Friday, March 31, 2017

Animal Care Facility Open House Draws Crowd

Randy Freeman, Sallisaw Animal Control officer, introduces an abandoned
 border collie mix puppy to the shelter’s new bath tub for dogs. 

Sallisaw’s new Animal Care Facility drew a large crowd to its open house on Friday.

Over 50 attended and were treated to a barbecue lunch with beans, cole slaw, cake and other goodies. Volunteers served the lunch and said they worked hard finishing the shelter and getting it ready for the open house.

Visitors were also given a tour of the new building which boasts new kennels and runs, an exercise yard, kitchen, laundry, exam room, and reception area. The grounds also include a new security gate, raised flower beds, and newly resurfaced entrance road.

Randy Freeman, animal control officer, said the shelter has several dogs ready for adoption, including eight-week-old male puppies, both border collie/terrier mixes. He said the puppies were found dumped on a nearby road, but are spunky and lovable.

For more information on the shelter and its adoptable pets, call 918-775-4126.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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Gore Couple Face Accessory Charge

Matthew Terrell and Sha Lynn Moyer Terrell

A Gore couple, arrested Feb. 3 and charged with accessory after the fact in the disappearance and suspected murder of Matthew Fagan, have both entered not guilty pleas to the charge.

Matthew Terrell, 22, and Sha Lynn Moyer Terrell, 24, are accused of helping three Webbers Falls men dispose of Fagan’s body near Lake Tenkiller in June. Fagan’s body has never been found, but Sequoyah County Sheriff Larry lane said the search is continuing.

The Terrells were interviewed in late January and on Feb. 3, according to the investigator’s report filed with the charges in Sequoyah County District Court, Sallisaw.

Sha Lynn Terrell continued to deny being involved, the investigator reported.

But her husband, Matthew Terrell, told the investigator that both he and his wife were contacted by the persons suspected of Fagan’s disappearance and possible death on June 21. He told the investigator that the three suspects contacted him because they wanted to go back to Buzzard Roost Nature Trail to look for Fagan. According to the report, Terrell took his father’s truck, while his father was sleeping. Matthew Terrell, Sha Lynn Terrell, Patrick Ledford, Tyler Leverett, Michael Snelling and Charles Shamblim then drove back to the nature trail.

At the trail, Shamblin, Snelling and Leverett went into the woods, Terrell said, and came back carrying Fagan’s body, which they put in Terrell’s pickup truck bed. Terrell said Leverett then directed Terrell to drive on a dirt trail that went to the water’s edge on Lake Tenkiller.

At the lake, Terrell said Shamblin, Snelling and Leverett unloaded the body, and were gone between 30 and 60 minutes. When they returned, Terrell said he noticed all three were wearing muddy boots. Terrell then drove the men to Webbers Falls.

Snelling, 22, and Shamblin, 25, are charged in district court with first-degree murder, and Leverett, 22, faces a second-degree murder charge. All three entered not guilty pleas to the charges.

According to the investigator’s report filed with the charges against Snelling, the suspect said the three participated in beating Fagan, then later wrapped the body in chicken wire and dumped Fagan’s body in Lake Tenkiller. Fagan’s death, reports indicate, was the result of an argument over a woman.

Sha Lynn Terrell’s next court appearance is slated for May 4. Matthew Terrell’s next court appearance is scheduled for April 19 on Associate District Judge Kyle Waters’ disposition docket.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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Small Town Specialist Offers Advice for Growth

Deb Brown of SaveYour.Town, left, was introduced at a luncheon meeting Wednesday by Rhonda Nicholson of Perfectly Posh Boutique, right. The event was sponsored by the Sallisaw Chamber of Commerce to discuss ideas on improving business.

With lightheartedness, laughter and a good deal of common sense, Deb Brown of SaveYour.Town spoke to Sallisaw business owners Wednesday.

Sponsored by the Sallisaw Chamber of Commerce, Brown’s Tips and Advice from a Small Town Specialist offered numerous ideas to attract customers and business to Sallisaw.

