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Miko Gary Batton

Choctaw Nation Gives Back Through Community Partnership Fund - February 2020

Community is an essential part of our Chahta culture. I'm so honored and humbled to be able to represent the Chahta people and be a part of this great community. With current events and what is happening with the Oklahoma Gaming Compact, I have realized that many people are unaware of the impact our tribes have on the State of Oklahoma. Sometimes we get so caught up in what we are doing for the Chahta community that we forget to share all the things we do for our local communities as well.

The Chahta people have always strived to live their lives with servants' hearts. From helping each other during forced removal, to collecting a donation to send to the Irish people on the other side of the world, we as Choctaws have been taught to help not only our own, but our neighbors as well. We hear and see the phrase "living out the Chahta Spirit" often. We can do this in many ways. Being a servant leader and helping others for the greater good is a perfect way for us to live it out each day. We at the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma strive to uphold the values that have been passed down for generations in every decision we make. One of the ways we show this is through our Community Partnership Fund.

In fiscal year 2019, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma was able to put $1,613,300 back into southeastern Oklahoma. Thanks to our Community Partnership Fund, 26 counties and cities throughout the 10½ counties received funding for needed projects and equipment.

Though we are a sovereign nation, we recognize the impact and influences we have in the communities our members live and work in. This is our home, and most of us grew up right here in this area. We love and care about the people who live here, regardless of their race, religion or creed.

With funding from the Community Partnership Fund, the city of Durant chose to use its $232,500 for road repairs and improvements. McAlester combined funds with additional donations for a streetscape project that includes sidewalk expansions, bump-outs, decorative light poles and street signs. Pushmataha county used their funds, matched with federal grants, to purchase a new Sheriff's Department vehicle, make much-needed repairs to the fair building and upgrade the courthouse boiler system. Other cities and counties used their funds for street repair, building repairs, community beautification, city park upgrades and water projects as well.

We just started our second year for this program, and our funds will continue to help strengthen our communities, region and state. The Choctaw Community Partnership Fund is a voluntary distribution to cities and counties within the Choctaw Nation's 10½ county jurisdiction that operate Tribal non-gaming businesses. Together, we can make Oklahoma an even better place for our citizens to live and grow.

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Tribes Still United in New Year - January 2020

In August, I released an op-ed that explained the facts of the Oklahoma Tribal Gaming Compact and its automatic renewal. It is now January, and my opinion on the matter still stands. Oklahoma tribes are rooted firmly in this great state, and we continue to help all Oklahomans every day. Tribal gaming continues to be a win-win for the state and tribal nations as it always has been.

Going forward, any threat to exclusivity could jeopardize billions in future dollars to the state of Oklahoma. In 2019, Oklahoma tribes paid the state $148.2 million in gaming fees. However, the overall economic impact of tribal dollars on Oklahoma is one of the highest on any state in the country. Tribes funnel billions of dollars into this great state outside of gaming fees.

We will continue to pay our fees to the state as agreed upon through the existing compact and continue to give back to the people of Oklahoma, exceeding what the fees require.

As stated in the compact itself, "Following the effective date of this Compact, the Compact shall automatically renew for successive additional fifteen-year terms."

Tribes across Oklahoma are united on the fact that the compact automatically renews, and we are all operating our casinos, "business as usual." We remain positive and united in our stance, and we will continue to do what is right for our people. We are not taking this stance out of greed or pride. We are doing this to protect the future of our tribe, our members and our state.

We have every right as a sovereign nation to take legal action, if necessary. It is our duty as tribal leaders to protect our sovereign rights and the well-being of our people.

Many of our people rely on tribal programs, which are funded through our gaming funds. Our ancestors fought to get our tribes to the position they are today. Tribal gaming is a way for us to earn dollars to put back into not only our tribes, but our communities as well.

We help build and pave roads that benefit all Oklahomans and allow them to travel safer. We recently announced our partnership with local governments to help Antlers, Talihina and the Sardis Lake Water Authority to improve their water systems. This partnership will help Oklahomans have clean and safe drinking water. One of the key objectives of this grant is to ensure our region attracts new businesses and residents. These businesses will create jobs.

