Visit Strengthens Choctaw and Irish Bond
I had the privilege to visit with a group from Ireland last
Pat Breen, the Minister for Small Business and Employment;
Adrian Farrell, Consulate General/Austin, and Minister Breen's
assistant, Sinead Ryan, wanted to stop at the Choctaw Headquarters
on their way to Oklahoma City.
It was a very busy week for them - the week of their national
holiday, St. Patrick's Day. We had interesting discussions about
our history, culture, businesses, and where we are headed in the
I was surprised at the similar hardships and successes, and how
we share similar goals for the future of our people. They also have
a traditional sport-hurling-that uses a stick and small ball and we
compared the game with the Choctaw traditional sport,
Minister Breen expressed his gratitude for the donation made by
a group of Choctaw people in Indian Territory in 1847.
He said he was happy to meet us on a day so close to the 170th
anniversary of the $170 gift. It doesn't seem to be much, but it
created a bond that strengthens through time. Minister Breen said
the generosity saved a lot of lives.
The Choctaws were new to Indian Territory. They had just arrived
about 15 years before and when news of the Great Famine reached
them, they remembered the suffering and anguish of the Trail of
They recognized a country in need, a country whose people were
starving, whose people had to leave their homeland to travel to
other countries to survive.
I'm sure it was hard to gather $170 in those days, and to give
it away is an example of the wonderful giving nature of the Choctaw
The donation is known to almost everyone in Ireland. The story
from this devastating time in their history has been passed down
through generations. I have heard from several people from
One used to love to sit on his grandmother's lap as she told the
story. In February, there was a young man from Ireland visiting the
states and the Choctaw Nation was on his list of places to
It's a great honor to us that a sculpture, Kindred Spirits, has
been erected in Middleton, County Cork, Ireland to commemorate the
We are two Nations, separated by thousands of miles, yet the
strong, resilient spirit of the Irish mirrors the spirit of the
We have the same goal to honor the past and keep our cultures
Programs Encourage Choctaw Tribal Members to Follow
Their Dreams 2/2017
One of the largest events the Choctaw Nation holds is the annual
Career Expo. The huge job fair, hosted by Choctaw Nation Career
Development, will be held Feb. 22 at the Southeast Expo Center in
This is the 10th expo hosted by Choctaw Nation Career
Development. It's a win/win situation-hundreds of students and job
seekers planning their future can meet over 100 employers from
across Oklahoma and surrounding states, as well as representatives
from training facilities and service agencies.
It's heartening to see local businesses as well as other tribes,
health facilities, welding schools, truck driving schools, and more
reaching out to let others know there are opportunities waiting for
This year's guest speaker is Cherokee citizen Gary "Litefoot"
Davis. Litefoot is recognized as a musician and has his own
recording label, Red Vinyl Records. He is an actor, known for his
role in "Indian in the Cupboard," public speaker, author and
entrepreneur. He has also created a line of clothing-Native Style,
and operates the Davis Strategy Group.
Litefoot is an inspiration to audiences throughout the country.
His message reflects strong traditional values and is one of the
best motivational speakers. Davis was selected as the speaker for
the Career Expo because he understands the challenges many face as
they make career choices.
The 2017 Achieve Your Dreams scholarship will be presented
during the expo. The $1,000 scholarship is awarded to a high school
senior to help the student reach his or her career goals.
Many Choctaw Nation programs are geared toward encouraging and
assisting tribal members achieve their dreams.
The instruction begins with Choctaw Nation Early Childhood and
continues through programs aiming to provide more opportunities
through elementary, high school, college, or trade schools. In many
cases, students are now teachers. I've watched two generations of
the same family receive GEDs together during a Choctaw Nation Adult
Success becomes a reality for participants in programs such as
the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), High School
Student Services, Educational Talent Search, Youth Empowerment and
Advisory Board, Higher Education, Adult Education, Vocational
Development, Chahta Foundation, Career Development, Choctaw Asset
Building, and College and Career Resources. WIOA representatives
are visiting schools now to share information about their program
that helps prepare youth for entering the workforce. They have
visited approximately 37 schools and have received around 600
applications in just the last three weeks.
The Chahta Foundation also offers a variety of scholarships from
undergraduate to doctorate. Scholarship applications are currently
being accepted. ChahtaFoundation.com has more information on what
they offer to help broaden horizons.
The Choctaw Nation Youth Advisory Board also offers annual
scholarships for high school seniors and they are currently
accepting applications. Please see the ad on page 12. First, second
and third place awards are given.
Quoting Litefoot, "Indian Country cannot have enough new up and
coming business people." The hope we have for children, our
grandchildren and ourselves is to have the knowledge and skills to
reach and open those doors of opportunity, to succeed and provide a
bright future for our families.
Small Changes Can Have a Big Impact on Health
The New Year has become a time to focus on habits to improve our
health. Chief Gary Batton and I have a wish for everyone to be in
good health. As a tribe, we have strived to heighten awareness of
the need for a healthier lifestyle.
Personally, I'm thankful I made the decision last year to change
my lifestyle. With the help of Chief Batton's Miko Challenge for
employees, I started watching what I ate and began moving more.
Small changes as simple as choosing to walk instead of hopping
on the four wheeler, or choosing to skip dessert can have big
impacts. I stayed committed through the whole year and feel much
I have more needed energy to help me keep up with my youngest,
Sam, and grandson Dawson. We all have our reasons to improve our
health we just have to take that fi rst step. Many of the senior
groups at the Choctaw Community Centers are proactive. They have
incorporated fun activities such as line dancing or chair
volleyball as their workout at the Choctaw Wellness Centers.
Families or friends can do these things anywhere. There are 5k
runs open to all ages so we can encourage our youth to get
involved, walking or running together as a family. Kids need at
least one hour of physical activity every day.
Health is always a top priority for the Nation. New health care
services and technology will be available at the new Choctaw
Regional Medical Clinic in Durant. Currently, the clinic in Durant
provides only family medicine.
With the opening of the new clinic in February, services will
also include pediatrics, pediatric dental, dental, audiology,
internal medicine, physical therapy, speech therapy, respiratory
therapy, radiology, psychiatry, podiatry, pulmonology, general
surgery, ENT (ear, nose, throat), cardiology, orthopedics and an
outpatient surgery center.
The clinic will have a wide bore MRI that is better for patients
with claustrophobia. There will also be mammography tomosynthesis,
or 3D technology, providing screening and diagnostic breast imaging
to improve the early detection of breast cancer. A vacuum tube
system will transport medications and specimens throughout the
facility. It is truly a state-of-the art facility for regional
It's exciting to watch the advances being made. Another one
designed for tribal members is the new mobile app from the Choctaw
Nation Health Services-myCNHSA. It provides access to your medical
information and helps you keep up with appointments, lab work,
demographics and Choctaw Referred Care status. It makes it easier
to refi ll a prescription or schedule an appointment. And, it's
available any time of the day or night for your convenience.
