http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgCherokee language instructor Rufus King teaches a community language class at the Lost City Community Center from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays. King is a Cherokee Nation citizen and first-language speaker who became certified to teach in 2001. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee language instructor Rufus King teaches a community language class at the Lost City Community Center from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays. King is a Cherokee Nation citizen and first-language speaker who became certified to teach in 2001. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Classes encourage learning Cherokee language

The book “We Are Learning Cherokee Level 1” was developed by the Cherokee Nation’s Cherokee Language Program and is distributed to each student who partakes in community language classes. Text highlighted in blue means a first-language speaker has spoken the language and it has been recorded. Students can download audio files at www.cherokee.org. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee language instructor and Cherokee Nation citizen Helena McCoy showcases the syllabary and phonetics for the word “gravy” in Cherokee to her students on Oct. 17 at the Brushy Community Center in Sallisaw, Oklahoma. McCoy is a first-language speaker and also taught at the Cherokee Immersion Charter School for six years. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Several students attend Helena McCoy’s Cherokee language class on Oct. 17 at the Brushy Community Center in Sallisaw, Oklahoma. The class meets from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The book “We Are Learning Cherokee Level 1” was developed by the Cherokee Nation’s Cherokee Language Program and is distributed to each student who partakes in community language classes. Text highlighted in blue means a first-language speaker has spoken the language and it has been recorded. Students can download audio files at www.cherokee.org. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
10/27/2017 08:30 AM
Video Frame selected by Cherokee Phoenix
LOST CITY, Okla. – Cherokee language classes recently started online and in communities across the Cherokee Nation’s jurisdiction, as teachers encourage students to read, write and speak the language to save it.

Part of the CN’s Cherokee Language Program, the free classes are held each spring and fall for 10 weeks.

“It’s preserving our language,” instructor Rufus King said. “We are all losing it, some of them say. There’s not that many speakers anymore here in Cherokee Nation. It’s an everyday business, and I’ve said this before, but we need to get into this business a little deeper than what we are now if we’re really going to stay up with it.”

King, a CN citizen and first-language speaker, teaches at the Lost City Community Center. His classes meet from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays. He became certified to teach Cherokee in 2001 and stresses practicing the Cherokee syllabary daily and the idea that learning takes time.

“Even after 20 lessons, you have to come back the next term,” he said. “You can’t quit. Those (symbols) are the most important things in the Cherokee language. You’ve got to know them if you’re going to write or read.”

Only those who attend community classes like King’s receive a copy of the book “We Are Learning Cherokee Level 1,” which was introduced this past spring.

The “See, Say, Write” book, which was previously used in classes for more than 20 years to teach beginners, was designed to teach fluent Cherokee speakers, Cherokee Language Program Director Roy Boney said.

“The previous book was mainly a lot of simple word lists for those that could already speak Cherokee and wanted to learn how to write it,” he said. “This new book is more designed for people that are learning the language, so we have things like grammar rules and how to make something possessive or plural. This way people actually create their own thoughts about what they would want to say to somebody, rather than just rote memorization.”

Boney said the new book took more than a year to develop and accompanies free supplemental material found online. “If you look in the text, you’ll see things that are highlighted in blue. Those items have been recorded, so on the www.cherokee.org website we have the link where students can download all of the audio files that go along with the book so they can listen to it on their phone, their computer, if they want to make CDs.”

While the book provides structure, Boney said language instructors could teach as they see fit.
CN citizen Helena McCoy, instructor at the Brushy Community Center near Sallisaw, holds class from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday.

Though she uses the new book, she also asks students what they are interested in learning. “At the beginning, I try to teach what they want to learn, that way they’ll be more interested in coming back. I don’t try to push anything on them. I just ask them, ‘What do you want to learn?’”

She said students asked about Cherokee names for family members and how to order foods at a restaurant.

“We write everything in syllabary and phonetics to let them know what it sounds like,” McCoy said. “It’s important to me for someone that is a fluent speaker to teach them the sounds because I hear so many people saying, and I’m not saying they’re wrong, but I hear so many people saying words different from what I’ve heard. Cherokee is my first language, that’s why it’s so important for me they hear it from me. I don’t tell them it’s wrong, but I tell them, ‘This is how we say it from my area.’”

This is the second year McCoy has taught language classes. She previously taught at Marble City Public Schools for 20 years and the Cherokee Immersion Charter School for six years.