The Choctaw Nation, in collaboration with the Oklahoma State Department of Health, provides vaccines for all who qualify for free. Tribal dollars helped fund over 18,000 flu shots across Oklahoma and North Texas to tribal members and non-tribal members alike.

Oklahoma tribes are constantly and consistently helping others. It is a part of who we are as a people. Our roots run deep here are longstanding and deep, predating Oklahoma itself, which we have taken pride in helping build. We have worked hard for decades to create a great relationship with the state. We would love to continue that relationship; we are open to negations, but we want this done in a fair way, respecting the existing compact language agreed upon by the state, tribes and Oklahoma voters

 

Faith, Family, Culture and Christmas - December 2019

I can't believe another year has flown by and it is once again Christmastime. Christmas is truly the most wonderful time of the year. It is a chance for us to share our faith, family and culture. Some of my most cherished memories have been made during the time spent with loved ones during the holidays. I'm truly thankful to have the opportunity to make those memories and hope you all have a blessed Christmas with your families.

Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I am so thankful for the blessings God has given me, and for the sacrifice Jesus made for all of us. He is the ultimate gift and true reason for the season.

The Christmas season also brings up memories of those we have lost. This year, we go into the holiday season with heavy hearts. We lost a great man, friend and leader, Chief Greg Pyle. I am so grateful for the time I got to spend with him, learning how not only to be a leader but also a better person. Please keep his wife Pat, children and grandchildren in your thoughts and prayers as they go into the holidays.

I love seeing all the signs of Christmas popping up around us with the decorations, music, lights and the spirit of giving. It is so heartwarming to see so many Choctaw people giving back to their communities. The Choctaw Nation hosts numerous events in the spirit of Christmas. Our annual Christmas in the Park is happening again this year. The event kicks off Dec. 6 and runs through Dec. 28. The free event is held at our historic capitol grounds at Tvshka Homma. Every evening, beginning at sundown, the park comes to life with festive lights and décor. I invite all of you to come and check out this wonderful display. It is sure to get you in the Christmas spirit. Our community centers are also once again hosting their annual Christmas parties. These events are a great way for our communities to come together. Having a strong sense of community is essential in keeping our culture and bond strong. I encourage those of you who can to attend these events. There is a list of parties in this month's issue of the Biskinik.

The spirit of giving and the Chahta Spirit go hand in hand. That spirit, to help not only each other but everyone who is in need, has been instilled in the Choctaw people for generations. It truly is the embodiment of the Choctaw Spirit. The Choctaw Nation held numerous food and clothing drives during the month of November. It is so heartwarming to see our people coming together and helping their fellow man. The Bible says, "And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased," Hebrews 13:16 NIV.

On behalf of myself, my family and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, I would like to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!

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Celebrating Native November - November 2019

November is a special time of year. Not only is it a time to spend with our families during Thanksgiving , but it is also Native American Heritage Month. Native American Heritage Month, also known as Native November, is a time to celebrate our cultural heritage and share with others the history of our people. Native Americans were here long before Europeans made it to America. Our history is rich, and our culture is vibrant. Through hardships, struggles and turmoil we still managed to hold on to what makes us uniquely Choctaw.

At the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, we try to embrace our culture every day. We host Heritage Monday events at our tribal headquarters in Durant. During these events, visitors can take part in cultural and language classes, eat traditional meals and purchase Native American art. We also have year-round language classes that are taught online through our Choctaw School of Language. Our teachers, many of whom are first-language speakers, take pride in keeping our language alive. It is up to us to pass our language on to future generations, and our language department is doing a great job.

We are eagerly awaiting the opening of the Choctaw Nation Cultural Center in Durant. Construction is coming along, and we cannot wait to be able to share our story through its state-of-the-art exhibits. In this month's issue of the Biskinik, you will get a glimpse into some of the traditional artwork that will be displayed in the facility. Some of the artwork has been created in the spirit of long-forgotten art styles. For example, there are buffalo wool skirts and a turkey cape, which was last documented centuries ago. This is just a small glimpse into the fantastic array of curated pieces that will be on display. I cannot wait to see the finished product next year.

