The Cherokee Nation’s Career Services is located in the W.W. Keeler Complex in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. It offers programs such as Day Training to help Cherokees find employment opportunities. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Day Training program taking applications in autumn
Cherokee Nation citizen Courtney Cowan was a participant in the Career Services’ Day Training program. She utilized the program while in college and it eventually led her to full-time employment in Career Services as a special assistant. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Career Services’ Day Training program helps Cherokees with temporary job placement and training that could potentially result in permanent employment. And because of an influx of applicants during the holiday season, the program will not take applications until the autumn of each year, with the exception of special circumstances.
“We realized that we have a need for people more in the late fall during the holiday season, so that they can get that money to get over that hump. So a lot of them are without jobs, they’re without training. So we decided that we would start actually start working on the Day Training program after the Labor Day holiday,” Career Services Executive Director Diane Kelley said.
Jonathan Crittenden, Day Training coordinator, said the program has slowed because of participants utilizing newer programs throughout the year such as the Dislocated Worker Program and the Summer Youth Employment Program.
Since it’s inception in 2009, Day Training has helped more than 2,000 participants who have attained employment within the CN or its entities.
The majority of temporary jobs placements take place within the CN and Cherokee Nation Businesses.
The program helps people with little or no job experience, as well as people who have received college degrees or vocational training, to gain work experience through training on the job.
To qualify, one must be a CN citizen, live within the CN jurisdiction, have no income, be at least 18 years old and out of high school.
The program allows participants to train up to 12 weeks and equal a training payment of up to $1,000. The training payment was recently changed from $3,000 per fiscal year to $1,000 per fiscal year to service more clients.
Payouts include $50 per day for 8-hour workdays, $25 for four hours of work or payouts of $100 to $200 for days worked per week.
“Day Training affords them that opportunity to get their foot in the door so that either Health (Services) or Education (Services) or (the) department they land in can actually see whether or not they are somebody that would make a good employee. We’ve been very fortunate here at the Cherokee Nation to have the Day Training program so that it affords those directors the opportunity to see what’s out there, and in a lot of cases those people got picked up,” Kelley said.
Crittenden said the program is a “day-to-day” program of temporary employment but also services higher education students who are looking to complete internships within the CN.
A participant is able to utilize any Career Services program if they qualify. For example, a college graduate who meets the criteria for the SYEP can work at a job in his or her field of study and then shift to the Day Training program to continue gaining work experience until a job opportunity opens.
CN citizen Courtney Cowan is a participant who utilized Day Training and the SYEP and is now a special assistant in Career Services. After graduating college and obtaining a degree in health and human performance, she had trouble attaining employment.
“With all the connections and stuff I’ve made, it’s been amazing. It’s been a blessing for me because I think just around this area it’s really, really hard for people to find jobs. Even with a degree right now people are struggling,” she said.
Kelley said she believes in hiring participants “who make something” of themselves. “If we can’t hire our own people, people that have come through the program that we’ve trained, then what are we even here for? That’s they way we look at it.”
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TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program helps thousands of eligible Native Americans yearly with their heating, and in some cases, cooling sources.
Janet Ward, Family Assistance manager and LIHEAP coordinator, said “summer cooling” aid is eligible to those who are over 60 or disabled and received a winter heating payment.
“Our summer cooling program is only for the elderly and disabled,” she said. “When we say disabled, disabled are those who are actually receiving a disability check. So if they received LIHEAP during the winter from us, like in October or November, then they would be eligible for the summer cooling and the supplemental payment that we done this year.”
She added that payments would be sent to the clients’ electric providers.
“Summer cooling usually goes to their electric,” she said. “The elders and disabled that received the winter heating, they will have gotten a letter in the mail for them to return a mail showing who their electric vender is. And then they get that information off there with their account number, and then it will be mailed directly to the vendor.”
She said she hopes to see payments disbursed by the end of June or the first part of July.
Ward said in some cases LIHEAP provides window air conditioner units for qualifying Native Americans who are 60 and older or disabled.
“The AC units are apart of our LIHEAP program. It’s a small air conditioning unit that’s just for a one-room cooling station. They’re (for) the elderly and disabled, and they have to have a medical (statement) that stated that they have to have refrigerated air,” she said. “If they have a working window unit or central air already in their home they would not be eligible because we can’t supplement them.”
