Friday, September 22, 2017

Array of online tools allow Cherokees to remain connected and informed

With such a large population across the globe, it is important we keep all Cherokees as informed and up to date as we can. The value of staying connected is especially important when the Cherokee Nation is involved in high-profile national efforts like the hurricane relief efforts in south Texas.

The Cherokee Nation has almost 360,000 citizens, and more than 224,000 of our enrolled citizens live outside the tribe’s northeast Oklahoma jurisdiction. Tribal citizens in at-large communities across Oklahoma and the United States are a vital part of our government and are important to our success.

Ensuring citizens feel connected to their government and remain informed and updated on the issues and policies is critical. At-large council members Mary Baker Shaw and Wanda Hatfield reminded me recently of how important this is, particularly for citizens who live far from home.  They encouraged me to do more to spread the world about Cherokee Nation's online content, which can be accessed for free. Below you will find out how to access some of our award-winning websites, television shows and publications. – official website of the Cherokee Nation
Every program and service offered by the tribe is highlighted and profiled here. Applications and essential contact information are available here. On the homepage are links to the various media platforms where you can follow the official Cherokee Nation and stay plugged in: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. We just recently launched an Instagram account as well. – resource for at-large Cherokees
At-large citizens have a unique site, dedicated exclusively to connecting Cherokee Nation citizens residing beyond the tribe’s 14 counties with information on federal and tribal programs and services. The site features unique information for Cherokee Nation citizens on home loans and IHS health care options. There are details about higher education scholarships available to any Cherokee, no matter where you live. – our award-winning online newsroom
Every Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses media release, op-ed and photograph we produce and send out is housed here. Also, an online copy of the Anadisgoi magazine can be viewed. – our Emmy-winning television show
“Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People” has a new home. It can be viewed live in Oklahoma on Sundays on OETA and on the following stations in neighboring states:
Oklahoma Statewide:  OETA (PBS) Sundays at 3:30 p.m.
Tulsa: RSU-TV Thursdays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. and Sundays at 9 a.m.
Fayetteville and Fort Smith: KHBS/KHOG (ABC) Sundays at 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Joplin: KSN (NBC) Mondays at 12:30 p.m. and KODE (ABC) Sundays at 9 a.m.
FNX-TV: Check your local television listings or for times.

Full episodes of “Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People” as well as the individual stories from the show can be streamed online at The show profiles exceptional citizens, current events and stories on Cherokee history and cultural preservation. – our independent, award-winning newspaper
Cherokee Phoenix, the tribe’s historic paper, is online, and viewers can read every story as seen in the hard-copy edition. I encourage all Cherokee Nation citizens to read the Phoenix, one of the few tribally owned free press publications in Indian Country. Call (918) 207-4975 to order a monthly home newspaper subscription of the Cherokee Phoenix.

Social Media Platforms
Stay connected with Cherokee Nation through official social media. 

Keep Current by Mail
In order to receive hard copies of our tribal publications and mailers, keep your current address on file with Cherokee Nation's registration department. These publications include the quarterly Anadisgoi Magazine and our annual report. Address correction forms are available here: or call (918) 458-6980.

These are all excellent ways for Cherokees to interact, participate and remain connected to our government at no cost.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Cherokee Nation distributes STEM funding to public schools

Cherokee Nation is proud to provide additional financial assistance to public schools in northeast Oklahoma, especially during this era of declining budgets across the state. Last week, we issued more than $444,000 to public school districts in Cherokee Nation’s 14 counties. We sent 107 school districts a one-time award of $4,150. The money, allocated by the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council from the tribe’s Motor Vehicle Tax fund, will help students in the constantly evolving areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics programming.

Our hope is this help will ensure our children get the education they deserve. The Oklahoma State Legislature routinely has failed our communities and our children by severely underfunding our public school districts year in and year out. Cherokee Nation, which already contributed more than $5 million to public education this year, has taken the lead in filling the gap so that our youth are prepared for a better and brighter future. STEM education must continue to be a priority in Oklahoma for children in K-12. We need more funding in these core subjects so that we remain competitive in the future. Comprehensive STEM courses are the only way we can ensure a competitive workforce is prepared for the modern, global economy. Now more than ever, Cherokee Nation’s role as a partner to public education is critical to northeast Oklahoma.

