Isabel Baker may be retired, but she’s one of the busiest women in Tahlequah.
She’s known by many as the first mother of the Cherokee Nation, the grand dame of the Cherokee County Democratic Party, a former professor at Northeastern State University, and an active member of First United Methodist Church, to name a few.
She can be seen jetting about town in her white Cadillac, always off to one meeting or another; a tribal function to support her youngest son, Principal Chief Bill John Baker; or to a courtroom to observe her other two sons, attorneys Tim and Donn, in action.
You’d never guess she’s a cancer survivor, having lost 40 percent of her right lung to the disease in 1997.
Baker confesses to smoking as a young woman, but she quit the minute she learned she was pregnant with her first child, Tim Jr.
“When I was young, I thought it was so cool to smoke,” said Baker. “And nobody talked about it being bad for your health back then. If anything, smoking was a moral issue. I hadn’t smoked in decades when I found out I had cancer.”
In 1997, husband Tim Sr. – or “Bake,” as she refers to him – was ill, and Isabel spent a good deal of time driving him to doctor’s appointments.
“Finally, Bake said, ‘Isabel, you are all the time running me to the doctor, and you don’t have as much as a physical. Well, I’m not going to another appointment until you do,’” said Baker. “So I went to the Warren Clinic in Tulsa and had a bunch of routine tests done.”
After coming home, Baker learned her son, Donn, was set for a case in Las Vegas, and he asked his mother to go with him to help choose a jury.
“About that time, the phone rang, and it was the Warren Clinic nurse, saying the doctor wanted me to come back, because they had a problem with my chest X-ray,” said Baker. “I told her I was going to Vegas and would call and set up an appointment when I got back in a week.”
The doctor then took over the call, explaining to Baker that she really needed to come in sooner.
“I told him I was coming back in a week,” said Baker. “Well, he told me I had lung cancer, and that he’d like to make an appointment at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for me. Evidently, the specialist he wanted me to see was a classmate of his, so he took care of everything.”
After Baker returned from Las Vegas, she and Tim Sr. drove to Michigan and checked her into the Mayo Clinic.
“The doctor told me they needed to take 40 percent of my right lung, and asked if we could schedule the surgery the next day,” said Baker. “I agreed, then I called the boys. They had a heck of a time getting flights, but all of them managed to make it there that night.”
Baker said the surgery was intense.
“It was rough,” she said. “They had to go in through my back, and it took a long time to rebuild my strength.”
Baker has been in remission ever since, and has checkups regularly.
“Cancer is like a thief in the night,” said Baker. “Sometimes, you don’t have any symptoms until it’s too late. I strongly recommend everyone have physicals and get all the tests.
Baker was fortunate in that they managed to get all the cancer during the surgery.
“I didn’t have to have chemotherapy or radiation, thank goodness,” she said. “I was so lucky.”
Over time, she’s rebuilt her strength, and continues to enjoy being active in the community.
“I am thankful for every day,” she said. “I escaped; I really dodged a bullet.”
Even a bout of lung cancer couldn’t hold back a beloved local matriarch, even though it took her a long time to regain her strength after treatment.
Isabel Baker may be retired, but she’s one of the busiest women in Tahlequah.
Dream, Brewdog’s to host music festivals
One sign of spring’s arrival is the scheduling of music festivals, and 10 bands will visit a Tahlequah venue May 24, the Saturday before Memorial Day.
Conference attendees get words of encouragement
Words of encouragement and door prizes were bountiful Saturday morning at the annual Zoë Institute’s Women’s Conference.
Ten women shared words of wisdom in areas from happiness to health, and 100 gifts were given out, including the grand prize of gasoline for a year.
Panelists discuss impact of Southeastern art
Until recently, most people had a certain expectation of American Indian art – and it didn’t include images familiar to people in and around Cherokee County.
“A lot of times, when people think about Native art, they immediately think of Plains art or Southwestern art,” said Roy Boney (Cherokee), Tahlequah artist and moderator of the panel discussion “Southeastern Indian Art: Building Community and Raising Awareness,” held Friday, April 11, at the NSU Symposium on the American Indian.
Boney and the other panelists are frustrated by the divide between mainstream expectations of Native American art and their need for genuine self-expression.
Dickerson believes in putting the student first
As a child growing up in Elk City, Cherokee Elementary teacher Debra Dickerson lined up the neighborhood children and animals to play school.
“I’ve been a teacher ever since I could talk. My mother always said she knew where I was because she could hear me bossing everyone,” she said.
The classroom then was a blanket tossed over limbs of her big cherry tree on Eisenhower Street. Recess was spent tree-climbing, running, riding in the bus (her red wagon) and being creative.
“Those were the days before video games and TV,” she said.
Dickerson, 2013-’14 Cherokee Elementary Teacher of the Year, believes a classroom should be a safe haven for children, because school is often the best part of their day.
Cleaning things up
Lowrey was part of the Cherokee Nation’s Career Service Center contingency of 11 volunteers. Other volunteers cleaned up trash along the roadway from the Cherokee Casino to the NSU campus.
Right to privacy leans partly on Article 9
While the other articles of the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights are straightforward – at least, enough for Americans to bicker over in court – the Ninth Amendment might cause a bit of confusion.
It reads: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
There are no rights enumerated, and it might be difficult to argue one’s Ninth Amendment rights in court, though it has been done successfully.
The American Indian Science and Engineering Society and Native American Student Associationat Northeastern State University hosted a traditional stickball game as part of closing cultural activities during the 42nd annual Symposium on the American Indian Friday. Participants included, from left: Nathan Wolf, Disosdi Elk and Chris Smith.
City council to discuss ‘green building’
Tahlequah City Council will hold a special meeting Friday, April 11, at 5:30 p.m. to discuss, among other items, applying grant money to renovate the city’s “green building” at the corner of Water and Morgan, near Norris Park.
Alcohol screening can be critical
It has been decades since Prohibition brought Americans gangsters, flappers and speakeasies, but statistics for alcohol addiction are staggering.
Millions of Americans suffer from alcohol addiction and abuse, which affects families and friends.
Today, April 10, is the annual National Alcohol Screening Day, and raising awareness through education, outreach and screening programs is the goal, according to the website at www.mentalhealthscreening.org.
Law enforcement agencies to get new facility
Area law enforcement agencies will soon have a new training facility in Cherokee County.
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office is building the new training room near its gun range, located north of the detention center. Sheriff Norman Fisher said tax dollars were not used for the building.
“This is something we’ve been trying to work on, and it was built with no money from the taxpayers,” said Fisher. “It was paid for with drug forfeitures and gun sales.”
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