Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation
  • Lifetime Legacy encourages healthy habits


    The Lifetime Legacy crew consist of Naomi Franklin, Resource Technician, Melanie Jones, Community Coordinator, Todd Baughman, Program Manager and Veronica Boatright, Data Analyst

    “Going lean,” and “Get fit,” have become popular phrases around the Choctaw Nation and the United States in recent times. People everywhere are becoming aware of the risks and dangers of poor health.

    In light of that fact, the federal government has teamed up with the Choctaw Nation to provide a cardiovascular disease prevention grant known as Lifetime Legacy. This grant, in the fourth year of a five-year cycle, is charged with combating cardiovascular complications in Native Americans.

    Lifetime Legacy is the continuation of a program named Core Capacity. This program was committed to “building partnerships, doing community action surveys, community needs assessments, seeing what the community was ready for and where they were ready, as far as change [and] getting healthy,” explained Program Manager Todd Baughman.

    Heart issues are very common among Native Americans, but many of the risk factors that cause these problems can be avoided by implementing small and simple lifestyle practices. Some risk factors include obesity, sedentary lifestyle and smoking.

    “Besides it being a hereditary disease, all of them [risk factors] are changeable. You can alter those risk factors. All of them can be changed by you, and Lifetime Legacy is trying to promote people to do that,” declared Baughman. Through various mediums and programs, Lifetime Legacy is on a mission to “change the risk factors to try and decrease that prevalence,” continued Baughman.

    One of the ways that Lifetime Legacy has begun to aid Choctaw Nation is by providing the communities with education on heart disease and ways to improve their health through health fairs and presentations.

    The Lifetime Legacy team, made up of four employees, has traveled to places such as Jones Academy, employee health fairs, community center health fairs and Outreach at the Beach. They have handed out healthy recipe cards as a well as taught classes in Jones academy, the Talihina Lions Club as well as all the schools within the 10.5 counties of Choctaw Nation.

    “Instead of just reaching out to adults, like they did in the past, we are starting with children. Because if you start at an earlier age, it can help prevention when they get older,” said Data Analyst, Veronica Boatright as she explained the recent focus on a younger generation.

    Focusing on the children has been a successful endeavor thus far for the crew. We “got a really good response from kids… they get so excited and so enthused,” mentioned Community Coordinator Melanie Jones as she remembered the presentations at Jones academy.

    Along with the presentation of information at various locations, Baughman and his team have plans for various Choctaw entities, one being the Choctaw Travel Plazas. We are “providing the option for people to pick the healthier choice,” said Baughman. It is his hope that the plazas will place healthier alternatives in the more visible and high-traffic areas, encouraging the patrons to substitute a healthy snack for sweets on occasion.

    Even in the smallest ways, by just changing the position of merchandise, the Legacy crew helps to aid Choctaws to longer, healthier lives. We are helping them have that option, and hopefully they will take it, continued Baughman.

    Along with the changes in Travel Plazas, Lifetime Legacy is working with administration all across the Choctaw Nation. They have been collaborating with administration of the hospital to provide incentives for employees to exercise and eat healthy, as well as encouraging the vending machines to be stocked with healthy alternatives.

    Perhaps one of the largest and most complicated projects up the sleeves of the Legacy crew would be the healthy cooking videos titled “Cooking with the Council,” currently featuring Councilman Anthony Dillard and Assistant Chief Gary Batton. These videos allow prominent members of the Choctaw community to demonstrate how to prepare meals and snacks that will taste great and help the body. Messages of moderation and small steps fill the videos in an effort to give viewers paths to a gradual and permanent lifestyle change.

    Lifetime Legacy does not use an elaborate set, but uses a common kitchen as the studio to simulate the average Choctaw’s situation. They use everyday ingredients that will be found around a common home. It is their hope that with this simple approach, more people with be inclined to use the information provided.

    Along with the cooking videos, they have also produced exercising videos with the help of the Hugo Wellness Center.

    Lifetime Legacy does all the production in-house, from the shooting to the editing. It is their hope to create a multitude of videos featuring more of the council and Chief Pyle that will be displayed in the waiting rooms of various locations of Choctaw services.

    They are in the process of making commercials for various Choctaw programs, and ideally, they would be able to produce DVDs that would contain videos divided by Choctaw commercials to be viewed around the nation. . “Instead of watching cable television, we can highlight our own programs,” Said Boatright.

    The production of these videos is a considerable task for the team. To go along with their other duties, they must spend many hours researching healthy recipes, modifying other recipes to make them healthy, scheduling video shoots, shooting and editing video as well as distributing the finished product.