She began by asking those attending what they would like for the community. Answers included expanded business, jobs so children will stay in the area, a movie theater, and a good community in which to raise children.

Brown offered the following advice:

-Work together

-Use old school houses or empty buildings if available

-Have local artists display works in local businesses

-Have pop up galleries for various arts in the downtown area

-Change laws so empty buildings don’t stay empty

-Host a tour of empty buildings available for lease or sale

-Have Chamber Champions help with upkeep of buildings

-Take over the rental of empty buildings

-Change the Stinkin’ Thinkin’ Mindset

-Add events such as Music in the Park with an open mike; hold a parade; hold an Open Your Heart event when retailers stay open late one evening and donate a portion of profits to a favorite charity; quarterly town hall meetings; county-wide tours; craft days when crafters gather to complete projects; organize a JunqueFest flea market; hold a photo walk; market walking trails; and arrange tours of local businesses and industries.

Brown suggested the town’s promoters “Don’t go it alone,” and work with other communities on regional attraction. She said if an expert is needed, contact one. Create lists of businesses, services and opportunities.

Take note of Time-of-Day Marketing, and when various individuals do their shopping. Stay open one evening a week. Use technology to market products.

“You have fabulous stores here,” Brown pointed out, advising business owners to promote what is already available.

Brown’s visual presentation may be seen at

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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Sallisaw Animal Care Facility Open House Is Friday

The open house at the new Sallisaw Animal Care Facility will be held from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. Friday.

Randy Freeman, Animal Control officer, said refreshments will be served.

Freeman said the shelter has 10 dogs available for adoption. Plans are for the shelter to eventually have cats and kittens available, but no felines are available yet.

Freeman noted that Teresa Morton in Muldrow has a new low-cost spay and neuter program. For information or to make an appointment call 479-651-1319.

The Sallisaw shelter gladly accepts donations of both money and materials. Freeman said full-size towels are especially appreciated because they fit the dog beds exactly.

For information on the Sallisaw shelter call 918-775-4126.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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Thursday, March 30, 2017

CASC Changes Graduation

Carl Albert State College (CASC) has announced plans for the 2017 Commencement. 

This year CASC is moving graduation to the Hamilton Auditorium on the Poteau campus on May 6. Because of the change in location, there will be two ceremonies, one at 10 a.m. and the other at 2 p.m.

Leading up to the date of the CASC commencement ceremonies, graduating students will select if they want to participate in the 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. ceremony. The students have from now until May 1 to select their ceremony time, and they have been given instructions on how to select using the VIKECONNECT portal.

CASC President Jay Falkner said, “We have always had standing room only in the gym with one ceremony, and more times than not the temperature in the gym was uncomfortable. We have been considering a change in graduation for several years, and decided it is time to try a new approach. We are excited to have two ceremonies in the auditorium, especially because this venue provides comfortable seating plus air conditioning. The only tradeoff is because of the seating capacity, we are asking each graduate to limit their guest list to five.”

Falkner continued, “This limited guest list approach is one that is used at a number of colleges and universities and seems to work well, and we will also live stream both ceremonies.”

In planning the commencement ceremonies, the CASC graduation committee decided allowing students to select their ceremony time would be good for the graduates. With this, instead of assigning certain divisions to certain times, students have more flexibility to work around their guests’ schedules, as well as perhaps graduate at the same time as some of their friends.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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Roland, Central Schools Get Cherokee Donation

Bryan Warner of Sallisaw, fourth from right, Cherokee Nation council member,
 presents a Cherokee Nation check for $5,000 to Roland Public Schools for special projects.

Bryan Warner of Sallisaw, Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden and Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. recently presented both Roland Schools and Central Schools checks for $5,000.

The tribe donated the money from its special projects fund. Projects funded through the special projects fund are selected by the tribal council and Principal Chief Bill John Baker’s office, and allow the tribe to partner with communities and organizations on projects that benefit both Cherokee Nation citizens and non-Cherokees alike.

