Bringing in the colors for this year’s Choctaw Days in D.C.
Tribe to honor military history during June event
From the Desk of Chief Gregory E. Pyle
There has been a frenzy of activity in the last few months as staff finalizes plans for Choctaw Days in Washington, D.C. Last year, we were the first tribe to hold a festival at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and even before that successful event concluded, we were working with NMAI officials on the 2012 version.
Choctaw Days begins on June 20, the day of summer solstice, the one day of the year that the sun and the museum’s eight large prisms are in perfect alignment and project dazzling color. Our distinguished Color Guard will bring in the colors of our great Choctaw Nation and the United States, post the flags in an opening ceremony and start the four-day celebration.
The Color Guard is a familiar group to us all. The Choctaw veterans have opened over 1,000 events around the country and their appearance always brings honor and reverence to any occasion. It is especially fitting this year as we highlight our military history at Choctaw Days.
Thousands of people will visit the museum and learn of the strength inherent to the Choctaw. Men and women have fought on front lines, patched the wounded, repaired the vehicles, fueled the bombers, shuffled files and supported combat in hundreds of ways. It takes a lot of people to keep one fighting group supplied and ready for battle and we salute you all.
Among our guest speakers is Lt. General Leroy Sisco (ret.) who will join tribal officials in the Potomac Atrium for a presentation at the height of the light show through the museum’s windows.
Special presentations are also scheduled in the Rasmuson Theatre to inform visitors of the Choctaw Code Talkers, World War I’s “telephone warriors,” and their contribution to winning that war. Artist DG Smalling, the great-grandson of Calvin Wilson, one of the original Code Talkers, will share the history of the first group of men to use their language as a key strategy to confuse the enemy who were listening to their transmissions.
Also included on the schedule for the Rasmuson is Southeastern Oklahoma State University’s Theatre Department. This talented group has produced short plays expanding on the theme, “To Us It Wasn’t Code.” The performers are all Choctaw students from SOSU.
The production will also cover other Choctaw tribal aspects such as stickball, basketmaking and language.
Daily activities will include Choctaw singing, dancing, flute playing, storytelling and a wide array of booths featuring traditional baskets, pottery, beadwork, moccasins, weapons and more.
We have an elite group of Choctaw artists who have agreed to show their work at Choctaw Days 2012 – DG Smalling, Jane Semple Umsted, Theresa Morris and Paul Hacker. They are each experts in their own unique methods of creating lasting works of art. They have focused on providing original works reflecting our military history especially for this event.
Last year’s make-and-take sessions provided by the Choctaw Cultural Services staff were one of the favorite activities among the visitors to the museum. Everyone is invited to participate so they can have their own handmade Choctaw crafts to take home with them. Five classes will be held each day on how to make beaded chokers and corn husk dolls and staff will also have airbrush Choctaw-design tattoos for anyone interested.
The make-and-takes are so popular it is necessary to pick up a free ticket to ensure a spot in one of the classes.
We are excited about our outdoor action this year. On Thursday and Friday evenings there will be a stickball demonstration at the Reflecting Pool at the U.S. Capitol, just a short walking distance from the National Museum of the American Indian. The D.C. area is known for its love of lacrosse and it is a privilege to be able to show them the origins of this sport that is gaining popularity across the United States.
Stickball is a Choctaw tradition. It has been called “little brother of war” because ancient Choctaw communities would often turn to the game to solve problems. It could carry on for days, hundreds of men on each team, and their wives cheering them on and betting their household goods that their team would be the strongest, the best.
On Saturday, visitors will be able to see Choctaw horses in a fenced area off Maryland Avenue across from the museum. The versatile Choctaw horse is a rare strain of Spanish mustang. Two mares from Cumberland Valley Equine Service – Windrider’s Shalontaki “Cricket” and Chahta Chunkash “Choctaw Heart” – will be part of the cultural experience.
We are thankful to have the opportunity to educate the world about the multi-faceted Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma through venues such as Choctaw Days at NMAI.