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From the Desk of
Miko Apela Jack Austin Jr.

Nation Celebrates Veterans Day  - December 2019

We celebrated Veterans Day on Nov. 11, during our annual Choctaw Nation Veterans Day Ceremony at Tvshka Homma. Cold temperatures and gloomy weather didn't stop nearly 1,000 visitors from attending the event. I loved getting to visit with and personally thank so many Choctaw veterans for their service. I also loved getting to hear the message of our guest speaker, Brigadier General Jon Harrison of the Oklahoma National Guard. His reading of the Andrea C. Brett poem, "I am a Veteran", was a great reminder that veterans are everywhere. They are our grocers, schoolteachers, bus drivers and leaders and they all have stories that need to be heard.

This year marked the 100th Veterans Day celebrated in America. Originally known as Armistice Day, Veterans Day began in 1919, which was the first anniversary of the end of World War I. In 1926, Congress passed a resolution for the annual observance, and in 1938, it became a national holiday. Veterans Day is observed as a day to pay tribute to U.S. Veterans, past and present. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were roughly 18 million living U.S. Veterans in 2018. The majority of those were 65 years of age or older, and served in the Vietnam or Gulf War. We are running out of time to thank many of our older veterans. The last living World War I Veteran, 110-year-old Frank Buckles, passed away in 2011. Only 389,292 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are alive in 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. If you know a World War II Veteran, I encourage you to visit with them and listen to their stories while you still have the chance. It is up to us to keep their legacy and history alive.

On behalf of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, I would like to thank all the servicemen and women, who served their country with dignity. No matter what branch, division or capacity you served, your service is appreciated, and we understand the sacrifices you made for our country. As the son of a veteran and as a veteran myself, I know what it is like to miss holidays and other life milestones while stationed in faraway lands. If you are currently serving, know that we appreciate your sacrifice. Our freedom isn't guaranteed, and it is protected by our Armed Services. Yakoke from all of us here at the Choctaw Nation.

If you are a Choctaw Veteran and are looking for help with services, please contact our Veterans Advocacy Program. This program assists with Veterans Affairs claims, applications and referrals. These advocates are accredited through the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs, giving them quick access to much-needed information from the VA. More information on this program can be found at choctawnation.com or by calling 800-522-6170 ext. 2160.

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Choctaw Nation Takes Steps to Help Domestic Violence Survivors  - November 2019

October was National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma takes domestic violence awareness and prevention very seriously, and we are taking steps each day to help our tribal members living with domestic violence.

Domestic violence is an issue that affects all demographics in communities everywhere. According to a study conducted by the Center of Disease Control, on average, 24 people are victims of intimate partner violence per minute in the U.S. About 1 in 5 women and 1 in 12 men reportedly experienced sexual violence by an intimate partner, while about 10% of women and 2% of men reported being stalked by an intimate partner.

As disheartening as this information is, statistics in the Native American community are even more alarming.

According to the National Congress of American Indian's Policy Research Center, more than 4 in 5 Native American and Alaskan Native women have experienced violence in their lifetime. Native women are 1.7 times more likely than white women to have experienced violence in the past year. Native women also face murder rates that are 10 times the national average in some areas of the U.S.

These statistics have driven the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma to seek change. We offer numerous programs and services to help our tribal members remove themselves from domestic violence situations.

Project SERV is a new transitional housing program. It services 8 to 12 individuals for 6 to 24 months. To be eligible for this program, recipients must have experienced intimate partner violence and become homeless as a result of victimization, be a member of a federally recognized tribe or have dependents in the household who are and reside in the 10 ½ counties. This service provides assistance with utilities, childcare, safety planning, case management, personal goal setting, financial literacy, legal assistance and gas vouchers.