The schools have special projects ranging from an outdoor playground shelter to a washer and dryer for laundry services for students in need.

Warner said, “These funds will benefit a variety of programs at both Roland and Central Public Schools from academic and athletic activities to addressing physical and emotional needs of students and their families. I will always support the programs used by our schools to better the lives of their students and improve the wellbeing of our communities.”

Roland Superintendent Randy Wood said Cherokee Nation’s support is vital at a time when school budgets are being trimmed.

He said, “These are difficult times, and for anything we pursue, it can be difficult to come up with the funding. The Cherokee Nation has always been a great help to our schools, and we are very appreciative. From this donation, $2,000 will help build an indoor place for our student golfers to get out of the weather if it rains. Another $2,000 will help our robotics team with meals and travel expenses for world championship competition in April. And we’ll use $1,000 to buy a washer and dryer. Sometimes students just don’t have the capability to wash their clothes at home, and it can keep them from coming to school. There will be students glad to have this program provided for them.”

Larry Henson, Central Schools superintendent, said a storm last year uprooted a large tree on the elementary playground, leaving no shade for students and teachers.

He said, “Part of this money will be used to put up a gazebo on the playground for coverage and to have benches so kids and teachers can get out of the sun when they need to. It will also buy some computers for a few teachers’ classrooms.”

Bryan Warner of Sallisaw, fourth from right, Cherokee Nation council member, presents a Cherokee Nation check for $5,000 to Roland Public Schools for special projects.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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Roland Woman Faces Embezzlement Charge

A Roland woman was arrested Monday for the embezzlement of $427,699 from her employer, Anchor Financial Services in Roland.

Carolyn Louise Hignite, 45, surrendered to authorities on Monday at the Sequoyah County jail, where she was arrested by the Oklahoma State Bureau of investigation (OSBI). Her bond was set at $5,000.

The OSBI reported Hignite is accused of preparing the 122 fake loans, since Christmas 2012, to fund a gambling habit.

Anchor Financial Services reported the alleged embezzlement to the Sequoyah County District Attorney, who requested the OSBI special investigate the case.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Dimitt Sentenced for Animal Cruelty

Horse hoof with the "frog" cut from the bottom by Dimitt.

A stamp across the front of the criminal file declares the case “Closed.”

Right after that declaration the message is, “If you witness Robert Dimitt near horses or at a stable or track, document with a photo or video and call the Sequoyah County Sheriff’s Department at (918) 775-9155 and file a report.”

Long-time horse trainer Robert Howard Dimitt, 59, was sentenced Friday to five years in prison for five counts of animal cruelty, a 20-year suspended sentence and 10 years probation, and a $3,000 fine.

District Judge Jeff Payton delivered the sentence in Sequoyah County District Court, Sallisaw. Dimitt was charged Aug. 20, 2015, with five counts of cruelty to animals after race horses in his care were found dead or mutilated by Charlotte Northam of Ada.

Dimitt had said he cut the frogs from the bottom of horses’ hooves “to make them run faster.” 

Northam is the agent for Kentucky racehorse owner Edward D. Leslie, MD. Northam told the Rate My Horse PRO website that she hopes this case makes horse owners more aware of what can happen when you don’t check on your horses in training.

A retired orthopedic surgeon, Leslie did not attend the sentencing. He did send an impact statement, which read, in part, “Imagine if the skin on the palms of your hands and the muscles of your feet were surgically excised, and you were placed in the middle of an empty Walmart parking lot on a 100-degree Oklahoma summer day.” 

Dr. Leslie’s horses Awesome Ashley, Ashley’s Freight Train and Gold Digging Ashley were trained by Dimitt. Ashley’s Freight Train died without water or veterinary care before her body was burned. She was identified by DNA testing. Awesome Ashley had to be euthanized three weeks after she was found.

Gold Digging Ashley, who was winning at Ruidoso in New Mexico, was saved from death, although her racing career is over. She remains in Northam’s care.

