their gods and maybe the reference refers to the building of mounds, which could be useful if a future epic flood occurred.
Large earthen mounds were serving as Cherokee ceremonial centers when European colonists arrived in the Americas. Cherokee governance in early colonial times consisted of clan council representatives electing a war chief and a peace chief in each village, and groups of villages linked within geographic districts. As the U.S. government developed after the Revolutionary War, we Cherokee immediately emulated the new U.S. government model by electing a principal chief, legislative representatives and forming our own supreme court.
In the Cherokee language we have called ourselves aniyunwiya, the Real People. According to one author, “…the Cherokees, in common with the Caucasian race, had a high regard for their tribe, and were not too modest to proclaim themselves the ‘principal people’” (Walker 1931:2). Since our beliefs have served us well and our ancestors’ tenacity has done the same, our strong ego is an earned quality.
When someone comes to a CN health center and needs something that our own clinics do not provide, like a knee replacement for example, we send them to a specialist who is outside our network of CN doctors and health care providers. Under that system, we negotiate with insurance companies, hospitals, doctors and other vendors and pay for those services. When patients have a primary insurance, Medicare Part A and Part B, or Medicaid we are able to spend significantly less on the required service and then spend those dollars on other patients.
In recent history, the growth of referrals has been dramatic. In 2004, our system averaged 87 of these referrals per day. In 2017, those referrals had grown to an average of 410 per day. Because of this growth in needed referrals, our programs have had to manage their available resources. Some of the services that were being declined over the past year include elective orthopedics and some of the related diagnostic tests to those procedures.
To help address some of the recent limitations we had on issuing referrals for outside costly, nonlife-threatening treatments, we changed our records system, moving all patient health and medical records to a digital format. When a patient comes in, our newly installed software communicates with all payment systems, private insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid.
The new efficiency has helped enable the tribe to collect almost $9.5 million in the first three months of FY2018 in third-party billing. Those additional funds will translate to more contract health dollars to approve referrals for surgeries, MRIs and other related tests and help cover a portion of more elective orthopedic referrals for our patients, who visited CN Health Services more than 1.2 million times last year.
Cherokee Nation Health Services offers our citizens some of the best care available in Indian Country. Folks in northeast Oklahoma know this, but recently we changed a few things that are creating more and better health services for Cherokee families. I am proud to say we are reaping the benefits of those efforts.
Through a signed memorandum of understanding, CNB is providing $180,000 to cover the costs of a language program called the 14th Generation Master Apprentice Program, a pilot program designed for students who originally learned to speak Cherokee at the tribe’s Cherokee Immersion Charter School. We hope it encourages language usage as they progress through junior high and high school. CNB’s monetary commitment will further advance the preservation and usage of the Cherokee language, as graduates of the adult master apprentice program are placed in supervised teaching and mentoring roles.
The new endeavor can be a bridge that unites the mission of our Cherokee Immersion Charter School and the Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program, which has graduated six students since it began three years ago and is expected to graduate six more students in 2018 and another eight students in 2019. Both programs have proven successful in their respective area, and now we can connect their goals and participants.
This multigenerational effort will help preserve and promote the use of the Cherokee language for generations to come and fill the gap between the immersion school and high school. Our youth, who have been educated in the immersion school, are among the most valuable Cherokee language assets going forward. We have made significant investments in these children, and we must keep exposing them to language-learning opportunities after completing the sixth grade. Now that we have graduates of the Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program, we have developed an expert pipeline and grown the personnel to keep our youth engaged after immersion school graduation. That means language lessons can be utilized at Sequoyah High School as well as within community settings. Creating new Cherokee speakers, and in turn letting them pass along what they have learned, will keep our language flourishing for generations to come.
Supporting cultural education and growing the language curriculum will help Cherokee children succeed on their lifelong journey and allow them to reach their God-given potential in school, in life and as Cherokee speakers. The 14th Generation Master Apprentice Program already has about a dozen Sequoyah High School students gathering for lessons after school. Plans are in place for a summer program with participants gathering from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for 10 weeks. Those students, if they participate over multiple summers, could potentially get about 2,000 hours of language education just through summer participation. CNB continues to support the tribe in its pursuit of preserving Cherokee culture and heritage. Without the aggressive commitment from our tribal government and our business endeavors, the future of the Cherokee language would be in jeopardy.
Preserving the Cherokee language is preserving Cherokee identity, as the heritage and traditions of the tribe are rooted in our language. Our language allows us to pass along traditional Cherokee knowledge and values to our children and grandchildren. That is why I am so proud that Cherokee Nation Businesses has pledged unprecedented financial support to the Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program.
