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Reminiscences of Carrie Bell Bohanan

   Carrie Belle Tonihka Bohanan began her life on Feb. 22, 1914, in Eagletown to parents, Betsy Hotubbi Tonihka and John Silas Tonihka Jr., both of which were full blood Choctaw.

   Her father owned a grocery store by their house. During her time spent at this store, Carrie would always have to be watched closely by her parents because she had a tendency to issue out the candy for free. Her parents would always have to keep an eye on her until she learned better.

   Carrie remembers that store having considerable business with railroad workers because the railroad ran close to the location. They worked and camped close by and would come to the store to do some trading.Carrie Choctaw Dress

   Carrie remembers her mother, who only spoke Choctaw, being in charge of the store one day and a man trying to take advantage of her. Since she did not speak English he tried to convince her that he had already paid for his groceries, but Carrie's mother was a smart woman and was not easily tricked.  Carrie also recalled that Betsy used to carry a pistol as well.

   Silas was a notable man about the town. In one instance, he was working on the roof of the store and a man came by who need to collect a bill. Not wanting to leave the roof and pause his work, Silas wrote a check on a shingle, and because he was an honest man, the collector accepted it.

   It went to a bank in DeQueen, "it was the only shingle that went through as a check," remembered Carrie.

   Silas was also one of the first people in the area to own a car. He did not know how to drive, so the dealer taught him for a few hours in his new Ford. Soon after the dealer left however, he ran over a stump and damaged the bottom of the car. Fortunately he was able to buy another car quickly and Carrie's brothers were privileged with driving.

   Betsy died in 1921 from a gall bladder complication. She was the one that took care of the business portion of the store and eventually it closed down. Silas continued to farm on his land and Carrie spent much time with him as he worked. He passed away at the age of 115, simply from old age.

   When she was seven, Carrie began her education at Wheelock Academy. She only knew two bits of English. "Yes ma'am," and "no ma'am," were the only things her father taught her to say, so when she got to the school and they asked for her name, she told them "no ma'am."

   Fortunately her cousin who knew a slight amount more of the language was attending and helped her with the problem. 

   While she continued to answer the various questions, her father had to leave. As she realized that his car was driving away, she ran after him, but he kept going knowing that she needed to learn. Out of sympathy, the woman who was superintendent of the school consoled her. From that a friendship formed and Carrie became one of the superintendent's favorites.

   After six years at Wheelock she transferred to Seger Indian School in Colony, Okla. During her time at this school, Carrie made memories her grandchildren have greatly enjoyed hearing.

   She tagged along with some other girls who decided to run away from the school. They hitched a ride with a few men who had a cotton truck. Once those men wised up to why the girls were traveling, they pulled over to a store and called the school.

   The superintendent came in his car to get the girls. When he raised up the cover on the pickup that covered the cotton, there was Carrie and her friends. He commanded them to get in the car to head back.

   Once back, he told them they were to go back in the way the came out. They had to climb back in the window, which proved to be a difficult task for some. There were spankings via the superintendent's belt to motivate them towards a quicker entry.

   At the age of 13, Carrie left Seger to live with her brother. After a dispute with him, she lived with her grandmother over the summer and began her time at Oklahoma Presbyterian College (OPC) in Durant.

   While attending OPC, Carrie would take the bus to her home and back for Christmas. On her ride back there was a boy from Eagletown who was traveling to Bacone school in Muskogee.

   He smiled at her on the bus. Carrie had seen him around town before, but did not know much about him. She got off the bus at OPC and about two weeks later, a letter came in the mail from John J. Bohanan, the boy on the bus.John Carrie

   Carrie did not answer his first letter, but gave it too her friend to write him. The friend wrote him, but he ignored the letter and wrote Carrie again.

   When she came home for the summer, John would come and visit her often. They would walk to church together for a good portion of the summer and they came to know each other well.

   When John finished at Bacone, the couple got married on October 31, 1932. They went to a McCurtain County Courthouse in Idabel and were wed by a Presbyterian minister. Carrie was 18 and John was 25.

   John was a full blood Choctaw who could speak the native language. They later had a daughter in 1934 named Toka Lee Bohanan, a son in 1937 named Theodore Preston and another son named Lyndon Earl in 1945, who served in Vietnam.

   When Toka was six, the family moved to Austin to attend seminary. They lived in houses near the seminary and because they did not have a vehicle yet, they attended the closest church, which was Hyde Park Church.

   The family spent about three years in Austin. They experience hard times because of low income. It was hard to keep food in the home, but with help from the church and community, they made it through.

   They were not the only ones who needed help; many others in the area were in the same situation. The Presbyterian Church began doing a good deal of outreach to aid the community.

   After Austin, they came back to Eagletown because John took a job as the administrator of the local ministers. He preached in both Choctaw and English.

   John had difficulty winning the favor of the locals because of his education, but the fact that he could speak Choctaw remedied their dislike of him.

   There were 12 churches in the area and John would assign the minister to the various churches. He would travel around to different ones to preach at different times.

   The children and Carrie would always go to the church at which John was preaching, so the children grew up in many different church locations.

   In the 1960s Carrie spent about six months going to Idabel and the KBEL radio station. Jeanette Hudson and she had a show called "Smoke Talk" that aired in the afternoon on weekdays.

Carrie Broadcasting   They would talk about issues that affected Native Americans all over the country. Jeanette would talk in English and Carrie in Choctaw.

   Later, in 1974, Carrie wanted to buy a church van with S and H Green Stamps. John was skeptical at first, but Carrie encouraged him by saying, "Where is your patience and where is your faith?"

   Once convinced, John won the approval of the church and they helped with the process. Carrie knew women leaders of Presbyterian churches across the country and they sent her green stamps as well.

   Over the course of two years, and through the work of multitudes of people into the early morning hours at times, 2,000 books of stamps were collected for the van. Even Dick Clark from American Bandstand sent in 1,000 stamps.

   Carrie had bigger plans for her church than just a van. She wanted to better it in many ways. Over the years, church members and she would sell food at the Tushkahoma cafeteria during the Labor Day Festival as well as the Beaver Bend Festival.

   In 1983, as a result of all the work over many years, the church congregation dedicated a new facility, which was the third Mountain Fork Church. Carrie remembers the work that she did to build the church. She remembers it was long and hard, but worth it.

   In her later years, Carrie has enjoyed her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She was selected as an Outstanding Choctaw Female Elder.

This article and others came from the Choctaw Nation Biskinik. To see more history please refer to the following sites.
www.choctawnation.com
www.choctawnationculture.com
 
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