Dimitt changed his plea from not guilty to no contest last month, avoiding the scheduled jury trial. Judge Payton then ordered a pre-sentence investigation, and delivered the sentence Friday.

Judge Payton set a judicial review for Sept. 7. 

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tips Offered to Voters

Voters will go to the polls Tuesday for the April 4 Roland and Vian Municipal Elections, Cindy Osborn, Sequoyah County Election Board secretary, said.

Osborn advised voters to keep the following information and tips in mind as the election approaches.

- Early voting will be available at the county election board office from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday.

- Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Lines are possible at peak voting times. Wait times will likely be shortest at mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Anyone in line to vote at 7 p.m. will be allowed to cast a ballot.

- Anyone who needs to look up their polling place, verify their registration information, or view a sample ballot can do so online. The Online Voter Tool can be accessed on the Oklahoma State Election Board’s website: Those who vote by mail can also check the status of their ballot using the Online Voter Tool. Sample ballots are also available at the county election board office.

- Oklahoma law requires every voter who votes in person at the precinct polling place or during early voting at the county election board to show proof of identity before receiving a ballot. There are three ways for voters to prove their identity under the law (only one proof of identity is required): Show a valid photo ID issued by federal, state, or tribal government; or show the free voter identification card issued to every voter by the county election board; or sign an affidavit and vote a provisional ballot. (If the information on the affidavit matches official voter registration records, the ballot will be counted after election day.)

- Physically disabled voters who cannot enter the polling place, need help marking their ballots, blind or visually disabled voters and illiterate voters may be assisted by a person the voter chooses. In all cases, a person providing such assistance may not be the voter’s employer or an agent of the employer or an officer or agent of the voter’s union. A person providing assistance also must swear or affirm that the voter’s ballots will be marked in accordance with the voter’s wishes. Alternatively, all blind, visually impaired, and physically disabled voters in Sequoyah County may use the audio-tactile interface (ATI), a feature offered on all Oklahoma voting devices, to vote privately and independently, either at Sequoyah County Election Board during early voting or at their assigned polling place on election day.

- Voters who have moved since the last election, but who have not transferred their voter registration to their new address, may do so on election day by going to vote at the polling place where their registration has been in the past. While voting, they may fill out a form instructing the county election board to transfer their registration to the new address before the next election.

- Those who became physically incapacitated after 5 p.m. Tuesday March 28 still can request an emergency absentee ballot. Those who might qualify for an emergency absentee ballot should contact the county election board office at 918-775-2614 as soon as possible for more information.

- Any violation of election law will be reported to the proper law enforcement authorities. Electioneering is not allowed within 300 feet of a ballot box. It is also unlawful to remove a ballot from the polling location, possess intoxicating liquors within half a mile of a polling place or to disclose how you voted while within the election enclosure.

For additional election-related information, visit:

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

For more news stories stay tuned to The MIX 105.1 or visit

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Free College Prep Offered at CASC

The Educational Opportunity Center (EOC) at Carl Albert State College (CASC) is presenting a four-part workshop series entitled “The Adult ABCs of Entering College and Technical School.”

The third in the series of free workshops is scheduled for April 11 at the Joe E. White Library on the CASC Poteau Campus. 

CASC EOC Coordinator Kelly Kellogg shared, “This workshop will be from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.”

She continued, “We are really excited about this workshop. Success Tips will be presented by CASC Mathematics Instructor Leslie Bain, CASC Director of Libraries Terri Carroll, and Division Chair for Communications and Fine Arts Susan Hill.”

Kellogg stated the ABC’s of this workshop will focus on:

A – How to ace the ACCUPLACER

B - How to bypass non-credit classes

C - How to complete the progress toward graduating with a degree

Since many prospective students enter college with low ACT scores or no ACT scores, one free ACCUPLACER study resource will be provided by EOC. According to Kellogg, this is utilized during the enrollment process as a beneficial tool to place students in the specific coursework that will provide the best foundation for success. Attendees will also be provided a $5 voucher from CASC Library Director Terri Carroll redeemable for repeating one section of the ACCUPLACER if necessary.

