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.
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.
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.
Click here to view
the list of All-Indian Rodeo 2018 winners
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.
McCoy said he started running May 14 in Cherokee at Kituwah Mound, and is expecting to arrive in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, on June 28 after completing a 1,095-mile journey.
“I was initially interested in the removal (Remember the Removal) ride and I found during the application process that if you have a felony conviction on your record that you was automatically excluded. I am person in long-term recovery from substance abuse,” he said. “So I wanted to do the Trail of Tears in remembrance of our ancestors, and I decided that instead of doing the removal ride, I would run it.”
The Benge detachment began on Oct. 3, 1838, in Fort Payne, Alabama, and crossed into Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri and Arkansas before finishing on Jan. 11, 1839, in Indian Territory, near present-day Stilwell, Oklahoma.
He said he’s averaging about 20 miles per day and has the support of his mother, girlfriend and cousin, who drive a few miles ahead of him and await him with water and food.
CHEROKEE, N.C. – Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians citizen Kallup McCoy II is running the Trail of Tears’ Benge Route to Oklahoma to honor his Cherokee ancestors and raise awareness and funds for his nonprofit organization – Rez HOPE Recovery.
Although both tribes have a similar application process, as well as the same goal of historical and cultural awareness, the EBCI ride is coordinated through the tribe’s Cherokee Choices program, which is geared to improving health among its citizens from ages 15 to 65. The EBCI riders were expected to initially meet the CN participants on May 31 in Cherokee before the combined group makes its way from New Echota, Georgia, to Tahlequah, Oklahoma, beginning June 3.
The Cherokee Phoenix caught up to the EBCI participants to learn more about them.
CHEROKEE, N.C. – Since 2011, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians citizens have joined Cherokee Nation citizens to retrace the Northern Route of the Trail of Tears as part of the nearly 1,000-mile “Remember the Removal” bicycle ride.
The ride groups Cherokee Nation and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians citizens for a three-week, 950-mile ride from New Echota, Georgia, to Tahlequah. It follows the Northern Trail of Tears route to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. Approximately 4,000 Cherokees died during the roundups, incarceration and removals over land and water trails, as well as after the journey.
Dr. Melissa Lewis, of the University of Missouri, began her “RTR” research in 2013 and started using focus groups in 2015. Riders from the 1984 and 2015 rides were interviewed and their answers compared. In 2017, Lewis began using lengthy surveys with 19 riders participating. The survey focused on social, physical, emotional and cultural health and feelings before and during training, after the ride and six months later.
“People told us they lost weight and had improved their eating habits, had decreased stress, had increased feelings of a connection to peers and a stronger connection to Cherokee culture,” she said.
Lewis also studied Native-specific measures, including micro aggressions or “everyday subtle discriminatory experiences;” discrimination and historical trauma such as losses of land, culture, people in their families; and things related to the effects of colonization and how often people think about those things.
TAHLEQUAH – Research is ongoing on how the annual “Remember the Removal” bicycle ride benefits participants, and during an April panel discussion at Northeastern State University, some past cyclists shared how it has benefitted them.
The Facebook Journalism Project and NAJA established the scholarship to support quality journalism that strengthens and connects communities. For the 2018-19 school year, Jones will receive the $10,000 scholarship for pursuing a media career.
Jones is a student at the OU Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication where he has produced content highlighting social issues and underserved communities. His experience in reporting includes in-depth stories with KGOU Radio and the University’s National Public Radio member station, where he has reported on interactions between law enforcement and people with autism and the elevated issues that often harmed people with special needs. His reporting eventually led to a change in the way an Oklahoma police department trained its officers.
This summer, Jones is working on a national reporting project through the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. Through the investigative project, he will build upon research conducted this semester to tell the stories of people who have been victimized by hate crimes. In the fall, he will be part of Gaylord College’s inaugural Washington, D.C., program where he will live in the nation’s capital and report on issues affecting Oklahomans, for mainstream media outlets.
NAJA will award a total of $250,000 in scholarships through the Facebook Journalism Program over the next five years. Students who applied but were not selected in 2018 are encouraged to re-apply in 2019.
NORMAN – Cherokee Nation citizen Storme Jones, a University of Oklahoma student, has been named as one of the five Native American Journalists Association Facebook Journalism Project Scholarship recipients.
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.