The services, technology and education are available. Good
health depends on the person having the willingness to the take the
necessary steps to maintain or improve their health. I'm thankful I
made that choice and want to encourage you to plan for a future,
one that will keep you with your friends and family, welcoming many
new years to come
Fall is a Time to Make Memories and Be Thankful for
The fall season brings so much to enjoy and I hope you have the
opportunity to reflect and be thankful for the blessings around
It's a time to honor others with special events such as the
annual Choctaw Nation Outstanding Elder Banquet. The seniors from
the community centers nominate their choices of top female and top
male. It's a hard decision for the committee to choose the top two
from all of the deserving nominees. There are so many men and women
who have devoted their lives to others, who helped out at the
center, or volunteered for events. This year's top Outstanding
Elders are Eugene Branam and Maricie Smith. They are both familiar
faces in the Choctaw Nation. Eugene was one of the original Choctaw
Nation Color Guard members when the group was formed in 1998.
Maricie is active in her district. All of the elders who were
nominated are remarkable examples of Choctaw faith, family and
The CHR's Fall Fest in October was another fun activity. The
seniors were bussed into McAlester from every district and we all
had a great time. The seniors lined up around the room to check out
the information provided by Choctaw Nation programs. They also
enjoyed the good meal and entertainment. It was also National See
You at the Pole Day. Our staff came together in unity to pray for
each other, our communities, our great Choctaw Nation, and the
United States. I appreciate the faith displayed at this event and
at all of our tribal facilities that day, and every day.
The Veterans Day ceremony is approaching. It is another of my
favorite events. The veterans cannot receive enough of our
gratitude for their selfless service to God and country. They and
their families have sacrificed for our freedom.
Our Thanksgiving celebrations are in full swing. Making memories
with our family and friends is irreplaceable. One of our family
traditions on Thanksgiving is to take turns around the table
telling what we are thankful for. I am most thankful for are my
loved ones who are looking back at me.
I'd like to thank the staff for the time they spend every year
helping Choctaw families have a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal.
They spend weeks gathering the names of the eligible families and
ensuring they get vouchers for everything it takes to have a good
holiday meal. They also hand out elder angels and gather and
deliver the gifts to the elders.
The holidays are especially the time to reach out to others
whether they are alone, have recently lost a family member, or need
a meal and fellowship. We take food to friends and family who are
homebound and they enjoy our visit more than the good food.
We thank God for all He has provided for our great Choctaw
Nation. Have a blessed Thanksgiving.
October is Domestic Violence and Breast Cancer Awareness
This month can be viewed through an array of colors representing
many facets of our lives.
Fall is a time of change reflected in the beautiful foliage that
signals the end of warmer temperatures and the approach of winter.
I look forward to the Fall Fest held for Choctaw elders every year
by the Community Health Representatives. The elders are bussed to
McAlester for a day of educational information, fun entertainment
and lunch. They thoroughly enjoy their daytrip.
And, our family has a great time at the Outreach Services'
Harvest Carnival at Tvshka Homma where the haunted trail is a
favorite. The kids (and a few adults) wear their costumes and enjoy
the games. The carnival is scheduled for Oct. 21 this year.
October is the kickoff for many health and awareness campaigns.
Flu shots are available, so please fi nd time to visit a clinic for
yours or check with your fi eld offi ce to see when a health
representative will be at your center. Last year, through a
partnership with the Oklahoma State Department of Health, 23,987
doses of flu vaccines were administered. This made a marked
difference in school closures within the 10 1/2 counties of the
October is also recognized as the month to raise awareness of
the domestic violence problems in our country. Native women are
more victimized than any U.S. segment. Statistics show that 64
percent of American Indian women will be assaulted in their
lifetime. We encourage everyone to wear purple during the month of
October to show others how ending domestic violence is important to
you. The Choctaw Nation has programs available to address domestic
(family) violence. Please log on to ChoctawNation.com for more
Pink is a popular color year round. In October it stands out as
a reminder that it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In 2016, there
are more than 2.8 million women with a history of breast cancer in
the United States. This includes women currently being treated and
women who have finished treatment.
Choctaw Nation Health Services has several events planned
including Paint the Town Pink on Oct. 15 in Talihina. The
activities include a pancake breakfast, bike ride, trail ride, and
March on Main Street.
Caring for others is a characteristic of most people. Gathering
in fellowship or to educate about real life problems are ways we
can improve elder care, our family units, and the future for our
youth. Yakoke to all who devote their time to helping
Spring is the Time of Plans and Projects
Spring is a time of renewal. I see the signs everywhere and am
glad to see the family of bald eagles still flourishing near Sardis
Lake. Their nest rests high in a tree and it's exciting to watch
them sitting tall in their nest, guarding their home where they
will soon have a family to raise. The fields are full of Indian
Paintbrushes and other wildflowers, another sure sign of spring. It
is a beautiful time of year here in Oklahoma.
Chief Batton and I had the pleasure of attending a singing and
birthday celebration last month for tribal member Dan Adams at the
Thessalonian Baptist Church in Red Oak. We spent the evening
singing, eating good food, and sharing fellowship. One of the great
things about being part of the communities is having the
opportunity to attend such wonderful celebrations. Dan played the
piano and Tribal Council Chaplain Joe Coley emceed and led the
congregational singing. Like so many Choctaw churches, they have
exceptional singers and cooks. It was a blessed evening, one in
which we experienced the values of a loving group of God's
Chief and I sat down with Dan's sister, Laura Mackey, and
visited with her quite a while. It was good to see their brother,
Richard Adams, too. The Thessalonian Baptist Church is over 118
years old and Laura has spent years gathering documents and
fascinating information about the church. The oldest documentation
she has is dated 1898. They held their 100-year celebration in
1998. The stories she shared are very valuable to us as a tribe.
They hold singings on the second Saturday of every month and have
only missed one in the last 55 years because of an ice storm. The
dedication of the church family is evident.
It was a trip down memory lane for me. The kids were having a
great time after dinner, running around outside, and were really
excited at finding some baby rabbits and a tiny turtle. I watched
them playing and realized the things I did as a kid are still being
enjoyed by the new generation. I thank God for His blessings and
the simple things in life.
The Bounty of the Harvest 3/2016
Native people are known to be some of the first conservationists
and protectors of the resources we have. This is how we have
sustained our tribe over time. My dad has told me many stories
about his dad my grandfather. My grandfather used a portion of his
allotted land to provide enough food to sustain his family
My dad taught me the importance of a garden. He learned from his
father and passed on the importance to me. We always had a large
garden when I was growing up and when I married, my wife and I had
a large garden. Our older son and daughter experienced it and I am
planning to build a raised garden so that my younger son can also
learn the values that come from planting, nurturing and harvesting
food for the family.