Another great resource on Choctaw Culture is the Choctaw Capitol Museum in Tvshka Homma. Housed in the historic capitol building, which was built in 1907, the museum is full of history. It houses numerous exhibits that depict life before colonization, the Trail of Tears, Choctaw life in Oklahoma, code talkers and much more. If you ever have the time to visit, I highly encourage it. It is a fascinating place to visit, and you are sure to learn more about our culture.

I also encourage you to visit the Hina Hanta Project website, hinahanta.choctawnation. com. This website allows visitors to view curated Choctaw artifacts and art pieces. This is a great resource to use while we wait for the Cultural Center to open.

This month I hope you take some time and get in touch with your Choctaw roots and share with others what it means to you to be Choctaw. You don't have to travel to Oklahoma to do this. You can attend a Native November event in your area, wear a piece of traditional clothing or jewelry, tell a story about your heritage, or even simply wear a Choctaw t-shirt. Be creative and be proud of what makes you a Native American and of the Choctaw blood that is running through your veins no matter the month on the calendar.

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State of the Nation Address Highlights Growth, Encourages Sustainability - October 2019

By Kellie Matherly

On Sept. 2, Chief Gary Batton addressed the Choctaw Nation in a speech that highlighted growth and progress in several areas, including elder care, healthcare, education, employment, and government.

This year's State of the Nation address closed out the 2019 Labor Day Festival and began Chief Batton's second consecutive term in office.

Batton began his address by acknowledging all the people who work together to make the Choctaw Nation successful.

He then shared graphs showing where the Choctaw Nation gets its money and where the money goes. "We are making our own way. We are proud to be the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma," Batton said.

According to the most recent reports, 54% of revenue comes from tribal businesses, 30% from grants, 13% from Medicare and third-party insurance, 2% from general government sources, and 1% from housing.

Chief Batton emphasized the fact that the Choctaw Nation spends nearly 80% of the money it receives on services to tribal members, while the rest helps fund investments, sustainability initiatives and capital projects.

"The success of our nation is measured by the strength of our people," Batton said.

One way the Choctaw Nation ensures that strength is through elder care and other healthcare programs. Last year, 62,770 meals were provided to Choctaw elders. In addition, farmers markets were established for seniors to ensure they have access to healthy food.

There was also considerable growth in the healthcare system last year, including 999,000 visits to healthcare facilities and 1.5 million prescriptions provided to tribal members.

Chief Batton praised council members for removing age restrictions on eyeglasses, dentures and hearing aids so that all Choctaws nationwide have access to them. Last year, the Choctaw Nation provided over 14,000 eyeglasses, dentures and hearing aids.

Another area of growth was education.

Nearly 10,000 Choctaws went through education programs designed to help people finish their college degrees or certificates. Programs offering summer employment, on-the-job training, and internships had 1,146 participants. The Choctaw Nation also has programs for students who attend trade schools. Chief Batton shared the story of Jeremy Gray, a Choctaw tribal member who has found success with the help of the reintegration program, which helps people who have been incarcerated.

Gray's desire to own a house brought the address around to a discussion of progress in housing and home repair.

Over 5,000 people received assistance ranging from home purchases, rental homes and independent elderly homes to home repairs. At least 200 new homes were built for lease or purchase last year and over 1,200 repairs to existing homes were made.

"That is like quadruple what we've done in the past," Batton said as he gave credit to the Council for the achievement.

Chief Batton went on to discuss gains in employment.

Currently, the Choctaw Nation employs 10,868 people and has 421 positions open online. "We've got a job for you if you're interested," Batton said.

Job for the Day is one of the employment programs available. People who participate in this program are given a job working for the Choctaw Nation for up to eight weeks. Some participants are able to get permanent positions.

The past year has seen many changes in governmental operations.

Chief Batton praised the Choctaw Nation judicial system as "one of the best, if not the best within the United States."

He also highlighted the efforts of the Council, Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr. and Rep. Markwayne Mullin in getting vital legislation passed, including amendments to the Stigler Act, which prevents Choctaw families from being taxed on land allotments they have inherited.

Batton credited the Assistant Chief with successes in negotiations on the fish and wildlife compact and Chahta Sia Hoke car tags, which saved tribal members 12 million dollars.