I grew up hearing the Cherokee language, as my dad is a first-language speaker. Cherokee was the only language my paternal grandmother chose to speak on a daily basis. She knew English, but hardly ever spoke it. I heard it so often as a child I was able to understand what my grandmother and dad were saying but never learned to speak, read or write. My granny died when I was 11 and that’s when my knowledge of the language died for me. My dad still spoke it to my aunts and uncles, but for a reason I can’t remember, I stopped really listening to understand it. He would try to get me to learn by giving me directives or asking common questions in Cherokee, but I didn’t take the time to sit down and learn.
As an adult, when people ask if I know how to speak, I tell them I was too busy as a kid playing sports and doing other things to learn. I also took Cherokee I and Cherokee II while at Northeastern State University, but none of the teachings resonated with me. Hearing me say that, and now typing it, I’ve come to realize that is a lame excuse.
I’ll be honest and say I really didn’t see the need to learn the language. I didn’t think knowing Cherokee would get me any further in life. Other than speaking to a few people, I would rarely use it, so why learn. I’ve worked for the Cherokee Phoenix for 11 years. We publish Cherokee stories in our monthly paper and when time allows, we have the translators record audio of the stories in order for readers to hear it spoken by scanning a QR code from a smartphone. I’ve not paid as much attention to it as I should. It’s a great way to see and hear the language.
Now that I’m older, I regret not paying attention to the language growing up and taking the time to learn. I think my generation has made a huge contribution to the downfall of the language. But all is not lost. Although it’s more difficult, it’s not too late to learn. I realize how vital the language is to Cherokees as a people. It is more than a way to communicate. It’s embodies our identity and soul of our tradition, history and the Cherokee way of life.
I am Cherokee. I know this because I have a Certificate of Indian Blood card that says so. I also have a blue card that says I’m a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. I have identified as Cherokee my entire life but I have not immersed myself enough in the culture, or most regrettably, the language.
Several years ago, we concluded that gaming should be a portion of our economic portfolio but not all we do. We originally called this line of business “diversified” because we had to find a way to lessen our dependence on gaming.
CNB’s diversified businesses, which include 29 companies outside of the gaming industry, achieved more than $1 billion in federal and commercial contract wins in fiscal year 2017. Since 2010, the companies have increased their revenue and profitability significantly, which means they can provide a larger dividend to Cherokee Nation for critical services and programs, like education, housing and health care.
Federal contracting is a market with great potential. The U.S. government is the largest customer in the world, and we will continue creating expertise and securing contracts to bring dollars home to the Cherokee Nation. The hard work of our team, led by CNB’s President of Diversified Businesses and Cherokee Nation citizen Steven Bilby, has made CNB one of the most successful mid-level government contracting businesses in the world.
We have employees in 49 states and contracts in a variety of industries. Whether it is providing disaster relief services for FEMA, serving our Armed Forces through medical readiness exams or helping develop a cure for deadly diseases like the Zika virus, CNB has a significant footprint around the globe and serves more than 60 federal agencies.
Building safe homes, increasing scholarship opportunities and offering accessible health care to our citizens are essential services provided by the Cherokee Nation tribal government. Our ability to deliver vital programs is dependent on our success at Cherokee Nation Businesses. Hospitality and entertainment are the foundation of our economic success, but our diversified businesses, or non-gaming business ventures, now account for about 35 percent of CNB’s total revenue.
While Mason may not have the skills to determine Lewis’ family history or genealogy, a team of genealogical researchers does have the skills to trace Lewis’ genealogy using public information, a lot of it that Lewis placed in the public forums.
In researching Lewis, genealogical researchers found that this was one of four names used by the same person. His birth name was Larry J. Lewis. His “papered name” now is Larry J. White Feather. Then there is the TFIC, which is a 501(c)3 nonprofit of which he is the founder and board chairman. A Google search for “Mashu White Feather” gave the name Larry White Feather. This gave the name of his parents, Jo Marie and James Orville Lewis. This was verified by the obituary for Jo Marie Lewis, which lists Larry White Feather as one of her sons. It also lists the names of her parents. More verification was given in a post by Doreen Bennett, in which she talks about the loss of their mother and names “Mashu White Feather” and his siblings listed in the obituary.