    Since the activation of the Going Lean initiative, Lifetime Legacy has been given a broader range of resources and connections. According to Baughman, Going Lean is a task force that has about 20 or 30 Choctaw programs that allows everybody to network. “Whenever we became part of Going Lean, that opened up the doors,” mentioned Baughman.

    Where they used to have to work relatively alone, they can now work with many other departments because the task force unites them in a common goal, which is to make healthier Choctaws. Occasionally they work in areas that seem unrelated to heart health, but in reality, any sort of obesity prevention and active lifestyle encouraging effort will help prevent heart problems. With that fact in place, they are able to branch out from strictly heart issues.

    This cooperation is notably beneficial to the Legacy team, as well as the programs with which they have teamed. “We need to realize that we are all in the same family, we all work for the Choctaw Nation and we can all come together for the greater good of the people we serve,” declared Baughman as he explained how when any program promotes health, it helps meet the goal of Lifetime Legacy.

    As a program, you can’t do it all on your own, so you try to find other programs that are trying to reach the same goals you are, said Boatright as she explained how this cooperation among programs has aided Lifetime Legacy. “Now that [the issue] is tribal wide everybody is on board… you feel like you have more support,” she continued.

    Working closely with other departments among the tribe, Lifetime Legacy has made strides in creative ways to make a healthier Choctaw Nation. The team as a whole attributes much of this success to Joe Bray, the Director of Behavioral Health and Kari Hearod, the Deputy Director of Behavioral Health, who oversees their operation and allows them many resources, along with flexibility to experiment with new and innovative ways of accomplishing an age-old goal.

    If you have any question for Lifetime Legacy and how they can aid you in preventing cardiovascular disease, call 918-426-5700.

  • Choctaw and Chickasaw Tribes Urge Oklahoma Water Board to Reject Sardis Lake Deal

    Choctaw and Chickasaw Tribes urge OK Water Board to reject Sardis Lake deal

    The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation

    For more information please contact:
    Judy Allen, Executive Director of Public Relations
    580-924-8280 ext. 2249
    529 N. 16th
    Durant, OK 74701

    DURANT, Okla. (June 10, 2010) - The Choctaw Nation has urged the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to reject a proposal to transfer Sardis Lake water holding rights to Oklahoma City and offered to pay the $5.2 million debt the State of Oklahoma owes the federal government by July 1.

    The tribe, along with the Chickasaw Nation, made the offer in order to buy time for all involved to resolve the dispute over potential use of the lake’s water.

    On Monday, the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust unanimously voted to sign a contract with the state to buy the water storage rights.

    “Using the debt owed by the state to the federal government as an excuse to make a deal that ignores the two tribes’ historic water rights and the environmental and economic interests of all of Southeastern Oklahoma just doesn’t make sense,” said Chief Gregory E. Pyle of the Choctaw Nation.

    The State of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust have been talking about the trust buying the water storage rights, but on May 20 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which constructed the reservoir and dam, warned the governor, legislative leaders and state water officials that the Corps has not been asked for approval of any transfer of storage rights. The Corps said any such approval would be necessary by both the federal government and a U.S. District Court judge who ordered the state to repay the debt.

    The Oklahoma Water Resources Board is taking up the issue at a special meeting called for Friday.

    The tribes have offered to pay the immediate debt so that a long-range solution can be reached after comprehensive water and environmental studies have been completed, evaluated by experts and reviewed by the public.

    “It is wholly premature for the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust and the state to be engaged in these kinds of negotiations when no one has all the necessary information to make the right long-term decisions,” Chief Pyle said. “Further, it is essential before any decisions are made that the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes, which have historical rights to the water, and representatives of the Southeastern Oklahoma community are a part of any such discussions relating to the future of Sardis Lake.”

    The tribal leaders call upon the Water Board and the state to delay any action regarding Sardis until all the studies have been completed and all those affected by any potential transfer of water from Sardis are a part of the decision-making process.

  • Healthcare information provided during Labor Day Festival

    Healthcare information provided during Labor Day Festival

    In an effort to keep our tribal members informed of the latest information regarding Health Care Reform, Medicare and Medicaid, presentations will be given on Sunday, Sept. 1, in the Healthy Lifestyle tent at the Choctaw Nation Labor Day Festival. Join us in the air conditioned tent for short presentations that will be sure to provide you with valuable health care information which will help you make the right decisions in the upcoming months about your health insurance! The following presentations will be provided free of charge to anyone who wants to learn more about Medicare and Medicaid plus the new law that affects every American and also hear how to avoid future health tax penalties beginning in 2014.

