Commemorative Walk Honors Choctaw Ancestors' Sacrifices
This time of year is a time of reflection for me as we plan the
Choctaw Nation's annual commemorative walk to honor our ancestors
who were removed from Mississippi in the 1830s.
We never want to forget the sacrifices that were made along
those long journeys. The Choctaw people faced many enemies-bitterly
cold weather, rain and snow, hunger, exhaustion, deception and
disease. They walked hundreds of miles, carrying their meager
belongings, or at times carrying the weak who could no longer take
Saturday, May 20, will be the day we gather to celebrate the
strength of our ancestors who survived the Trail of Tears and honor
those who perished. I hope you can travel to Tvshka Homma to join
us for the commemorative walk and Heritage Day.
Staff will be on site early to guide you to parking east of the
amphitheater. The walk will start at 10 a.m. with water stations
along the way.
Cultural demonstrations and activities are planned, including
Choctaw artists, pottery, baskets, beadwork, ancient weapons,
dancing, singing, and men's and women's exhibition stickball
The Choctaw Nation's foundation reflects the values our
ancestors learned in the Mississippi homeland. Those values remain
strong as does our foundation.
The Choctaw Nation is based on culture, honor, integrity,
accountability, responsibility, servant leadership and
The survivors of the Trail of Tears supported each other as they
settled in their new home. Houses, churches, schools and businesses
Communities thrived until there was another enemy-the railroad.
The railroad brought prosperity to many cities but others, such as
Skullyville, the Choctaws' "money town," withered away. Then there
was the Depression era and the oppression that many Indian tribes
faced in the land once called Indian Territory.
The history of our tribe reflects the highs and lows of many
journeys through the centuries.
Our path is now rising to new heights. Everything we do is based
on the vision: Living out the Chahta spirit through faith, family
The Tribal Council, Assistant Chief and I believe this vision is
one for the Choctaw people.
It encompasses everything we strongly believe in and is followed
by our mission: To the Choctaw proud, we are the sovereign Nation
providing opportunities for growth and prosperity.
The historic agreement on this vision and mission will guide us
as we create new relationships, businesses and services.
I have had several people comment on how they appreciate the
Choctaw Nation for beginning our meetings with prayer. That is our
faith. We are thankful for all of God's blessings and pray for
guidance as we make our decisions. We pray for each other-those who
are ill or facing challenges. Our faith and values should be lived
out at work and in our home life. They are what motivate me to try
to be a better person every day.
The Partnership of a Couple Extends to the Community
The evolution of Choctaw marriage is an interesting part of our
history, one that reflects the changing roles of husbands and wives
while retaining a strong commitment to each other and their
My wife, Angie, and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary in
January. I am very blessed to have Angie and am looking forward to
the next 30!
The Choctaw Nation is historically a matriarchal tribe. The
women were considered the heads of the families. They created the
pottery and baskets they used every day, gathered food, cooked, and
raised the children.
The men and women worked together to build the chukka, or
houses, they lived in. Some of the women were doctors. The men were
the hunters and protectors. The partnership between the men and
women sustained the community.
Versions of the traditional Choctaw wedding ceremony still used
today are symbolic of love, humility, family, and accepting the
responsibilities that lay ahead of them.
Historical accounts by Henry Halbert describe how friends and
relatives of the couple would meet at the location of the ceremony.
Brothers of the woman would go to the other family and bring the
man to sit on a blanket spread on the ground. The man's sisters
would do the same with the woman, bringing her to sit by the man.
The families remain an integral part of the entire ceremony, and
with humor as Choctaw people like to do.
Sometimes, the woman is expected to break loose and run, chased
by the groom and brought back. I've watched this many times and it
is always a lot of fun. The bride can make the groom work to catch
The man's family provides meat for the wedding meal and the
woman's relatives bring bread, symbols of the days when the men
were the hunters and the women raised corn for the bread and
hominy. The couple will then sit quietly, not speaking, while
presents are thrown, snatched, and distributed.
A minister officiates during the ceremonies now, and we often
include the Wedding Dance in the celebration with the married
couple dancing in the center of a circle of other couples. The name
of the dance indicates its connection with the courtship and
marriage. The partners hook little fingers to represent the way
eagles choose their partner. Bald eagles are well-known for their
The marriage is the beginning. The bond is formed and as with
any Nation of people, we have adjusted to society. There are
Choctaws who go to school, to work, to the grocery store, blending
in today's world. When they get home, they are just Choctaw. They
live with their spouse and family the same as their parents and
grandparents. They have successfully merged Choctaw and modern
cultures, teaching the things they know of their heritage and
making memories that keep the traditions alive.
We provide anniversary certificates to couples celebrating
milestone anniversaries and just sent one to a couple from Tushka
who has been married 70 years-Tot and Wanda Calvert.
Congratulations to them!
Please let us know if any of your Choctaw family is celebrating
a 50th, 60th or 70th wedding anniversary. You can email Jason Hicks
We'd love to hear from you.
There are many, many couples who understand that compromise and
honesty are important to marriage. They are willing to give and
take and invest the love and respect needed to ensure a long,
caring relationship. I admire you all and want you to know Angie
and I are learning as we go from the great examples you have set
As Valentine's Day approaches, let's remember our partners and
thank them for their unique gifts and talents and the bond that is
shared between a couple.
Success Begins with Setting Goals and Keeping Them
New Year's resolutions are easy to make and hard to keep. Goals
are key to our successes and as we start the New Year, I'd like to
ask everyone to think about how we can make this world a better
Being Choctaw is about doing the greater good. Our tribe is
built on a foundation of faith, family and culture with values of
servant leadership, accountability, integrity, honor,
responsibility and teamwork. We look beyond tomorrow, next week or
even next year. We want our children and grandchildren to do
Research shows that specific and challenging goals have better
results, and I have learned that if I write mine down I will
SMART goals teach us to think through our objectives. We should
be Specific, ask ourselves what is the goal and how much time would
it require. We should have Measurable goals that provide specific
feedback and hold us accountable. The goals should be Attainable.
They should push us, but it's important they are achievable. The
goals and time frames should be Realistic and a Time line helps
I can think of many examples of struggles and perseverance to
succeed. And, success isn't always having more money. Sometimes, it
is as basic as having peace. A lady in Atoka stands out to me as
one of the most optimistic people I've known. She has stage 4
cancer and recently held a celebration of life party. She
celebrates this life and the life to come.
Another Choctaw lady, Betty Baker, is an inspiration to us all.
We wished her a happy 87th birthday on Dec. 16 at the Choctaw
Nation's annual Christmas and employee awards ceremony. Betty has
worked for the tribe for 38 years, all of those years for the
Choctaw WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program in Hugo. She is
still a dedicated full-time employee coming in to work every day to
make a difference in someone's life.
Three generations of Choctaw women devote their lives to their
family business- Luksi Creations-in Oklahoma City.
Catherine Stairs passed her love of beading on to her daughters
and a granddaughter. They have combined talents and efforts to
create Luksi Creations. They fill a need for local beaders by
providing a place to buy supplies and showcase their bead work,
helping keep our culture alive.
James Winchester is an inspiration in many ways. An alumnus of
the University of Oklahoma and currently long snapper for the
Kansas City Chiefs, James tweeted, "Luck is what happens when
preparation meets opportunity."
These people have set goals-they believe and have faith, and
they are focused on the good to be achieved.
As we reflect on the New Year, let's think of all the
opportunities we have to sustain our families and our tribe. We can
build on the legacy we have been given by providing a better one
for generations to come.