As a child, it was exciting to see the tops of the plants break
the ground and watch them grow, bloom, and then produce. Digging
the potatoes was the most fun for me when I was young. The potatoes
were spread out in a cool, dry place in the barn and our walls were
lined with canned goods. We didn't know what it was to buy
vegetables at a store. I've encouraged my children to learn as much
as they can about growing and preserving fruits and vegetables,
enjoying the homegrown flavor, and even making their own jams and
As my grandmothers grew older and were unable to continue
gardening, it was a blessing for them and for me too, to be able to
take vegetables to them. Dad said my grandfather enjoyed giving
away excess from his garden to members of the community and this is
a practice I still see happening today and something else I want to
encourage Sam to do. I see people bringing in bags of fresh
vegetables to church or at work, which is a great example of the
way that Choctaws have always cared for one another.
Our youngest, Sam, is also interested in raising chickens. The
responsibilities of gardening and taking care of the chickens will
help him learn skills and values as well as helping him develop a
better understanding of science and nature. All children need a
chance to plan, plant, and watch how weather affects the plants,
whether it's in a garden or a few small plants on the porch. Their
problem-solving skills will be enhanced as they are faced with too
much rain, drought, or destructive insects. It can help them become
more caring individuals.
I rely a lot on my mom, dad and my ancestors before them; what
they have taught, and continue to teach me. Every day I have a
thought about something they have passed along that parallels the
tribe's vision of Faith, Family and Culture. I think we as tribal
members should make every effort to pass along the lessons from
those who came before us. I encourage you to cherish the elders
around you, for who better holds the knowledge needed to sustain
our lives and culture.
Step Up to Good Health 2/2016
The Choctaw Nation started off the new year with the Miko
Fitness Challenge, an 8-week program for tribal employees to learn
to sustain a healthy lifestyle. It's a motivator that promotes good
health. It also creates a positive atmosphere and new friendships
as the teams compete. I've enjoyed being a part of the challenge
and a team that is having fun with the contest and showing quite a
bit of competitiveness! I commend everyone who joined the fitness
program and is striving to make a change. Good luck to you all!
It is tough to get outside for physical activity in the winter
months to fulfill any commitment to exercise more. My son, Sam, and
I have been creative on the cold and rainy days. Activity can come
in many forms and I enjoy the time we spend thinking of different
ways to get moving. One of the things we like to do when stuck in
the house is grab a ball and play basketball with a laundry basket
for a goal. We play games of HORSE and have a great time.
The youth stickball season has started, giving the boys and
girls another opportunity to get active. It's changed from when I
was young and there was only the exhibition game for us to play
once a year during the Labor Day Festival. Now, there are seven
youth teams with practices held twice a week. The practices include
all aspects of Choctaw stickball. It's a learning opportunity for
the kids to gain more knowledge of Choctaw history and the culture
connected to the game.
The kids aren't the only ones having a good time. My family and
I share Sam's excitement and are looking forward to the games. My
dad gets a big kick out of listening to him talk about stickball.
We find time to practice at home, too, tossing the ball around, and
Sam really likes to try to score on me.
All of the teams are preparing to meet for tournaments at Tvshka
Homma with the first round on February 13. Families gather,
bringing their chairs or blankets to line up around the field and
it gives everyone a chance to get out of the house, walk around and
visit with friends and family.
The benefits of physical activity to lower the risk for type 2
diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease are well
documented. Any innovation we can find to stay active will help us
have a better chance for long and productive lives, a fulfillment
of the Choctaw Nation's vision
The Choctaw Tradition 1/2016
Faith, family and culture equal HOME to me.
I spend a lot of my time on the road, driving to the office as
the sun rises over the Potato Hills. It's a great
opportunity for reflection on what is important. My
faith, my family, and my Choctaw culture are my foundation. These
values are a reason we are a close family.
The month of December was fun in Choctaw Country with parties
for the elders and for the kids. The bond between our employees and
the Choctaw people reflects a sense of family as well-it's our
The Tvshka Homma Christmas in the Park light display is growing.
It is the only park display in the area and we look forward to it
every year. It is a beautiful display of cultural, traditional, and
Every Friday and Saturday was hot chocolate night with Choctaw
Nation employees handing out cups to visitors. It's good to see the
departments volunteering to serve others. That is another important
value we frequently see throughout the Nation. Some groups make it
an annual get-together for their department, roasting hot dogs and
marshmallows at the fire pit while handing out the hot chocolate.
It's fellowship that can't be replaced.
The people who live in the area are thankful for the display and
often bring lawn chairs to place around the fire pit, talking and
laughing for hours with their friends and neighbors, especially in
the warmer weather we have been having.
We had the opportunity to go out with some of our Outreach
employees to assist the department with angel deliveries to some of
the Choctaw elders. It's another example of the Nation's
stewardship. We look forward to the home visits and spending time
with our tribal members. I believe the biggest present for us all
is the heartfelt visits and the stories we get to hear.
The new year has begun. With it will be many more opportunities
to spend time with our families, reach out to others, and reflect
on how we can work together for everyone.
Traditions of Christmas 12/2015
The weather in the Choctaw Nation is finally feeling like
winter. We experienced record rainfall over the Thanksgiving
holiday but many have remarked that this gave their families more
time to be indoors and enjoy spending time together. Building that
first fire in the fireplace and playing games together without the
television on is a treat. Sadly, it is not something we get the
chance to do often but that kind of quality time is cherished. The
avid hunters, however, were not pleased that the weather did not
present a perfect opportunity for harvesting a trophy buck!
Although December is a very busy time with holiday events and of
course carrying on business as usual, I love this time of year. The
employees of the Choctaw Nation are remarkable individuals whose
calendars are full of countless events including dinners, parades,
and events for the kids with special appearances from Santa
himself. I truly appreciate their tireless efforts for the Choctaw
Remembering old traditions from my childhood and carrying them
forward with my own family is such a joy. There was always an
eventful journey involved when we went out to select the perfect
Christmas tree each year and then make the popcorn strands to
decorate it when we get home. Living in the country, my kids always
have several in mind on our property to choose from. It's fun to
look back at pictures of me cutting the tree, then my oldest son
and my daughter getting their turn. Watching them grow up through
those photos is priceless and it won't be long until our youngest
will have the honor of cutting the family Christmas tree, maybe
sooner than I think.