    How Health Care Reform Will Affect You and Your Family – 1:00-1:30 p.m. and 4:15-4:45 p.m.
    Did you know that there are more than 50 million Americans without insurance? President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, also known as Health Care Reform into law on March 2010. This law mandates that every American have health insurance or face a health tax penalty when filing their 2014 IRS income taxes. This presentation will provide you with a better understanding of the new law as well as share the next steps you and your family should take in order to take full advantage of the new law and avoid unnecessary tax penalties in the future. This is a presentation that you will not want to miss or it may end up costing you in the end. Door prizes will be awarded, and you must be present to win.

    What You Should Know About Medicare and Medicaid – 3:00-3:30 p.m.
    Let our Medicare and Medicaid Specialists help and guide you to ensure you have the best healthcare coverage possible. This presentation will include:
    • An overview of the Medicare and Medicaid programs
    • The Four Parts of Medicare
    • The costs and benefits of having Medicare benefit coverage
    • Open enrollment coming this fall and what it means for you
    • Who is eligible for Medicaid/SoonerCare benefits
    • The income and resource guidelines for Medicaid eligibility will be discussed as well as how to enroll for Medicaid and Medicare.

    You might be eligible for free health care and don’t even realize it! Don’t miss out on this presentation; you could be missing out on low cost or even free health care benefits for you and your family! Door prizes will be awarded, and you must be present to win.

  • VA, Choctaw Nation hosting veterans summit Aug. 27-28

    Two-day event is free to all veterans and will be held at Choctaw Resort

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    DURANT, Okla. – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is hosting the Southern Plains Region Veterans Training Summit at the Choctaw Nation Hotel and Casino resort this Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 27-28.

    All veterans, anyone who has ever served in the military in any capacity, are welcomed and encouraged to attend. This event will teach attendees about available grants, give updates on services and benefits, offer employment training and bring veterans in contact with agencies aimed at offering services.

    The summit will have a distinctively Choctaw flavor, but is open to all U.S. veterans regardless of race, age, economic status and service branch. The summit is free, no pre-registration is necessary and it is open to residents of Oklahoma, Texas and all other states.

    Cooperating agencies which will be on hand to provide information to veterans include: Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Social Security Administration, Small Business Administration (SBA) and tribal programs for Native American veterans.

    The summit will open at 8 a.m. Wednesday in the Choctaw Ballroom of the South Casino with opening ceremonies hosted by the Choctaw Nation. Opening remarks are scheduled by Gen. Rita Aragon (Ret.), State Rep. Seneca Scott and Jacque Hensley, tribal liaison to Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin.

    Wednesday sessions will be held on VA medical collaboration with the Indian Health Service, Veteran’s employment, Veterans Upward Bound program, the VA Home Loan Program and benefits.

    Thursday sessions, beginning at 8 a.m., will focus on the veterans homeless program, family support services, Veterans Justice Outreach, SSA, SBA and health issues. Mary Culley, regional specialist for the VA Office of Tribal Government Relations, will offer closing remarks at 1 p.m.

    For more information about the Southern Plains Region Veterans Training Summit, call Mrs. Culley at (405) 626-3426.

  • Wind Power Energy Contract

    News from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation

    For more information please contact:
    Office of Public Relations
    580-924-8280 ext. 2111
    529 N. 16th
    Durant, OK 74701

    Wind Energy Contract Signing

    DURANT, Okla. (April 12, 2010) – Choctaw Chief Gregory E. Pyle signs a contract with OG&E as Assistant Chief Gary Batton looks on. The contract, which goes into effect at the end of April, allows the Choctaw Nation to get all its energy from wind power. Using wind power will cost the Choctaw Nation about $15,000 more per year. “We’re investing in the protection of our future and our resources and that’s something you can’t put a price tag on,” said Assistant Chief Gary Batton.

  • Choctaw Students Awarded for Academic Excellence

    Choctaw Students Awarded for Academic Excellence

    The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation

    For more information please contact:
    Office of Public Relations
    580-924-8280 ext. 2111
    529 N. 16th
    Durant, OK 74701

    DURANT, Okla. (March 17, 2010) – Choctaw Chief Gregory E. Pyle and Assistant Chief Gary Batton handed out certificates and Wal-Mart gift cards to 60 Durant Intermediate School students on Friday, March 12, as part of the Choctaw Nation program Success Through Academic Recognition (STAR). The STAR program was initiated in the fall of 2007 and is an education incentive program that rewards Choctaw students in grades 2-12 with gift cards for showing excellence in their schoolwork and attendance.