As “Mashu White Feather,” Larry Lewis claimed he is a Cherokee elder and his mother and her family raised him as a Cherokee traditionalist. But the genealogical research of Jo Marie Johnson Lewis found no connection to the Cherokee people. Her family consists of white people who came to Boone County, Missouri, from Kentucky, Virginia and Europe. Larry Lewis also claimed he is part Osage. Since his mother’s side consisted of all white people, he must be making that claim off his father’s side. But like his mother, his father’s side is also white people who came to Missouri from Kentucky, Virginia, and Europe. His father’s maternal grandmother was born in Osage County, Missouri, from parents who were born in France. So both of these claims are proven false by his family records.
Also, there are pictures of Jo Marie and James Orville in a house in Columbia, Missouri. The house’s address was listed as an address for Larry White Feather and the TFIC. This information is public. This evidence is available to view at the web address below, where it will be archived for public view, as well as in a blog away from Facebook. It is enough information for any genealogist to find Larry Lewis’ ancestors. Researchers worked on this information independently and each found the same results.
In his response to Luke Mason’s apology (August 2017 issue), Larry J. Lewis, aka “Mashu White Feather,” using his Two Feathers International Consultancy public relations officer Daris Reno Blickman, who is also not a Cherokee Nation citizen, made this statement: “He (Luke Mason) is certainly not privy to Mashu’s family history or genealogy.”
In October, I attended the 22nd annual Trail of Tears Conference & Symposium in Pocola, Oklahoma. Along with seeing friends from most of TOTA’s nine chapters, I learned things about our history. Many of the people who attend the conference possess a wealth of information about Cherokee history and the forced removals of our people in 1838-39. The states Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma make up TOTA.
At a conference presentation, I learned more about the so-called “Old Settlers,” who were Cherokee people who began settling in Arkansas in 1809. Tahlonteeskee led this group, and he later became the first principal chief of the western Cherokee Nation. These Cherokees settled along the St. Francis, Arkansas and White rivers and established settlements along the Arkansas River in the vicinity of present-day Russellville, Arkansas. In 1817, Western Cherokees signed a treaty with the United States that established a large reservation between the Arkansas and White rivers.
In Arkansas, Cherokee people had settled among the Caddo, Quapaw and Osage tribes. The Osage resented these newcomers settling lands they claimed as theirs and raided Cherokee settlements. The Arkansas Cherokee began planning a retaliatory attack against the Osage in January 1817 and requested aid from their relatives in the east. They also requested help from the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Delaware and other tribes living in the area. The Cherokee knew that Osage men left their villages lightly guarded during the Strawberry Moon or in June to go on a long distance hunt for bison. It was decided to attack at this time.
Led by Chief Spring Frog, approximately 500 Cherokee and their allies met at a place on the Arkansas River where Russellville now stands. They traveled upriver into Indian Territory and went overland to the Osage villages located a few miles north of present-day Claremore, Oklahoma. The invading party killed 38 Osage and took 104 captives. Chief Clermont was present at the time of the attack and was killed during the fighting.
I appreciate history and enjoy studying it, so it’s great that I regularly get to rub elbows with historians and people who research Cherokee history.
CHATSWORTH, Ga. – The next meeting of the Georgia Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association will begin at 10:30 a.m. on May 12 at the Vann House.
The meeting will be the second in a series of meetings commemorating the 180th anniversary of the Cherokee removal. The guest speaker will be former association president, Leslie Thomas. Her presentation is titled “The Round-up and Life in the Encampments.” The meeting is open and free to the public.
The U.S. Army established Fort New Echota in 1836 during the Cherokee Removal period in present-day Calhoun, Gordon County, Georgia. It was later renamed Fort Wool in 1838 and abandoned later in 1838 after Cherokee people were rounded up and sent west.
The TOTA was created to support the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail established by an act of Congress in 1987. It is dedicated to identifying and preserving sites associated with the removal of Native Americans from the southeastern United States. The Georgia TOTA chapter is one of nine state chapters representing the nine states that the Cherokee and other tribes traveled through on their way to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma).
GCTOTA meetings are free and open to the public. People need not have Native American ancestry to attend GATOTA meetings, just an interest and desire to learn more about this tragic period in this country’s history.
For more information, email Walter Knapp at email@example.com
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.
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation honored U.S. Army and Navy veterans with the tribe’s Medal of Patriotism during the March 12 Tribal Council meeting.
Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden acknowledged Fields Smith, 84, of Vian, and Kenneth Golden, 68, of Stilwell, for their service to the country.
Sgt. Smith was born in 1933 and drafted into the Army in 1955. He completed basic training at Fort Chaffee in Arkansas and trained to become an infantryman. Later, he completed Fire Directing Control School and was sent to Fort Polk in Louisiana where he spent the remainder of his two-year service term. During his service, Smith completed non-commission school and received a sharpshooter medal for his rifle skills. Smith received an honorable discharge in 1957.