I love that I get to read the story of Christmas from the Bible
to my kids so that the real meaning of Christmas is always at the
forefront in our home. We are so very blessed; my wife and I try to
instill in our children that doing something for others is really
the essence of Christmas. Of course, there is nothing like the
excitement of Christmas Day, especially with our six year old
already anticipating what gifts are his under the tree. This
reminds us daily how much we should all appreciate life and the
blessings that we can be thankful for. This year our two oldest
children have married so we have two new grown children to enjoy
and we have our first grandson who we look forward to teaching all
the traditions we share in the Austin family.
The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma emphasizes Faith, Family and
Culture and it is truly a privilege to work in a place that mirrors
the priorities in my home. Chief and I spend a lot of time out in
the communities visiting with our members and to see old Choctaw
tradition being carried forward through the generations is so
encouraging. The Choctaw Nation is strong because our faith shows
us the way, our families hold us together, and our culture is the
thread that makes us Choctaw. I hope that all of our employees,
their families, and all of our tribal members have an opportunity
to share special traditions together. From my family to yours, may
you all have a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New
Autumn is a time for family and reflection
November has arrived. And if you are like me, it is hard to
believe this year is going by so quickly, and soon we will be in
Personally, I spend a lot of time in my vehicle commuting from
my home in Pushmataha County to the tribal offices in Durant. What
would seem a tedious routine to most, is actually a great
opportunity to prepare myself for each day. This time allows me to
see beautiful sunrises, make phone calls, or just spend time in
prayer before beginning a busy day.
Oklahoma is known for its beautiful landscapes and I often refl
ect on how it must have been for our ancestors when they were new
to what was then Indian Territory. They must have been thankful for
the abundant wildlife, water and timber which were needed resources
to provide for those ancestral families in southeastern
I am so proud that protection of our natural resources is still
a priority for the tribe. The successes of the Choctaw Nation today
would be unfathomable to those who had everything taken from them.
What a resilient people we are to start with very little and build
ourselves back to the third largest tribe. That resiliency has also
kept our rich culture and traditions alive and drives us forward to
a successful future for generations to come.
This month is also an opportunity to honor our Choctaw Veterans.
As a veteran myself, attending the annual Veterans Ceremony is
always a highlight of the year. Many people do not fully understand
that our American freedom was won because of the selfl ess duty of
these distinguished individuals.
If you want to receive a blessing, I challenge you to shake the
hand of a Choctaw Veteran and look into the face of a real hero. It
is an experience you will not soon forget.
Most people associate November with the beginning of the holiday
season and Thanksgiving is festively celebrated in each of our
communities with a meal and time of fellowship. Chief Batton and I
attend as many of the community dinners as possible and I can
attest that the meals are delicious.
The cooks in the centers take great pride in preparing
traditional Thanksgiving food but often some traditional Choctaw
dishes are served as well. There is no better treat than tanchi
labona and grape dumplings made the way Choctaws do it. We often
tease that "Choctaws know how to eat" but it is more because
Choctaws really know how to cook!
I hope that this month you have the opportunity to reflect and
be thankful for the blessings around you. Be thankful for the
beautiful colors of the fall foliage, the time spent with family
and friends at deer camp, a wonderful family, or simply being given
another day to live.
Being thankful is a choice-choose to be thankful. God bless you
Employees always ready to aid Choctaws
Fall has officially arrived and like any other time of the year,
there are many things going on in the Choctaw Nation. Thankfully,
we can enjoy an extended reprieve from our hot Oklahoma summers in
more pleasant weather for upcoming events.
I am very proud of the exceptional employees who work out in our
communities to ensure that the needs of Choctaw people are met.
This tribe is blessed with a broad spectrum of programs and
services in place which are designed to assist tribal members of
all ages. These employees know our members and are their best
advocates for a better future.
The purpose of our tribal programs continues to be to educate
and ensure happier, healthier lives for our tribal members. One of
the best ways to accomplish this is to begin before birth. The
Support for Expectant Parenting Teens (SEPT) program works with
young women and men who are preparing to be parents. Specialists
give the young mothers and fathers valuable tools to handle the
significant challenges of parenthood which increases their chances
of success moving forward.
Because of the personal relationships built by caring employees,
our employees are able to anticipate needs of tribal members
throughout their lives. Kids in hardship situations are identifi ed
and programs such as annual coat and shoe drives are there to make
a difference. Fun events such as the Harvest Carnival held at
Tvshka Homma off er an enjoyable environment for entire families to
spend quality time together.
The care of our elders is paramount and service employees spend
countless hours in homes assisting with things as simple as helping
to complete an application for services. In one such situation, a
tribal member expressed his gratefulness by saying, "thanks for
caring." This job is tough emotionally on workers, but an
affirmation as simple as this makes one know that they are making a
difference. A favorite program is the Elder Angel Christmas gift
drive because employees across the Choctaw Nation have the
opportunity to select an "angel" and bless them with Christmas
gifts. I am convinced that there are none more generous than the
employees of the Choctaw Nation.
Many times, the situations are not pleasant but workers strive
for positive outcomes. The circumstances that assistance arises
from could be from the loss of a job, a divorce or an extended
illness. Sadly, the reason could be life threatening and involve
domestic violence. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and
Victims Services will hold its 2nd Annual Domestic Violence
Awareness Walk on Oct. 23 at the walking trail located by the
Outreach Services complex in Hugo, Oklahoma. Also this month,
Choctaw Nation's Children and Family Services department held its
annual Remember my Name Memorial/Vigil on Oct. 2 at Tvshka
The employees of Choctaw Nation do a tremendous job daily that
exemplifies the values of our ancestors. A full list of services
can be found on www.choctawnation.com.
From the classroom to the workplace 8/2015
My first grandchild was born this month. As I look at him, I
think of all the future may hold and thank God for His blessings on
our family. I pray my grandson has every chance to grow, thrive,
and excel at whatever he wants to do.
I am so proud to be a member of the Choctaw Nation and know the
significance Chief Batton and the Tribal Council place on
developing sustainability for generations. They realize starting
early in life increases the possibilities.
The Partnership of Summer School Education (POSSE) is one of
Choctaw Nation's fastest-expanding programs. The summer school for
kindergarten through third-graders began in 2013 in Durant only. In
2014, it had expanded to schools in Bryan County and this year it
grew to 14 sites that included 23 school districts. POSSE's 2015
enrollment quadrupled to 1,827 students.
The students made significant progress in reading and math and
they thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon enrichment classes, STEM
(science, technology, engineering, and math) activities, and field
trips. The children participating in the program have received a
boost for the formative years ahead.
POSSE partnered with Oklahoma State University's College of
Education and Center for Sovereign Nations to bring seven OSU
elementary education majors to assist the summer school teachers
this year. "Educate and Collaborate" brought the student teachers
into our schools for a summer, and could also attract more teachers
to establish careers in the schools within the Choctaw Nation. It's
a win-win for teachers and students because it encourages the kids'
interest in learning.
