Cherokee Messenger
April 1996

Next Monthly Meeting

Thursday, April 4, 1996
7:00 Social hour and 7:30 Program and Presentation
Tracy Gee Community Center
3599 Westcenter, Houston TX
(713) 266-8193

Molly Schnitzius presents a program on Herbology. A former midwife, she is currently owner of Wild Earth Herbs and has 20 years of experience practicing herbal remedies and treatments, She brings a wealth of knowledge and herbs native to this area. Bring you friends, neighbors and others interested in the Cherokee and Native Americans for a fun and educational evening.

Mankiller Begins Six Months of Chemotherapy for Cancer

Tulsa World Sunday, March 27, 1996
Boston - Former Cherokee Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller began chemotherapy at Deaconess Hospital to treat lymphoma, a form of cancer on Tuesday.

"I am calm, feel very positive and am quite prepared for treatment," Mankiller said. "My husband, Charlie Soap, who was with me for my transplant, is with me now and plans to continued to stay as much as possible.

I'm grateful for his love and attention and for the love, support and prayers of my family and so many friends," Mankiller said. "It all has meant the world to me."

Mankiller's chemotherapy will be administered every three weeks for about six months. She will remain hospitalized in a transitional care unit at Deaconess until the effects of the treatment are determined.

Physicians are especially concerned about the impact of the treatment on Mankiller's kidney.

In 1990, Mankiller underwent a kidney transplant, also at Deaconess Hospital. She has taken immunosuppressive medication since that time.

She was taken off the medication when the lymphoma was diagnosed in order to build her immune system prior to treatment.

Lymphoma can be a side effect of the immunosuppressive drugs, but the cancer is generally very responsive to chemotherapy.

Mankiller was hospitalized last month with pneumonia and a urinary tract infection. During her hospital stay, she was diagnosed with lymphoma.

She said she has received and enjoyed hundreds of cards from well-wishers since news of her illness was made public.

"I pray every day and ask also for your continued thoughts and prayers," Mankiller said.

Cards can be sent to Mankiller at 37 Arbor Way, Boston MA 02130.

United Way to Meet with Houston Native Americans.

The United Way of the Gulf Coast has asked Deborah Scott to convene area residents for a focus group on social issues important to the Native Americans in and around Houston. The focus group will be on April 26, 1996 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., Houston Area Women's Center, 1010 Waugh Drive, Houston. If you or someone you know would be interested in participating, please call (713) 668-9998 for more details. This is a good opportunity to let your voice be heard.

Cherokee Creation Story by Wes Studi, 1977

Printed in the Cherokee Advocate, March, 1996
Every people of the world has "origin Stories." Cherokees are no exception. Like many other American Indian people, the Cherokee Creation Story involves man, animals, and the development of the earth. Though there may be some disagreement over the original Cherokee Creation Story," the following is one this writer has heard told in the mother language.

Long ago, this world was a place of peace and happiness. There was no crime, war or sorrow. Man was content.

Then evil entered into the world. It came slipping in under the cover of darkness from the land of shadows. It entered the minds of the people and taught them how to be bad. They began to hurt one another, to steal and to cheat. Soon the wicked people outnumbered the good people. Life continued like this for a while.

At last, a great flood came and destroyed the world and all those who had become wicked. Only those who had remained good were left. They were saved from drowning by a giant turtle who let them climb on his back. The turtle was so old his back was covered with moss.

Once on the turtle's back. the people saw a swimming bird. The bird came to them and seeing they were in trouble, asked what he could do for them. The people asked him to dive beneath the water to find a little bit of land. The bird did this. He was gone a long time and the people began to worry and give up. But just as it seemed all hope was gone, the bird came out of the water with a bit of earth on his bill.

The people gratefully thanked the swimming bird and took the soil from his bill and mixed it with the moss on the turtle's back. They tended the soil very carefully, and it grew larger and larger until there was new earth inhabited by the children of the good people and the children's children and their children.

It is said the earth still rests upon the back of the giant turtle and when he moves, there are earthquakes and floods.

Highlights from Cherokee Advocate - March, 1996

Cherokee Nation launching a major voter registration drive. Chief Byrd kicked-off the voter registration drive at the monthly tribal council meeting on February 12. He also announced the slogan for the campaign which is, "Cherokee Vote, 170,000 Strong". Voter registration coordination is being organized through the tribe's Executive Special Projects Division.

Motor Fuels Tax. The Five Civilized tribes met with Gov. Frank Keating of Oklahoma to discuss the motor fuel tax issue, and other tribes will be joining the five tribes in negotiating a fuel tax compact. Almost 90 % of Oklahoma's tribal population will be present. The Cherokee Nation contributes almost $4 million a year toward roads in the 14-county area, and from 1990 to 1994, the five tribes contributed close to $50 million to roads programs.

NASA Planning 24th Annual Symposium. The Native American Student Association of Northeastern State in Tahlequah is inviting tribal members from all tribes to the 24th Annual Symposium on the American Indian, April 9-13. For more information, call Harvey Johnson at (918) 456-5233.

First National Trail of Tears Conference. The Trail of Tears Association will hold its first national conference on April 17-18, in North Little Rock, Arkansas. The Trail of Tears Association is a non-profit organization chartered to identify, develop, manage and promote the Trail of Tears National historic Trail which commemorates the route used in 1838 to remove more than 15,000 Cherokee Indians from ancestral lands. For more information, write to Paul Austin at the American Indian Center of Arkansas, (501) 666-9032.

CCS Directory

If you would not like to be included in the CCS Directory, please contact Deborah Scott asap. We are beginning to compile names and contact numbers to help members stay in contact with one another. We would love to have 100% participation. Look forward to the directory in the spring.