May God bless you in the New Year and I hope you have success in
every goal you want to achieve.
Remembering a Great Man and Friend, Ted Dosh
The recent loss of Councilman Ted Dosh has deeply saddened us
all. Ted was one of the first Councilmen elected under the 1979
constitution and he served all of the years since with one
priority-the needs of the tribal members. I have heard the saying,
"He never met a stranger," most of my life and in Ted's case I
believe it is true. His smile, his laugh, and the way he would lift
his cap in greeting were familiar to all of us. His dedication and
love for his family and his extended tribal family are what we
remember the most.
He enjoyed the livestock shows held for Choctaw youth,
activities with the seniors, Thanksgiving dinners, and handing out
presents to the kids at his Christmas parties. He would be just as
excited as the kids.
Ted also recognized that economic stability and growth were
fundamental to providing the opportunities and services our people
needed. He also recognized the means to become financially secure
in a time when many counties and states were fighting for that
During his tenure as Tribal Councilman for District 9 in Bryan
County, Ted saw many changes. He saw the first Bingo Hall built in
Durant and he was part of the subsequent expansions and
transformations to create the award-winning resort that stands
The Choctaw Nation has been extremely blessed with success in
businesses such as the gaming resorts, travel plazas,
manufacturing, ranches, and new ventures such as the Choctaw
Country Market. Because of these enterprises and a wide variety of
programs focused on self-sufficiency, the chances are becoming
greater now for our children and grandchildren to go to
The rural areas of southeast Oklahoma needed more educational
opportunities and thanks to the Choctaw Nation and the Tribal
Council, the number of programs to encourage education from Early
Head Start through college and career development is continually
increasing. Ted was so proud of the Choctaw Nation Head Start built
in his hometown of Bennington because he knew it was an important
step in providing academic and cultural knowledge at an early
The Tribal Council, as the legislative branch of the tribe,
meets in regular session monthly at Tvshka Homma and spends many
hours on the road and in meetings and planning sessions. Yakoke for
the contributions provided by each of our Councilmen. They are
available to the people, they help in the communities, and they
keep their eyes on the future.
Combining the Past and Present to Plan for the Future
The land and its natural resources are two of the most important
factors of sustainability of the tribe. The Choctaw Nation's
inherent sovereignty is intertwined with everything we do to
preserve our rights and our stewardship of Choctaw Country. I
believe the diverse landscape of southeastern Oklahoma is some of
the most beautiful in the state-Ouachita Mountains, Potato Hills,
Talimena Drive, Mountain Fork, Beavers Bend, Robbers Cave, and the
many pasture, forest, lake, and river areas.
A recent agreement with the State of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City
is an example of years of scientifi c research and debate between
the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations and the state to create a plan
that will preserve and protect Sardis Lake water. The pending
agreement has been passed in the U.S. Senate and will now be
considered by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Protecting Sardis will ensure there is enough water for
residents. It ensures there is enough water for economic growth and
development of recreation, fish, and wildlife uses. Most
importantly, we have the right to say how much water stays in the
Another important agreement made this year is the Nation's
hunting and fishing compact. It, too, upholds our sovereignty and
gives tribal members the opportunity to obtain a Choctaw Nation
hunting and fishing license. We learned a lot during the process.
We continued to build our relationship with the state while
expressing what is important for tribal members.
With the hunting and fishing compact we will be able to use
traditional Choctaw weapons such as the atlatl, one of the oldest
weapons recorded to be used by Indian tribes. The atlatl is used to
propel a dart, sometimes up to 100 miles an hour. I would like to
see the atlatl become popular again among Choctaw hunters. Tribal
members can also practice traditional hunting and fishing methods
using blowguns, rabbit sticks, and spears. The usage of these
tools, the same wielded by our ancestors, honors the culture of all
The Choctaw Nation has purchased 2,556 acres of land since April
2014-including over 900 acres this year- bringing the total owned
by the tribe to 71,523 acres. We have added to our ranches and
bought land for economic development.
Starting Black Angus cattle herds on our ranches has optimized
tens of thousands of acres, generating a renewable revenue stream
for the tribe. The tribe's herd currently consists of 2,100 Black
Angus cattle and they have begun producing calves. Ranch operations
also include producing hay and pecans.
Choctaw people were farmers and it's important to remember the
health and economic benefi ts of growing our own food.
Farm-to-table practices will eventually allow the tribe to provide
beef and produce in our markets.
I see a unique mingling of ancient Choctaw culture, centuries of
tradition, and modern lifestyles to define who we are today-a
Nation of people who do not forget, who stand strong, and who keep
our eyes to the future.
Trail of Tears Walk is a Sign of Remembrance and
The annual Trail of Tears Walk in remembrance of our Choctaw
ancestors is always a humbling experience for me. I think about the
signing of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830 and I think
our ancestors were envisioning what it would be like today-the
Great Choctaw Nation.
It was good to see so many attend the Walk. It was a beautiful
day to honor our ancestors and their perseverance to sustain our
culture. We are blessed to have their blood running through our
The Color Guard carried the U.S. and Choctaw Nation flags high
as we respectfully fell into step behind them. There were children
walking with their parents and grandparents. Everyone helped each
other, as it would have been during the original long journey.
There were families with several generations who had made the walk
every year we've held it and there were elders walking it for the
I heard people talking as we walked, sharing the stories that
had been handed down about their grandmother or grandfather that
was on the Trail of Tears.
There were many people lost on the journeys from Mississippi. We
lost family and we lost a lot of our culture. It's a blessing to
have so many today wanting to learn more about our people. This is
the way we will continue to be such a strong Nation. The language,
culture and history are being preserved through the foresight of
families who share their knowledge and through classes held by the
School of Choctaw Language, Choctaw Nation Cultural Services and
Historic Preservation programs.
Language instructor Nicholas Charleston gave a special
presentation on the day of the commemorative walk. The young man
spoke as Chief George Harkins during the Trail of Tears, reciting a
letter to the American people. The letter is considered one of the
most important Native documents of its time.
The words from "our Chief" resonated in my mind and my heart.
Our ancestors chose to suffer to be free. Chief Harkins hoped that
another generation of Choctaws wouldn't feel the oppression they
felt. I believe we have fulfilled his vision of hope and
prosperity, and with God's blessing we will continue to
Signs of Progress for Our Nation's Youth
April was recognized as the Month of the Young Child with
events being held throughout the Choctaw Nation to educate on a
number of topics.
The employees wore blue to promote awareness for child abuse
prevention and tied blue ribbons to trees. I loved looking at the
photos posted to social media with the hashtag "Choctaws Making a
Difference". We hope we can raise awareness to prevent child
It was also Autism Awareness Month. Autism Spectrum Disorder
(ASD) is a complex developmental disability that affects one in 68
people in the United States. The Choctaw Nation has developed the
Autism Community CARES initiative whose goal is to establish a
strong network available in tribal communities. We hear from our
tribal members who have family affected by autism, so we are hoping
CARES is just a first step in how we can begin to develop services
in this area. The Choctaw Nation is the only tribe in the State of
Oklahoma delivering a graphics media campaign that includes Native
children in the autism community.
Recognizing the early signs of autism is critical. Young
children may not respond to their name and are slow to develop
speech and language skills. They may not want to play games or show
interest in objects. Patterns of unusual behaviors over time or
continuous problems with communication are causes for concern.
Research shows early intervention can produce positive outcomes.
The website AutismSpeaks.org has several helpful articles for
anyone who wants to learn more about ASD.