“I always try to make them say the words because you have to see it and say it, and if you want to write it in the syllabary, you have to hear yourself saying those words,” she said.

CN citizen Melvin McCoy, Helena’s brother-in-law, said he hopes attending classes will help him with the language and syllabary.

“My parents were fluent, I mean really fluent, but they just didn’t teach us,” Melvin said. “They taught us English first, but we should have learned Cherokee first because it’s a whole lot easier to learn when you’re young. I can speak a little bit, but not fluently so I come here to try and learn a little bit more and we do have a really good teacher. I think if you can learn the syllabary, you can probably learn to talk Cherokee pretty good.”

CN citizen Gary Bolin was also raised in a fluent-speaking environment but moved from the area as a child and is now trying to reconnect with the language.

“I’m not around speakers every day,” he said. “About the only time I get to hear any (Cherokee) at all is when we’re in class, so that helps me, too.”

Bolin said anyone interested in learning should consider the community classes. “You kind of get your foothold at class, but you’ve got to take it home with you to really learn it. It’s really something that everybody should know. It’s a part of who you are and where you came from, and it’s something that nobody should want to lose.”

For more information, call 918-453-5151.

Locations for Fall Classes

• Tulsa: Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma

• Jay: Jay Community Center

• Hulbert: Lost City Community Center

• Porum: Oak Grove Baptist Church

• Webbers Falls: Webbers Falls Museum

• Tahlequah: Elm Tree Baptist Church

• Salina: New Jordan Baptist Church

• Sallisaw: Brushy Community Center

• Locust Grove: Ballou Baptist Church

• Salina: Salina Early Learning Academy

• Muldrow: Muldrow Cherokee Community Organization

• Kenwood: Kenwood Community Center

• Tahlequah: Northeastern State University

• South Coffeyville: Tom Buffington Heights

• Marble City: House of Praise Church
About the Author
Brittney Bennett is from Colcord, Oklahoma, and a citizen of the United Keetoowah Band.  She is a 2011 Gates Millennium Scholarship recipient and graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and summa cum laude honors.
 
While in college, Brittney became involved with the Native American Journalists Association and was an inaugural NAJA student fellow in 2014. Continued mentorship from NAJA members and the willingness to give Natives a voice led her to accept a multimedia internship with the Cherokee Phoenix after college.  
 
She left the Cherokee Phoenix in early 2016 before being selected as a Knight-CUNYJ Fellow in New York City later that same year. During the fellowship, she received training from industry professionals with The New York Times and instructors at the City University of New York. As part of the program, she completed a social media internship with USA Today’s editorial department.
 
Now that Brittney has made her way back to the Cherokee Phoenix, she hopes to use the experience gained from her travels to benefit Indian Country and the Cherokee people.
brittney-bennett@cherokee.org • 918-453-5560
Brittney Bennett is from Colcord, Oklahoma, and a citizen of the United Keetoowah Band. She is a 2011 Gates Millennium Scholarship recipient and graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and summa cum laude honors. While in college, Brittney became involved with the Native American Journalists Association and was an inaugural NAJA student fellow in 2014. Continued mentorship from NAJA members and the willingness to give Natives a voice led her to accept a multimedia internship with the Cherokee Phoenix after college. She left the Cherokee Phoenix in early 2016 before being selected as a Knight-CUNYJ Fellow in New York City later that same year. During the fellowship, she received training from industry professionals with The New York Times and instructors at the City University of New York. As part of the program, she completed a social media internship with USA Today’s editorial department. Now that Brittney has made her way back to the Cherokee Phoenix, she hopes to use the experience gained from her travels to benefit Indian Country and the Cherokee people.