To receive a window unit, Ward said clients would not had to have received LIHEAP in the winter but would have to be LIHEAP-eligible. She said clients should visit a field office to see if they qualify.
Ward said during the winter LIHEAP helped 1,786 clients who were 60 and older or disabled and 232 who were under 60 and not disabled. She said numbers vary annually but tend to increase.
“Every year, usually, our numbers increase because people, you know, word-of-mouth gets around and they tell their family members. Then DHS (Department of Human Services) also sends people our way so that they can use their funding to help others, too,” she said.
Ward said she thinks the program is a “great” help to those needing the assistance it offers.
“Our elders, sometimes during the wintertime and then in the summertime, they try to cut back because of the high cost of their utility bills, and they don’t keep their houses warm as what they could,” she said. “If this program was not there we would probably have some elders that would keep their air conditioners turned down to where they really weren’t keeping cool or even in a safe environment. But because we’re able to give a summer cooling to the elderly and disabled then it helps defray the cost that they would have to pay out.”
Ward said new clients could apply for LIHEAP later this year.
“We’ll open it back up to the elderly and disabled in October or November,” she said. “So if they received LIHEAP from us they will get a letter in the mail stating what time their appointment is and the location. Then the new ones, they will just need to call into the office, and then we can let them know which dates because we go to different field offices…so we have to schedule ahead of time so they will have to get with us to determine where they would need to go to make their application if they didn’t get it last year.”
LIHEAP is available to citizens of federally recognized tribes living within the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction and qualify for the benefits.
Benefits are calculated based on the number of people living in a household, the amount of income for those over 18 years old and the home’s energy source. Applicants who are 60 and older or disabled will be given top priority.
To apply, a client must provide a Social Security card, Certificate Degree of Indian Blood card, residence verification, heating utility account verification, proof of income of all household members 18 and older and proof of disability if trying to participant in the program under that category.
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TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s Environmental Health & Engineering program is working on five projects to provide better water access to CN citizens living in Delaware and Muskogee counties.
Environmental Health & Engineering Director Billy Hix said in Delaware County the program is working on a waterline extension for Rural Water Dist. 11, constructing a water treatment plan in the southern part of the county and working on a water loss project near Kenwood.
<strong>RWD 11 waterline extension</strong>
Hix said the project consists of constructing approximately 19 miles of 6-inch, 4-inch and 2-inch waterlines near Leach, Rocky Ford, Teresita and Kansas.
He said the waterlines would be in communities that haven’t been previously served and would connect to approximately 125 homes, 75 of which are Cherokee households.
“Homes in the area have a myriad of issues with water quality and quantity,” Hix said. “Many of the wells are positive for coliform and fecal coliform bacteria, and some wells are low-yielding and unable to provide sufficient water to support a home.”
KSL Dirtworks, a Tribal Employment Rights Office-certified contractor, started the project in January. Construction is expected to be finished in October, Hix said. He added that the estimated cost is $1.8 million with $662,000 coming from the Indian Health Service, $458,000 from the CN, $207,000 from a Community Development Block Grant, $250,000 from local funds and $303,000 from a loan.
<strong>Southern Delaware County Regional WTP</strong>
Hix said this project is in the Flint Ridge community and consists of a new 2 million gallon per day water treatment plant, two water storage tanks, three pump stations and 3.6 miles of 12-inch waterline.
He said the plant and other infrastructure would provide water to Flint Ridge, West Siloam Springs, Colcord, Kansas and the county’s RWD 11, serving approximately 2,500 homes with about 1,100 being Cherokee households.
“All of the communities served by this project had various issues with water quality or quantity. We worked with them to prepare a feasibility study to see if a regional water treatment plant to serve them would work,” Hix said. “The feasibility study was very favorable to the idea, and so the communities formed a public trust authority under Delaware County. When completed the authority will provide water to the communities. Each of the communities has a position on the authority’s board of directors and as such has a seat at the table in making decisions for the water supply.”
He said Huffman Construction is building the water treatment plant, while Circle P Welding is constructing the storage tanks and Cross-Bo Construction, a TERO contractor, is handling the water line and pump stations.
Construction on the $15.7 million project began in May 2017, and its completion is expected in December, Hix said.
He said its funds stem from a $6.7 million Rural Development Loan, a $1.9 million Rural Development Grant, a $2 million Rural Development Native American Grant, $3 million from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, $1.5 million from IHS, a $476,000 IHS/CN Planning Grant and $90,000 in local funds.