    Chief Pyle said he was proud of the students at DIS and he thanked them as he shook their hands and handed out their personalized certificates and gifts cards.

    “You all are doing so well coming to class and making great grades. We appreciate each and every one of you. You are our future. Thank you for making this such a great program,” he told the students.

    According to Seth Fairchild, STAR program coordinator, “The program encourages the academic success of Choctaws by providing them with an incentive to strive for the highest possible level of achievement. This is an exciting addition to the education services that the Choctaw Nation is able to offer the youth of our tribe.”

    Currently, the program serves eligible Choctaw students attending an accredited school within the state of Oklahoma and has approximately 9,800 students participating from 560 individual schools. The plan is to expand the program in the near future to eligible Choctaw students nation-wide.

    “We have seen a steady increase in the number of awards we’ve given since the inception of the program. One of our goals is to increase the number of new student awards given as well,” said Fairchild. “We want to help provide goals and direction for our Choctaw students, as well as increase their retention and graduation rates.”

    According to Chief Pyle, the Choctaw Nation awards scholarships to students embarking on their collegiate career but there was also a need to recognize the younger members of the tribe for the hard work they put into their academics.

    “This program started out in just the 10-½ counties and we were amazed at the success of the students,” said Chief Pyle. “I’m particularly proud of the STAR program because I believe it instills in the students a desire to do the very best they can and that starts at an early age. Our hope is that by starting young they’ll be more successful in their studies throughout school and as they continue their higher education.”

    In total, more than 200 Choctaw students in the Durant School system earned awards this semester.

    The Durant Intermediate School students who were recognized were:

    Douglas Anderson
    Emilie Ansiel
    Harrison Bates
    Guy Carey
    Lila Creason
    Sarah Dalrymple
    Brandon Davis
    Alissa French
    Shayla Harper
    Keagan Hines
    Kristen Hobbs
    Brittney Ingram
    Jon Michael Kennedy
    Nicholas Kuykendall
    Cassidy McCann
    Cheyenne McGee
    Skyler McKaughan
    Madyson Mullens
    Raeni Robinson
    Jonathan Shepherd
    Desimber Wynn
    Destinee (Sevedge) Lewis
    Daurah Amos
    Brayden Bentley
    Katrina Bills
    Tyler Campbell
    Jaden Crites
    Hayden Hamill
    Hunter Hamilton
    Sydney Hampton
    Michael Harp
    Tre Harper
    Brenna Hibbs
    Tezla Johnson
    Alyssa Matthews
    Madilyn Scott
    Maradeth Shelton
    Paul Shepherd
    Peyton Stephens
    Jatelyn Wallace
    Alaytra Williams
    DeMario Gray
    Travis Nichols
    Megan Aplin
    Lacey Elrod
    Christina Gomes
    Logan Hibbs
    Jacob McLarry
    Christian Potter
    Hannah Robinson
    Tyler Stovall
    Ciera Taylor
    Jordan Williams
    Sydney Youngblood
    Alexis Mosley
    Jesse Odell
    Harley Shelton

  • News from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma - 2/10/10

    News from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation

    For more information please contact:
    Judy Allen, Executive Director of Public Relations
    580-924-8280 ext. 2249
    529 N. 16th
    Durant, OK 74701

    DURANT, Okla. (February 10, 2010) – Amid frigid temperatures and bright lights filling the sky over Durant were crowds of people who came Tuesday evening to witness the grand opening and ribbon-cutting for the new Choctaw Casino Resort.

    Master of Ceremonies Jody House opened the ceremony by welcoming guests and with introductions of dignitaries in attendance before giving the floor to the leader of the Choctaw Nation, Chief Gregory E. Pyle.

    “Welcome everyone and thank you for coming out to share in this momentous occasion with us,” said Chief Pyle.

    Durant Mayor Jerry Tomlinson also spoke during the ceremony and he, along with members of the Durant Industrial Authority, presented Chief Pyle and Assistant Chief Gary Batton with a Native American sculpture on behalf of the citizens of Durant to show their appreciation for all the Choctaw Nation has done for the area.

    “We continue to hear one resounding praise - the Choctaw Nation has put Durant, Oklahoma, on the international map,” said Mayor Tomlinson.

    The ceremony continued outside with a ribbon-cutting by Chief Pyle, Assistant Chief Batton, and Executive Director over Gaming Janie Dillard, along with two of the Choctaw Nation Little Miss Princesses and a host of state, local and tribal dignitaries. It was followed with a lighting of the flames on the Towers and Fire Rings sculpture located in front of the casino’s grand outer entryway.