Two of the events focusing on autism awareness last month were a
training on challenging behaviors in children hosted by the Choctaw
Nation Tribal Early Learning Initiative in Durant and a workshop on
autism awareness held during the Oklahoma State Johnson-O'Malley
Conference in Tulsa.
A ribbon cutting in Durant on April 11 celebrated the opening of
the tribe's first Early Head Start center for children up to 3
years old. The facility is equipped with state-of-the-art
technology and CDA-certified teachers. The staff gave us all a tour
and I enjoyed seeing Choctaw culture incorporated throughout the
The staff, teachers and parents are investing their time in
caring for our youth and are demonstrating a dedication to
developing strong, healthy lifestyles for the boys and girls.
There was a field day at Southeastern Oklahoma State University
as the gates opened April 16 for Choctaw kids age 9 to 12. The Nike
N7 Youth Movement's guest speaker was James Winchester, a Choctaw
tribal member and long snapper for the Kansas City Chiefs. It was a
full day of fun that included Choctaw social dancing, stickball,
April also marked the end of the youth stickball league's season
and hundreds turned out for the championship tournament at Tvshka
Homma. My granddaughter and Assistant Chief Austin's son were both
on teams this year. It was great fun. We didn't just cheer for
their teams, we cheered for all the kids. The youth league learns
many life skills through stickball, as well as knowing they are
carrying on a centuries-long Choctaw tradition. I hope this has
been a great season for our youth!
The Wealth of Health Options on the Horizon
It's great to be able to get out in the community with you, our
tribal members, to listen to your thoughts and your ideas on the
direction of the tribe. I enjoy visiting and hearing the stories
very much. I want to thank everyone for the calls, letters, and for
being welcomed into your homes.
I take your ideas very seriously. You have talked to me about
providing services and I've been asked to focus on culture, service
delivery, and employment. That is why each district has seen growth
as new businesses and facilities focusing on the members' needs
have been constructed. We are also building three of our largest
projects-a regional clinic, new headquarters, and a cultural center
all in the same general area in Durant.
The Durant Regional Medical Clinic is being built on a 20-acre
campus just north of the Choctaw Nation Child Development Center.
The clinic will provide primary care (including WIC, Pediatrics,
Geriatrics, Podiatry and Specialty Care), Employee Health,
Rehabilitation Services, Outpatient Surgery, Dental Care,
Audiology, Eye Care, Pharmacy services, Lab and Radiology services,
Behavioral Health, Education, meeting facilities, and a Wellness
Center. Administration functions will include WIC, Public
Relations, Public Health Nutrition, Healthy Aging, Rapid Results,
Education, more meeting facilities, and health services
It will be the first tribal Indian Health Service program to
have an outpatient ambulatory surgery clinic. It's a blessing for
the tribe to be able to build such a state-of-the-art facility that
will help tribal members live longer, healthier lives, as well as
create new jobs for the area to increase quality of life for
The new headquarters complex will consolidate over 30 Choctaw
Nation offices scattered across Durant, bringing together
approximately 900 employees with the capacity to deliver better
care, share culture, and increase accommodation for tribal members.
It is being constructed next to the regional medical clinic with
the first floor dedicated to tribal services and easily accessible
parking in front for members.
The office complex is being designed to reflect Choctaw culture
and will incorporate cultural artwork, a pond and walking track.
The groundwork has begun at the site and it is expected to be
complete within the next two years.
On the west side of Highway 69/75, our dreams of a new cultural
center will soon take shape. The progress throughout the Nation is
due to the combined vision of our members and the growing number of
talented staff who all have the Nation's future in their hearts.
Our Future: Moving Ahead to Success 2/2016
When I think of a sustainable
tribe I think of our tribal members and I think about
resources. It takes both for the tribe to be successful. One of the
people I rely upon is my Mom who celebrated her 78th birthday on
Jan. 17, and on the same day, Angie and I celebrated our 29th
anniversary. We are blessed to have had Mom's help through the
years, and I hope we can help in the growth and success of our
children and grandchildren.
Other people who have sustained our tribe are our Veterans. The
Choctaw Nation hosted a meeting with representatives from the
Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian and several
Choctaw veterans on Jan. 21. The men and women traveled from as far
as Spiro in the northeastern corner of the Choctaw Nation to Durant
to be included in the first consultation on a new Native American
Veterans Memorial at NMAI in Washington, D.C.
The best part of the meeting was seeing our veterans come
together and listening to their thoughts. I enjoyed hearing the
wonderful stories of our ancestors and how far they have
progressed. The veterans have always been the "tvshka," the
warriors, protectors of our way of life.
They sustain us. They represent years of sacrifice to provide a
better life for us. As one of the veterans, Jim Fry, said, "We did
it for the good of all."
Our veterans make the unending opportunities we have available
possible. The Choctaw Nation has recently opened several new
facilities-a campus in McAlester with a community center, food
distribution center, head start, and wellness center. A ribbon
cutting was also held for a food distribution center in Broken Bow.
A new travel plaza opened in Antlers, and we had a groundbreaking
for another in Heavener. Business is expanding with new Chili's
restaurants in Poteau and Atoka and a grocery store in Clayton. A
ceremony in March will mark the beginning of construction on a new
headquarters building near the site of the Durant Regional Medical
A new Voters Registration program is part of the Choctaw
Nation's election reform in having an election process that is
transparent, accountable, and fair. It's important to vote. It is
our responsibility. It fulfills our culture and helps shape our
future. More information on the Voter Registration department will
be shared through the coming months and their staff is available to
answer any questions regarding voter registration and tribal
Negotiations are in progress with the state of Oklahoma on a
hunting and fishing license compact. Tribal representatives have
been working with state officials to ensure the best possible
agreement is reached.
Two programs in developing stages are the Reintegration Program
and Job for the Day.
The mission for the Reintegration Program is to assist adult
tribal members who have been convicted of felony crimes to become
productive citizens by offering the appropriate services. Our goal
is aimed at removing barriers to our tribal members who are
reintegrating back into the communities in which they have lived.
Since its inception, we have assisted 78 clients with over 200
different referral options. Five have gained employment as a result
of direct assistance.
The Job for the Day is a temporary work program that places
tribal members in a fulltime work environment in the Choctaw Nation
workforce for up to six weeks. While on the program, participants
build relationships with employees and learn new work traits,
allowing them to gain experience while coordinators work with them
to apply for permanent jobs using the Choctaw Careers website.
An Elder's Legacy of Goodwill Remembered
It's a new year and we are very blessed to have our family and
the simple things such as food in our stomach and a roof over our
heads. Angie and I spent a lot of time with our family through
Christmas and it amazes me how fast David and our grandchildren are
growing. It always makes me smile to know that they are all healthy
and doing well!
It's always great fun to attend the Jones Academy Christmas
party and dinner. This year, the kids represent about 25 different
tribes from 15 states and they become family once they are together
at Jones. We talk about the joy of Christmas, their plans for the
future, and enjoy watching their excitement. There is an alumni
event held every year in October at Jones during which all are
invited to return. Some who attend were even students from the time
in the '50s when it was an all-male academy.
Thinking of Jones Academy also reminds me of Brother Bertram
Bobb. He had a profound effect on many people and touched our lives
in many ways. He always said prayer is a privilege, the words of a
very wise man.
We lost Brother Bobb in December. A great man and great leader,
Brother Bobb served as an inspiration for myself and many others
because he was such a faithful, humble servant to the Lord and our
Brother Bobb never spoke much but everybody knew by his actions
he was deeprooted in his faith and his commitment to helping
others. I am thankful I was able to know him most of my life. I
will miss him greatly and will miss his smile and his loving spirit
that he always had.