Each school district will determine the best use of the financial assistance. We know some school administrators plan to purchase science lab equipment or math tutoring software. Others will use it for robotics programs, and some will purchase computers and printers. I know our partners in public education will be creative and utilize the funding to enhance STEM activities for students.

In our effort to provide more opportunities for schools, we have contracted with a lifelong educator from Pryor to assist schools within Cherokee Nation as they develop STEM curriculum and programs. Frances Head, wife of former Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Charles Head, is passionate about our youth and their education. Her experience and expertise are available to the 107 school districts in our 14-county jurisdiction. Our hope is to assist schools in STEM development as they navigate trying to do more with less state money. This will benefit both Cherokee and non-Cherokee students as they pursue their educational dreams.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Youth ambassadors represent Cherokee Nation

Cherokee Nation remains blessed to have strong young leaders who annually act as role models and ambassadors on behalf of our tribe. Our Miss Cherokee, Junior Miss Cherokee and Little Cherokee Ambassador representatives always remind me that the future of the Cherokee Nation is in the right hands.

Miss Cherokee represents the Cherokee Nation as a goodwill ambassador and promotes our government, our history, our language and our culture. We recently saw former Miss Cherokee Sky Wildcat pass along her responsibilities to a new Miss Cherokee, 18-year-old Madison Whitekiller. She plans to advocate on a platform promoting the empowerment of Cherokee women.

As she travels across Oklahoma and the United States in the coming year, Madison will be a voice of the Cherokee people as she educates people of all ages and from all walks of life. Miss Cherokee traditionally reflects the best qualities of Cherokee youth, and Madison is no different. Over the past 12 months, Sky often spoke about environmental preservation. Her passion and efforts for environmental conservation left an impression, especially since we made plans to abolish the use of foam paper products like Styrofoam and lower the carbon footprint at Cherokee Nation.

The first Cherokee royalty was recognized in 1955, when Sequoyah Vocational School student Phyllis Osage was named “Queen of the Cornstalk Shoot” during the Cherokee National Holiday. Her job was to award trophies to the winners of the cornstalk shoot. Two years later, the title changed to Miss Cherokee Holiday, and in 1962, the first Miss Cherokee was crowned.

More than 60 women have now worn the Miss Cherokee crown. While they act as role models for others, the titleholders also develop their own sense of pride in the Cherokee Nation and better understand how to develop leadership skills in a highly visible role.

Another youth leader, Junior Miss Cherokee, often makes appearances alongside Miss Cherokee, also representing the Cherokee Nation at public events. She shares information and knowledge about our people and our traditions across the country. This year’s Junior Miss Cherokee is 17-year-old Danya Pigeon, who’s following in the footsteps of Lauryn Skye McCoy.

Six Little Cherokee Ambassadors, ages 4-12, represent us on a more local level. These children remind us that it’s never too early to teach our children to value our heritage and share it with the world. Our Little Cherokee Ambassadors for 2017-2018 are 5-year-old Avery Raper, 6-year-old Dante Anguiano, 8-year-old Cooper Dorr, 9-year-old Alayna Paden, 10-year-old Leah Gardner and 10-year-old Preston Gourd.

As a grandfather, I know Cherokee youth have a unique perspective on today’s world, and these young people play an integral part in preserving all that we hold so dear to our hearts. We can learn so much from them.

I’m proud of the women and men who have been a voice for the Cherokee people over the past 60 years, and I’m anxious to see what our newest ambassadors will accomplish in the coming year. Our future is bright so long as we always support and encourage our youth to be bold leaders on behalf of the Cherokee Nation and our people.


Cherokee Nation, Gilcrease Museum unite for historic Cherokee exhibit

For Cherokee Nation citizens, few things are more important than preserving who we are as a tribe and sharing our story with others. A new exhibit hosted by the Gilcrease Museum, called “After Removal: Rebuilding the Cherokee Nation,” tells the story of the Cherokee Nation from forced removal, also known as the Trail of Tears, to the tribe’s settlement in Tahlequah and the formation of a new government in Indian Territory. The time span of the exhibition illustrates not only an important time in the history of the Cherokee people, but also an important moment in the history of the eventual state of Oklahoma.

