On Thursday, the Oklahoma State Senate honored the 2013-2014 National Youth Ambassador for the American Indian Health Research and Education Alliance (AIHREA). Cierra Fields, a Cherokee native and 8th grader from Fort Gibson, was diagnosed with Melanoma at the age of 4 and spent her fifth birthday on the operating table. Her 14th birthday was different, however, as Cierra had the opportunity to share a special message with members of the Senate both in Cherokee and English.
She began by quoting former Cherokee chief Wilma Mankiller who said “the most fulfilled people are the ones that get up every day and stand for something larger than themselves. They are the people that care about others and they are the ones that will extend a helping hand to someone in need or will speak about an injustice when they see it.”
“I have admired her [Chief Mankiller’s] willingness to forge ahead when everyone told her she couldn’t change anything. Chief Mankiller knew that change would not come if we waited for others to change things for us. I believe we are the change we’ve been waiting for and we are the change we seek,” said Fields. “
Little Water Fields, as she is known in Cherokee, was also honored as one of the five Native Youth 2013 Champions for Change winners, awarded in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 2013. She will serve a two-year term on the National Native Youth Advisory Board for the Center for Native American Youth. The Champion for Change awards are given by the Center for native American Youth, which was founded to bring greater attention to issues facing Native American teens.
The past two years, Fields has also volunteered for the Cherokee Nation Comprehensive Cancer Control Program to educate her people about skin cancer. She also volunteers with the American Cancer Society and the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network.
Sen. Kim David presented Fields with a citation congratulating her for her many accomplishments.
“This young lady has taken up the charge on Melanoma and I want to thank Cierra and her family for their service in educating the public about skin cancer.,” said David, R-Porter. “It’s nice to know that we can actually pass legislation on this floor that makes a difference in the lives of people like Cierra.”
Before leaving, Fields thanked the Senate, on behalf of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, for passing Senate Bill 765, known as the Oral Chemotherapy Bill. The measure was signed last month by the Governor.
“Many of the most important decisions about cancer are made outside the doctor’s office. They are often made in this very building by each of you in the state legislature. I want to thank the Oklahoma Senate, the House and Governor for passage of Senate Bill 765. This bill ensures that new cancer treatments in the form of pill are more accessible and affordable to more Oklahomans,” said Fields. “By passing meaningful legislation you hold the keys to reducing the number of people suffering and dying from cancer in Oklahoma.”
She continued by quoting Chief Mankiller, “I came to the physician with absolute faith and confidence in our own people and our own ability to solve our own problems.”
“I too believe that we can solve our own problems and be the change we seek,” said Fields. “I challenge every Oklahoma youth to be the change for their families, schools, communities, tribe and the state.”
She was joined on the floor by her parents, Rick and Terri Fields; her grandparents, Phillip and Tootsie Henderson; and her aunt, JoAnn Smith as well as representatives from the Cherokee Nation and the American Cancer Society.