Before closing, Chief Batton made a point of emphasizing the Choctaw Nation's position on the proposed changes to the state's gaming compact with Oklahoma tribal governments. Governor Kevin Stitt has sought to renegotiate the compact in a way that would cost the Choctaw Nation and other tribes a considerable amount of money.

Batton noted that 30 tribes in Oklahoma came together to sign a resolution stating no one would act unless everyone acted together.

Tribal leaders have argued the existing compact will automatically renew in January. The governor has the right to submit a proposal prior to the end of the calendar year, but if tribal leaders do not agree on the proposal's terms, the Choctaw Nation "will continue to function just like we think it should," Batton said. "We believe we are on the right side."

As the State of the Nation drew to a close, Chief Batton turned his attention to the future of the Choctaw Nation.

In the interest of sustainability, Batton's 2020 budget will include more dollars going into higher education programs and services for elders, including the possibility of new lawn mowing and handyman services.

Construction will continue on new homes, cultural centers, and the ongoing casino expansion in Durant. The growth and progress in the Choctaw Nation not only benefits Choctaws but all Oklahomans, and Chief Batton is proud of the positive impact the tribe has had.

In the final moments of the address, Batton reminded the audience to "remain strong and who we are as the Choctaw people." He emphasized the importance of inspiring the next generation and maintaining spiritual unity. "If we ever forget that, we'll fail to exist as a nation," he cautioned.

In addition to the swearing in of Chief Batton and the State of the Nation address, ceremonies included the swearing in of six tribal council members: Thomas Williston of District 1, Tony Ward of District 2, Eddie Bohanon of District 3, Ronald Perry of District 5, Perry Thompson of District 8, and Robert Karr of District 11.

The entirety of the event was streamed live and is available on YouTube.

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Choctaw Nation Cares About All Oklahomans - September 2019

If you've been paying attention to Oklahoma news lately, I'm sure you have heard about Governor Stitt's plans for the tribal gaming compacts in Oklahoma.

The leaders of 31 tribes throughout this great state and I strongly disagree with Gov. Stitt.

Yes, we are sovereign tribes, but we are also citizens of this great state. The name Oklahoma comes from the Choctaw language. We are the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and all of our members have roots in this state. This is our home. I graduated from Clayton and that is where I still live today. I love the people who live here and want every Oklahoman, tribal and non-tribal, to succeed. I'm sure that is a shared sentiment of all tribal leaders. The fact that Gov. Stitt suggests otherwise is honestly disappointing.

I recently released an op-ed in the Journal Record, explaining my thoughts and feelings on this matter. I want to share this letter with you, because I think it is essential that you all know how much we genuinely care for the people of Oklahoma.

The point of this letter isn't about bragging about what we do. Our ancestors taught us to stay humble but to have a servant's heart. Like the donation our ancestors made all those years ago to the people of Ireland, we are descendants of generous and loving people. That's is why it is so important to help everyone, not just the Choctaw people.

 

Enhanced Technology Providing Easier Access - August 2019

Technology is an ever-evolving tool. In a recent report, Cisco predicted that by 2020, there will be nearly 4.1 billion internet users around the world. More and more people are gaining access to the internet and using technology each day. With that in mind, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has made steps to increasing our online accessibility and exploring new technological endeavors.

With this increase of internet users, the Choctaw Nation has taken steps to help our tribal members access our programs and information online in a more user-friendly way.

Our new Chahta Achvffa member portal launched this summer. This technology platform was created to transform online interactions between the Nation and tribal members. Currently, members can set up profiles and have access to four programs. Programs on the portal at the moment include the 2019 Hunting and Fishing program, Student School Activity Fund, College Clothing Allowance, and name change requests. We plan to add more in the future and are excited to see how this benefits our members.

Our social media presence is also growing each day. One of our goals is to share with you all news and information as quickly and accurately as possible. Our social media team works hard each day to share with all of our followers information and news as it happens in real-time. You can keep up to date with us in all major social media networks.

Our online communications team also works diligently to keep our website up to date and share information through text and email alert systems. We want everyone to have access to news, information and programs at their fingertips. It is great to see and interact with our followers, and to watch our social media presence grow.

Our health services are also taking steps into the future with virtual visits. The Choctaw Nation Virtual Medical Visit service enables healthcare access for patients not able to travel to the provider for specific non-life-threatening injuries and illnesses. This service is a video appointment with a healthcare provider that is available to patients with specific symptoms.