Our Family Violence Prevention program is designed to address the specific needs of victims who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking by an intimate partner. Services include safety planning, crisis intervention, emergency/ safe shelter locations, advocacy, prevention education, needs-based referrals, case planning, court advocacy, protective order assistance, education and outreach. To be eligible, individuals must be a current or recent survivor of intimate partner abuse and reside within the 10 ½ counties. These services are available to all survivors, not just Native Americans.

Project EMPOWER is also a great program. Three advocates work with survivors across the 10 ½ counties through the transitional housing program. The program provides rental and utility assistance, gas vouchers, home visits, healing circles, court advocacy, safety planning and goal setting. To be eligible for this program, victims of intimate partner violence must be at least 18, hold a CDIB from a federally recognized tribe, have fled or be fleeing domestic abuse or stalking, be willing to participate in weekly home visits and follow-ups, and the household must only include the victim and dependents.

Finally, the Choctaw Nation Victim Assistance provides culturally sensitive, holistic, victim-centered programming with a focus on providing specialized services for underserved child victims. In addition, the program can provide the same services to other crime victims. Program services include case management, accompaniment to medical exams, transportation, counseling, emergency food, clothing and shelter.

I want anyone reading this to know that no matter what situation you are living in now, you are important enough to be treated with kindness, love and respect. If you are in a domestic abuse situation and do not know how to seek help, contact a Family Violence Prevention Social Worker today at 800-522-6170. If you are living outside the 10 ½ counties and need help, you may also contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233. Deaf, hard of hearing or speech-impaired individuals may use their TTY line at 800-787-3224. The Native specific hotline, StrongHearts, also offers culturally appropriate support and advocacy from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. This hotline can be reached at 844-762-8483.

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History of the Choctaw Nation Labor Day Festival - October 2019

Another successful Labor Day Festival is in the books. If you didn't make it to the festival, this issue of the Biskinik will show you some of the highlights of the weekend. It was hot, but so much fun to get to fellowship with so many of you. Chief and I got to see many old friends and meet new ones.

It is always great to see so many of our brothers and sisters from Mississippi who drove nine hours for our festival. They did well on the stickball field and seemed to enjoy themselves. I look forward to seeing them again next year.

Labor Day at Tvshka Homma always makes me reflect on what it means to all of us. I thought I would share some interesting points about Labor Day.

After Oklahoma's statehood in 1907, there was a rush of immigration into the new state. The population changed quickly, and for many, it seemed almost overnight. Many at that time believed the tribes, and the tribal governments would fade away. But we all know, that didn't happen.

What did happen was the Council House, which was built in 1884, became vacant. By the late 1920s, there were plans to sell the building. For two years, many expected it to be torn down and reassembled in Durant, as a memorial to the Five Civilized Tribes. The Great Depression forced the cancellation of those plans.

In 1933, a movement began to preserve the building in its existing location and establish it as a memorial.

By the end of 1937, this was becoming a reality. The property had been deeded back to the tribe by the state, and a crew of 40 men repaired the building and restored it to its former glory. The men were Native Americans themselves, serving in the Indian Division of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

The restoration work was completed in May and the building was dedicated in a grand celebration organized by Chief William A. Durant on June 3-4, 1938. Several hundred Choctaws and Chickasaws attended, and this marked the first of a continuing series of large, yearly celebrations of Choctaw faith, family and culture.

World War II forced a temporary end to the yearly gatherings, which didn't begin again until 1948. Led by Chief Harry J.W. Belvin, the gathering was moved from June to Labor Day. Belvin hoped it would become an annual custom, like the earlier meetings were. He was successful, and you can see the result. We owe these great Choctaw chiefs a debt of gratitude.

What I find interesting is that the Antlers American, in reporting on these efforts, suggested we were a "vanishing race" and felt the Council House would be, "the last remaining evidence of a race of people who lived and reigned over this part of the country." Not only have we not vanished, but because of our ancestors' answered prayers and determination, we are a strong, thriving tribe that is a beacon to others around the world.