Brother Bobb was largely involved in gaining recognition for the
Code Talkers and advancing legislation awarding them Congressional
gold medals. He was related to two of the World War I Choctaw Code
Talkers, James Edwards and Mitchell Bobb, and he was always ready
to go to Washington, D.C., and walk the halls of Congress to share
Family was precious to Brother Bobb. He set examples we all need
to follow by remaining strong in the Lord, appreciating the simple
things life has to offer, and sharing our heritage with our
children and grandchildren so they can pass it on to their children
More blessed to give 12/2015
It's a season of giving thanks for all the blessings we receive
and to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a part of our
culture to celebrate our faith and to spend time with family.
I have so many things to be thankful for, especially the times I
have to enjoy being with my family and friends, and with great
groups of Choctaws who gathered at community centers for
Thanksgiving celebrations last month. Whenever we have a chance to
get together is a chance to make memories.
I would like to say Yakoke! to all of the employees who helped
by cooking, serving, and cleaning up during the Thanksgiving meals.
These gatherings are full of fellowship, fun, and catching up with
those we haven't seen in a while.
When Choctaws get together they like to sing. I love hearing the
Choctaw hymns any time of the year. I remember my Grandpa speaking
the language and am now learning it more. Some of the best times
I've had this year have been with Choctaw families at reunions or
celebrations. It's a time of singing, eating, and just enjoying the
Another thing to be grateful for are our healthcare
professionals. Hospitals don't close during Thanksgiving or
Christmas or any other holiday. Their doors remain open and the
doctors, nurses, CNAs, and support staff are there for us
year-round, as well as the public safety departments and fi refi
ghters. We have peace of mind knowing this. Yakoke! for your
dedication and the ways you try to make the holidays better for
Also, Yakoke! to our employees who keep the travel plazas,
casinos, and restaurants open for visitors. There are travelers and
many others who look forward to spending time with people who have
become their friends and are often like family. We all appreciate
you very much.
Jesus teaches us to do good to all people when we have the
opportunity. Christmas is a special time of year when we are
blessed with many opportunities to reach out to a neighbor in need.
There are toy drives and food drives. The Choctaw Nation employees
have once again made sure hundreds of families have food, children
have toys to open, and elders receive a gift.
The greatest blessing of all is the opportunity to give. Many of
these families who find themselves in need because of circumstances
beyond their control, will remember the kindness and pay it
forward. They will in turn help someone else.
It's the most glorious time of the year! May God bless you and
your families this Christmas and through the next year!
Veterans Day, we honor those who serve
We hold a ceremony every year to honor our Choctaw Veterans and
we are thankful every day for the sacrifices given by the brave men
and women who have protected our Nation and continue to protect our
Veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the War on
Terrorism travel to the Tvshka Homma Capitol grounds to participate
in the ceremony held on Veterans Day. It's an opportunity for us to
show our honor and respect with a handshake, pat on the back, or a
big hug. The Veterans receive a new jacket as a gift of
appreciation and they wear it proudly.
I am always moved when the Color Guard posts the colors of the
United States and the Choctaw Nation. It is especially significant
to see the salutes of the Choctaw Veterans with the Capitol
standing tall behind them.
The statue guarding the Capitol was named Tvshka Homma or Red
Warrior, a tribute to centuries of Choctaw warriors. The trees
shade monuments honoring Veterans who gave the ultimate sacrifice,
losing their life in action during war times. Their names are
etched on the granite monuments, and we can see our reflections as
we read the them-a reminder that these men died for us. One of the
ways we can honor those who have died for our country is to
remember and serve those who are alive.
The soldiers who are stationed now in active war zones receive a
care package from the Nation every three months. Our Veterans
Advocacy department also assists Veterans with VA claim
Veterans aren't always fighting in a foreign war. There are many
who are stationed in the states and our National Guardsmen provide
disaster relief support and protection. They all deserve our
appreciation. We hope they all know they are in our thoughts and
It's important to learn about the Veterans in your family and
listen to their stories. The Choctaw Code Talkers were instrumental
to ending World War I. They loved their homeland and were brave,
creative men who used the wonderful Choctaw language to change the
outcome of the war.
We need to share our Veterans' stories with our children and
teach them about how thankful we should be for the service of our
There are many ways we can honor our Veterans. One of the most
simple and heartfelt is to say "Yakoke," thank you for your
The family is the heart of the Choctaw Nation
Family is very important to me. The cooler weather has given me
the opportunity to spend quality time with my grandchildren over
the past few weekends. We have shot baskets and gone fi shing.
Choctaw Country in the fall is beautiful and it is a blessing to be
able to make such good memories.
My wife, Angie, and I are adoptive parents. We were elated to
welcome our daughter and son to our hearts and our home. If we had
not adopted our children, we would not be enjoying our two
grandchildren! I thank God every day for them.
I have often said our granddaughter is the boss of the family!
She has our hearts wrapped around her finger.
Our grandson is athletic and, at thirteen, is already taller
than me. He keeps us active and busy.
There are many families such as ours who are united through
programs like the Choctaw Nation's Children and Family Services.
There are many more children needing a place to call home than
there are families to provide that home.
Choctaw children need to be raised in a Choctaw home.
Choctaw foster families do more than just provide a home and
necessities. They share the Choctaw heritage and teach the children
stability and values. They give them love.
The children can be in the foster homes for a few days, a few
months or a few years. I have watched foster parents show strength
and compassion as they are called with requests to accept a
newborn, a toddler, or sometimes an older child. The unconditional
love is evident as they change one child's life, then another, and
another even though they know the child will most likely be there
for just a short time. The foster families work with the children's
families so that they can have a better chance of returning home.
More than 100 Choctaw children were returned to their homes last
year after temporary intervention.
There have been many compassionate families who began as foster
parents and later adopted a child. In cases where the children have
entered foster care and it is not possible for them to return to
their parents or their own extended family, the child's foster
family can have the first choice in adopting.
There are many couples like Angie and me who are unable to have
children and want to make a diff erence, not only by adding to
their lives but also by nurturing the life of a child. If you are
interested in becoming a foster parent, please call (800) 522-6170,
Yakoke, thank you, to all of the amazing and dedicated Choctaw
families who reach out to hold these children in your arms.
Summer 2015 - A season to remember in the Choctaw Nation
Summer is nearing an end and it's been an actionpacked three
months with several Choctaw Nation activities for the kids.
Youth camps began soon after school was out and continued
through most of the summer. Approximately 1,800 kids attended the
summer camps hosted by our Cultural Services department-even though
we were having record rain and flooding. They focused on teaching
Choctaw culture and improving skills in basketball, softball,
baseball, football, golf and stickball. Yakoke to the staff who
devoted many long hours to preparing for the camps and working with
The Choctaw Nation sponsored 100 boys and girls who were either
part of the Youth Outreach program or the youth stickball league to
travel to Mississippi in July to play in an exhibition game during
the World Series of Stickball. It was their first and they returned
home as champions! It was an awesome group of kids and they
represented the Oklahoma Choctaws very well.
History was also made in Durant in July-President Obama traveled
to the Choctaw Nation to announce the tribe is one of only 28
communities across the United States to be selected for the Digital
Opportunity Grant. The grant will bring low-cost, high-speed
broadband Internet services for continuing education and learning
opportunities. The Choctaw Nation is currently the only Tribal
Nation selected. President Obama made the announcement during his
visit July 15 at Durant High School. I was very honored to be
included in a discussion with President Obama and youth from the
Choctaw, Cherokee, Muscogee-Creek and Chickasaw Nations prior to
his speech. The young men and women were an amazing group who
showed exceptional perception.