To be eligible, patients must have a CDIB and have a current consent to treat on file. Patients must also reside in Oklahoma and be 5 years of age or older. This is a great service for individuals with minor conditions and saves them a trip to the clinic. For more information on the Virtual Medical Visit service, please call 580-916-9231.

The Nation isn't just making technological endeavors online, but in the physical sense as well. In 2018, we were named one of 10 Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program sites by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Nation has partnered with the Noble Research Institute to conduct research on the typical rural and agricultural community applications of drone technology. This is an exciting program and our researchers are hoping to discover information that can help our communities in the future.

There are many other ways that the Nation is using technology to help our tribal members grow, learn and access information. To find out more about the programs I have mentioned and others, please visit http:// www.choctawnation.com.

 

Resilient Spirit of Chahta Ancestors Paved the Way - July 2019

This year, springtime brought with it a pretty crazy storm season. It has been one of the wettest years on record, bringing flooding to not only Oklahoma but also the entire Midwest as well. Tornadoes and severe storms have been devastating to our region. Many of our tribal members have been affected by this weather and natural disaster.

With that in mind, we had to prioritize the safety of our tribal members and postpone the Trail of Tears Walk from its original date to June 1 due to the threat of inclement weather.

June 1 turned out to be a beautiful, sunny day, so many of you showed up to take part in the walk to honor our ancestors. It is always such an amazing and humbling experience. It is hard to fathom what the Chahta people went through and the atrocities they faced. On May 24, our Trail of Tears Bike Team returned from their 500- mile journey along a portion of the route our ancestors traveled from Philadelphia, Mississippi, to Oklahoma. Biking just a few miles can be grueling, but our team travels 500 miles to honor and connect with our ancestors in a spiritual, physical and emotional way. Even though biking 500 miles is a challenging feat, it still doesn't compare to the real Trail of Tears.

During our commemorative walk, we only cover 2.5 miles on a modern road. Our ancestors weren't afforded that luxury. They trekked over 700 miles, facing the elements, disease, hunger and exhaustion. They didn't have the opportunity to postpone for the safety of their people like we do today. They were forcibly removed from the safety of their homes and required to leave or face certain punishment. Today, we have tennis shoes to protect our feet from the terrain. We also have planes, trains and cars to get us from one place to another, shielded from the elements as we travel. Our ancestors didn't have anything to truly protect them on the journey. Many of them perished on the trail from exposure, disease and exhaustion. We will never honestly know what horrors they faced, and I can only imagine how traumatizing something like that would be.

So, when we walk in Tvshka Homma or ride with the Trail of Tears Bike Team, we aren't pretending to know and experience the real struggle our ancestors felt. It is a way for us to honor them and their memory, remembering the sacrifices they made for future generations to prosper. When they left, they had no clue what they were walking into. They had no clear vision of what would happen once they arrived in their new home. But they persisted. The resilient spirit of our Chahta ancestors is what paved the way for our prosperity today. So, when we take part in these events, we are saying yakoke for their strength, for giving us the foundation to rise to where we are today.

We will never forget the strength, resilience, and sacrifices of those who came before us, and what makes us the proud Choctaw Nation that we are today!

Chief

 

Family is Foundation of All We Do - June 2019

Throughout the last five years, I'm sure many of you have seen or heard us use the phrase faith, family and culture. Living out the Chahta Spirit of faith, family and culture is the Choctaw Nation's vision.

Family is the foundation of all that we do. The word family is often defined as all of the descendants of a common ancestor. As Chahta people, we are family connected by the Chahta blood running through our veins. We may all look and talk differently from one another; we may live in different places and have different professions. But one thing we all have in common is our bond as Chahtas.

We all have different levels of connection to our heritage. For many of us living in the 10 ½ counties, we have nearly unlimited access to culture. We can attend cultural events like the Trail of Tears Walk and the Labor Day Festival; we are within driving distance for all Choctaw Nation facilities and programs. Our heritage is a daily part of our lives. But for others, seeking out and connecting with our Chahta culture is a little more complicated. We have tribal members living in all fifty states and around the world. We feel it is vital to reach out to these members through community meetings.

