MUSKOGEE (AP) – Signs touting school activities plaster Jerrod Adair’s door at Alice Robertson Junior High.
Right in the middle is a sign that sums up why Adair does what he does. It reads “Our Children Are Sacred.”
Adair, 41, is AR’s interventionist for Indian education and the sponsor of several character-oriented school clubs. He also is youth pastor at The Bridge at Christ Church in Muskogee.
He told the Mukogee Phoenix he sees a mission in guiding youth, particularly Native youth. He traces it to his upbringing in the cultures of Wichita, Pawnee and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians.
He said the woman he called grandma was a founding member of Fife Memorial United Methodist Church.
“Spirituality has always been part of the Native American culture, and education has always been part of the Native American culture,” he said. “Those two things are what make up who I am, first a spiritual man and second, an educated Indian man. I want to make sure young Indian kids have those same opportunities.”
Jerrod Adair came from a diverse Native family.
His father was full-blood Keetoowah. His mother was half white with Wichita and Pawnee background. He recalled joining in the customs and traditions from both sides of his family.
Adair said there is a “distinctive difference” between the Keetoowah Indians on his dad’s side and the Plains tribes on his mother’s side.
“The Cherokees had stomp dances, and the Plains Indian tribes had powwows, or ceremonial dances,” he said. “So, there’s two different areas on that side.”
However, he also grew to appreciate the similarities among the tribes.
“They have the same respect for elders,” Adair said. “There’s the same maternal respect you give to your mother’s clan. Something unique to Native culture is that when you are related to someone, you’re family. It doesn’t matter how far removed you were, you’re just family.”
As a result, Adair said his family “is very large and extended.”
He said this deep sense of family and tradition helped him as an adult.
“Understanding where my people come from and as a sovereign nation helps me to guide young native people in our Indian ways – in keeping our cultural ways, in having a vision for our future as a government and having a vision for the future of our people,” he said.
After graduating from college, Adair became a home missionary with the Assembly of God. He helped the denomination “pioneer” a Chi Alpha ministry in 1998-99.
“One of my visions was to help that ministry on the athletic side, to reach athletes,” he said, adding that he had been an All-State baseball player at Fort Gibson in 1992, and played in college as well.
“I was granted the opportunity to work with the baseball team and lead Bible studies, pray before games, pray for injured athletes,” he said of his University of Missouri ministry. “That door opened up two other opportunities to work with the gymnastics program and volleyball team doing the same thing.”
Adair said his duties also included ministering to athletes’ families when the player got hurt or was away from home.
“Even to the simplest thing of my wife cooking a home-cooked meal for one of those athletes,” he said. “One of the players who used to come eat mashed potatoes at my house was Ian Kinsler.”
Kinsler went on to play for the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers.
Adair was at the University of Missouri for five years. He said he saw it grow from zero to more than 100 members.
“We had a large international student ministry, a large athletic ministry,” he said.
Adair returned to Muskogee with a desire to start a Native American church. However, a job offer from Muskogee Public Schools led him in a different direction.
As AR Indian education interventionist, Adair tracks grades, attendance and behavior of its Native American students.
“I work closely with non-Native students in those areas,” he said. “I seek ways to enrich our students’ lives.”
Part of his work involves character education, he said.
“I helped start some initiatives and continue some initiatives,” he said, listing the Rougher ROAD and summer character camp as some examples.
Adair also sponsors several programs at AR, including, Students Working Against Tobacco and 2 Much 2 Lose, a program seeking to decrease underage drinking.
“My recent addition to my duties, which takes place after school is the 21st Century program, an after-school program that starts the first of November,” he said.
He said he found some of his extra duties, while others “found me.”
Most of the duties focus on character.
“I believe that’s a vital part of a student’s education,” he said. “If we’re planning to change a culture, it’s going to start with character.”
Information from: Muskogee Phoenix, http://www.muskogeephoenix.com