<Strong>Kenwood Water Loss Project</strong>
Hix said the project covers the Kenwood Water District distribution system in southwest Delaware County and east of the Mayes County line and consists of installing new valves, meters and hydrants to identify, isolate and repair leaking waterlines.
He said the project would impact 174 homes, all of which are Cherokee.
“The Kenwood Water District had problems with high amounts of water loss. Most months it was over 50 percent,” Hix said. “The project will help reduce the water loss to acceptable levels. This will save the district significant amounts in utility costs for pumping, as well as reducing the cost of chemicals used to disinfect the water. The district has already fixed several large leaks found by this project.”
He said the Kenwood Water District staff is handling the $302,000 project with the CN lending technical assistance and engineering support. He added that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is giving $202,000 for the project, while IHS is supplying $100,000.
The project began in November, and its expected completion is in October, Hix said.
He said in Muskogee County the Environmental Health & Engineering program is rehabilitating a water treatment plant in Fort Gibson and extending a waterline east of Fort Gibson.
<strong>Fort Gibson WTP Rehabilitation</strong>
Hix said the rehab is on the west side of Fort Gibson adjacent to the Grand River and consists of rehabilitating and improving the water treatment plant that provides water to Fort Gibson and surrounding rural water districts.
He said the contractor, HCCCo LLC, is installing water treatment process equipment, raw water intake structures, controls, buildings, piping and storage and that it would impact about 1,500 homes, with approximately 500 households being Cherokee.
“The existing water treatment plant was under a consent order from the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality for violations of the safe drinking water act,” Hix said. “Specifically the existing plant was unable to meet the new standards for disinfection byproducts. The updated treatment plant will bring the system back into compliance.”
Approximately $7.1 million from Rural Development and $857,000 from IHS is funding the project. Hix said the project should be done in June after nearly two years of work.
<strong>Muskogee County RWD 7 waterline extension</strong>
Hix said about 2 miles east of Fort Gibson and 1.5 north of Two Mile Road homes had issues with water quality and quantity that existing wells produced, so approximately 4,300 linear feet of waterline and a booster pump station are being added.
He said about 20 homes will be impacted, with about 11 of them being Cherokee.
The project is receiving $93,500 from IHS and $13,500 from CN and is expected to be done in July after about four months of construction.
TAHLEQUAH – Under a new agreement signed May 3 between the Cherokee Nation and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, a new mobile pantry will be at the tribe’s Veterans Center.
It is the Food Bank’s first tribal partnership, as the two entities hope to reach more hungry people that could use assistance. In particular, the program will serve veterans and widows of veterans.
“The Cherokee Nation 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,” CN Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “Our Cherokee Veterans Center offers activities for veterans, a place to sign up for benefits and now adding a food pantry in another step in serving them.”
The plan involves the Food Bank bringing about 10 pallets of food – approximately 10,000 pounds – to the Veterans Center on a quarterly basis, said Jim Lyall, veterans outreach coordinator for the Food Bank.
Items will include an array of fresh produce, canned goods, non-perishable food items and baked goods. Through the Food Bank’s various programs to reach rural communities, 18 percent of household served include a military veteran. For the Food Bank, it’s a chance to help vets “thrive,” not just survive.
“We are so excited about this new partnership with the Cherokee Nation,” said Eileen Bradshaw, executive director for the Food Bank. “The issue of food insecurity is important to both of us and we all want to make sure our veterans have what they need to thrive.”
Many veterans live on limited funds and work within a budget. Allan Johnson, CN citizen and U.S. Army veteran, said he is tired of paying rent on his home, and the partnership could help bring an end to that.
“I’m on a fixed income with disability,” said Johnson. “I would like to get in a home of my own, but that will make it much easier on me. Otherwise it would still be beneficial, but it might become imperative, if I want to live in my own home.”
Johnson said providing veterans with food assistance could help those who have served overseas re-acclimate to life at home.
The CN has already identified 125 families to receive food from the pantry. Once a recipient chooses to drop from the program or no longer participates, the tribe will identify other veterans to be included. But if all goes well, Barbara Foreman, director of the Veteran Affairs Office at the Veterans Center, said a lot more families could benefit from the partnership.