This exhibit is not a summary of our past, but rather a reminder of how far we as a people have come and the strength and perseverance it took to do so. It features more than 100 items of original artwork and artifacts that illustrate the most pivotal moments in Cherokee history, from forced removal of our people to the rebuilding of our great tribal nation. The museum’s narrative is compelling for any Cherokee Nation citizen or advocate of United States history. 

From the “After Removal: Rebuilding the Cherokee Nation” exhibit:

In the 1830s, after a hard legal and political battle, the Cherokee people were forced to give up their ancestral homeland in the south Appalachians and establish new homes in Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. The forced removal resulted in considerable hardship and suffering for those who made the journey and then faced the daunting challenge of creating life anew in an unfamiliar land. John Ross was the Principal Chief from 1828 to 1866 and led his nation through this traumatic event. This exhibition tells a story of Cherokee Nation’s loss and rebuilding in the 19th century through the stark contrasts of the human experience – discord and harmony, war and peace, success and failure – and, in the end, the creation of a solid foundation for the future of the Cherokee people.

The Gilcrease Museum has repeatedly proven to be a great partner to the Cherokee Nation, and together we have created an exhibit that highlights some of the most significant documents and artifacts in the rich history of our people. Together we made a steadfast commitment to create an exhibit with a narrative that is authentic, accurate and appropriate.

The exhibit in Tulsa runs through January 2018.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Cherokee National Holiday is a celebration of history and heritage

If you’ve ever been to the Cherokee National Holiday, I don’t need to convince you that it’s one of the most energetic and spirited weekends to spend in Tahlequah, the capital city of the Cherokee Nation. Every Labor Day weekend, the community bustles with more than 100,000 visitors moving between the Cherokee National Capitol square, the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex, the Cherokee Heritage Center and other Cherokee Nation properties.

I am proud the Cherokee Nation annually offers our citizens and visitors such an exciting array of entertainment, cultural and athletic events. We have been perfecting one of Oklahoma’s largest spectator events for the past 65 years, and the Cherokee National Holiday has something of interest for everyone. We host a wide array of educational and family-friendly options, including sporting events like softball and a youth fishing derby.  Music will be abundant, with a choir singing and a fiddlers contest. We will be displaying fine arts and crafts by renowned Cherokee artisans, and we will again have a parade with floats, classic cars and marching bands through Tahlequah’s historic downtown before the annual State of the Nation Address. The evening and nights are highlighted by one of the largest contest powwows in the country, with hundreds of traditional dancers and multiple drum groups.

The Cherokee National Holiday was first held in 1953 to commemorate the anniversary of the signing of the 1839 Cherokee Constitution. Many people expect the Cherokee National Holiday to offer a glimpse of traditional Cherokee life, and they are never disappointed. Artists still use ancient imagery in their works, marbles players keep score in a game that has been going on for centuries, and storytellers continue to share old tales of heroes and tricksters. Each activity is a testimony to our Cherokee ways and values.

However, it is also a time to see the modern Cherokee Nation, including the expansion and beautification efforts at the tribal complex, the state-of-the-art Veterans Center, and the renovation and preservation efforts of our historic sites and museums.  Since we last gathered a year ago, Cherokee Nation has achieved a multitude of accomplishments. We broke ground on the W.W. Hastings expansion, which will soon be the largest and most advanced American Indian health facility in the United States. We have created unprecedented job and economic opportunities, and our tribe’s imprint on the Oklahoma economy has grown to more than $2 billion annually.

As we honor our heritage and culture, we know Cherokee National Holiday is about coming home for many attendees. Our friends and family return home to celebrate and reconnect in many meaningful ways.  Special thanks must be given to the hundreds of Cherokee Nation employees and volunteers who work hard to ensure this annual homecoming remains a remarkable experience. We are blessed as a tribal nation, and we look forward to sharing our culture and values with you over Labor Day.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Rare solar eclipse offers chance to share Cherokee heritage

Cherokees have long had origin stories to explain natural phenomena that happen in the world, including in the water, the earth and the sky. As we prepare for the upcoming solar eclipse, we are teaming with NASA for an exceptional opportunity to revive a Cherokee story that explains why the sun was covered up.

