Sharing our culture ensures Choctaw ways are not lost
From the desk of Chief Gregory E. Pyle
Next month’s Okla Chahta Gathering is going to be a special weekend. Choctaws from Oklahoma will travel to Bakersfield to once again join in the festivities, only this year we are bringing more of the tribal culture to share.
The awakening of interest in our heritage is increasing everywhere we go. The first Choctaw Days were held last year at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and because of the overwhelming response of our tribal members and museum visitors, we decided to give others a chance to experience more of the Choctaw traditions.
A small group of our staff traveled to Denver last October to host a Choctaw Day for Colorado-area residents. Everyone who attended was thrilled to be able to see things like Choctaw pottery actually being made or exhibits of tools, weaponry and beadwork. Their pride in being Choctaw was evident as they marveled over Choctaw artifacts or listened enthralled as the language of their great-great-grandfathers or great-grandmothers was fluently used by storytellers or sang in hymns.
Because their excitement mirrored the reactions received in Washington, D.C., last June, we want to provide a similar occasion during our reunion with Choctaw friends and family on the West Coast. Members of the Okla Chahta Board of Directors and the volunteers who work so hard during the year to plan the event have been collaborating with us here in Oklahoma to help make the gathering the best and most memorable of all. Instead of program information, there will be table after table of things representing our Choctaw tribal heritage.
There will be social dancing, stickball exhibitions, make-and-take projects, singing and the opportunity to learn more of the Choctaw culture through a variety of displays and activities. The make-and-take sessions are enjoyed by all ages and give everyone a chance to take home a hand-crafted Choctaw cornhusk doll, basket or beaded choker. Among the individuals scheduled to be in Bakersfield is Presley Byington of Idabel who will be demonstrating how he makes a rivercane flute. Presley can also play the flute as well as he makes them.
The gathering in Bakersfield is one of three Choctaw Day events we have on the calendar at this time. We will be in McAlester from 5 to 8 p.m. on April 24 at the Expo Center and are returning to D.C. for another four-day festival June 20-23 at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.
If you live in or near one of these areas, we hope you are able to join us as we honor our ancestors in the best method we know how – teaching others so that the Choctaw ways are never lost.