TAHLEQUAH – Four Cherokee Nation employees recently graduated from the University of Oklahoma Economic Development Institute held in Fort Worth, Texas.
“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.
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.
“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.
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation citizen and employee Stephen Highers on May 3 graduated from the University of Oklahoma Economic Development Institute.
WAYNESVILLE, Mo. – Autumn Lawless trained for the challenges she faced on June 15 as she fought the heat and hills of the Ozarks in south-central Missouri.
The 21-year-old from Porum, Oklahoma, said the training the 10 Cherokee Nation “Remember the Removal” cyclists endured from January to May prepared them for the rigors of riding for three weeks through seven states.
“Training was hard, but it was hard for a reason. We were all ready, and we’ve made it this far because of our training,” she said.
She said through the “RTR” program, which started in 1984 for youth leadership, she’s gained more courage and knows “she can do anything.”
“I saw a lot of our riders and how this ride changed them and how strong they were. They were more confident, they were better leaders, and I wanted to be a better leader. I know I can push myself...now. This ride has given me perseverance,” Lawless said. “The ride isn’t just what you see in videos. It’s not just people cheering you on and clapping for you. It’s the time you spend with your teammates on the road motivating each other to get up another hill or just checking on each other. It really is a family, and there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into this ride.”
Ahli-sha Stephens, 34, of Cherokee, North Carolina, said the main reason she wanted to ride was to experience some of the hardships her ancestors endured and “to be able to go where they had been and walk where they walked.”
“It’s something you can tell someone about and they won’t understand it unless they’ve been there and felt it for themselves,” she said.
Walking the now-preserved trails that Cherokee people walked 180 years ago was especially moving for her, she said. “It’s humbling knowing you walked where they walked, and you’re walking in their footsteps and are seeing things that they saw. It wasn’t easy, and I can’t imagine doing it the way they did it day after day.”
Stephens added that riding the trail with other Cherokees created a bond that gets stronger daily. “We rely on each other. We help each other, and we’re there for each other. I think if we didn’t have each other’s backs, it would make this journey a whole lot harder.”
Stephens said she’s also learned to be more patient and wants to use her abilities to help others and to “lead, listen and be a team player.”
“Overall, I think I will be more knowledgeable about who our people were, what they did and what they went through, what they faced. I think I will just be a better person all around,” she said.
Daulton Cochran, 21, of Bell, Oklahoma, said he wanted to ride to “connect” with his tribe better.
“I had a lot of friends who did the ride, and it seemed like it changed a lot of people afterwards, and I craved that, I guess,” he said.
Because of the constant strain of riding for two weeks, he said he couldn’t recall the exact spot that moved him the most, but it was a place in Tennessee where his Cherokee ancestors camped.
“I guess it was the idea of campsites really being gravesites. It really gets to you to see stuff like that,” he said.
He added that he’s appreciated taking on the riding challenge with his teammates. “The fellowship has been great. We all connect. We all hang out. It’s just a good thing. We’re a family now.”
Seth Ledford, 18, of Cherokee North Carolina, said he saw how the ride was a “life-changing” experience for others and wanted to experience it.
“It is a once-in-lifetime experience, and it will change you for the better. That’s what I heard about the ride,” he said. “So far the ride has been good. It has been tough at times, and emotional and physical. We’ve had a lot of tough times, but we make up and still like each other.”
He said he would take away leadership skills and bonds he’s developed with fellow riders. He also has learned to work within a team. “When I wrestle (in high school) I’m by myself in everything. This is really helping me with my teamwork.”
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation citizen Crystal Young on May 4 was named the Tahlequah Public School District Teacher of the Year for the 2017-18 school year. She is a third grade teacher at Cherokee Elementary.
Young was first awarded Cherokee Elementary Teacher of the Year in April, which put her in the running for the district award.
“It’s just super humbling, I think, when you get something like that, that you know your peers chose you,” she said.
In the fall, Young will begin her seventh year at Cherokee Elementary and plans to teach fifth grade. Before joining Cherokee Elementary, she taught two years at the tribe’s Head Start. However, teaching wasn’t her first desire. She said she initially wanted to become a lawyer and work in juvenile justice.
“Growing up, we lived in poverty. My dad struggled with addiction and things like that. So some of these students that I see, I was right there. I know exactly what they’re going through, and I wanted to show kids that hard work will get you where you need to be, and perseverance and work ethic and all those attributes, honesty, integrity, those things matter,” she said.