Traditional Cherokee tale of the frog who swallowed the sun:
Long ago there lived a giant, hungry frog. Sometimes the giant frog would come out and swallow the sun. When that happened, it got very cloudy or even looked like it was getting dark when the sun was swallowed. Sometimes the frog even swallows the moon. The wise, old men hate this giant frog. Whenever the wise men would find out it happened, they would shoot guns and beat a drum or rattle turtle shell rattlers. The women would bang pots and pans together, scaring the giant frog away that was swallowing the sun up, so that the sun would shine again.
Cherokee Nation is working with the Indigenous Education Institute, which is producing a video for NASA on various Indigenous perspectives of what eclipses are and how they have been interpreted over time. Our eclipse origin story of the giant frog swallowing the sun has now been recorded in Cherokee and will be featured in NASA’s film for the Goddard Space Center in Maryland.
The Cherokee Nation Language Department didn’t just coordinate the video; a new children’s picture book in Cherokee syllabary is also being produced that will be used by the tribe’s Immersion School. An older version of the book was created about 10 years ago, and only one copy remained. I am proud of the work our Language Department put forth in updating the book and helping produce additional copies, so future generations of Cherokee people will always be able to share it. Our language staff have embraced this opportunity to share the Cherokee language and heritage in a fun and educational way. David Crawler translated and recorded the “Frog Eats Sun” story in both Cherokee and English, while Roy Boney, Jeff Edwards and Zachary Barnes illustrated the film and book.

On Aug. 21, according to scientific reports, a total solar eclipse will be visible across the entire contiguous United States. It is expected to be the largest and most visible eclipse in America since 1918. At Cherokee Nation, we will have a watch party with employees and utilize the 500 safety glasses issued to the tribe from NASA as part of our unique partnership to celebrate this day. At Cherokee Nation’s One Fire Field, we will watch the eclipse and share traditional Cherokee storytelling.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Community Language Program allows citizens to learn in person and online

For Cherokee Nation, like most tribes in America, language is the vital thread that holds our heritage together. Our language is embedded with unique concepts and knowledge that are purely Cherokee and do not exist in other cultures. That’s why we continue to aggressively develop programs and educational opportunities for all our people, so that they are able to connect with and learn the Cherokee language. We know strong language programs help boost Cherokee identity and ensure our citizens have a chance to be culturally connected.

One of the most popular efforts is the Community Language Program, an effort spearheaded through Cherokee Nation’s Language Department. The Community Language Program has three full-time staff members. In addition to those full-time staff, about 15 fluent Cherokee speakers are contracted annually to teach language classes throughout the tribe’s 14-county jurisdictional area. All of the instructors have been certified and have passed the Cherokee Language Teachers test. Today, we have more than 60 instructors certified to teach for the Community Language Program, and they are contracted with as needed.  Many elders who serve in this capacity are teaching Cherokee cultural knowledge just as much as they teach the words and pronunciations.

Community participation is the biggest challenge in maintaining a vital and thriving tribal language. The Community Language Program typically hosts 30 to 35 classes annually, and they are scheduled according to community demand across the 14 counties. All classes, which are 10 weeks long and follow a fall/spring schedule that lines up with the public school calendars, remain free of charge and open to the public.

If a northeast Oklahoma community desires a Cherokee language class, organizers contact our staff, and a schedule determined by the availability of instructors is set. Most of our classes are hosted in partner spaces like community buildings, schools and churches.

We teach about 1,000 citizens per year in the Community Language Program. They come in all ages, from youth to elders. Additionally, the Community Language Program hosts online Cherokee language classes throughout the year. The tribe’s at-large community is served through the online classes. Online class attendance reaches about 2,000 per year but the completion rates vary, and we often get international students. Additionally, the online classes are archived so some people sign up and watch all the archived lessons.

Keepsake certificates, which feature Cherokee syllabary, are given to students who attend at least 80 percent of the class’s meetings. These certificates of completion are also issued to online students. Last year we issued more than 130 certificates.

We allocate funding and hire elders and traditional teachers, and we have developed an award-winning curriculum to help ignite the desire to learn the Cherokee language. We are using modern technology to the best of our abilities to share these lessons, and our ultimate desire is to ensure the Cherokee language will never be lost. In fact, these efforts mean it is thriving, growing and being used every day.

For more information about the Cherokee Language Program, email or call (918) 453-5420.