I look forward to seeing you again next year at Labor Day. We are a blessed Nation and have so much to celebrate!

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Agriculture is Important - September 2019

Fall is finally approaching, with the first official day of the season on Sept. 23. I hope that it brings with it cooler temperatures. So far, 2019 has been a roller coaster of wild weather. Deadly tornadoes, widespread flooding and record-breaking heat have especially taken their toll on agricultural producers across the country. Many lost entire crops in the floods, ripping away their source of income. I firmly believe that agricultural producers are the lifeblood of our country. The products they produce are what allows us to feed our people.

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma understands the importance of agricultural production, and the hardships producers face. This is where our Land Management department comes into play. They are here to protect, enhance, and improve natural resources for the Choctaw Nation. They provide technical assistance to agricultural producers, farmers, and ranchers, by hosting outreach meetings. These meetings cover topics like soil health and vegetable production. There are two demonstration sites located in Hugo and Lehigh, where they can demonstrate different agricultural practices so the agriculture producer can see results first-hand of how things work. Land Management also offers a Farmers Market Promotion Program. This United States Department of Agriculture funded grant, assists in the marketing and promotion of locally grown foods. In November, the department will implement a TSCAN unit weather station at Jones Academy. This unit will serve as a resource for Jones students for their science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs. It will be an excellent tool for tribal farmers and ranchers, as well. The Land Management team will be able to compile information regarding rainfall amounts, soil moisture and soil temperatures. Having a better understanding of these elements is key to proper management for producers.

Land Management works closely with local, state and federal USDA programs to better serve our tribal members and conserve, protect and improve our tribal lands.

The program also hosts the annual Choctaw Nation Ag Expo at the Event Center in Durant. This year, 650 people attended the event. This was an impressive increase in attendance from last year's 500 patrons. The 2019 event was bigger and better than ever, with added activities and vendors. The Ag Expo is a unique event, bringing together all different walks of life with one common goal. That goal is to create a better tomorrow for our land, families and food supply. The event allows producers to compare products and techniques while gaining information on available programs. It is an opportunity for our community to learn about where our food comes from. Events like this help promote awareness of natural resources and the agricultural industry. They also allow producers the opportunity to grow their network. They can meet other producers to share ideas and collaborate to solve common issues.

Our Land Management team works diligently to help our agricultural producers succeed. If you would like to learn more about the program, please call (580) 924-8280 ext. 4276 for more information.

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Summer Camps Render Lifelong Skills, Memories - August 2019

August means back to school for many students. I hope that you all have a great school year and that you learn as much as possible. Education is so important, and I encourage you all to try your hardest and push yourselves to be the best student you can be.

Though another summer has passed us by, we get to take with us the memories we made. Maybe you went on vacation with your family, played sports or went to church camp. This summer, roughly 2,000 Choctaw students made lifelong memories at our Youth Events and Activities Summer Camps.

The weather put a damper on a few of the camps, with heavy rain, lightning, and even tornadic storms causing early closings and even one cancellation. However, the Youth Events and Activities team worked with Choctaw Nation Emergency Management to make the best decisions for the safety of the campers.

Despite the weather, this year was a huge success. There were a total of 19 camps, ranging in a variety of topics and sports. Each camp offered a unique experience to campers, offering the opportunity to learn new skills from qualified instructors. Camps included cultural, stickball, golf, baseball, softball, basketball, conservation and a new addition for 2019.

Cheer camp was added for the first time this year and was a hit. More than 100 campers attended the two-day camp. Coaches from all over the area were brought in to assist with the camp. Students were able to work on their skills and receive mentorship from the coaches.

My children have had wonderful experiences attending the youth camps, learning something new, becoming more confident in a sport or cultural activity that they are passionate about.

It is so essential for our young people to have opportunities like this. Instead of sitting at home, they get to go outdoors, be active and socialize. Experiences like this are vital in developing positive and productive lives. Camps are not only an opportunity to learn, but a safe and fun environment to meet new friends, build life skills and just have fun.