Information about the new “Fast Track” option as another way to bypass non-credit classes will be presented during the workshop as well. Refreshments will be provided by CASC Food Service, and area adults and high school seniors are encouraged to attend!

Educational Opportunity Center is one of the TRIO programs housed at Carl Albert State College, and is funded 100 percent by the U.S. Department of Education. The EOC program budget is $510,799 and serves 1675 participants.

For more information contact EOC at 918-647-1396.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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Sequoyah County in Top 10 for Bird Watchers

Sequoyah County has a new claim to fame, a new attraction. That attraction used to be a bit of a secret to everybody who doesn’t live in Sequoyah County. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) unmasked that secret last week when it listed the state’s top places to watch birds.

Sequoyah County is number 10 on the list of top counties to observe the state’s birds, and the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), south of Vian, is number two on the state’s Top Hot Spots to observe birds. 

The ODWC, which has to be the best of its kind due to its quality, reported on the county in its March 22 “The Wild Side” email bulletin. The reported numbers, on the birds observed in the county, were taken from The Great Backyard Bird Count, hosted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society on Feb. 16 through 20.

Most of the birds were, of course, spotted at the Sequoyah NWR, reported by bird watchers participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count. The report confirms 61 bird species were reported in the county, 53 of which were spotted at the Sequoyah NWR.

Birds spotted at the refuge include ducks of all varieties, flocks of snow geese that may reach up to 20,000 in number, the largest flock in the state, and, of course, bald eagles that nest in several locations. An estimated 250-plus bird species are thought to use the bottomland forests and associated habits in eastern Oklahoma.

Now the ODWC is gearing up for another citizen-scientist project, the Virtual Spring BioBlitz, which begins April 1. This project is hosted by the Oklahoma Biological Survey, and is free.

To participate, set up a free account at and join the Virtual Spring BioBlitz! OK 2017 Project. Participants record observations using a smart phone app or add observations directly to the website. Although the project doesn’t start until April 1, participants may practice by recording observations right away.

Participation is free and prizes will be awarded to the top observers. New challenges will be posted each week with opportunities to win additional prizes and compete with fellow citizen scientists statewide.

During last year's inaugural virtual BioBlitz!, more than 2,000 observations were made, inventorying 701 species in the state. Get more information about this and other Oklahoma BioBlitz! projects by searching for Oklahoma BioBlitz! on Facebook.

Sequoyah County may make it into the top 10 again.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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Trivia Night Raises over $2,500 for Parenting Center

Trivia Night winners-Flash Point group

The Pervasive Parenting Center hosted the third annual Trivia Night Saturday at Carl Albert State College in Poteau and raised over $2,500.

More than 150 attended the event, which had a Super Heroes theme. Fifteen teams competed.

Funds raised will go to the Pervasive Parenting Center and will be used to help families in the area living with disabilities. In the past the center has donated more than $1,000 to local special education departments in LeFlore, Sequoyah, Latimer, and Haskell Counties. The center also helped with autism training for more than 1,000 local teachers, professional, and parents.

They center hosted Sensitive Santa in three counties as well as Sibshops for siblings of children with disabilities. Members worked with state-wide resources to hold trainings and conferences in the area related to developmental disabilities.

“The outpouring from the community is overwhelming,” said Kodey Toney, director of the non-profit organization. “The number of teams almost doubled, and the funds raised more than doubled. With these funds we will continue to give back to the communities and help bring in resources so that we can assist families in eastern Oklahoma struggling with the issues involved with having a disability.”

Winner of the Team Costume Contest was the Resistance, a team made up primarily of students from Panama Schools.

Second Place in the trivia competition was the Dewey Medical Plaza team. First place in trivia went to Flash Point, a team led by Carl Albert State College President Jay Falkner.

The Individual Costume winner was Nick Gutierrez of Panama.

