Storied Sequoyah Slays Giants, Wins Oklahoma’s Best Tournament

Contributing Writer

REIGNING CHAMPS: Sequoyah High School’s Lady Indians 2006–2007 basketball team is bidding for its third straight state 3A Championship. flanked by managers Miranda Witt and Laurisa Soap, are, from left, Nikki Lewis, Angel Goodrich, Tae Deerinwater, Brea Brewer, Mariah Norwood, Cassie Moore, Sukey Deere, Lindsey Hammer, Lorin Hammer, Britteny Keys.

M. BETH TURNER for GTR Newspapers

The success of Sequoyah High School’s Lady Indians at the 8th Annual Oklahoma’s Best Girls Basketball Tournament held recently at Tulsa’s Reynolds Center is a testament to just how well this little school in Tahlequah is doing these days. In a true David vs. Goliath match up, the 3A Lady Indians (enrollment: 376) won over the top-ranked 6A Lady Chieftains of Sapulpa (enrollment: 1,162) 40-38 in an overtime thriller.

The Lady Indians fell behind early but clawed their way back behind a game-high 26 points from point guard Angel Goodrich, and a strong defensive effort from Lorin Hammer, Brea Brewer, and 5’10” junior Cassie Moore, who held the Lady Chieftain’s 6’3” junior standout Alyssia Brewer well below her scoring average.

“When I’m out there, it’s not just about me. It’s about my team,” says Moore. “I play for all of us not just myself. We’re a family.”

Unfortunately for the other 3A teams in the state, the Lady Indians are a young family. With no seniors and a ton of young talent, the team appears poised to prolong their dynasty as they seek their third straight 3A state championship in March.

Many eyes, including those of major college scouts, will be on junior sensation Angel Goodrich as the season progresses. In her third year as a starter, Goodrich leads the team in scoring with just over 21 points per game. She also dishes out a team-high 7.4 assists and has proven to be a top-tier defender, racking up 6.3 steals per game. “I’m going for a ‘three-peat’ this year,” says Goodrich. Sophomore Sukey Deere backs her up, saying,” I know some people wonder if we can do it this year since two players graduated last year. I want to show them we can.”

Coach Bill Nobles knows his team seized a unique opportunity. “We’ve won back-to-back state championships, but now we’ve gotten to take on a number one 6A school and win,” says Nobles. “We’re the smallest school to ever win this tournament. That’s a testament to how good these girls are and how hard they work.”

The hard work on the basketball court reflects the history of hard work at SHS. The school originally began at Grand Saline, now Salina, in 1872 for Cherokee children orphaned by the Civil War. As building began for the orphanage, property for The Cherokee Home for the Insane, Blind, Deaf and Dumb was purchased on the outskirts of Tahlequah.

In 1903, fire consumed the orphanage. Everyone escaped but insurance didn’t cover the total loss. But by this time, the Cherokee Nation was facing a countdown to the United States eliminating all Indian governments, programs, and territories. Fearing they couldn’t rebuild in time, the Council and school administrators made the decision to move the Asylum’s 20 residents to the Cherokee National Jail and use that facility for the orphaned children, which is where the school stands to date. This is why in old pictures bars can be seen on the third floor of the children’s dorm windows.

According to SHS teacher/historian Don Franklin’s booklet, “Sequoyah: Its First 125 Years,” it was 1914 when the “Cherokee Nation authorized Chief William Rogers to sell the ‘Cherokee Orphan Training School’ to the U.S. for the sum of $5000.

The school fell under the supervision of the Secretary of the Interior “to be conducted as an industrial school for the Orphan Indians of Oklahoma,” and was opened to children of the other Five Tribes in Oklahoma up to age 16. The Bureau of Indian Affairs watched over the boarding school and many from the BIA and school staff spent time lobbying in Washington for money, buildings, or school supplies on its behalf. It was, however, pretty self-sufficient with a bakery, ice plant, garden, orchard, hogs, chickens and a dairy located on campus.

In 1924, Superintendent Jack Brown began his 32-year career, leading the way in changing education standards on campus. In 1925, Congress changed the school’s name to “Sequoyah Orphan Training School” and by 1930 a student could graduate from SOTS, one of its first being the father of former Cherokee Chief Wilma Mankiller. SOTS created a family for those who had none while continuing to create a better education for them along the way, even while budget cuts continued to chip away at resources. Between 1956 and 1964, the school moved its lower grades to Seneca Indian School in Wyandotte, closed its farm and dairy operations, and became strictly a high school for grades 9-12. When continued budget cuts once again nearly shut the doors in 1985, the Cherokee Nation made its move. The nation re-purchased what’s now known as Sequoyah High School and has been pumping resources into it ever since to create a competitive state and regionally accredited high school. In fact last year, seven SHS graduates received Gates Millennium Scholarships, which completely pays for undergraduate and graduate degrees.

The Lady Indians taking the title of Oklahoma’s Best wasn’t the only accomplishment at SHS in December. The cross-country track team celebrated its fourth consecutive state championship, the football team won the 2A-8 district title and the entire Cherokee Nation celebrated the completion of the new $8.5 million gymnasium and activity center.

At the dedication ceremony, SHS Superintendent Gina Stanley told the audience, “Sequoyah has gone from the school of last resort to a school of choice,” referring to the school’s history of accepting students who were turned away from public schools because of behavioral or other issues. Admittance into the school has gotten tougher the last few decades and the list of rules to follow is long, but the waiting list to get in continues to grow.

For a schedule of Lady Indian games, go to A documentary on Sequoyah High School is due out in the spring.

Updated 01-23-2007

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