Ojibwa Prayer

Oh Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the winds
And whose breath gives life to everyone,
Hear me.

I come to you as one of your many children;
I am weak .... I am small ... I need your wisdom
and your strength.

Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes ever
behold the red and purple sunsets
Make my hands respect the things you have made.
And make my ears sharp so I may hear your voice.

Make me wise, so that I may understand what you
have taught my people and
The lessons you have hidden in each leaf
and each rock.

I ask for wisdom and strength
Not to be superior to my brothers, but to be able
to fight my greatest enemy, myself.
Make me ever ready to come before you with
clean hands and a straight eye.
So as life fades away as a fading sunset.
My spirit may come to you without shame

Author unknown

Suicide on the Reservation

By K. Marie Porterfield, Indian Country Today
RAPID CITY, S.D. - Statistics show that American Indians commit suicide at a rate three times higher than the suicide rate for the general population in the United States.

Gerry Cox, chairman of the Sociology Department at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, who has taught college-level classes on death and dying, says that on some reservations the number of people killing themselves is as much as 10 times higher than the national average. Suicide is the ninth leading cause of death in the United States.

Those high figures are only the tip of the iceberg, Cox thinks. He says that many suicides are not reported as such. "Not all auto accidents are really accidents," he said. Reckless driving and alcohol and drug use can be deliberate ways for a person to kill themselves as much as a gun or an overdose of prescription pills.

"Many tribes don't honestly report the number of suicides on their reservations," says a source within the mental health field who, for professional reasons, wishes to remain anonymous. "The numbers some tribes report aren't even close. If there's even the slightest reason to call a death an accident rather than a suicide, they'll do it to keep the truth from getting out, because they are embarrassed."

The deep despair that drives people to end their lives is often caused by poverty, unemployment and alcoholism, facts of reservation life many tribal officials aren't eager to acknowledge. "People have nothing to do on the reservations. Many people have lost hope, and the feel that there is nothing to make life better," Cox said.

According to research by Duane Gourneau, a counselor at the Village Family Service Center in Rolla, N.D., which serves members of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribe, alcohol was a major factor in 60 percent of the suicides which occurred on North Dakota reservations from 1978 to 1993. Most were unemployed. A little more than half of them were experiences family problems.

"Domestic violence and child abuse are major factors in suicide too," said Barbara Nelson, director of the Native American Outreach Office in Minot, N.D. Her program wrote and distributes a booklet about suicide in the hope of preventing American Indians from taking their lives. "I see suicide as a major problem in Indian country," she said. "The number of attempts we hear about are appalling."

She explained that alcohol and drug use don't directly lead to suicide, but these chemicals lower people's inhibitions. They also cause more impulsive behavior. A depressed person who turns to alcohol or drugs in an attempt to feel better and has suicidal thoughts instead is more likely to carry them out than someone who is sober.

American Indian young people are especially vulnerable to suicidal behavior, according to data gathered in the Gourneau study. American Indian young people age 20-29 were the highest risk group, followed by teenagers.

Sometimes young people on reservations take their lives in clusters. "They all agree there is no reason to live and make a vow to kill themselves at three on Tuesday in some cases," Cox says. "Other times one teen-ager commits suicide, and his or her friends see that he has a good funeral. They hear all the good things that are said about the person. They want to be missed too."

The problem of suicide is relatively new in Indian Country, according to Angeline Longie, a counselor at the Mental Health office for the Devil's Lake Sioux Tribe in Fort Totten, N.D. The tribe reported 20 suicides in the first six months of 1995. "There never used to be suicides like today," she said. "Our parents were too busy struggling to survive. Today even though our reservation is dry, people drink. Many people don't know the language. Those of us placed in boarding schools had to live two cultures. I've lived in this area my whole life, and I've seen a lot of changes."

Cox thinks the real roots of the high suicide rate go back hundreds of years. "When white people came in, they called the Indians' religion heathen. The Christians threw their beliefs out and told them there were no good. I don't see why they didn't regard them like they did the Old Testament, keeping them and adding to them instead of discarding them."

According to Cox, young people who are taught spiritual and cultural traditional ways are less likely to try suicide as a strategy to deal with despair. He also sees spiritual ceremonies as an antidote to the tragic trend. "Traditional ways provide hope," he said. "If you can give a person a reason to get up in the morning, it's a good thing. We're all here for a purpose. When we commit suicide, that keeps us from fulfilling our purpose in life. Suicide is work. We need to work to change our lives instead of working to commit suicide."

Distributed by Knight-Ridder/Tribune Information System
Published in the Tulsa World 11/19/95.

Our Condolences

Renowned artist and flutist, Doc Tate Nevaquaya died in early March after complications with the flu. He was well known and respected among Native Americans. Donations to assist his family can be forwarded to Doris Littrell, 2335 SW 34th Street, Oklahoma City, OK 73119-3548. Ms. Littrell is a long-time gallery owner who managed the business affairs of the deceased.

Remember the CCS Food Donation Project

Sue Ellen Strapp is spearheading the project to dehydrate foods and forward them to Cherokee people in the rural, poorer areas of eastern Oklahoma. Cherokee Nation officials verify that a serious need for more nutritious food exists. Readers can help by:
  1. donating vegetables or non-citrus fruits for Sue Ellen to process
  2. dehydrating produce and/or helping package prepared foods, or
  3. donating money for food purchase.

Mail checks to CCCS at PO Box 1506 Bellaire TX 77402-1506. Sue Ellen can be reached at (713) 265-0944 or email

Copyright © The Cherokee Cultural Society of Houston