Community meetings foster a sense of community throughout the United States. These meetings are more than just taking photos and having fun; they are about family. Tribal members get to meet other Chahtas in their area, visit cultural, artist and services booths. They can also update their membership cards and register to vote. These meetings are to help bring our Chahta family closer together.

I enjoy getting to meet such a diverse group of people at these events and getting to hear their stories. We have so many exciting and talented Chahtas out there accomplishing great things. It has been so great to hear their stories and to share their connections with the rest of the tribe. All their stories somehow tie them back to the Choctaw Nation.

I encourage all of you to attend a community meeting if you can. Our next meetings will be Oklahoma City June 7 and Tulsa June 15. We would love to see you there and for you to meet other Chahtas while you are there. For more information, visit https://www.choctawnation.com/communitymeetings.

I want to say yakoke to everyone who has supported me, and for the confidence you have placed in me throughout the past four years. It has been a blessing and an honor to serve the Chahta people, and I look forward to continuing to serve to the best of my ability 

 

Choctaw Nation Judicial Center opening a historical event - May 2019

Springtime has proven to be one of the busiest times of year for us here at the Choctaw Nation. We have held numerous groundbreakings and ribbon cuttings for projects such as the Choctaw Country Market in Boswell, and the Choctaw Travel Plaza/ Rustic Roast in Talihina. The Nation currently has 17 active construction projects in progress. The growth of the Nation has been nothing less than amazing to witness. We have come so far as a nation, and we continue that growth every day. It is an honor to bring our services to all of our tribal members.

We held a ribbon cutting ceremony on April 25 for the Choctaw Nation Judicial Center, located at 2250 Chukka Hina, Durant, east of the Wellness Center. This 15,389-sq.-ft. state-of-the-art facility houses two hearing rooms and one ceremonial courtroom "Ishahli", meaning main, superior, better, principal, and sovereign greater. Additional offices will accommodate three justice chambers, the Judicial Executive Administration, the Court Clerk Administration and the Probation Division of the judicial branch. The new building is the first Choctaw courthouse to be built since 1883.

The history of the court system is plentiful. In the 1830s, our ancestors traveled the Trail of Tears to a new home full of uncertainty. They set up their own threebranch government, which implemented the Judicial Branch Courts, and paved the way for our Nation's judicial system today. Our tribe is still governed by the Choctaw Nation Constitution, which was ratified by the people June 9, 1984. The Constitution provides for an executive, legislative and judicial branch, operating as three separate powers of government, under one nation.

The judicial branch and system are structured to diligently interpret the laws and to provide justice, as well as to develop and sustain the integrity of the courts. The Court of General Jurisdiction consists of the District Court and the Court of Appeals, with the Peacemaker Court utilized as an Alternative Dispute Resolution resource. The Choctaw Constitutional Court is the highest level of Court, seating the Chief Justice of the Judicial Branch, and two Tribal Judges, with exclusive jurisdiction to hear disputes arising under any provision of the Choctaw Nation Constitution, any rule or regulation enacted by the tribal council, and any other matters on appeal from the Court of General Jurisdiction. The judicial branch also consists of an Executive Administration, Court Clerk Administration and the Probation/Community Service Division.

In 2015, our legislation enacted the Tribal Law and Order Act. Our Nation has taken advantage of this authority by not only providing justice to victims, but also focusing on rehabilitation and sobriety for the offenders. Non-violent offenders often receive probation or community service and are often given the opportunity to work off court costs and fines by reporting to the Judicial Probation Division.

For more information on the Judicial Branch and Court System, please watch for the future website now being constructed at choctawnationcourt.com

 

Signs of Spring Bring Thoughts of Rebirth and Regrowth to the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma - April 2019

It is finally springtime here in the Choctaw Nation. Spring is a time of rebirth, regrowth, and resurrection. I love seeing what looked dry and dead after a long, cold winter turn green and full of life. The grass is growing and the flowers are blooming. Springtime is a glorious event.

One of my favorite things about the season is having the opportunity to celebrate Easter. Easter is a time of love, hope, and celebration. Easter is one of the important holidays we celebrate as believers. We get to rejoice in Christ and his blessings. Jesus gave the ultimate gift, the hope of everlasting life. What an excellent gift that is. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." - John 3:16. Jesus died on the cross for our sins, so that we may be forgiven.