“We want to thank all the sponsors, contestants, volunteers, and board members for helping make this event a success,” said Toney.

For more information on the Pervasive Parenting Center visit

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

For more news stories stay tuned to The MIX 105.1 or visit

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Autism Awareness Walk Is April 8

The Pervasive Parenting Center will host an Autism Awareness Walk at 3 p.m. April 8 at Roye Park in Stigler.

The walk will be held to raise awareness and acceptance for the growing number of children diagnosed with autism each year. Everyone is welcome to attend. There will be free food and drinks available.

“April is autism awareness month,” said Kodey Toney, center director. “The numbers are increasing every year. I don’t think it’s necessarily about awareness as much as it is acceptance now. We want to use this day to celebrate the people in our lives who are living with this disorder every day.”

According to the Center for Disease Control 1 in 68 are diagnosed with the neurological disorder. Autism Spectrum Disorder affects children’s social and language skills.

The Pervasive Parenting Center was created to help families in eastern Oklahoma find resources available for people diagnosed with autism and other disabilities.

“We just want to be a place where people can come for answers,” said Toney. “I know how crazy it can seem for a family who has just received a diagnosis if you don’t know what to do next. We can help you find what is out there and where you need to go.”

For more information contact Toney at 918-658-5076 or

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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Carl Albert State College Named #1 Community College has ranked Carl Albert State College (CASC) as the top community college in Oklahoma for 2017. 

This number-one ranking is based, among other things, on CASC providing a quality education that students can afford in the state of Oklahoma. Fifteen community colleges in Oklahoma were included on the list. annually provides information and rankings of colleges and universities throughout the country. 

The information posted at regarding Carl Albert State College included, “CASC serves students at campuses in Poteau and Sallisaw with programming ranked highly among community colleges in Oklahoma and the nation. CASC students have access to affordable tuition at an institution with graduation rates among the best in the state.”

Marc Willis, CASC Vice President for Academic Affairs, said, “It is an honor for Carl Albert State College to be recognized in this manner. We work hard to provide a quality education at Poteau, Sallisaw, and online through our virtual campus. Our students’ success is our top priority, and we continually look for ways to serve their educational needs in the best way possible.”

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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Union Pacific Project Almost Complete

Union Pacific Railroad’s track maintenance in Sequoyah County should be completed by the first week in April, a company spokesman said Monday. (Photo Courtesy of Union Pacific)

Union Pacific Railroad is in the final stages of replacing railroad track ties in the 55 miles of Union Pacific track between Alma and Gore.

Jeff DeGraff, Union Pacific spokesman, said the project began on March 9 and is slated to be complete the first week in April.

DeGraff said the tie replacement is preventative maintenance to maintain track integrity, such as alignment. He said not all ties are replaced. Only a certain percentage per mile are replaced. Union Pacific will use about 53,000 ties and 24,000 tons of rock ballast for this project. He explained that as the old ties are pulled out and new ties set, ballast is added and tamped down by machine to keep the track level and safe.

DeGraff said two work crews, called gangs, are replacing the ties, and gangs include 10 to 12 workers each.

The project has a $7 million cost for the 55 miles from Alma to Gore, he said.

DeGraff said drivers may find that Union Pacific crossings are closed for portions of the day as the work continues. The crossings are closed for safety as equipment and materials are moved about he explained.

“It’s hard to say how long a crossing will be closed,” DeGraff said. “If someone finds a crossing closed, it would be best to find an alternative route if convenient.”

Union Pacific Railroad has a total of 32,000 miles in its network, DeGraff said.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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CASC Plans Library Week Events

Carl Albert State College (CASC) will join libraries in schools, campuses and communities nationwide in celebrating National Library Week April 9 – 15.

Events at the Joe E. White Library on the Poteau campus include:

-April 11, 1:30 - 3:30: Book signing for Bentley and Susan Hill 

-April 10 - 12: Free Punch and Cookies for library patrons

-April 11, 5:30 - 6:30 p.m.: EOC and CASC Workshop: Part 3 - The Adult ABCs of Entering College and Technical School Workshop Series with emphasis on Accuplacer testing.