“I want to thank the Chief, the Deputy Chief and the Tribal Council for all of the good work that they do for our people,” Smith said.
Sgt. Golden was born in 1949 and enlisted in the Navy in 1968. Golden completed basic training in Chicago. After basic training, he was transferred to the Naval Air Station Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Florida, where he served as an aviation boatman mate. During his service, Golden was awarded the National Defense Service Medal and received an honorable discharge in 1972.
Each month the CN recognizes Cherokee service men and women for their sacrifices and as a way to demonstrate the high regard in which the tribe holds all veterans.
To nominate a veteran who is a CN citizen, call 918-772-4166.
TAHLEQUAH – Northeastern State University’s Oklahoma College of Optometry goes back 39 years in its relationship with the Cherokee Nation and in providing Cherokees eye care.
NSUOCO works with nine CN clinics, also known as Rural Eye Programs, in Tahlequah, Sallisaw, Stilwell, Jay, Salina, Vinita, Nowata, Muskogee and Ochelata and services 40,000 to 60,000 patients annually.
Its first graduating class was in 1983 and has since averaged 28 graduates annually from its four-year doctorate program.
The NSU campus clinic contains 20 exam rooms and specialty clinics for dry eye, contact lenses, low vision, vision therapy and infant vision clinic. If a REP is unable to provide a type of eye care, patients are sent to the NSU clinic for further evaluation and treatment.
Nate Lighthizer, NSUOCO Continuing Medical Education director and doctor of optometry, said the college has seen patients from 2 months old to 102 years old.
“We all have different vision needs. That’s one of the beauties of having a college is we have 35 faculty members that are either here, in (W.W.) Hastings (Hospital) or in the REPs, and a lot them have different interests. We have doctors that specialize in infant vision and vision therapy. They’re the expert in the 6-month-old and the 2-, 3-, 4-, 5-year-old. Other doctors, they’re the expert in the 80-year-olds,” Lighthizer said.
He said students begin in “didactically heavy” classes, building foundations and learning about systemic diseases, eye diseases, procedures when giving primary care, looking at the eye with microscopes and other program aspects.
He said students begin seeing patients at the end of the second year and into the third year.
CN citizen and fourth-year student Seth Rich said he applied for the NSU program because of the experience it would give him treating patients by the time he graduates.
“I’m from this area, so I wanted to serve basically in the population that I grew up in. Here at NSU we see more patients compared to any other optometry school by the time we graduate. We have more patient interactions that any other optometry school is going to have and more clinical experience because we start seeing patients a year early than most other schools,” he said.
Rich said he also has experience using the REPs and seeing the eye care needs among Cherokees.
“We deal with a lot of diabetic patients here at Cherokee Nation, and that has a really large effect on the eyes. Being able to be in this area and serve a population that has a huge need for us is a big deal because I personally have a lot of family ties to this area want to be in a community where I feel like I’m going to be contributing and giving back and helping the overall health of the population with health and exams,” he said.
Rich said the program prepares students to “go out into the real world” and treat patients of any need. “I feel very confident going out into the population and serving basically anybody that walks in the door.”
CN citizen Tara Comingdeer Fields, who is in her first year at NSUOCO, said she chose the program because of her area ties. “It’s not specifically just Cherokee Indians that I want to serve, but overall Native Americans. My background is I grew up in a traditional family, so the medicines and traditions that we did just kind of stuck with me, and now I want to help people.”
Comingdeer Fields and Rich are recipients of Indian Health Services scholarships for optometry and will work under an IHS contract upon graduation.
Lighthizer said CN citizens make up between 10 to 15 percent of the NSUOCO’s students and that it’s usually rewarding for a Cherokee to grow up using CN eye care services and then go through the program and become a provider. “It’s just a very mutually beneficial relationship between Cherokee Nation to be able to have all of these patients seen and then obviously for the education for students to be able to see patients and hone their skills.”
As we wrap up 2017 and begin 2018, we can reflect on our multitude of achievements in the past year and look forward to the coming year’s opportunities. We can see where we have been in the past 12 months and what possibilities the future holds. This reflective time of year reminds me to think about what truly matters to us. When the holidays come around, our lives take on a larger meaning than simply living for ourselves. We think of our loved ones, our extended families, our long-lost friends and our neighbors. As principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, I think of our almost 360,000 citizens around the world and want the best for every one of them.