If you are looking for a way to celebrate Easter a little early, I invite you to join us for the 2019 Chief Gary Batton Easter Celebration April 13. The event kicks off at 10 a.m. and is always such a fun time for everyone in attendance. We would love to see you all there. There will be a worship service led by Olin Williams, stickball, cultural demonstrations, bunny pictures, and lunch. Of course, there will be Easter egg hunts for our young ones and elders. Who will find one of those sought-after prize eggs? A full list of events is located on Page 4 of this month's Biskinik.

It is always fun to see everyone have a good time and fellowship with fellow tribal members. Whether it be at the Easter celebration, wild onion dinners, cultural meetings, the commemorative Trail of Tears Walk or Labor Day, it is great to have the opportunity for Chahtas to get together. These aren't just events; they are celebrations of our faith, family and culture. When we gather together as Chahtas, we are honoring our ancestors and their struggles. Without their hard work, love and faith, we wouldn't be able to fellowship as a nation of Chahta people.

No matter what religion you practice or if you practice a religion at all, we are all Chahtas. We strive every day to live out the Chahta spirit of faith, family and culture. A part of our culture is that we are a tribe and that every member has a calling to live out their purpose within the Tribe. A greater calling if you will, and we need to strive for that daily. Faith, family and culture can mean many things; you can decide that for yourself. It is important for you to live out the Chahta spirit in a way that reflects who you are and that would make our ancestors proud. We were all born with a purpose. It is okay if you haven't found that purpose yet. Just know you have one. So, during this time of rebirth and regrowth, I hope you take some time to reflect on the past and push toward the future with a fresh spirit.


Chahta Ohoyo Celebrated During Women's History Month - March 2019 
March is National  Women's History  Month in America. The  Choctaw Nation has a
rich history, filled with  powerful Chahta ohoyos,  who have helped shape  the Choctaw Nation into  what it is today.
Throughout our history,  the Choctaw people  have held women in high  regard. They were recognized  as givers and supporters  of life. One of  the most sacred places  for early Choctaws is  named nvnih waiya,  the Mother Mound. The  site plays a central role  in the origin story of the Choctaw tribe and is referred to as the heart of the  Choctaw people.
For many of us, our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers played  an integral part in keeping our families together and traditions alive. We look  back fondly on time we spent with them, and are thankful for the lessons and love they bestowed upon us. I lost my mother in May of last year and she had  a huge impact on my life and who I have become. I want to say yakoke to all of  the mothers who sacrificed so much to give us love, life and shelter.
Historically, Choctaw women have held positions of great respect and power.  Traditional Choctaw society was a matriarchal one. Women owned property, assisted  in harvest and produced the majority of the food for their families. They  accompanied men on diplomatic missions and served as motivators for their  communities. Today, Choctaw women are still serving as leaders and motivators  for our tribe. The Choctaw Nation currently employs 5,761 women, 176 of  those serving in leadership positions. These women are leading the way for younger generations of Choctaw women to be the future leaders of the Choctaw  Nation of Oklahoma.
 
In this month's issue of the Biskinik, you will be introduced to several young  women who are doing great things and accomplishing so much in their lives.  Nine-year-old Madison Bradshaw of Anadarko won a silver medal in the 50-meter  freestyle swim during the Winter Special Olympics. Shay Hill of Talihina  was recently awarded the Dennis Hemphill Hustle Award and Scholarship for  her hard work on the basketball court and in the classroom. Chahta Sisters  Harley and Charlotte Hopper and their Walden Grove High School dance team  recently went viral for their Harry Potter dance. They've made appearances  on Good Morning America and Season 13 of America's Got Talent. And finally,  Anna Hoag was recognized as Engineer of the Year for the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Reclamation. These young women are among the countless Choctaw women who are out there representing the Choctaw Nation  in amazing ways. I want to encourage these young ladies to dream big and aim  high. You can accomplish anything you set your mind to if you work hard and  push yourself. Use the stories of the powerful Chahta ohoyos who came before you as guidance and inspiration. Remember their strength and resilience.      
 
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