Pride in heritage demonstrated by crowds at cultural events
From the desk of Assistant Chief Gary Batton
This year’s Labor Day Festival was made extra-special with the unveiling of a bust of historian Charley Jones. It is an annual event that a statue is added in a place of honor at the Capitol, and I was thrilled to see former Councilman Jones receive this mark of distinction. Charley Jones shared a tremendous amount of history with Choctaw Nation, and I feel he would have been pleased with the abundant opportunities to be involved in cultural activities during this year’s festival.
Tribal heritage was evident everywhere. The new Miss Choctaw Nation (Callie Curnutt’s) talent at the Princess Pageant was performing storytelling. Even the stage decorations at the pageant, floor to ceiling panels featuring photos of Wheelock, showed tribal history, added a great effect to the occasion. The other young ladies, with song, dress and sign language, all made it a wonderful cultural event.
After running in the 5K Saturday morning, I made a visit over to the traditional village where people were taste-testing banaha and tanchi labona after the Choctaw dancing. Seeing children mush fingers through clay at the pottery teaching booth reminded me of making my first bowl a few years ago alongside my son. Although it may not be the prettiest piece of Choctaw pottery, that bowl is proudly displayed in my office! This year, the new challenge I took on was to begin making a set of stickball sticks. Taking raw wood and an axe, carefully splitting, shaving and bending, an hour later I began to see the shape form. I was really excited! It made me have an even higher respect (if that is possible) for the much-admired late Sidney White, who is considered one of the greatest stickball stick makers of all-time.
Staying in the stickball mode, it was an honor to join the exhibition play on Sunday afternoon, along with Councilmen Williston and Dillard. Later, watching the awesome stickball team at the third annual tournament rise victorious after a hot battle with the Mississippi team was a great moment for me. Not just because Tvshka Homma were the new champions, but because there were close to 100 team members on the field, and hundreds more Choctaws in the stands, cheering them on. The excited whoops from the new champs and their fans embodies the motto of “growing with pride hope and success.”
To me, this growth from just a few people who played stickball as an exhibition a few years ago to a hundred players winning a tournament this year epitomizes the revitalization of interest in the Choctaw culture.
Historian Charley Jones would have been proud of the many Choctaws participating in our great heritage. It was a great year for his statue to be unveiled so he could be a part of this.