The Choctaw Nation also created a new Internship Program in
2015. Fourteen Choctaw college students spent their summer working
in the Human Resources, Information Technology and Safety
departments. The interns represented students throughout the United
States including Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Florida, Missouri, and
Georgia. We expect the program to grow significantly next year.
Another example of helping develop our next generation of
leaders is the agreement between the Choctaw Nation, Choctaw
Defense, and OSU's Institute of Technology. Two OSU-IT students
signed an agreement to intern at the manufacturing plant and work
there for a year following their graduation.
The Choctaw Nation considers opportunities to develop a student
from the first classroom experience through his or her choice of
career. These positive paths can lead to successfully breaking
cycles of poverty. The Choctaw people will be better equipped with
skill-sets that lead to higher-quality jobs and improved
Our youth, our culture 7/2015
President Obama stopped in Durant on July 16. More than 970
people packed Durant High School to participate in this historical
visit. The majority of President Obama's speech focused on
investing in this country's youth and ensuring they have the tools
they need to succeed.
He said, "We're in this together. We're bound by a shared
commitment to leave a better world for our children. We're bound
together by a commitment to make sure that that next generation has
inherited all the blessings that we inherited from the previous
The Choctaw Nation places high priority on encouraging the
growth and development of its youth.
Choctaw Nation Head Start Centers have been named an "Excellent
2015 Certified OK Healthy Early Childhood Program," the first year
Oklahoma awarded in this category. Two new centers will open soon
in McAlester and Bethel.
We are seeing more Choctaw students graduate high school than
ever before throughout the Choctaw Nation due in part to the Making
A Difference Program. This program intervenes when there is a need
and informs Choctaw students of opportunities to prepare them to
achieve greatness after high school. Their one-of-a-kind database
allows Making A Difference counselors to track and work with
Choctaw students to ensure high school graduation.
Even the theme of this year's Labor Day Festival reflects our
faith in the new generation of Choctaws "Choctaw Youth: Connecting
the Culture." Choctaw tribal member Janie Semple Umsted is
sculpting a statue commemorating our youth that will be unveiled
Sept. 4 on the Tvshka Homma Capitol grounds. Janie is a descendant
of former Chief Peter Pitchlynn. The statue of two girls, the older
teaching the younger, will inspire the hope we have in our young
men and women carrying on the Choctaw culture.
"Connecting the Culture" is very appropriate. The festival is
more than 50 years old. The children scampering across the Capitol
grounds in the 1960s are now watching their grandchildren have fun
and learn about their heritage.
The Choctaw Village has a variety of activities on Saturday
during the festival that demonstrates traditions handed down for
centuries-pottery, basketry, beadwork, flintkanpping. I've watched
the dancers and remember when the young man leading was a small boy
following the steps of his older cousins. Stickball skills are
shared in the village, on the stickball field, and on the Capitol
The Choctaw games are a lot of fun. I've had some practice
throwing a rabbit stick and it isn't easy! The corn game is a
favorite. They are both being played in the village on Saturday and
The best part of the festival is the fact that families have
been sharing the experience for years.
Traditions unite tribe 6/2015
They'll know we are Choctaw. Those words have a lot of meaning.
The traits we exhibit are what define our Nation.
Faith, love, compassion, and wisdom are values to strive for
faith in God, to love and not hate as He teaches us, to have
compassion for others, and the wisdom to make the right choices.
Respect is also important, for each other and especially our
The Choctaw people are bound by rich traditions, a history of
servant leadership, of striving for the good and wellbeing of all
people. It is in our hearts to reach out and positively affect
change throughout the communities we live and serve. It's in our
hearts to respond to those in need, to be the first there and the
last to leave. It's in our hearts to share our traditions of art,
dance, and storytelling.
A post on the Choctaw Nation's Facebook page wished 82-yearold
Melissa Bohanon a happy birthday. She received best wishes from
around the world. It was amazing! Mrs. Bohanon has a large family
and is a much-loved matriarch with close to 140 grandchildren,
great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren. Almost 74,000
people saw her through social media. They'll know she is
Tommy Wesley of Rattan recently returned from the Oklahoma
Indian Missionary Conference. He is a pastor and retired Army
veteran. He lives by faith and encourages others to do the same.
It's always a blessing to talk with him.
Sara-Jane Smallwood comes from a long line of farmers and
ranchers who make their living from the land. She was raised near
Sardis Lake and the Choctaw Capitol in Tvshka Homma. Those
experiences taught her the importance of the Choctaw Nation's
culture, natural resources, and leadership. Sara-Jane received her
Master of Public Affairs in 2012. She decided this month to pursue
Kisha Makerney grew up in Fort Towson. She joined the Army
National Guard and made her first tour to Iraq at the age of 18.
She lost her left leg because of a motorcycle accident, an accident
not duty-related. Kisha pushed through physical therapy with a
determination hard to match. She returned to Iraq as the first
female amputee soldier in a combat zone. She has climbed many
mountains in her career, including Mount Kilimanjaro.
These are only a few of our people. There are thousands more.
There are Choctaw people throughout the United States and around
the world, miles and miles apart, united by strength and resilience
passed down through generations. The stories are different, yet all
a reflection of who we are-Choctaws.
Steady march of progress 5/2015
Signs of progress continue as construction projects get well
under way throughout the Choctaw Nation with more groundbreakings
planned in the months ahead.
The dirt is being moved, slabs poured, and walls going up on
facilities in Durant, Stigler, Wilburton, McAlester, Bethel, Broken
Bow, Poteau, Smithville, Antlers and Atoka.
A grand opening will be held in June to celebrate the completion
of the first phase of the expansion of the resort in Durant. The
first phase includes a beautiful convention center and
entertainment venue as well as a renovation of the Oasis pool area.
The second phase involves the new hotel tower, the spa tower, and
an indoor/ outdoor bar and grill. The completion of the final phase
is slated for September and includes a food court, bowling alley,
arcade, laser tag and cinema complex. These are great additions for
the area and will provide a prime family vacation destination or
just a fun day in Durant.
Construction is beginning in Antlers on a new Travel Plaza and
Casino Too, the first for Pushmataha County. The slab is poured and
framing begun on the Chili's® in Poteau and a groundbreaking May 8
marked the beginning of the new Chili's® in Atoka. The development
of Choctaw Nation businesses equals more jobs and a boost to the
economy in Choctaw Country.
I enjoy watching the sites being prepared for the community
center and preschool in Bethel, the Broken Bow distribution center,
an addition of a wellness center to the Smithville community center
and an 8-unit elderly living community in Smithville for Choctaw
The McAlester campus is really shaping up. The projected opening
for the community center, food distribution, head start and
wellness center is this fall.