I look forward to seeing how this program grows in the future. The goal of the Youth Events and Activities team is to continue to improve upon the success of the program each year. They hope to grow with new activities and recruit more campers. To find out more about these summer camps, please visit http://www.choctawnation. com/youth-events-and-activities.

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Strong, Loving Fathers Integral Part of Human Experience  - July 2019

Choctaw fathers are traditionally described as strong protectors. Many generations ago, they provided for their families by hunting, making tools and weapons to defend their communities. They were warriors, protecting their communities. They were also teachers, tasked with passing on valuable lessons to younger generations.

We owe a great deal to the Chahta men who came before us. Continuing their legacy and the Chahta values they passed by becoming strong, loving, and providing fathers ourselves is a great way to honor them.

I enjoyed getting to spend time with my father this Father's Day. It is such a blessing to have the opportunity to make memories with my father. Over the years, I have learned so many valuable lessons from him and credit him for the man that I am today. In true Chahta fashion, I am passing those same lessons on to my children hoping to continue the legacy of our ancestors.

The older we get, the more aware each of us becomes of how fast time passes by. I encourage all of you to slow down and soak in the moments you have with your loved ones. Our time together here on earth is precious, and the investment of time with loved ones is invaluable.

For some, Father's Day isn't a time for celebration. It can be a time of grief if they have experienced the loss of their father. If this is your experience, I hope that you can find comfort and peace with the memories you have. Many times, during family gatherings, you will hear stories passed down about those fathers who have gone on before us. This is always a great way of continuing those fond memories.

I encourage the men in our community to strive to be the best fathers and role models our children need and deserve. No matter the decisions you have made in the past, or if you haven't had a good father figure in your life, you can be the one to break that cycle. It is up to you to decide to make the changes, and the Choctaw Nation is here to help you on that journey.

We provide multiple services that can assist our men. The Nation provides vocational training assistance and other educational programs to help our members complete their education. Our housing department assists tribal members with their efforts to meet their housing needs adequately. The Better Beginnings program helps parents and expecting parents in "at risk" situations, and provides them with the tools they need to become better parents. There are many other programs and services that are designed to help our tribal members live successful, healthy and productive lives.

I hope our families all enjoyed a wonderful Father's Day weekend. Together, we are continuing the Chahta spirit of our ancestors for our children and the generations to come. If you would like more information on programs offered by the Choctaw Nation, please visit www.choctawnation.com/tribal-services.

 

Time to Remember - June 2019

I hope all of you had a great Memorial Day weekend. Memorial Day is often a time many of us take to spend having fun with family and friends. However, this particular holiday is about much more than cookouts and time spent at the lake. I'd like to share with all of you some historical information regarding Memorial Day along with some of the ways the Choctaw Nation honors our Nation's warriors.

Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the U.S., created to remember and honor those who have died serving their country. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, in World War I, World War II, Korean War and Vietnam wars alone, 666,381 U.S. troops died while in service. Since those wars, many other service members have been killed fighting for our freedom.

The Choctaw Nation Color Guard posted the colors during the opening ceremony of The Wall That Heals in Durant May 9. This traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial came to Durant during a stop on its nationwide tour. There are more than 58,000 names on the wall of fallen soldiers from the Vietnam War; there are several names of Choctaw tribal members etched into that wall. We are forever grateful for their sacrifice.

We at the Choctaw Nation strive to honor all of our service members, past and present. The Veterans Advocacy program works diligently to ensure our Choctaw veterans receive the honor, respect and benefits they deserve. They assist with Veterans Affairs claims, applications and referrals. The team also sends care packages to those currently serving, among many other great things for veterans and current service members. Memorial Day weekend visitors to the Choctaw Nation Veteran's cemetery will notice flags at each headstone placed by our very own Veteran's Advocacy group. Our Choctaw Color Guard takes part in events such as ceremonies, parades and funerals of Choctaw veterans. This group of men and women represent the Nation so well, and we thank them for their service. If you see any of the great men and women from the Veteran's Advocacy or Color Guard at an event, please let them know how much you appreciate everything they do.