Our children are the future of our tribe, and as such, we are
fostering a desire to accomplish academic and lifelong goals. The
coming school year holds many opportunities including the Success
Through Academic Recognition (STAR) program or Choctaw
This fall begins the STAR program's ninth year of providing
incentives to our students. There are currently 17,000 enrolled in
STAR in 47 states and in Canada, Thailand, Germany, the United Arab
Emirates, and Japan. Results of a recent survey of STAR high school
seniors show 80 percent are planning to pursue higher education
after graduation. That is very good news! The STAR students are
rewarded for making straight A's, A's and B's, and having perfect
attendance. The program motivates the students and they are
learning good habits that will stay with them.
The Choctaw Nation's Higher Education Program can assist Choctaw
students who have graduated and are working toward a degree. High
school students who are taking college courses can also receive a
book allowance to help while they are focusing on both.
It's important for our children and grandchildren to plan a
future that includes continuing their education beyond high school.
The deadline to apply for higher education assistance is October 1
for this fall and March 1 for the spring semester. And, it's
Choctaw College Connect will be Saturday, November 7, this year
at the Choctaw Event Center in Durant. Choctaw students will be
able to visit with college and university representatives from
across the United States. Students may go online to www.choctawcollegeconnect.com
to register for this information-packed day.
Education is a way to open doors to better opportunities and
improve quality of life. It can turn dreams into reality.
Lifting up the Nation 7/2015
Thank you for the confidence you have placed in me by selecting
me to serve another four years as your Chief. The Choctaw Nation is
poised for even greater success than we have already achieved, and
I am prepared to do my part to provide opportunities for all
Throughout history, Choctaws have always made the most of
opportunities that come our way. When President Obama selected the
Choctaw Nation as the first tribe designated as a Promise Zone, he
took the first step in moving our Nation-to-Nation relationship to
a Nationto-Nation partnership. The Promise Zone designation is one
of the latest opportunities for the Choctaw Nation. President
Obama's visit on July 15 was the first time a sitting U.S.
president has been in Durant as a guest of the Choctaw Nation. I
was glad to see a president recognize his government-to-government
responsibilities and come here on Choctaw soil.
So far, under our Promise Zone designation, the Choctaw Nation
has prepared and supported dozens of applications that have
resulted in more than $51 million in federal tax credits and grants
being awarded to recipients in the Choctaw Nation Promise Zone by
federal agencies, including Department of Justice, Department of
Education, USDA, HUD, Treasury, and others. We recently received a
$5 million federal grant to reduce teen pregnancy, meaning more
young people can finish school and get better jobs.
President Obama discussed the ConnectHome initiative to provide
Internet to disadvantaged tribal members. The pilot program is
launching in 27 cities and we are the only tribal nation! It will
initially reach over 275, 000 low-income households-and nearly
200,000 children-with the support they need to access the Internet
ConnectHome is just one of the partnerships recently started. We
broke ground this month on a new clinic in Durant that will provide
about 200 jobs in the area.
Choctaw Nation has expanded its summer learning programs that
help all students catch up in public schools. Choctaw Nation has
widened early learning opportunities in its region with the award
by Health and Human Services of a multi-year Early Head
Start-Childcare Partnership Grant with Promise Zone prefer ence. In
2014, with Choctaw Nation's assistance, 13 schools and communities
in southeastern Oklahoma received Community Facilities Grants from
USDA Rural Development with Promise Zone preference for school
gardens, fitness equipment, and facility upgrades.
There are a lot of needs out there. We need to create capacity
just to grow. We need to develop businesses inside and outside of
the Choctaw Nation to sustain our government and member services-to
create social programs to help give tribal members a leg up when
they need it and help them succeed in life. Expansion is needed in
several programs including our summer school programs, the
reintegration program, housing, health, and education.
This can be accomplished if we all work together to become a
healthier, more self sufficient nation. As we grow we can increase
tribal members' sense of connectedness. We are family, we are
Choctaw way of helping 6/2015
Storms and flooding during the month of May required quick
action and the Choctaw Nation's Emergency Management team was
ready. It is the Choctaw way to reach out to ensure the safety of
our tribal members, to help our neighbors, and assist the efforts
of other disaster teams. The response team reacted swiftly and
professionally, coordinating with staff, volunteers, and city and
county officials to help provide the most-needed resources.
More than a dozen tornadoes were reported in southeastern
Oklahoma as well as high winds, hail, and torrential rain and
flooding in a three-week span. Homes were damaged or destroyed in
several counties and I am very proud of the group of men and women
who donated their time to help.
Trucks were loaded with bottled water to deliver while the water
supply in the Choctaw and McCurtain County areas was shut down or
under a boil ban. The water was available at Choctaw Community
Centers in Hugo, Broken Bow, Bethel, and Wright City. Some
volunteers filled their pickups with cases of water and delivered
to residents who were unable to drive to a center.
Huge trees were uprooted, twisted or split, falling across
homes. Our employees removed the trees and spread tarps to prevent
more damage from the relentless rain. Two Choctaw Nation Health
Services teams were sent to provide tetanus shots to responders and
affected residents in Atoka County where approximately 35 homes
sustained major damage.
Just reaching the hardest-hit areas took two and sometimes three
times longer because of trees or water covering the roads. Routes
were closed because the roads literally became part of the nearby
lake or river.
The Choctaw Nation hospital in Talihina had to close a small
portion of the facility because of the flooding. It would have
taken longer to reopen if it hadn't been for the 40 volunteers who
helped fill sandbags to divert water. There were approximately
3,500 sandbags filled that day!
I've heard several of our elderly tribal members say they were
thankful for their storm shelter. This spring in Oklahoma was a
good time to have one! Since June last year, the Choctaw Nation has
provided storm shelters for tribal members age 55 and over in
Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri and Kansas. I'm thankful they
had a safe haven from the storms. And, I'm thankful there are so
many people with the heart to respond immediately to people in
need. Chahta sia hoke!
The year's at the spring 5/2015
Spring is one of my favorite times of the year because it has so
much to offer. It's a time of renewal, traditions, and achievement.
There seems to be a perpetual excitement in the air as one
adventure comes to a close and another begins.
The youth stickball league completed its second season with a
full day of tournament play on April 25. Congratulations to the
2015 Youth Stickball League Champions-the Nashoba Homma junior team
and Tvnvp Issuba senior team! All of the teams played great
The league started last year with 150 kids. There were over 350
boys and girls signed up to play this year, an amazing growth in
participation. The day of the championship was a perfect example of
Choctaw life and traditions handed down. Families traveled to
Tvshka Homma from all of the districts to support the teams. These
kids are keeping a traditional game alive and it is fun to see them
grow and improve.
It's getting time for our summer culture and sports camps. Last
year about 1,800 kids participated, and this summer there are 3,500
registered. The camps begin this month with the cultural enrichment
camp and run through the summer with golf, softball, baseball,
basketball, football and stickball. At all of the camps, Tribal
youth will get an opportunity to learn, grow, and interact with
other Choctaw kids.
Spring also brings wild onion dinners with shukha nipi, banaha,
tanchi, and of course, grape dumplings. I get hungry just thinking
about them! It's a great time for family and fellowship.
The month of May is time for graduations and I want to commend
all the high school, college and university graduates for their
dedication and hard work.