    The ceremony marked the end of 22 months of coordination, building, and hard work put into the $300 million resort, and marked the beginning of fun, excitement, and new opportunities at the expansive casino and 12-story, amenity-filled hotel.

    A spectacular fireworks show awed visitors crowded out on the hotel lawn, closing out the ceremony, but the real excitement was waiting inside on the gaming floor.

    “Everyone make your way back inside and let’s see who the real winners are tonight!” said House while thanking the crowd. “Good luck and let’s have a great night!”

    While thousands of guests trotted the floors, trying their luck for the first time at the new casino, the nearly 1,900 employees on staff have been working feverishly for months to make sure the night went off without a hitch.

    Dillard said the opening wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication and hard work of the staff. “A huge thanks goes to our employees who put so much into making this casino a success,“ she said.

    The casino sprawls over 110,000 square feet of carpeted gaming area and features 3,001 slot machines, 36 Black Jack tables, 30 Poker tables and two Roulette tables for the enjoyment of guests aged 18 and older. Four premium lounges are also positioned around the casino for guests wanting to relax or take a break from gaming.

    “This is great,” said Jennifer Pearson of Durant, a guest enjoying the casino for the first time. “I can’t believe this is in Durant. It feels like I’m in (Las) Vegas.”

    Circling the casino on the ground floor is a flowing “Red River” of tiles lined with a variety of restaurants and shops and is welcome to guests of all ages. Nine restaurants ranging from a steakhouse and a cafe to a stop-and-go food court provide variety for those wanting to grab a bite to eat.

    The hotel boasts 204,000 square feet filled with 330 guest rooms, 12 suites, two executive suites and a business center. It also features a fitness center, indoor and outdoor pool, a spa, amphitheater and escalators connecting a 1,700-slot parking garage for the enjoyment and convenience of its guests.

    With the new casino came more than 1,000 new jobs and a $25 million annual payroll to employees, providing an economic boost to the area.

    The unemployment rate for Bryan County is 5 percent compared to the 6.5 percent average for the state of Oklahoma. Across the Red River, Grayson County, Texas, has an unemployment rate of 8.3 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    “The great thing is that the unemployment rate in Bryan County is one of the lowest in the entire state,” said Chief Pyle. “We’re really proud of that.”

    Additionally, the casinos mean growth within the Choctaw Nation. Money from gaming funds many programs for the Choctaw Nation’s tribal members.

    “Head starts, daycares, scholarships, medical clinics - it all comes out of gaming so it’s very important to us that this goes well,” said Chief Pyle.

    “We’ve sent about 7,000 kids through Career Development and we spend about $10 million a year on scholarships, “ he continued. “About 90 percent of those funds come from our casinos. We built our own hospital and five clinics and put in millions of dollars a year to keep and buy medicine for our elderly. We spent $7 million last year feeding and housing our elderly. It all comes out of our casinos. The list goes on and on.”

    “We are all about helping our people,” continued Chief Pyle. “What we stand for is loyalty and we’re loyal to our people.”

    The casino’s grand opening activities began Tuesday and run through Sunday, Feb. 14. Drawings for $1,000 will be held hourly from noon until 9 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 10-11, with a $10,000 giveaway at 11 p.m. each night and hourly drawings for $10,000 from noon to 9 p.m. will be held Friday-Sunday. Also, a Lexus car will be given away each night over the weekend.

  • Choctaw Nation Employee Invited to Attend State of Union Address

    Choctaw Nation Employee Invited to Attend State of Union Address

    The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation

    For more information please contact:
    Judy Allen, Executive Director of Public Relations
    580-924-8280 ext. 2249
    529 N. 16th
    Durant, OK 74702

    DURANT, Okla. (January 27, 2010) – Deborah Powell is on a trip of a lifetime. The Choctaw Nation Housing Authority employee is in Washington, D.C., and is set to be seated next to Michelle Obama tonight as the President of the United States gives his first State of the Union address of the year.

    “We are very excited for Debbie and honored that one of our employees has been invited to attend such a prestigious event,” said Chief Gregory E. Pyle.

    The invitation was extended to Debbie because she is an example of how federal stimulus funds have retained and provided jobs in rural America. The Housing Authority has received two awards totaling over $8 million through the Native American Housing Block Grants program. The grants are targeted primarily toward building additional Independent Living Homes for senior citizens in five sites across Southeastern Oklahoma – approximately 19 in Poteau, 15 in Hugo, 15 in Durant, 12 in Talihina and nine in Idabel. The construction plans were a perfect fit for Recovery Act allocations.

    As Development Specialist, Debbie tracks how the stimulus funds are being spent. She tracks bids and advertisements for bids as well as following the contracts and their completion dates.