Ribbon cuttings will also be held this summer for the new
10-unit independent living community in Stigler, the expansion of
the Rubin White Health Clinic in Poteau, and the Wilburton wellness
The health clinic expansion in Poteau will add 21,000 square
feet to the existing clinic. New services available will include
pediatrics, podiatry, behavioral health, mammography, optometry,
physical therapy and employee health. A wellness center providing
exercise facilities is part of the expansion and will include a
basketball court. Chief Batton, the Council and I consider good
health one of the number one initiatives. Being active and healthy
leads to more energy, control of diabetes, less prone to sickness,
and an overall better quality of living.
There is a lot happening in Choctaw Nation with much more to
come-in new facilities, experiences, and opportunities.
Success is a choice 4/2015
Success is a choice. It is a frame of mind and the tenacity to
always strive for what makes us truly happy and secure.
The career I chose to follow was very rewarding. People from all
walks of life touched my heart during my years at the Choctaw
Nation Recovery Center in Talihina.
The Recovery Center is a specialized treatment center for the
rehabilitation of chemically dependent individuals. The staff at
the center considers chemical dependence a treatable illness. Men
can walk in with a sense of hopelessness but have an opportunity to
successfully complete the program leaving with a new look on life.
They are encouraged and taught skills to help guide them in a
As in life everywhere, there are things to celebrate and things
that sadden us. We don't always have the effect we desire, but we
do have the chance to try again.
There are multiple opportunities for success and we hear of
people every day who have doggedly kept moving toward their goal.
We have talked about several programs through the Choctaw Nation to
help tribal members be self-sufficient. There are times in
everyone's life when they need a helping hand.
One of the newest programs is the Next Step Initiative to help
tribal members reach the next step of self-sustainment through
supplemental food vouchers. Offices are currently located in
Durant, McAlester, Poteau, and Antlers, and there will soon be one
in Broken Bow. The Next Step Initiative allows those families whose
income is just over the limit for participation in the food
distribution program to receive assistance. The program is
available to eligible tribal members for up to a year. It can be
used in increments of a month at a time if needed. A few months are
all it takes sometimes to find a better job or recover from an
I enjoy seeing the success stories sent to us from all over the
world. They include sports feats, promotions, graduations, and
military achievements. If you'd like to have your story shared in
the News Room on our website, please email to the email@example.com.
To view the current stories, log on to
Your story is an opportunity to encourage others to stay on the
path to success.
The Choctaws' history of giving 3/2015
The Choctaw people knew extreme hunger for months on the Trail
of Tears. Most of us have no comprehension of the pain and anguish
they felt, not only because of their own emptiness but because they
were helplessly watching loved ones die.
Serving others has always been a part of Choctaw traditional
life. Just a few years after arriving in Indian Territory, our
Choctaw ancestors learned of another group of people who were
starving. The memories of having no food were still very fresh on
A disease was ruining the potatoes in Ireland in the 1840s.
Almost a quarter of Ireland's citizens relied completely on the
potato for food, so they, too, were dying. History tells us a
million people starved during the Great Famine.
In 1847, while they were still trying to establish a new life in
a new land, Choctaw men and women donated $170 to people in need
over 4,000 miles away. They weren't helpless anymore. They wanted
to reach out a helping hand to the citizens of Ireland.
The amount may not seem like much but a dollar in 1847 is
equivalent to $28.57 today.
This story always amazes me. I am so proud of the example set
I see the same caring examples being set today-donations of
money, time, food, work and encouragement. Choctaw people give to
assist in other states such as Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.
They still reach across the world to aid victims through disaster
And they give closer to home. Volunteers help with clothes
closets, coat and shoe drives, Meals on Wheels, and food banks.
If a family loses everything in a fire, the word is passed
around and soon there are clothes, furniture, and household goods
available to set up another home. Communities rally in support to
help rebuild after storms or comfort a grieving family.
Servant leadership means to guide others to do good, to set the
example. I see examples every day of selfless giving and am
thankful to be part of such a caring Nation.
Choctaw businesses growing 2/2015
The Choctaw Nation did a soft launch of the
Preferred Supplier Program shortly after Labor Day in 2014.
The new program, designed to promote and develop established
and up-and-coming Choctaw-owned business, has been a big
success. It is actually soaring into this new year.
The concept is easy - as a Choctaw-owned business becomes
registered within the Preferred Supplier Program the entire
Choctaw Nation will be able to access its
business information. We sometimes refer to it as the "Angie's
List"of the Choctaw Nation. The success of Angie's List
assistance in finding reputable and quality businesses for
services and goods is famous around the world. The Preferred
Supplier Program is earning the same reputation in the Choctaw
There are currently more than 200 registered suppliers
in 39 business categories on the Choctaw Nation's
Preferred Supplier list. The Choctaw Nation and Chickasaw
Nation began working together this month to qualify Choctaw
owned suppliers and vendors within each of the tribes'
respective programs. The Preferred Supplier list can also be
used externally by tribal members with businesses when they
are searching for suppliers for sub-contracting or direct
Verified businesses are made available to all the departments in
the Choctaw Nation. If a particular product or service is
needed you simply visit the website
preferredsuppliers.choctawnation.com and select from the certified
vendors. We are registering new businesses daily, not only
here in Oklahoma but nationally as well. This program was
designed to help all of our Choctaw businesses far and
Internally it makes shopping for a supplier or vendor easy for
departments seeking a service or product. The interaction
between our departments and the program have been extremely
exciting and profitable for participating Choctaw members. If a
Choctaw-owned business has the capability to meet the scope of
work required, we want that business to have the
The program recognizes and supports entrepreneurial efforts and
we've been proud to share many of the success stories in the
Biskinik. Some of the Choctaw-owned businesses highlighted
include Studio 23 Photography, Common Roots and Dottie's Children's
Boutique, all owned by the Lloyd family in McAlester. The
Hamilton family from Coleman, Oklahoma, produces Achukma, a
pure pecan oil. Choctaw sisters Cathy Nutt of Missouri and Pat
Prigmore of Oklahoma are partners in Haughty Mae's Chocolate,
packaging and selling chocolate gravy mixes. There's a recipe
for chocolate pie, too!
Codi and Icy Conn own an insulation company in Caddo-Blow 'Em
Tight. The idea for the business grew from a need to insulate
buildings like barns, shops and houses, and they are now
working with Preferred Supplier Program.
And these are just a few of the successes. There are many
The growth of this program is amazing. It is a huge step in
identifying Choctaw entrepreneurs, supporting their efforts
and increasing economic opportunities.
United in a common goal 1/2015
The Choctaw Nation's Tribal Council is comprised of 12 members
who maintain an active interest in every aspect concerning the
tribe and its citizens. The Chief, Council and I are united in our
goal to provide the best opportunities for Choctaws.