We've been receiving success stories from around the country and
I'm thrilled to acknowledge these amazing young Choctaw men and
women-honor students and state scholastic and sports champions. At
Southeastern Oklahoma State University there were 98 Choctaw
students graduating. That is a great number of Choctaw members. Out
of the 800 Native American students at the Oklahoma Indian Honors,
200 were Choctaws. There is at least one Choctaw student named a
Gates Millennium Scholar this year-Bailee Smith, a student from
Sequoyah, Oklahoma, High School. The prestigious scholarship is
awarded to only 1,000 students each year, chosen from over 20,000
applicants. We are so proud of you all!
A family legacy 4/2015
The Easter Celebration last month at Tvshka Homma brought
together hundreds of Choctaw families. It felt like a huge family
reunion and even with the cool, rainy weather there were Choctaws
outside enjoying the activities.
Six thousand colorful eggs covered the Capitol lawn and were
swooped up in minutes during Easter egg hunts for the kids and the
elders. I think the older "kids" moved faster!
The youth stickball teams met for their first tournament of the
year and a few folks even tossed horseshoes in the mud. The gospel
singing was great. I enjoyed being there with my family and talking
with friends I haven't seen in a while. I noticed others doing the
same, greeting each other with laughs and hugs.
Choctaw people have a history of rallying to help whether it is
a community event or assisting someone they have never met. The
donation to the Irish during the 1847 Potato Famine is an example
of Choctaw people showing empathy with a nation experiencing a
tremendous tragedy. The tribe continues to reach out to others
through everything from benefit dinners for a fellow Choctaw to
donation drives for other countries.
We have the opportunity to enjoy being with family and friends
at festivals and community events because of the legacy left us by
our ancestors from Mississippi. We are able to help each other in
times of need because of the foundation they put in place for
We will honor the Choctaws who traveled the Trail of Tears with
a commemorative walk May 16 at Tvshka Homma. It is estimated 15 to
33% of the Choctaws who left Mississippi for their new home
perished along the way. That was approximately 1,500 to 4,000
people. It was grandmothers and grandfathers, mothers and fathers,
teenagers, babies. I don't like imagining my mother or
grandchildren walking thousands of miles in extreme temperatures.
The protectiveness I feel for them is I'm sure only a fraction of
what the families were feeling during those long days on the long
The Trail of Tears Commemorative Walk will start at 10 a.m.
Please join us at our Choctaw Nation Capitol for a special day
filled with more fellowship, cultural activities and family fun.
Most importantly, it is a chance to join in a tribute to the
sacrifices of the Choctaw travelers who first settled in Oklahoma
and created our great nation. We are now the third largest Native
American tribe in the country. We are strong and have a faith in
each other and the future being built for our children.
Hard work pays off for Choctaw youth 3/2015
It is a tremendous privilege to have
the opportunity to support our Choctaws as they work to accomplish
the goals they set for themselves. A perfect example of this is the
support we are able to provide for our Choctaw youth who raise show
animals and participate in the livestock shows in Oklahoma. I have
attended several livestock premium shows in the last few weeks and
I consistently see groups of boys and girls who have successfully
undertaken the responsibility of caring for their animals and
participating in the livestock shows through organizations like 4-H
It always makes me proud to see our
kids participating in 4-H and FFA. I participated in both while
growing up and know showing an animal is not easy. These youth come
from great families whose values are honesty, hard work, and
respect. They are very responsible.
Livestock is just one component of the
organizations. The youth learn all about agriculture, business
management, public speaking and more. They learn life skills and
become leaders in their communities. I also believe it helps them
to become great parents and they share the values they have learned
with their children.
The livestock shows in our area
include divisions of hogs, cattle, goats and sheep. From the time
the kids get their young animal to raise, they start developing a
plan. They adjust their hours to be able to feed, groom and tend to
the animals every day. This schedule builds work ethics for a
Every year, the Choctaw Nation
purchases Choctaw students' animals at premium shows throughout the
10 1/2 counties. The Councilmen, Assistant Chief and I enjoy
attending these shows and watching the interaction between the boys
and girls and their animals.
The students are given the option to
keep the animal and many go on to show at the state level. Most
will keep their hog or heifer for breeding purposes and start
planning for the next year. It's important to give back in a way
that helps these young people meet their personal potential and
achieve their dreams. I encourage everyone to attend a premium show
and support the youth in your area. Watch them work with their
animals. It's a great experience and a lot of fun!
Giving back to our elders 2/2015
Our elders are priceless to us as a family and as a tribe. They
have been down roads and faced challenges many of us have yet to
The Choctaw people have handed down stories of the Trail of
Tears and overcoming adversity to survive. Each generation has
faced new problems and through the wisdom of our elders we learn
how to climb every mountain.
I am thankful for the chance to visit with Chahta elders
everywhere I go and enjoy hearing about their experiences and their
ideas of what would benefit the Nation.
A new programs and services brochure with updated information
will be mailed to tribal members this month. Over 100 programs are
outlined including many to assist our senior citizens, standing for
them as they have stood for us.
One of the most important issues is the health of our elders.
The prevalence of diabetes in Native Americans remains high. It's
close to home for me because both my brother and sister have
The Choctaw Nation Diabetes Wellness Center and clinics provide
information on preventing Type 2 and managing Type 1 diabetes and
complications related to the disease. Each visit to the Diabetes
Wellness Center in Talihina includes foot exams weight and vitals
checks, and a general physical exam. Even if you have diabetes in
your family, following a healthy diet and increasing exercise can
help prevent Type 2. The Diabetes Wellness Center provides a
diabetic education program accredited through the American
Association of Diabetes Educators along with nutrition
The Food Distribution Program also shares nutrition information
and has a wonderful cook, Carmen Robertson. Her magic
transformation of healthy ingredients into great meals is wellknown
in the Choctaw Nation. The newer market-style centers are equipped
with kitchens and Carmen gives cooking demonstrations in each one
every month. The schedule is printed in the Biskinik so the Food
Distribution participants can attend.
The Senior Nutrition Program is the foundation for meals,
transportation, information and group activities for Native
Americans over 55 at our community centers. Attending lunch at one
of the community centers on Wednesdays is my favorite part of the
week! Thank you all for your warm welcomes. The centers aren't only
for gathering for lunch. Active groups of seniors form exercise
groups, language classes, arts and crafts classes, and travel to
events. I don't know if I could keep up with them!
The Health Services' Going Lean project helps both the seniors
and local farmers. It is becoming more common to see tables of
fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables at the community centers
during the summer. The produce can be bought or eligible seniors
can receive vouchers through Going Lean to trade for the fresh
There are many more services such as Elder Advocacy, the
Eyeglasses, Dentures and Hearing Aid Program, Low Income Home
Energy Assistance, Community Health Representatives, the Storm
Shelter Program, and the Independent Living communities for
Our elders are very important to us and I appreciate the efforts
made to show them the care and respect they have earned.
Keeping a focus on doing what's best for Choctaws
I look forward to the New Year with hope and enthusiasm! Your
twelve-member Tribal Council and the Assistant Chief and I share a
vision of continued progress and growth for the Choctaw Nation. We
will remain strong and unified on behalf of our Choctaw people to
make their lives better. We will also remain focused on the values
that are Choctaw.
Choctaw hearts are servant leaders' hearts. We are part of the
community - we care about others. That is why Choctaws have been
successful in efforts to begin wellness centers, recycling centers,
fire departments, school programs and economic ventures that
benefit entire towns. In times of crisis, such as a tornado at
Tushka or Moore, Okla. or state-wide winter storms, the Choctaw
Nation responds to help. Tribal employees have recently won awards
from the Red Cross for their work in storm relief.