    Moving to Oklahoma from her home state of Arizona, Debbie and her husband, Billy, live in Fort Towson. A former railroad dispatcher, she began working for the Housing Authority in 2007 but as funding ended for her position in Maintenance, Modernization and Rehabilitation (MMR), she was able to move to the Development Program.

    “Debbie’s position at the Housing Authority in Hugo is funded 100 percent with stimulus funds,” said Duane Winship, Deputy Director of the Housing Authority.

    “As a result of the Recovery Act, construction continues in the Choctaw Nation,” said Russell Sossamon, Executive Director of Choctaw Housing. “We are able to continue Chief Pyle’s vision of achieving self-sufficient lifestyles for Choctaw tribal members by providing employment opportunities throughout Southeastern Oklahoma as well as helping many of our elders have a much higher-quality of life.”

    President Obama’s State of the Union speech will be broadcast live tonight at 8 p.m. CST.

  • Choctaw Nation to Participate in National Rulemaking Committee for No Child Left Behind

    Choctaw Nation to Participate in National Rulemaking Committee for No Child Left Behind

    The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation

    For more information please contact:
    Judy Allen, Executive Director of Public Relations
    580-924-8280 ext. 2249
    529 N. 16th
    Durant, OK 74701

    DURANT, Okla. (January 18, 2010) – The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma was recently honored when a Tribal representative was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to participate in the No Child Left Behind School Facilities and Construction Negotiated Rulemaking Committee. Joy Culbreath, Executive Education Director for the Choctaw Nation, has joined with 21 other Tribal representatives who will work together for the next two years to prepare and submit reports regarding BIA-funded school facilities. When asked for comment, Mrs. Culbreath replied, “I am honored to serve on this committee and my hope is that we will develop policies that will positively impact the lives of American Indian children in all parts of the United States.”

    “I would like to see every child have the same opportunity to learn,” she said.

    The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 directed the Department of the Interior (DOI) to improve education in Indian country, review the process for prioritizing repair an replacement of Indian education facilities, and ensure that Indian people are involved in review of the DOI’s prioritizing process.

    The committee has the task of preparing a catalog of BIA-funded school facilities and issuing a report concerning school replacement and new construction needs. A formula will be developed for the equitable distribution of funds to address those needs. The committee will also determine major and minor renovation needs.

    Albuquerque served as the location for the first meetings, which began on January 5, featuring introductions, committee rulemaking and organization, and initial information.

    A graduate of Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Culbreath began her career in education at her Alma Mater in 1967. She worked with a variety of programs during her 27 ears at Southeastern including several federal TRIO programs such as Upward Bound, in business education and as an advisor in the counseling center.

    Culbreath retired from Southeastern but not from education. Soon after leaving Southeastern, she began building an adult education program for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. One of the most successful programs instituted by the tribe, it has grown from 19 students earning GEDs in 1993-94 to over 100 graduates annually. Culbreath was appointed executive director over all the Choctaw Nation’s educational programs in 1997.

    “Joy is accepting this challenge in the same manner she has many other tasks, with a determination to ensure that no child is ever left behind,” said Chief Gregory E. Pyle. “She has spearheading many of our greatest accomplishments such as constructing a state-of-the-art elementary school on the grounds of Jones Academy, developing an exemplary language program, and devising numerous top-quality programs to serve all ages, from early childhood through higher education and adult education.

    “The committee is lucky to have Joy on board,” he said.

  • Chief Pyle Signs ‘National Mentoring Month’ Proclamation

    Chief Pyle Signs ‘National Mentoring Month’ Proclamation

    The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation

    For more information please contact:
    Judy Allen, Executive Director of Public Relations
    580-924-8280 ext. 2249
    529 N. 16th
    Durant, OK 74702

    DURANT, Okla. (January 12, 2010) -– Today, Chief Gregory E. Pyle signed a proclamation declaring January 2010 as “National Mentoring Month” for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Earlier this month, President Barack Obama signed the National Mentoring Month Proclamation for the United States. The proclamation states that “the future of the Choctaw Nation rests on the hopes and dreams of its children and youth. Mentors offer valuable encouragement, motivation and hope for our youth by providing a consistent role model.v

    “Research has shown mentored youth are 52% less likely to skip a day of school, 46% less likely to start using drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking. Relationships with caring mentors offer youth valuable encouragement, motivation and support to guide them toward making positive choices.

    “Collaborative mentor programs that are supported by the entire community (i.e. the local chamber, local law enforcement, service clubs, local media organizations, etc.) are more visible and therefore more successful. National Mentoring Month provides an opportunity to recognize and commend the efforts of these programs and raise community awareness of the importance of mentoring.”