The Delores O’Guin Mitchell Library on the Sallisaw campus will provide free punch and cookies for library patrons April 10, 11, and 12.

CASC Director of Libraries Terri Carroll stated, “We invite everyone to visit the CASC libraries at Poteau and Sallisaw.”

She continued, “Both our libraries provide free resources for our students, faculty and staff.”

To learn more about what the College’s libraries have to offer, visit and click on “Library” at the top of the home page.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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Removal Bike Riders Announced

The 2017 Remember the Removal Bike Ride participants are, from the left, Will Chavez, Raven Girty, Breanna Anderson, Shelby Deal, Susie Worley-Means, Gaya Pickup, KenLea Henson, Hunter Scott, Ellic Miller, Brian Barlow, Trey Pritchett, Skylar Vann and Macie Sullasteskee.

The Cherokee Nation selected 10 cyclists for its 2017 Remember the Removal Bike Ride this June.

The ride allows young Cherokees to retrace the northern route of the Trail of Tears by bicycle.

The 10 cyclists, ages 16-24, started training in February for the 950-mile journey that spans Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

"It is an opportunity of a lifetime to participate in the Remember the Removal bike ride. It's a living classroom and leadership skills workshop all rolled into one three-week event," said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. "Year in and year out we see our young people blossom upon their return. They have a fuller understanding of our Cherokee history and heritage, and they have made lifelong bonds with one another."

Students were selected based on essays, interviews and a physical to ensure they are up for the grueling challenge.

They travel an average of 60 miles a day, mirroring in part the hardships of their Cherokee ancestors who made the same trek on foot. Of the estimated 16,000 Cherokees who were forced to make the journey to Indian Territory, 4,000 died due to exposure, starvation and disease, giving credence to the name Trail of Tears.

“I'm honored for the opportunity to be able to experience what would just be a fraction of what I can imagine my ancestors went through,” said 2017 Remember the Removal Bike Ride participant Susie Worley-Means of Stilwell. “The ride will be an invaluable experience, and a huge opportunity to learn more about my heritage and ancestors that I cannot get in the classroom.”

A genealogist will map out each rider’s family tree prior to the trip, providing cyclists with an insight into their ancestral past. The ride takes them to several Cherokee gravesites and historic landmarks, including Blythe’s Ferry in Tennessee, the westernmost edge of the old Cherokee Nation, and Mantle Rock in Kentucky, where Cherokees huddled together for warmth under a hanging rock, the only shelter they could find during a frigid winter.

The tribe also selected Will Chavez, 50, of Marble City as the inaugural “Mentor Rider.” Chavez is a participant of the original 1984 Remember the Removal Bike Ride. Two alternates were also selected in the event one of the 10 cyclists cannot participate in this year’s ride.

The Cherokee Nation cyclists will be joined by cyclists from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina and start the ride in New Echota, Ga., on June 4.

The 2017 Remember the Removal Bike Ride cyclists include the following:

Adair County

Trey Pritchett, 19, Stilwell, Northeastern State University 
KenLea Henson, 23, Proctor, Northeastern State University
Susie Worley-Means, 24, Stilwell, Northeastern State University

Cherokee County

Brian Barlow, 22, Tahlequah, George Washington University
Hunter Scott, 16, Bunch, Sequoyah High School
Ellic Miller, 23, Tahlequah, Northeastern State University (alternate)
Macie Sullateskee, 19, Tahlequah, Northeastern State University (alternate)

Mayes County

Skylar Vann, 23, Locust Grove, Northeastern State University
Gaya Pickup, 21, Salina, Sequoyah High School graduate

Muskogee County

Shelby Deal, 19, Porum, Connors State College

Sequoyah County

Raven Girty, 20, Gore, Northeastern State University
Will Chavez, 50, Marble City, Mentor Rider

Tulsa County

Breanna Anderson, 21, Sand Springs, University of Tulsa

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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