Education

BY STAFF REPORTS
05/23/2018 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation Foundation is accepting applications until June 1 for the seventh annual Cherokee College Prep Institute taking place on July 15-20 at Northeastern State University. The weeklong camp will connect students with admissions counselors from across the U.S to analyze, prepare and complete college applications, identify scholarship opportunities and explore schools of interest. Participating universities include the University of Arkansas, Bacone College, University of California-Los Angeles, University of Central Oklahoma, Duke University, NSU, University of Notre Dame, Oklahoma State University, Pomona College, Rogers State University, Stanford University, Swarthmore College, and Yale University. CCPI’s curriculum, developed in conjunction with College Horizons and other participating university faculty, includes interactive sessions focusing on ACT strategies, essay writing, interview skills and time management. CCPI is free to CN citizens who are preparing to enter their junior or senior years of high school. Lodging, meals and testing expenses are also provided by CNF, Cherokee Nation Businesses and NSU. Applications are available at <a href="http://www.cherokeenation.academicworks.com " target="_blank">cherokeenation.academicworks.com</a>. For more information, email Jennifer Sandoval at <a href="mailto: j.sandoval@cherokeenationfoundation.org">j.sandoval@cherokeenationfoundation.org</a> or call 918-207-0950.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/21/2018 04:00 PM
TAHELQUAH – Sequoyah Schools is again offering summer basketball camps for girls and boys who will be in first through ninth grades in the fall. The camps are designed to help youngsters develop skills, master techniques and learn basic concepts of basketball. Sequoyah coaches and members of the Sequoyah high school basketball teams instruct the camps. The boys’ camp is May 29-31 at The Place Where They Play gym located on the Sequoyah campus. Grades first through fifth camps will be held from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., while grades sixth through ninth will be held from noon to 3 p.m. For more information on the boys’ camp, call coach Jay Herrin at 918-822-0835. The girls’ camp will be held June 4-6 at The Place Where They Play gym. Grades first through fifth camps will be held from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., and grades sixth through ninth will be held from noon to 3 p.m. For more information on the girls’ camp, call Larry Callison at 918-557-8335. Registration forms and fees may be turned in to coaches Herrin and Callison ahead of time or on the first day of camp. Early registration is appreciated. Free lunches will be available for both camps and all age groups from 11 a.m. to noon in the school cafeteria. These will be the only youth basketball camps offered at Sequoyah this year. To view the information online visit <a href="http://sequoyah.cherokee.org/Athletics/Summer-Youth-Camps/Basketball-Camps" target="_blank">http://sequoyah.cherokee.org/Athletics/Summer-Youth-Camps/Basketball-Camps</a>. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2018/5/32277__brief_180515_HoopsCamps(boys).pdf" target="_blank">Click here</a>to download the boys' camp registration form. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2018/5/32277__brief_180515_HoopsCamps(girls).pdf" target="_blank">Click here</a>to download the girls' camp registration form.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
05/18/2018 12:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Three Oklahoma City schools named after Confederate generals may soon be renamed. The school board on May 14 was expected to consider new names for Lee, Jackson Enterprise and Stand Watie elementary schools, which are named after Confederate generals Robert E. Lee, Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson and Isaac Stand Watie, a Cherokee. Committees made up of community members, school staff and parents selected two potential names for each school, which were presented to students at each school who then voted on their preference, district spokeswoman Beth Harrison said. The students’ choices will be presented for the board for approval, although the board could select any name it chooses, Harrison said. The suggested names haven’t been made public. Board member Carrie Coppernoll Jacobs told The Oklahoman that children and employees should feel welcome in the places where they learn and work. “To make amends for the past, we have to own it,” she said. “School names may seem like a small gesture, but all progress has value,” Coppernoll Jacobs said. The board voted in October to rename the schools following violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the removal of a Confederate statue. The Tulsa school board recently renamed Robert E. Lee Elementary as Lee School, although critics say the change doesn’t go far enough. It also renamed Andrew Jackson Elementary as Unity Learning Academy. The Oklahoma City board conducted an online survey for names and the names of Lee, Jackson and Watie received the most votes, while past state and local leaders were also popular. The other names receiving votes include minster and former school board member Wayne Dempsey, educator and civil rights activist Clara Luper, writer and Oklahoma City native Ralph Ellison and Wilma Mankiller, who was the first woman to be principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. The cost of changing the names is estimated at about $40,000, which a local attorney has agreed to pay.