While attending college, she realized she worked well with children and changed her career path from lawyer to educator.
Aside from teaching, Young is the Cherokee language bowl sponsor and Together Raising Awareness for Indian Life sponsor for Cherokee Elementary. She said she exposes her students to Cherokee culture and to diabetes awareness through the TRAIL’s 12-week curriculum.
“When they’re an adult, this is going to help them. I’m hoping that we’re setting a good foundation for them to be not only good readers, good writers, good mathematicians but just healthy, good individuals,” Young said.
She said there are struggles with being a teacher and that she was one of the many teachers who rallied at Oklahoma City in April for more education funding. She said she believes it’s important to show students that when faced with adversity sometimes not going with what has always been done is acceptable.
“It’s OK to be willing to stand up for what you feel like is right and standing together and being able to bond,” Young said.
She said the rewards and struggles of being a teacher go hand in hand when coming in every day and giving her best while at the same time knowing so many kids rely on her.
“I feel like everything I’ve done or wanted to do has been, at the root of it, has been I wanted to help people. I guess just to encourage people and motivate people to be the best they can be,” she said.
Winning the district award puts Young in the running for Oklahoma State Teacher of the Year, which will be announced in October at the Tulsa State Fair.
TAHLEQUAH – Tribal Councilors on June 11 unanimously passed a gaming compact supplement with Oklahoma to allow Cherokee Nation’s casinos to begin offering Las Vegas-style table games such as craps and roulette.
The resolution follows Gov. Mary Fallin signing House Bill 3375 into law on April 1o, making the state’s tribal casinos eligible to begin offering “ball-and-dice” games as soon as Aug. 2.
Tribal Councilor Mike Shambaugh said during a May 31 Rules Committee meeting that passing the resolution was important.
“I think we have been progressive as a council in many different ways in how we support gaming. This could be a good way for more revenue, obviously. If other casinos are going to be doing it, we need to stay progressive. We need to do what it takes to be the best casino and give our casinos the best opportunity to succeed. I think this is a good step forward for doing this especially if the state is going to allow it. We need to take advantage of it,” he said.
Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission Director Jamie Hummingbird also said during the Rules Committee meeting that the CNGC has been working on regulations for the new gaming since April. He said the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa would be the first Cherokee Casino property to offer “ball-and-dice” games and that the CNGC is working with casino operations on “where and when” the other casino properties would begin featuring the games.
Legislators on June 11 also authorized placing 39.2 acres of land in southern Delaware County into trust. The acreage, known as Beck’s Mill “has a rich history as a trading post with a grain mill being operated in the 1800s,” the resolution states. The property is located along Flint Creek just north of Highway 412.
Legislators also approved a resolution “agreeing to choice of law and venue and authorizing a waiver of sovereign immunity” so that the Cherokee Immersion Charter School can enter into a software agreement with Municipal Accounting Systems Inc. The agreement will allow the school to submit certain financial information to state officials in the required Oklahoma Cost Accounting System.
Tribal Councilors also increased the tribe’s fiscal year 2018 comprehensive operating budget by $1.8 million for a total budget authority of $694.9 million. The changes consisted of a decrease in the Indian Health Service Self-Governance Health budget by $93,962 and increases in the General Fund, Enterprise, Department of Interior – Self-Governance and Federal “other” budgets.
In other business, legislators:
• Authorized a donation of a modular office building to Project A Association in Muskogee County, and
• Authorized a grant application to the Department of Health and Humans Services, Administration for Children and Families, the Office of Child Care for Tribal Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program.
TAHLEQUAH – Establishing healthy eating patterns tailored to personal, cultural and traditional preferences that are low in sodium and saturated fat is essential to a balanced diet for young adults between the ages of 20 and 35, Cherokee Nation Clinical Dietitian Tonya Swim said.
“All the food and beverage choices a person makes matters,” Swim said. “For most healthy individuals a balanced diet should have a variety of vegetables and whole fruit, low-fat or fat-free diary, half of their grains from whole grain sources, a variety of protein choices, including lean meats, seafood and vegetable sources.”
Swim said that while a single healthy eating pattern will not fit everyone, all foods high in saturated fat, sodium and added sugar should be limited. She recommends individuals inspect their food’s nutrition facts label when shopping, especially for those who may buy frozen foods such as microwavable meals.