“In the future, the plan is not to just have it here,” said Foreman. “If this is successful, we can do this for our veterans in the 14 counties and other spots. So this is our beginning pilot and if it becomes successful, then we will be able to branch out to the others.”
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Phoenix is now taking names of elders and military veterans to provide free subscriptions of its monthly newspaper.
In November, Cherokee Nation Businesses donated $10,000 to the Cherokee Phoenix’s Elder/Veteran Fund. The fund provides free subscriptions of its monthly newspaper to elders 65 and older and military veterans who are Cherokee Nation citizens. Subscription rates are $10 for one year.
“The Elder/Veteran Fund was put into place to provide free subscriptions to our Cherokee elders and veterans,” Executive Editor Brandon Scott said. “Some of our elders and veterans are on a very limited budget, and other items have a priority over buying a newspaper subscription. The donations we receive have a real world impact on our elders and veterans, so every dollar donated to the Elder Fund is significant.”
Using the Elder/Veteran Fund, elders who are 65 and older as well as veterans can apply to receive a free one-year subscription by visiting, calling or writing the Cherokee Phoenix office and requesting a subscription.
The Cherokee Phoenix office is located in the Annex Building on the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex. The postal address is Cherokee Phoenix, P.O. Box 948, Tahlequah, OK 74465. To call about the fund, call 918-207-4975 or 918-453-5269 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
No income guidelines have been specified for the Cherokee Phoenix Elder/Veteran Fund, and free subscriptions will be given as long as funds last.
Tax-deductible donations for the fund can also be sent to the Cherokee Phoenix by check or money order specifying the donation for the Cherokee Phoenix Elder/Veteran Fund. Cash is also accepted at the Cherokee Phoenix offices and local events where Cherokee Phoenix staff members are accepting Elder/Veteran Fund donations.
The Cherokee Phoenix also has a free website, <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org" target="_blank">www.cherokeephoenix.org</a>, that posts news seven days a week about the Cherokee government, people, history and events of interest. The monthly newspaper is also posted in PDF format to the website at the beginning of each month.
CATOOSA – Northeastern Oklahoma’s rural fire departments received a financial boost on May 7 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino as Cherokee Nation officials handed out checks totaling nearly $500,000 to 131 departments across the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction.
According to a CN press release, volunteer fire departments rely on fundraisers, membership dues and other types of help to maintain their operations. So to help, CN officials gave each department a $3,500 check – totaling $458,500 – to help with equipment, fuel or other items needed, the release states.
The funding is appropriated in the tribe’s budget annually, according to the release.
“Every single day in communities throughout the Cherokee Nation, the men and women of volunteer fire departments are on call,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “Volunteer firefighters are committed to the communities they serve, and they deserve the thanks and support of the Cherokee Nation. That’s why year after year the tribe invests in rural fire departments so they can be better equipped to protect our families, our homes and our property.”
Langley Fire Department in Mayes County and Brushy Mountain Volunteer Fire Department in Sequoyah County were recognized as 2018 Volunteer Fire Department of the Year.
Firefighters in Langley near Grand Lake spent weekends going door to door installing smoke alarms for community residents. The effort saved a life when a home caught fire just months after the department installed a smoke detector, which alerted the residents to evacuate, the release states.
The Langley department responded to 340 calls in its community in 2017, and firefighters have spent nights and weekends training to better themselves as first responders, according to the release. The release states the department plans to use the CN donation to update equipment such as self-contained breathing apparatus.
“We really appreciate what the Cherokee Nation does for us every year. The donation really helps the small departments like Langley, and it really means a lot to us,” Langley Fire Chief William Long said. “I’m really fortunate that we have 20 firefighters on our department who are all willing to do the training asked of them. We’re pretty fortunate.”
Firefighters at Brushy Mountain Volunteer Fire Department near Sallisaw have spent the past year working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Oklahoma Forestry Services battling wildfires that charred nearly 4,000 acres in one month, the release states.
“Our firefighters never give up, and they work well with any agencies involved,” Brushy Mountain Fire Chief Bobby Caughman said. “They always watch out for each other. When we had a 500-acre fire, a 450-acre fire and a 3,000-acre fire in one month, they all showed up as soon as they could and they worked until the job was done.”