    According to Chief Pyle, “The Choctaw Nation has several ongoing mentoring programs in place. At the Jones Academy, we have the “Learn and Serve” program that puts youth in leadership roles. They volunteer for “Adopt a Highway,” visit nursing homes and serve as ‘Big Brothers-Big Sisters’ to the younger children.

    “We also offer peer advisors on campuses across the state to mentor Choctaw students as they adjust to life on college campus. Additionally, our Summer Youth Work Program assists in finding summer jobs and opportunities for youth aged 14-21,” said Chief Pyle.

    By designating a specific month to highlight the need for mentors in the community, Chief Pyle hopes more adults will step forward to be a positive role model for a child.

  • Choctaw Casino RV Park Wins Awards

    Choctaw Casino RV Park Wins Awards

    The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation

    For more information please contact:
    Judy Allen, Executive Director of Public Relations
    580-924-8280 ext. 2249
    529 N. 16th
    Durant, OK 74733

    DURANT, Okla. (January 4, 2010) – After being in business only a short six months, the Choctaw Casino Resort RV Park has proven itself to be among the “best of the best.” The Choctaw Nation-owned Kampgrounds of America franchise is the proud recipient of two of KOA Inc.’s top customer service awards for 2009 - the President’s Award and the Founder’s Award.

    Both awards are based on customer satisfaction surveys and camper feedback. Annual surveys are sent to more than 250,000 KOA guests to measure their experience while staying at a particular campground.

    “We are very proud of the staff at our KOA park,” said Chief Gregory E. Pyle. “To win such prestigious awards in our first year of operation is remarkable and evidence of the care and hard work put into providing an excellent camping ground for RVers rolling into the Durant area.”

    For a campground to be awarded the Founder’s award, it must score high in all areas of customer service, campground facilities and overall value.

    To receive the President’s Award the campground must not only score highly on its annual camper surveys, but must also receive excellent scores on the campground facilities review - a meticulous quality-assurance inspection performed by KOA Inc.

    “We’re proud to rank so high among our guests,” said RV park manager Charlie Tyree. “In fact, out of all the 480-plus KOAs across the country, our campground ranked first in five categories – physical facilities, amenities, recreation, first impression and store appearance.”

    The Choctaw Casino RV Park, which opened its gates to campers in June of 2009, has five employees who keep the grounds, inside and out, in tip-top shape for guests.

    Currently, the campground, which received the highest customer service rating among KOA campgrounds in the state of Oklahoma, has 77 pull-through slots, with each site including a barbeque grill and a picnic table. Of those, 28 are premium sites, which also provide free wi-fi internet, cable and a covered picnic area.

    The park has served more than 3,860 guests and 13 motor home clubs since opening, all of whom have enjoyed amenities such as a heated, saltwater swimming pool, a game room, computer lab, playground, dog park and fire pit, as well as a close proximity to the Choctaw Casino and Resort.

    “This park is a great amenity to the casino. A lot of the guests to the casino have an interest in RVs, so the two go hand-in-hand. They can come up, sleep in their own RV, their own bed and still enjoy all the amenities and facilities that are offered here and at the casino, ” said Tyree.

    Tyree continued, “We plan to keep expanding in the future to accommodate our guests. Soon, we’ll start on phase two of the park. The master plan includes 152 campsites and possibly future RV parks at the other casino sites in the Choctaw Nation.”

    Tyree traveled to Houston in November to accept the awards on behalf of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and says his goal is to win both awards every year and to score the highest among his guests of any other KOA.

    “To me, these awards mean that we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing – taking care of our customers and making sure they have an enjoyable experience here so that they’ll want to come back to visit us,” said Tyree.

  • The Choctaw Nation Makes Holiday Donations

    The Choctaw Nation Makes Holiday Donations

    The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation

    For more information please contact:
    Judy Allen, Executive Director of Public Relations
    580-924-8280 ext. 2249
    529 N. 16th
    Durant, OK 74733

    DURANT, Okla. (December 28, 2009) – The Choctaw Nation recently held food and coat drives among its employees to benefit families in need this season.

    The food drive began this year at the annual Labor Day festivities and continued through Halloween parties, culminating at the annual Choctaw Nation employee awards banquet.

    On behalf of the Choctaw Nation, Chief Gregory E. Pyle donated approximately 4,000 pounds of the non-perishable food items to the Bryan County chapter of Families Feeding Families during a fundraiser for the organization held on Dec. 21 at the Choctaw Event Center.