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/16/2018 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH – Sequoyah High School recently named seniors Katelyn Morton and Aspen Ford as the class of 2018’s valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively. At 6:30 p.m. on May 18 in The Place Where They Play gym, 99 seniors will graduate from SHS. The class of 2018 has accumulated more than $2.5 million in scholarships and grants so far. Morton, 18, of Tahlequah, is the daughter of Kathryn Wood and Nason Morton. She graduates with a GPA of 4.56 and is attending the Oklahoma City University Wanda L. Bass School of Music this fall and plans to double major in music and Spanish. After her audition at the Wanda L. Bass School of Music, Morton received a music scholarship worth $25,600. She also earned a Presidential Leadership Scholarship worth $19,200. “Being accepted into one of these programs creates a lot of connections,” Morton said. “First, I’m going to focus on those connections and probably intern at a casting agency or under a director so I can know the behind-the-scenes. Then, I’ll begin to audition for anything I can.” Through concurrent enrollment, Morton completed nearly 30 credit hours at Northeastern State University during high school. She also participated in National Honor Society, Student Council, Stand for the Silent, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Fellowship of Christian Students. Morton is vice president of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Youth Council and is a member of the Cherokee National Youth Choir. She has also been a member of Tulsa Youth Opera and was cast in Tulsa Opera’s American premier of “The Snow Queen.” She has been the captain of Sequoyah’s competitive speech and debate/drama team and president of the drama department. She became the first student in Sequoyah’s history to reach All-State for speech and debate/drama. Ford, 18, of Tahlequah, graduates with a 4.51 GPA. She will attend NSU in Tahlequah this fall with a Presidential Leadership Class scholarship worth around $40,000. She also earned the Cherokee Nation undergraduate scholarship and the James R. Upton Memorial Award through the Cherokee Nation Foundation. “My mom and dad have always pushed me ever since I was young to focus on school and my studies first, before anything else,” Ford said. “I think that stuck with me throughout high school, and I know it will in college. It gave me a mindset to know my priorities and what’s important and what will make me successful.” Ford, the daughter of Amber Arnall and Damon Ford, plans to major in media studies while at NSU and expects to study abroad. She said she hopes to find a career in photojournalism, a passion she garnered during educational trips to Greece and Italy in 2017. While attending Sequoyah, Ford completed 39 hours of concurrent enrollment at NSU and three credit hours at the University of Oklahoma. She also participated in Student Council, Sequoyah’s academic team, National Honor Society, History Club, 4-H and the Oklahoma Indian Honor Society and attended North America’s largest powwow during the Gathering of Nations in New Mexico in 2016 as a member of the Honoring Our People’s Existence Club. Ford is also a member of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Youth Council and the Cherokee National Youth Choir.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/15/2018 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – A recent $5,000 donation by the Cherokee Nation to the RiverHawks Women’s Basketball team will make it possible for Northeastern State University to participate in a two-game basketball classic in Los Angeles over Thanksgiving break. In addition to competing against Division II basketball programs, the trip will provide a memorable student athlete experience for team members. “I am so grateful to Cherokee Nation and (Tribal Council) Speaker Joe Byrd for their generosity and commitment to the RiverHawks women’s basketball program,” NSU women’s coach Fala Bullock, said. “Speaker Byrd made a great statement to me following the photo by reminding me of the positive impact the Cherokee Nation, Tahlequah and University can have on each other through possible future partnerships,” NSU Director of Athletics Tony Duckworth said.
BY KENLEA HENSON
Reporter
05/15/2018 12:00 PM
JAY – Cherokee Nation citizen and Jay High School senior Gabe Simpson, 19, was recently named a 2018 Gates Scholar. The prestigious Gates Scholarship is a highly selective, full-ride scholarship for exceptional, Pell-eligible, minority, high school seniors who have shown academic excellence, as well as strong leadership abilities. Simpson is one of 300 high school students out of nearly 30,000 applicants from across the United States to be awarded the scholarship. “I know a lot of people apply for it (Gates Scholarship), so I was really happy when I found out,” Simpson said. He also said upon graduation in May, he plans to attend Oklahoma State University in Stillwater this fall to play football. “There was a lot of Division IIs that wanted me and a few DI schools,” he said. “OSU offered me a preferred walk-on, and I always wanted to play at a big powerhouse college like that, so I thought I would give it a shot.” He said although he plays other sports such as basketball, baseball and competitive cheerleading, he’s been playing football since he was “big enough to play” and his “love” for the game is what led him to want to play in college. As for a career choice, he said he hopes to pursue a career in pharmacy or physical therapy. “Pharmacy is because I love math and science, and it’s a lot of that like chemistry. And physical therapy is because I love sports, and they work with a lot of athletes through that,” he said. Simpson’s words of advice to other students thinking about applying for the Gates Scholarship is to “start young because there’s a lot of people who slack off during freshman and sophomore year, and when they realize they want to go to college their grades weren’t as good to apply. But also, apply for as many scholarships as you can.”