Next Memorial Day, I encourage you to take a little time to remember the true meaning of the holiday. Remember those who sacrificed their lives, protecting your freedoms, and share with someone what Memorial Day means to you.

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Choctaw Nation Strives to Raise Awareness for Mental Health  - May 2019

May is national mental health awareness month. Mental health awareness is an issue that I am very passionate about. I currently serve on a national board for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and am an advocate for mental health. Mental illness does not discriminate. It is something that affects communities and families of all races. Mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in behavior, emotions and thinking. Mental illness can take many forms and it's not always clear to understand.

However, we shouldn't be afraid or ashamed to talk about our mental health. To truly help each other, we need to shake the stigma around mental health. The first step in doing that, is talking about it.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness, nearly 1 in 25 adults live with serious mental illness and half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14 in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that depression affects 20 to 25% of Americans ages 18 and up. Those are staggering statistics, and Native Americans are at higher risk than other races. According to SAMHSA, 1.2% of the U.S. population identified as Native American or Alaskan Native in the 2014 census. Of those, 21% had a diagnosable mental illness in the past year.

Sadly, many individuals do not seek treatment or help. According to NAMI, nearly 60% of adults with mental illness didn't receive mental health services in the previous year, and nearly 50% of young people ages 18 through 25 didn't receive help.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death in ages 15 through 24 and the fourth in adults ages 18-65 in the U.S. Shockingly, according to a recent study by JAMA Pediatrics, the number of children and teens visiting the emergency for suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts nearly doubled between 2007 and 2015. The same study found estimated annual emergency room visits for suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts increased from 580,000 to 1.12 million in that time period, 43% of which were reportedly for ages 5 to 11.

The statistics are shocking, but here at the Choctaw Nation, we want to help reduce those numbers. We are committed to helping our tribal members who are struggling with these issues. Our Zero Suicide Team works to raise awareness, provide prevention and intervention for individuals at risk. Our Behavioral Health department provides a variety of services for tribal members ranging from counseling, case management, psychiatric evaluations, management crisis intervention and suicide prevention.

These services are available at the Choctaw Nation Health Care Center and all Choctaw Nation clinics by appointment. If you feel like these services could benefit you please reach out by calling 918-567-3065.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, I urge you to call the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255.

 

LEAP Program Set to Build 140 New Homes for Choctaw Families in 2019 -April 2019

I hope everyone is enjoying this spring weather. Springtime is always a wonderful and busy time here in the Choctaw Nation. We recently held a ribbon cutting for the new Choctaw Country Market in Boswell.

We are delighted we can help Boswell and the surrounding communities have access to fresh food and necessities. It is one of our goals to help provide our tribal members with opportunities to live healthy, successful, productive lives. I feel we are helping them accomplish a step toward that goal by providing access to fresh meat, fruit and vegetables.

With our mission of offering opportunities for growth and prosperity, we have many facilities and programs that aim to assist in fulfilling that mission. One program we are so proud to offer is the LEAP program.

The LEAP program is a new homeownership program opportunity for Choctaw tribal members who meet the program income guidelines. The goal is to assist families with credit issues to become mortgage-ready and lender-qualified over time with credit counseling services. The LEAP program works closely with the service coordinator team to help each family become budget- and credit-ready to finance a home in 15 years.

LEAP homes are energy-efficient three- and four-bedroom brick homes, with an enclosed two-car garage and vinyl plank flooring. In the 2018 fiscal year, the program helped place 110 families in LEAP homes. For the 2019 fiscal year, the LEAP program's plan includes 140 LEAP homes. Currently, there are 110 families on the list to move into these new homes. The plan includes 10 homes in Calera, which are a part of the first phase of homes in the Durant area.