A good government makes life better for its people and for future generations. That is what we are striving for at the CN. In 2017, we reached significant heights and accomplished historic achievements. First, we broke ground on the hospital expansion project at the W.W. Hastings Health Campus in Tahlequah. It will be a historic day for the tribe when we open our Indian Health Service joint venture facility. The 470,000-square-foot facility, which will be the largest Native health care facility in the country, is on target to open in 2019. The four-story facility will feature 180 exam rooms and an ambulatory surgery center. About 350 construction jobs and more than 850 new health jobs will eventually be fulfilled over time.
We also released the results of our latest economic impact study on the Oklahoma economy. The tribe strengthens the state’s economy through investments and jobs. Our fiscal footprint exceeds $2 billion, and we will strive to ensure that continues. Our newest entertainment facility in Grove, the 10th in the Cherokee Nation Businesses gaming portfolio, was opened on Grand Lake, and it created about 175 good jobs in Delaware County.
We filed a lawsuit against opioid distributors and large chain drugstores that have flooded our communities with dangerous pills. Over the past two years these companies have flooded CN with enough prescription opioid painkillers to provide every man, woman and child 153 doses each. In 2017, CN also filed a lawsuit against the federal government on claims the United States mismanaged the tribe’s trust fund. The suit asks the U.S. government to provide an accurate accounting of the Cherokee Trust Fund, which includes property, land, funds and other resources the federal government may have mismanaged over decades.
One of the most pressing things we focused on in the past year is the conservation of our air, land and water. The CN worked with the state to get an emergency order to halt the disposal of radioactive waste near the Arkansas and Illinois rivers, and we vowed to reduce the tribe’s carbon footprint at our complex and all buildings. It is our responsibility to preserve our natural resources by executing policies with long-term sustainability in mind. That’s why I am committed to making CN’s complex more friendly to renewable energy sources. We constructed a solar energy charge station and purchased electric cars to add to our fleet.
In cultural preservation, our Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program graduated its first adult students. This program is designed to create a generation of adult speakers and teachers for the Cherokee Immersion Charter School. We also officially reopened Sequoyah’s Cabin Museum after the tribe acquired the property from the Oklahoma Historical Society. We will now manage the homestead of the legendary statesman and inventor of the Cherokee syllabary.
We announced a new foster care paid leave policy that is the first of its kind in Indian Country, and one of the first in Oklahoma. Employees who foster can receive five days paid leave for fostering Cherokee children. That is time that families can set aside for appointments such as doctors and daycare and for the bonding that is needed.
Finally, a decision came down in the longstanding Cherokee Freedmen case from the federal court. As I said during my State of the Nation address during Cherokee National Holiday, the CN will not appeal the decision. We have started processing citizenship applications, and now we are beginning the healing for all parties.
I hope 2018 offers us just as many opportunities to fulfill the needs of the Cherokee people and to deliver and execute ideas that will improve lives. In the coming months, we plan to break ground on the new Cherokee Casino Tahlequah and we will open a 4,000-square-foot, open-air pavilion near the historic Cherokee National Capitol building.
We are proud of what we have done and enthusiastic about what can be accomplished in the upcoming year. We will continue to focus on the things that make real and lasting impacts in the lives of our citizens. From my family and the family of Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, we want to wish you a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year.
DENISON, Texas – Cherokee Nation citizen Blayke Haggard of Gans, Oklahoma, made up one half of the winning fishing team from Northeastern State University to win the YETI FLW College Fishing event on Lake Texoma on April 8.
Haggard and his teammate Cody Metzger of Wagoner, Oklahoma, caught their five-bass limit for a winning weigh to 19 pounds, 4 ounces.
The victory earned the Riverhawk bass club $2,600 and a spot in the 2019 FLW College Fishing National Championship.
The duo said that they spent the day targeting smallmouth bass on main-lake points, about 5 to 8 miles away from the takeoff ramp at Highport Marina.
“We focused on the points where the wind was blowing the hardest, fishing the mid to southeastern areas of the lake,” Haggard, a sophomore majoring in cellular and molecular biology, said. “We had five or six points that we rotated through that all looked very similar, fishing in 4 to 10 feet.”
The Riverhawk club cited citrus shad-colored Bandit 200 crankbaits and a prototype Bandit squarebill crankbait as its most productive lures. Club members said that they caught 10 to 12 keepers.
“We had great execution,” Haggard said. “I caught a 4-pounder early, then three casts later Cody put a 3½-pounder in the boat. Those early fish clued us in that we were doing the right thing. It also helped that we didn’t lose any fish all day.”