Our elders have shared the wisdom of many years of experience.
The generations that follow will greatly appreciate the stories
told by the grandmothers and grandfathers. Through these words, we
learn. We love and respect our elders. We love and care for our
families. I was humbled to be invited into the homes of tribal
elders this Christmas season as we delivered gifts from the Choctaw
Nation. It was a wonderful experience to talk to so many people and
learn about their lives.
The Choctaw Nation is unique because of our heritage and
traditions. It is important to continue sharing our culture. We
will be bringing our dance, language and art to Choctaws across the
United States in the coming months, just as you have seen in past
issues of BISKINIK in cultural community meeting photos that have
been featured. Our heritage is highlighted through the stickball
league, the school of Choctaw language, the Employee Dance Troupe,
the Choctaw Artist Registry, the craft classes and the Heritage
Days that the tribe sponsors. There is even a long-bow archery
competition that has drawn the interest of youth across the Nation,
providing an exceptional opportunity for a revival in this
The past year has been marked with many successes, such as
groundbreakings and grand openings, jobs created, services like the
storm shelter program and Choctaw car tags. The Council, Assistant
Chief and I are all committed to continue investing in our Choctaw
Plans for the upcoming year include doing more to honor our
elders, reclaiming more land for the Choctaw Nation, improving the
health care and Head Start facilities available to our people and
increasing the transparency of government through actions such as
We can balance being in the world we live in today while keeping
our values and beliefs as Chahta people. This is the most important
thing we can do as we move our Tribal members forward.
I know there are many stories of individuals and families that
could encourage the rest of us! We want to hear your story - we
want to share your story of success. Please email me or write me!
firstname.lastname@example.org, or share directly on my facebook page
Chief Gary Batton.
God Bless you in the coming year and I hope you are always proud
to say, Chahta Sia Hoke! I am Choctaw!
Helping hand during the holidays
I have thoroughly enjoyed the Thanksgiving celebrations I've
been able to attend throughout the Nation. The dinners held for
senior citizens in each district give us time for fellowship and
good food! I want to thank all of the employees who volunteered to
serve the meals and were available to visit with tribal members
about our programs.
Being together is important during the holidays. I am thankful
every day for my family and treasure the time spent with them. When
I think of the holidays, I can almost smell the wonderful things
cooking in the kitchen and look forward to our family traditions.
As a grandfather, I realize the importance of being together much
more than I did as a young boy.
It is our goal to help others have a better Thanksgiving and
Christmas when needed. Over 3,000 Thanksgiving food vouchers have
been distributed and more will be given for Christmas. In November,
we were also able to hand out hams to more than 6,000 employees to
have for their family meal.
Several of our staff can't wait to get a Choctaw elder or youth
angel and either purchase presents or gift cards to make someone's
Christmas brighter. More than 500 angel gifts have been provided
through our Outreach Services and Jones Academy. Angie and I have
fun ﬁlling our cart with items from the wish lists we picked each
The Choctaw Nation also buys toys for kids who may not have any
other present this year. Toys are gathered for all ages and put in
gift bags to be distributed. Close to 2,000 gifts are being
prepared this year for Choctaw boys and girls.
These are just a few of the ways we give a helping hand at the
The act of giving is a gift within itself and should not be just
a seasonal thing. There are so many ways during the year we are
able to reach out - a friendly smile, an unexpected visit with
someone we haven't seen in a while, or helping our neighbor clear
the leaves from his yard.
It is my hope that you are able to enjoy this time with friends
and loved ones.
My family and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a New
Year full of faith and family.
Valuable life lessons through FFA
One of the greatest experiences and learning opportunities I had
as a youth was my time in the FFA, both as a young member and as
club president at Clayton. It was much more than just learning to
care for animals. As a new member of the program, I was too shy and
quiet to be comfortable with all eyes on me in the show ring, and
certainly not comfortable to speak out in public! With experience
and the mentoring of some great people whom I still admire, FFA
helped bring me out of my shell and showed me I could stand and
speak with composure in front of a large group of people.
Knowing the metamorphosis that occurred in my life has made me a
huge advocate and supporter!
The Spring Livestock Show season begins next month and students
are working several hours every day to prepare their animals to be
The Choctaw Nation has held an annual livestock show since 1991.
The show has grown so large, there is a need for a northern
location in Wilburton and a southern in Durant. An average of 800
animals are shown each year at the Choctaw Nation show. They are
also entered in county and state shows during the busy season.
The many aspects of agriculture are an important part of
students' lives at Jones Academy. When Wilson N. Jones ﬁrst opened
the school in 1891, the kids would spend the ﬁrst half of the day
working in the crops and with the animals. They would spend the
afternoons in classes.
Now, there is an average of 40 students from the fourth through
12th grade involved in Jones Academy's more specialized swine
program. It's the largest FFA program on campus.
From the time the pig is born, until the end of show season,
each student learns to groom, feed, give shots, and clip their
teeth and ears. They work together and become a close-knit
They go to the barn after school is over at 3:15 p.m. and work
until 5. If any have spare time later in the evening, they will
walk back to the barn to spend more time with their animal,
brushing and talking-creating a bond. I have attended a lot of
livestock shows and it is not an unusual sight to see a young boy
or girl napping in the pen with their pig.
The daily responsibility helps the youth develop good work
ethics. They learn to work as a team and their selfesteem increases
as the year progresses.
Jones Academy Director Brad Spears says they learn to win as a
team and they learn to lose as a team.
The better show pigs are retained and put in a breeding herd.
The students like being able to show another pig out of their older
pig's litter. One of the most popular things to see at Jones
Academy is the Wall of Fame from premium sales.
The Choctaw Nation is at the forefront assisting with premium
sales in Southeast Oklahoma. The people operating the shows
recognize the tribe's support and we are often told if we weren't
doing what we were doing, it would hurt the sales on all levels. As
a consequence, it would hurt the students. The money from the
premium sales assists these kids to go to college or to help them
start new projects.
Any Native American student with a CDIB from a federally
recognized tribe can enter the Choctaw Nation Livestock Show. This
year's event is scheduled for Feb. 7 and 8, with swine, sheep and
goats showing on Saturday and cattle on Sunday afternoon. I'm
grateful we are able to help provide the students such
opportunities. The skills they pick up can be applied in whatever
career they choose. The values are transcending.
Say "Halito!" 10/2014
Let's make Choctaw language universal
Halito! I hope most of you knew instantly that I just greeted
you in Choctaw. The words, "hello," "hola," and "aloha" are
recognized around the world and someday I want "halito" to be just
The Choctaw language is a vital piece of our culture.
My grandfather spoke fl uent Choctaw. When my mother was young,
the society we lived in was a deciding factor in why many Choctaw
families stopped teaching their children their native language.
They believed they were protecting them.
The times gradually began to improve for Native Americans, and
he did teach me a few words and some of the old ways. I'm thankful
it is now diff erent for our children and grandchildren. I want
them to know much more and hope they take advantage of every
opportunity to learn.
The School of Choctaw Language instructors provide lessons from
their offices to dozens of Head Starts and high schools in
southeastern Oklahoma. I have watched them talk to the students
through amazing technology that makes it seem as if they are in the
room together. Four Oklahoma colleges off er accredited Choctaw
language courses. Community classes are held regularly.
A classroom is not the only way to learn the language. The
classes are available on the Internet with an instructor or anyone
can log on to www.choctawschool.com and take the lessons at their
own pace. There is a vocabulary of words and you can sign up for a
Lesson of the Day to be emailed to you. Your monthly Biskinik also
contains a lesson!