“Most meals like this lack in fruits and vegetables, so adding a whole piece of fruit and a steamed bag of frozen veggies can help to meet a person’s daily fruit and vegetable needs. This is also a great way to add in extra vitamins, minerals and fiber,” she said.
A good method of comparing the nutritional values of two or more food items is to examine the label’s percent of daily value, Swim said. “Search for items with the lowest amount of saturated fat and sodium and the highest amount of fiber. Five percent daily value or less of a nutrient per serving is low, and 20 percent daily value or more of a nutrient per serving is high. One nutrient that we want to strive to get more of is fiber, so this nutrient on the nutrition facts label should be as close to 20 percent daily value as possible.”
That advice is especially important for those who choose to maintain a vegetarian lifestyle.
“If an individual chooses to go 100 percent vegan, please be aware of nutrients that may be lacking in their diet, including iron, zinc, protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B-12, vitamin D and calcium,” Swim said.
She said food sources for proper iron nutrients include almonds, oatmeal and spinach, while hummus, some whole wheat breads and cashews are good zinc sources. Fortified foods are good vitamin B-12 sources.
For protein, Swim recommends peanuts, quinoa, edamame, chickpeas, lentils, black beans and kidney beans, while calcium can be worked into a vegan diet with turnip, mustard and collard greens, figs and kale. Fortified soymilk is also a good source of vitamin D in addition to calcium, while walnuts and flaxseeds are good for Omega-3 fatty acids.
“Following a plant-based diet or even a full vegan plan does have health benefits, such as a lower risk of heart disease, some cancers and type 2 diabetes,” Swim said. “If a vegan plan is something you would like to consider, please speak with your health care provider and registered dietitian before you begin.”
Young adults should also be aware of what they might be adding to their drinks, including coffee.
“It’s important to note that some coffee beverages can include calories from added sugars and saturated fat, such as creamers. So be cautious when getting your specialty coffees,” Swim said.
Coffee consumption should also be “moderate,” according to dietary guidelines.
“A moderate amount would be three to five 8-ounce cups a day,” Swim said. “This would approximately 400 milligrams of caffeine daily. The exception to this may be if a person has a medical condition in which their medical provider has reduced the amount of caffeine they should have, so talk to your primary provider.”
Swim recommends those eligible for services with CN Health Services and seeking more information about individualized diet plans should contact their primary providers and ask to schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian.
The Cherokee Nation is steadfastly committed to our military veterans, those men and women who have sacrificed so much for our tribe, our country and our collective freedoms. Recently, we established a formal partnership with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma to help ensure these real-life heroes do not suffer from hunger and food instability. Nobody in Oklahoma, especially a military veteran, should go hungry.
This collaboration, which is the first time a tribal government has been involved with this local food bank program, means regular access to healthy and nutritious foods, and that will translate to better and fuller lives. It is a blessing that we are able to help, and it is the least we can do for those who have done so much for us.
This endeavor will create a quarterly mobile food pantry at the CN Veterans Center. Fresh produce, bakery items and nonperishable food items are available for about 125 veterans or widows of veterans through the collaboration. The first time we hosted the food pantry in late May, we distributed more than 10,000 pounds of food. The tribe will continue to help identify veterans in need, as well as provide volunteers to help staff the mobile pantry.
Today, the CN Veterans Center offers a wide array of activities for veterans. It serves as a place to sign up for benefits, play bingo or attend other activities, and now we have added the food pantry. It is just one more way we can meet the needs of our people.
The CN continues to look for ways to honor and serve our veteran warriors, and this partnership with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma is another avenue to reach those in need. Food insecurity is a very real issue for families in northeast Oklahoma, and almost 20 percent of the households the Food Bank serves has a military veteran who resides there and utilizes the program. Additionally, national studies show veterans are affected more by hunger and food insecurity than the general population. Many struggle to put food on the table because of a myriad of issues, from employability after service to mental health and related trauma or an unwillingness to seek help.
Collaborating with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma means we are increasing and expanding its coverage and furthering its mission. Just like CN, the food bank wants to provide for our veterans so that they have what they need to prosper.
The CN also offers a food distribution program, which some veterans may also qualify for. For more information on the CN Veterans Center and food pantry, call 918-772-4166.
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 “Dolly Parton’s 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.