The release also states the CN selected five recipients for Volunteer Firefighter of the Year:
• Jerry Hammons, of Illinois River Area Fire Association, for his work in a senior leadership role as an active first responder. Hammons’ 30-year service to the department includes saving a number of lives as a skilled airboat pilot trained in water rescues. He dedicates hundreds of hours each year to training and fire department projects, and became trained in emergency medical response when a need for trained responders rose in the fire district.
• Tonya Broyles, of Whitehorn Fire Department, for traveling to Houston after 2017’s devastating Hurricane Harvey and rescuing flood victims. Broyles, who is also a teacher at Porter Public Schools, volunteered to travel with a team to Houston, where they faced hazardous conditions while rescuing those impacted by the hurricane and subsequent flooding.
• Gina Buzzard, of Marble City Volunteer Fire Association, for her dedication and work ethic. Buzzard is a certified first responder and firefighter who has stepped up to serve her community. During Thanksgiving, when many volunteer firefighters were out of state, the department received more than a dozen calls for help, and Buzzard responded to every call and worked the entire week.
• Chuck McConnell, of Chance Volunteer Fire Department, for saving the life of a gunshot victim. McConnell, a co-founder of the department and a captain to the firefighters, arrived at the scene when a woman was shot and found in critical condition. He used the skills he learned in a tactical combat casualty care course to quickly treat the woman’s nine gunshot wounds and keep the victim awake until an ambulance arrived. The actions of McConnell and other firefighters are credited with saving the woman’s life.
• Robert Long, of Ketchum Fire Department, for his 22 years of service as chief of the department and for his dedication to the community and fire department. Long recently stepped down as chief but has organized trainings for the fire department and responded to the vast majority of calls since joining the department in 1989. He’s known for helping farmers and ranchers by coordinating controlled burns of their pastures, and has donated his own time, equipment and food to areas impacted by natural disasters.
CHOUTEAU – On Arbor Day, the Cherokee Nation hosted its seventh annual Environmental Festival at the Mid-American Expo Center with informational booths and cultural activities for three area schools.
Approximately 200 students from Salina, Justus-Tiawah and Adair schools attended the April 27 event to learn more about environmental issues.
Natural Resources Secretary Sara Hill said in the past year the CN has focused on reducing its carbon footprint by 20 percent in the next 10 years. She said the festival is a good way to get the message to kids about what they can do to help the environment.
“Kids are great, and you give them a little bit of information and they really start to apply it all the time to their lives. If these kids walk away just learning a couple of things. It’s important to think about our environment when we make decisions. It’s important to recycle when we can recycle, just some of those basic messages. Once you get that in a kid it spreads to the rest of the family. Children can really start and be an agent of change in that way, so that why events like this are really important to me,” Hill said.
One message conveyed was through the River Cane Initiative and how river cane is important to Cherokee culture. Roger Cain, RCI principal investigator, said river cane was an important resource for Cherokees and had many uses such as feeding cattle, making baskets, weaponry, food and housing.
“We started the River Cane Initiative just to find out where river cane is on tribal land, where it’s located on tribal land. The tribe has about 55,000 acres and we’ve covered about 40,000 so far,” Cain said.
He said in the coming year RCI officials hope to complete cataloging river cane locations and start going to schools to teach students about river cane conservation.
“People are using it and understanding that it takes a while for river cane to grow from a small seedling to a large cane to make a blowgun, which takes about 30 to 50 years to be able to use for blowgun quality or basket quality,” Cain said. “River cane was the plastic of the Southeastern Indians. It’s the most-found object in archaeological digs. I’m proud to say our tribe is leading the nation in river cane research.”
CN cultural biologist Feather Smith-Trevino gave out native Oklahoma tree seedlings while encouraging students and adults to plant them.
“We’ve got the state tree of Oklahoma, which is the Eastern Red Bud. We have several fruiting trees, which are important for wildlife, and also many people like to have fruiting trees, and they tend to be more popular. Some of these trees just have cultural importance. We have the black locust tree and Osage orange, which are both popular for making bows out of. We’ve got walnut trees. A lot of these are just very important for cultural reasons, and it’s a great for getting people out there and planting native trees in their yard,” she said.
Federal and local entities also shared information regarding forestry, fish and wildlife, entomology, water and environmental safety.
Chouteau was the first location outside of Cherokee County to host the festival.
“We thought that we needed some community outreach, and if we did it like this we could target the community a little bit better than just having something in Tahlequah. So we’re trying to make it go out into the different communities now every year,” Environmental Programs Manager Shaun West said.