Events are being held such as the all-night gospel singing in
the new chapel during the Labor Day Festival. Choctaw was the only
language spoken that night. It was a blessing in so many ways.
I am so proud of the eff orts being made to teach and to learn
the language. Even though I don't speak fluently, I am going to
keep learning and practicing.
If the only word you know is "halito," say it in greeting. I
encourage every Choctaw to continue the legacy of our language. It
will keep our people together as a Nation.
Chahta sia hoke! I am Choctaw!
Fellowship in The Old Ways 9/2014
This year's Labor Day Festival was great and I was glad to see
so many sharing the time with their family and friends.
I often think of the term "old ways," especially with the events
during the weekend, beginning the first night with the princess
The young ladies said Yakoke to their mothers, their
grand-mothers or their aunts for their support or for making their
dress or jewelry. It reminded me of the theme chosen for the
festival - Honoring the giver of life - our women and all they
Choctaw families came together that night to encourage the
girls. They continued to come together for the next four days in
the old ways.
We had our traditional dances, games, gospel singing and good
I saw boys and girls carrying their stickball sticks in bags on
their backs as they walked all over the grounds - more this year
than ever before. It seemed such a natural thing for them to
Exhibition stickball games were played Sunday afternoon with
different age groups. The exhibition games gave the youngest a
chance to learn and the oldest a chance to run out on a field again
The stickball tournament games were awesome and hard-fought.
Tvshka Homma placed second, losing to MBCI (Mississippi Band of
Choctaw Indians) in the championship game. I will never forget what
happened after the game. Everyone gathered in the middle of the
field to pray. The teams, the coaches, families, friends and
spectators all came together to pray for the injured players and
everyone's safety as they left the field. It was very moving.
Another example of continuing traditions is one of the families
in the tent area who has been staying in the same spot for 27
years. They said this was the time their family always comes
together for their reunion. That means they have camped there since
I began working for the tribe.
It's this fellowship in the "old way" that makes our festival so
special. We relive what we did at the Labor Day Festival while we
begin planning for next year with the people we care about the
|Choctaw Pride 8/2014
Unity, the Choctaw way of life
There is one thing I like to see in the Choctaw Nation - family
Life is just busy and the more successful the tribe becomes, the
more there is to do. It seems life everywhere has ramped up. There
are more than 100 programs for tribal members and I am proud to see
more are focusing on youth and young families.
This focus encourages them to be independent and strive to be
the best they can be for themselves and their families. Choctaw
Nation businesses make it possible to provide programs and provide
much-needed jobs that also help young parents do well. They have a
financial future potentially greater than their parents or
In 1979, only 35 years ago, the Choctaw Nation had seven
employees and about 20,000 members. We now have 6,200 employees and
200,000 tribal members.
I remember when we used to go to the old hospital in Talihina,
we would go into the "dungeon" for dental work and our
prescriptions were handed to us through a little square hole
without us ever seeing anyone. The new hospital and clinics are
very different because of our success. We are able to provide more
specialized care in beautiful facilities that are full of
As we enjoy our success, we need to remember our grass roots
values and remember where we have been. I speak a lot about going
back to basics and listening to our elders. I believe we need to
listen to what they are saying to us.
As we hurry about, we have lost that art of listening. I see the
struggles between having time for work and a home life. We can
build stronger family units when we stay positive and create a
Our families become unified when we have good moral values, the
ability to listen and learn, and the respect for our elders and all
they know and have seen. As we stop and reflect, we understand.
We are strong because of our culture, our history, our past. We
aren't proud because of our successes. We are proud because we are
For the betterment of the Tribes 7/2014
I had the opportunity of meeting with Chief Phyllis
Anderson and our Mississippi Choctaw brothers and sisters during
our trip earlier this month to attend the World Series of
Stickball. It was truly an honor to receive a drum and a very
traditional basket from them. It was great to continue sharing
ideas of history and culture and potential ways to partner for the
betterment of both Tribes.
I was so ecstatic to get to play in a stickball game between
players age 35 and over on July 3. I felt like I was in high school
again, getting ready to play basketball or baseball because I was
so full of nervous energy and excitement! I got to play the entire
game. We lost, but it was still fun to be part of the Bad Medicine
team, to be a part of the trust and camaraderie that goes along
with it and to be just "one of the guys" on the field. Leadership
can sometimes be about allowing other people to be leaders and to
just be supportive. I am already looking forward to next year's
My heart did swell with pride as our Tribal Council, Assistant
Chief Jack Austin Jr. and I were able to lead our team, Tvshka
Homma, onto the field later that night for their game against Nanih
Waiya. Also leading the team were their families and the boys and
girls who played stickball this year in our first-ever youth
stickball league. What an awesome event to see how far our team has
come and to see our future stickball players. It is great to see
pride in our history and culture come back to our people and to see
them proud of being Choctaw. It is so good to hear our tribal
people say Chahta sia!
Inspiring time spent with Choctaw people during front
porch visits 6/2014
Choctaw people inspire me. I have been honored to talk with
several recently at their homes and at community events.
In the ﬁrst days after becoming Chief, I said I wanted to get to
a "grassroots level" and "do things like front porch visits" so I
could hear directly from Choctaws. Of course, with 200,000 Choctaws
across the globe, there are a limited number of front porches I am
able to stop by, but I have been blessed to see a lot of people in
the past few weeks! I have taken notice of the vast amount of wise
advice the elders have shared with me, and have been impressed with
the strength of the values ingrained in their very being.
After many talks on the front porches, a number of memories keep
returning to front and center of my mind. I spoke with a woman who
has been caregiver of her son, a cancer survivor. This Choctaw lady
has a positive outlook on life, a smile and generous attitude that
we should all emulate! I appreciate Fay Cox for sharing her story
with me! Talking with 82-year-old Wrightman Thomas of Antlers, I
learned he not only mows his own lawn, he also takes care of 10
other lawns! That is a tremendous work ethic. One elder in Talihina
(Carlos McIntosh) had a sign on his porch that stated "Waiting for
Chief Batton." Assistant Chief Austin and I thought that was a
great invitation and made our way quickly across town one day to
see him. What a great sense of humor! We enjoyed our visit
immensely and Carlos even allowed us to take a photo with him (and
Conversing with others who epitomize the tremendous values that
our Choctaw ancestors have taught us - integrity, honor, humor and
respect - has been a great experience for me during May and June.
Going to the home of a local minister and his wife, I listened to
their many concerns and was uplifted by the fact that as they spoke
about the adversity they had faced, they were still so positive
about life they made others feel awesome about who they were as
Choctaw people because of those deep-rooted values.
In Broken Bow, we walked down a street ﬁlled with Choctaw homes
and found some people who were interested in talking about their
health, their education, their houses and their future. Listening
to people on their porches, in their living rooms, in the community
centers and in the small towns scattered across the Choctaw Nation,
I am hearing ideas that can be put into action, and more than that,
I am hearing the heart of our Nation! It is humbling to see the
needs that exist and it is good to be able to set steps in motion
to provide assistance.
"Whenever someone is down, it seems the best thing to do is to
look up. We can help others look up!" Visiting towns around Choctaw
Nation I have met tremendous individuals and families. Most of us
would see some of them as having great needs, but these people were
more concerned with helping others. This characterizes the servant
heart that Choctaws everywhere are known for.
God bless everyone who has welcomed Assistant Chief Jack Austin
Jr. and me over the past few weeks as we made our way around
Choctaw Nation! I have learned so much and feel richly blessed to
be a part of your lives.