Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation

Holiday traditions – Be thankful for your families

From the desk of Chief Gregory E. Pyle

November 2012

Autumn is traditionally a time of harvest in the southeast, and the subtle change in weather pattern here is expressed by the color on the trees. Seeing the leaves makes me anxious for the holidays to begin. Very soon I will be visiting the Senior Citizen centers to share Thanksgiving meals and celebrations! Having seven grandchildren makes Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas extremely enjoyable for my household. My wife and I look forward to sharing traditions with them.

It is so wonderful to tell stories and share heritage with the young people in our families. This is how our culture has been passed on for many years. I am appreciative of all of the tribal members and their support in helping me continue to learn Choctaw culture throughout my lifetime! And a special thank you to those who have preserved the traditional arts, songs and dances. People are expressing a tremendous interest in immersing themselves in these skills of our heritage once again, and knowledgeable people are stepping forward to teach. Cultural sharing is at an all-time high!

Growing up, holiday seasons often meant a struggle to find funds to make the long drive home to visit relatives, because my parents were faced with the same dilemma as many other Choctaw families – we had left Oklahoma to find employment. Until the age of 16, the highway between northern California and Hugo, Okla., was well-traveled by my dad’s car, making the trip in one long drive with bologna sandwiches for our meals!

As soon as enough money was saved to make a down payment on some land in Oklahoma, and jobs could be found, we made a permanent move back “home” to Hugo. Mom, dad, my two brothers and I all returned, but my older sister, Sharon Fleming, had married and stayed on the west coast.

This holiday season, I am thankful for the family and friends that I will be able to enjoy spending time with. Sharon just recently passed away, leaving another empty place at the holiday celebration this year, although she left a legacy from her work of advocacy for women’s health. She will be deeply missed.

Please remember my family in your prayers. And God bless you and yours!