I can't help but feel proud during every LEAP home ribbon cutting. It is an awesome feeling to be able to offer programs like this to our tribal members. We have come so far as a nation. I know our ancestors are looking down at us with pride. They labored tirelessly to lead the way for us to do what we do today. Our ancestors conceived and designed the chukka to transform raw materials into comfortable, strong buildings to meet their basic needs of shelter, protection and storage. These structures served not only as shelter but a place to spend time together as a family.

Today, having a comfortable and safe home to raise a family is just as essential as it was in the past. I am grateful our housing department and the LEAP program are working so hard to help provide families with that opportunity. Living a healthy, successful, productive life starts within the home. Through these programs, our tribal members are given the foundation for a better future.

Tribal members are encouraged to apply and our applications, along with a full list of guidelines, are available online and at all Choctaw Community Centers. For more information visit https://www.choctawnation.com/leapprogram.

 

Choctaw Nation Continues to Foster Strong International Relationships - March 2019
 
Many groups designate specific months of the  year to commemorate ideas, themes or programs.  March has been named to remember at least 14. The  best known of those is probably Irish-American Heritage  Month. I find myself thinking about that one for several reasons in particular. 
In 2017, the "Kindred Spirits" statue was unveiled in  County Cork, Ireland. "Kindred Spirits" commemorates  the 1847 donation of financial aid by the Choctaw  people to the destitute Irish, who were suffering from  the Potato Famine. The Choctaws donated $170, which  would be approximately $4,700 in 2019 dollars. $170 was  a lot of money for our ancestors to share so soon after  experiencing suffering of their own. Chief Batton and I  had the honor and privilege of attending its dedication  in 2017. In 2018, Ireland's prime minister visited the  Choctaw Nation's headquarters. It was a special day. 
The Choctaw people are strong and gracious, and  I'm pleased to tell you we've been able to show others  a similar kindness. Feb. 20 marked the 76th year since  fatal airplane crashes north of Moyers took the lives  of four fliers in training from Britain's Royal Air Force. Three planes went down in bad  weather on that day in 1943, crashing into separate mountains, and another managed to  put down safely on the floor of Impson Valley, near Antlers. 
In 1999 and 2000, a group of school students from Rattan Elementary School investigated  the crashes, made contact with surviving family members of all four deceased  pilots, and also with the two pilots who survived their emergency landing in the valley.  The students, many of whom are Choctaw, erected a beautiful marker known as the AT6  Monument which lists the names of the deceased pilots and bears the Royal Air Force  seal. It stands on Big Mountain at one of the two crash sites, adjacent to a small boulder  which is known as the "Natural Tombstone." The stone was turned upright by the force  of the crashing plane.
The AT6 Monument was dedicated in February 2000, before a very large crowd, including  all the survivors, who came over from England and New Zealand for the occasion.
Smaller commemorations have been held each February since that year, each of them featuring the Choctaw Nation's Color Guard. Last year, on the 75th anniversary, Chief Batton and I hosted the commemoration and welcomed Britain's Consul General to the  United States as well as a group of Royal Air Force offcers and their families.
This February the Royal Air Force offcers returned, again with their families, to join local residents in their yearly commemoration at the monument. RAF Squadron Leader  Maj. Craig O'Donnell thanked the Choctaw Nation for its generosity and thoughtfulness.  I'm pleased to tell you he singled out our Color Guard, noting that they have been present  every year since 2000, faithfully helping honor Britain's fallen service members. It meant  something to him personally, as well as professionally. Maj. O'Donnell pointed out that  our Color Guard are always "impeccably turned out" and are excellent at what they do.
Our Color Guard's faithful attention to another country's fallen made a world of difference  to our British friends. They make me proud to be Choctaw. Our people have consistently  played a larger role in world affairs than you'd think possible, given our relatively  small size. Events at the "Kindred Spirits" sculpture in Ireland, and on Big Mountain  north of Moyers, remind me of why.