The Council's regular sessions at Tvshka Homma are a good place
to learn about current issues and I appreciate everyone who attends
to watch our legislative body at work. The audience often consists
of Youth Advisory Board students and their Youth Empowerment
counselors from several districts, language instructors, and area
citizens who attend every month.
The dedicated group of Councilmen considers the needs of tribal
members and works with the Chief and myself to ensure the
foundation of the Choctaw Nation remains solid. We explore many
ways of creating new jobs, revenue, health benefits and educational
options so that the legacy of our ancestors is not forgotten and
their perseverance continues as an example through us to our
children and grandchildren, and their children and grandchildren.
We don't just consider tomorrow or next week, we consider the next
century and the wellbeing of the Choctaw people.
The Council's regular session is a culmination of long weeks
spent on the road, at their centers, with tribal members, in
meetings, conferences, attending events, or visiting different
Choctaw Nation programs or businesses. Council Bills are submitted
and have been thoroughly discussed before they are presented at the
The Council members also meet regularly with tribal executives,
directors, or managers to talk about their respective departments
in the Choctaw Nation. Each Councilman gives a report during
regular sessions and they can cover everything from ongoing
construction to the success of Guest Services to Public Safety
having a new K9 team. I enjoy listening as they relay the
information and see their enthusiasm on a project going well or
hear their suggestions on what will strengthen other areas.
Two of the Council - Speaker Delton Cox and Bob Pate - sit on
the Inter Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes, which meets
quarterly. The Inter Tribal Council works more closely with
legislation being submitted on a federal level.
I am proud of our Chief and Council and the vision of a Nation
Honoring our Choctaw veterans 12/2014
It was such an honor to be able to participate in this year's
Veterans Day ceremony. I have attended many in the past and I am
always humbled to see our Choctaw warriors together at Tvshka
The Choctaw have a long history of protecting this land. I met
veterans of Vietnam, Korea, World War II, and young men and women
from the more recent ﬁght against terrorism. We salute our American
veterans everywhere and say Yakoke, thank you, for all that you do.
As an Army veteran myself, I felt and recognized in others the
instinct to snap to attention as the band played the song of each
It also warms my heart to see the appreciation shown to our
veterans. The Vietnam veterans were met with a different attitude
in the '70s. Now, they are stopped by people who notice them
wearing a veterans cap and told thank you for their service. Their
hands are shaken and they receive a long deserved pat on the
The Choctaw Nation's annual ceremony is one small way we can
show our appreciation. The caps and jackets given to the veterans
are worn with pride. We also have three veterans' advocates who
work year-round with Choctaw veterans to assist with VA eligibility
and the rights of veterans and their dependents. This is the ﬁrst
opportunity I have been blessed to participate in a
Homes4WoundedHeroes presentation. I am grateful to be a part of
such a wonderful Nation who cares for others.
I am also very proud of our tribe's Color Guard. It is currently
comprised of 18 Choctaw veterans. Members of the Color Guard posted
the colors, presented arms and ﬁred a 21-gun salute in respect
during the ceremony. These men and women represent the Choctaw
Nation at numerous events around the country.
May God bless you all for giving us the freedoms we have and we
continue to pray for the safety of those serving around the
Giving our kids a head start 11/2014
We believe our children have brilliant minds waiting to be
The Choctaw Nation's Partnership of Summer School Education
(POSSE) began with 184 students in Durant in 2013. This year they
expanded to include eligible students from eight schools in Bryan
County and in 2015, they will be available in schools throughout
the 10 1/2-county service area.
Studies show children who can't read at the required level by
the end of third grade are more likely to drop out. There is a
tragic link between dropping out of high school and prison. This is
not the future we want for our children.
POSSE focuses on kids in pre-K through second grade and it is
for all children. A CDIB is not required. The POSSE staff , the
schools and the communities in which we live are working together
to inspire and empower the students.
The Choctaw Nation helps with funding teachers' salaries and
supplies for the seven-week program. The schools provide the other
The students are given a chance to grow.
There are many other programs the Choctaw Nation has developed
or partnered on to ensure youth excel in school.
Jump Start to Kindergarten focuses on Head Start-age children
and we have 14 Head Start facilities in the Choctaw Nation.
The Youth Advisory Board helps students grow more aware of what
is happening in their communities and how to be involved. They are
learning to be leaders.
The Making a Difference program helps provide students with
information to help them decide the path they want to follow after
high school graduation.
More possibilities open once they graduate high school.
The Higher Education program continues to be our largest service
areas and is available nationwide for students to apply for
assistance with college. Advisors also begin working with the
students to assist with ﬁ nding additional scholarships.
We recognize college isn't for everyone and the Career
Development program is one of the best I have seen. They help
tribal members develop skills and obtain certiﬁcations in a variety
If you are interested in learning more about these programs or
others helping to prepare our youth for success, log onto
choctawnation.com. We want everyone to secure a better future.
Nation's progress exciting to see 10/2014
The Choctaw Nation is growing tremendously and there are several
projects under way. Development has included wellness centers, food
distribution centers, community centers, housing communities for
our elders, the resort, and Head Start facilities.
Each time we hold a groundbreaking or ribbon cutting ceremony,
we come together as a family, a part of the community.
We have gathered this year for openings of new wellness centers
in Atoka, Idabel, Broken Bow and Crowder and we have held
groundbreakings for two more in McAlester and Wilburton. They are
conveniently close to the community centers and are used regularly
by our senior citizens and other tribal members and employees. The
availability of exercise equipment and classes is valuable in
improving the health and well being of people. It's good to see
groups form who continue to work out together and spur each other
on to better health.
Food distribution centers are planned in McAlester and Broken
Bow. The markets are similar to a grocery store and the program's
clients have a choice of healthy food products including fresh
Larger community centers have been needed in several areas, and
McAlester and Bethel are at the top of the list. There will also be
new Head Starts for McAlester and the Bethel and Battiest area.
An Independent Living Community is being developed in Stigler.
This will make the seventh in the Choctaw Nation, designed to
provide a safer environment for Choctaw senior citizens. The
Stigler community will consist of 10 units and a common area for
the residents. Applications for the units will be accepted
beginning in January.
The expansion of the casino resort in Durant equals hundreds of
additional jobs and will be much-needed entertainment hub for the
area. The new hotel tower will have over 200 rooms. There will be a
bowling center, movie theater, laser tag and arcade, a new Oasis
Bar and Grille, a spa, convention center, and an event center. It
will become a family destination for local residents and
We are also in the planning stages of a new headquarters campus.