Tribal Members Encouraged to Get Healthy During National Heart Month -  February 2019

I hope everyone has had a fantastic start to  2019. The new year usually brings with it New  Year's resolutions. A good resolution is to make  healthy lifestyle changes. February is American  Heart Month. Heart disease does not discriminate.  According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading  cause of death in both men and women in the U.S.  The CDC also states that about 610,000 people die  of heart disease each year.

Though heart disease can be hereditary, high  blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking are  key risk factors that can affect anyone. Diabetes,  weight, poor diet, physical inactivity and excessive  alcohol use can all attribute to heart disease  as well. There are many programs and services  offered through the Choctaw Nation that can help  you reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

First, you should always seek the help of a doctor  if you think you might be at risk of having or  developing heart disease. We have many knowledgeable  physicians and health professionals at  our clinics and health facilities located throughout the 10 ½ counties. Our health  providers can start you on your journey to living a healthy and productive life.

Our tribal members may also seek help on their journey to health at one of  our Wellness Centers. Choctaw Nation Wellness Centers are currently located in  Atoka, Antlers, Broken Bow, Coalgate, Crowder, Durant, Hugo, Idabel, McAlester,  Poteau, Stigler and Wilburton. Tribal members and employees have the opportunity  to work out with top-of-the-line fitness equipment and join a fitness class that  works with their lifestyles. Our Wellness Center staff is knowledgeable and can  help you choose a fitness plan that works for you.

Everyone can visit heart.org for tips and information on how to prevent heart  disease and live a healthier life. If you think you might be experiencing symptoms  of heart disease, please seek medical attention. Your health and well-being are important.  Whether it is a part of your New Year's resolution or medically necessary,  getting healthy and active is an excellent goal to set. You can accomplish anything  you set your mind to.

Assit Chief

 

Choctaw Nation Foster Care Program in Urgent Need of Foster Parents - January 2018

I would like to wish you a happy New Year. It is amazing that another year has come and gone. However, 2018 was a great year here at the Choctaw Nation.

I cannot wait to see what 2019 has in store for our nation.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas. Christmas is a season of giving and spending time with family.

Even though the holidays are a time of celebration, many young Choctaws are unable to spend the holidays with their family.

There are currently 575 Choctaw children in custody of the state of Oklahoma.

This is where the Children and Family Service's Foster Care and Adoption Program steps in, to ensure our Choctaw children in the foster care system are placed in homes that provide faith, family and culture.

The Indian Child Welfare Act is a federal law established in 1978 to keep native children in native homes.

There is an urgent need for more Choctaw placement homes. The Choctaw Children and Family Service's Foster Care and Adoption Program has 53 foster homes statewide, 32 of which are in the 10½ counties.

I urge you to consider becoming a foster parent. We need more tribal members to open their hearts and homes to these children.

There are many types of placements needed. These placements are emergency, short-term, respite and traditional foster homes.

There are also kinship homes that place foster children with adults who have a familial relationship to the child.

Children and Family Services workers strive to help our foster families succeed.

The program assists the family to obtain services needed and provide cultural enrichment programs.

Tribal adoptive and foster care homes must complete at least 12 hours of yearly continuing education in areas such as culture, parenting, foster care and adoption.

Being a foster parent is about changing a child's life and giving them a home and love they desperately need.

No matter how long a child is in your care, you have the opportunity to change their lives.

Our Children and Family Service's Foster Care and Adoption Program is always seeking ways to recruit more homes.

If you or someone you know feels a calling to be a tribal foster parent, contact Kat Decaire at (800) 522-6170, ext. 2643. Visit ChoctawNation.com/tribal-services/ member-services/foster-care-adoption for more information on becoming a tribal foster parent, no matter what your location is.

There is a Choctaw child out there who needs you.

 

 
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