The Choctaw Nation has over 100 programs available to tribal
members. Offices are located in numerous buildings throughout
Durant for a majority of these programs and administration. The new
headquarters will bring them together in a more localized area and
provide easier access to staff and services. Construction is a sign
of success and it is exciting to see the progress of our great
Choctaw Day of Prayer 9/2014
The Choctaw Nation is strong because it is built on faith. As
Chief Batton said during his Labor Day State of the Nation, God is
going to lead our great Nation.
When I was a lot younger, I attended Bertram Bobb's Bible Camp.
One of the highlights of the weekend for me was watching Brother
Bobb as we unveiled the sign in front of the new chapel at Tvshka
Homma. He loves God and he loves the Choctaw Nation.
The chapel has been named the Bertram Bobb Chapel to honor his
decades of service. His camp near Antlers has provided a positive
influence on thousands of youth over the years and his Biskinik
newspaper column reaches almost 90,000 households every month. At
90 years old he still has the heart of a servant and will never
retire from sharing God's Word.
I also had the opportunity to be a part of the early-morning
Choctaw Day of Prayer. It was the first time to have church
services in the chapel. Services began as the sun came up and the
bell was rung that Sunday morning to call all to worship. The
chapel was overflowing with people lining the walls and spilling
out the doors. We enjoyed hearing Brother Bobb preach again and his
memory for scripture always amazes me. The end of the day brought
Choctaws back for a traditional singing and Choctaw hymns were
lifted up by truly joyous voices.
It was a blessing to have the chapel on the grounds and an even
larger blessing to have our Choctaw brothers and sisters to share
I am amazed at the amount of people who tell us they are praying
for the tribe and us. I appreciate your prayers very much. As long
as we continue to put God first, all other things will fall into
The Giver of Life 8/2014
Honoring Choctaw women
The Labor Day Festival has grown so much over the years. I can
remember when Saturday was the main day with lots of softball,
horseshoes and good food. I played and worked hard with friends and
family and have some great memories.
This is my first year to attend the festival as the Assistant
Chief. I am excited! I look at the schedule and every familiar
event has new meaning. It will be a privilege to help crown the new
royalty at the Princess Pageant on the festival's opening night.
I'm just glad I'm not one of the judges. Choosing the winners
between our beautiful district princesses will be hard
Another event that we are all anticipating is the ribbon cutting
of the chapel on Friday morning. It is across the road from the
capitol building and south of the village with a range of hills
behind it. I walked across one day and snapped a picture from
inside the village fence. It is a beautiful area, and felt tranquil
even with the chapel still under construction. I look forward to
the first church service to be held there.
This year's sculpture will be unveiled Friday night right before
the pow wow. The statue has been created in the likeness of former
Council member Charlotte Jackson. Charlotte was very special to
many people and a perfect example of "Honoring the Giver of Life,"
the theme of this year's festival. She was a humble individual and
graciously gave honor to others. She loved people. I will never
forget her laugh, her sense of humor, or her commitment to her
family and tribal members, many also considered family.
I hope all you daughters, mothers and grandmothers will gather
with us in front of the capitol for the unveiling ceremony in honor
of all Choctaw women.
The festival is packed with things to do. I pray for everyone's
safe travels during the holiday and hope you have a chance to join
us for this celebration of family and culture.
Living traditions 7/2014
Choctaw Days in Washington, D.C., was an amazing event on many
levels. The highlight for me was seeing our young people sharing
the Choctaw culture.
More than 5,000 visitors attended Choctaw Days on June 26 and on
June 27, over 7,000 were recorded - 12,000 people who learned about
the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, or possibly learned a little more
than they already knew as they talked with our group.
The dancers performed the Four-Step War Dance, the Raccoon, the
Stealing Partners and the Snake in the Potomac area of the
Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. The circle is
open to all three upper levels and people were lined along each
floor, drawn by the sounds of our chanter and the dancers' steps.
Members of the audience in the circle were invited to dance during
the Stealing Partners and a lot of them stayed to be whipped around
as part of the Snake. Their laughter brought even more to
As each of the Potomac segments of the day ended, the staff,
including our Royalty, would take on other tasks such as teaching
how to make corn husk dolls, talking about our traditions or
explaining the intricacy of making stickball sticks and balls.
Traditional clothing was worn and I heard many admiring comments
about the diamond design, the Choctaws' sign of respect for the
eastern diamondback rattlesnake.
After the museum closed on Friday evening, we walked together to
the lawn of the U.S. Capitol to demonstrate our ancient Choctaw
stickball. There, again, they took time to instruct others how to
play. Anyone who wanted to join the game was welcome.
One young man visited the museum during the day, learning enough
to be able to play, and play well! I thoroughly enjoyed being a
"goalie" and appreciate all of the pointers the other players gave
me. It was a wonderful experience.
Choctaw Days is just one example of how this generation is
learning the traditions and in turn teaching others. They spend
long hours preparing for and holding events such as summer camps
for culture, stickball and other sports. They visit schools,
community centers and present classes for employees. Pottery,
basketry and beadwork classes have been held throughout the 10 1/2
counties and in many other states. Several wear medallions as they
travel. Some are modern designs reflecting their love of OU, OSU or
Thunder teams but distinctly and noticeably a reflection of our
culture for all to see.
The future of the Choctaw Nation is in good hands. These young
men and women don't speak about our traditions as if they are
something ancient to remember - they "live" them.
Wisdom of our elders very important during ﬁrst days in
new role 6/2014
One of the most important things the Chief and I have been doing
together is spending time in our communities with the Choctaw
I have gotten to see a lot of people I haven't seen in a while
and talked about things I haven't thought of in a while. It's been
wonderful. I greatly appreciate the welcome I have received and
most of all, the advice from our elders.
As they described events in their life, the obstacles they
overcame or the blessings they had received, it was clear to me
that no matter how old or experienced we think we may be, we can
always learn more. Every experience shared has the potential to be
a lesson learned.
My generation and older remember the days we gathered together
as communities and had singings or dinners under the brush arbors.
We would listen to stories for hours after dinner was over.
Everyone knew everyone else, and the sense of family was
The grassroots approach was the norm growing up. It was having
friends or neighbors stop by and visit on the front porch. Families
pitched in to help when a neighbor needed a hand.
Times are a lot different now but our communities are still
close and the people remain dear to our hearts.
The beautiful community centers in all of our districts are a
hub of activities for seniors and their families. Many children
come to lunch with their grandparents or great-grandparents,
especially during the summer. It's good to see them in such close
relationships with their elders. Someday they will realize how
precious this time has been and they, too, will remember the words
of knowledge and instruction.
I am enjoying my time in the communities immensely and look
forward to more visits, more chances to share my day with people
who may not think of themselves as exceptional but in our eyes,
they are Choctaw; they are remarkable folks with many life lessons