    Also donated to Families Feeding Families by the Choctaw Nation were two sets of Lynyrd Skynyrd concert tickets, which were auctioned off, fetching $705 for the organization.

    Additionally, one pallet of food items from the employee food drive has been designated for donation to the Salvation Army.

    Of the 300 coats collected during the coat drive, 200 were donated to Choctaw youth through the Choctaw Outreach Services and the remaining coats are being distributed on a case-by-case basis.

    In addition to the food and coat drives, the Choctaw Nation purchased, wrapped and donated Christmas toys and presents for over 3,100 low-income Choctaw children throughout the 10-and-a-half counties in the Choctaw Nation.

    “The employees of the Choctaw Nation are a special group of people, “ said Chief Pyle. “Not only did they donate food and coats for families in southeastern Oklahoma, they gave many, many hours of their time this holiday season to ensure others would also have a good Christmas.”

  • News from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma - 12/21/09

    News from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation

    For more information please contact:
    Judy Allen, Executive Director of Public Relations
    580-924-8280 ext. 2249
    529 N. 16th
    Durant, OK 74733

    TUSHKA HOMMA, Okla. (December 21, 2009) - Choctaw history was made at the December monthly Tribal Council meeting with the swearing in of four new judges to form a Court of General Jurisdiction for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. The Native American court system became defunct when the Dawes commission eradicated tribal courts.

    Sworn into office were Pat Phelps as Chief Appellate Judge, Mitch Leonard and Marion Fry as Appellate Judges, and Steven Parker as District Judge. The four judges will have staggered four-year terms, but their immediate terms will start at two, three or four years. The four men, two tribal members and two non-tribal members, were appointed by Chief Gregory E. Pyle and approved by the Choctaw Nation Tribal Council.

    “These men are vitally interested in the success and well-being of the Choctaw Nation and its people and will be a valuable addition to the tribal court,” said Chief Pyle.

    The appellate judges have been asked to create a new code system for the Choctaw Nation court. Currently, the court is using the Court of Federal Regulations (CFR) Court Rules until a new code system has been created and approved.

    The new court has jurisdiction in the 10-½ counties within Choctaw Nation’s boundaries. The United States Supreme Court is the only court with jurisdiction over the Choctaw Nation Court of General Jurisdiction.

    Judges David Burrage, Fredrick Bobb and Mitch Mullen preside over the current tribal court, which handles disputes for Chief Pyle and the Tribal Council, election disputes, guardianship, and divorces. With the new court, trust issues, civil disputes, probate and misdemeanor criminal cases will be able to be heard in the Court of General Jurisdiction. The appellate judges will handle disputes against the Tribal judges rulings and will also make decision on sentencing or restitution.

  • Choctaws Launch Online Scholarship Database

    Scholarship Advisement Program

    For Further Information Contact:

    Jo McDaniel
    Program Director
    Choctaw Scholarship Advisement Program
    P: (800) 522-6170 - X - 2547

    Choctaw Scholarship Advisement Program

    Choctaws Launch Online Scholarship Database

    Customized database gives CNO Scholars Online access to thousands of transportable scholarships.

    CNO students are eligible for each scholarship

    December, 2009 – The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) has always believed strongly in education and was the first American Indian tribe to establish schools in Oklahoma. This August, the CNO will announce another Oklahoma Indian education “first,” according to Gregory E. Pyle, Chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

    The CNO is offering its students – and their parents – free online access to a unique Web based database of scholarship, loan, grant, award, and internship funding opportunities that has been custom-designed for CNO members. “Through a unique partnership arrangement with Reference Service Press, the nation’s leader in researching financial aid opportunities for diversity candidates, we firmly believe we are offering Choctaw students free access to the best possible scholarship database,” says Chief Pyle. “The database is customized for CNO students and parents. It will access thousands of transportable scholarships a student can take to any school. And CNO students are eligible for every scholarship in the database. I strongly urge all CNO college-bound students, graduate students, and their parents to take advantage of this program,” Chief Pyle adds.

    Join the Scholarship Advisement Program, Then Email SAP for Free Database Access

    Beginning in December 2009, CNO members can get free access to the Choctaw Scholarship Database on the CNO’s Scholarship Advisement Program (SAP) Internet Web site located at To access the database, students or parents must first be enrolled in the CNO’s Scholarship Advisement Program. To enroll in SAP, just click the “Apply Online” link at SAP’s Web site. Enrollment in SAP is free to CNO members. To access the Scholarship Database students or parents enrolled in SAP should email the Scholarship Advisement Program at for further instructions. CNO students and parents will use their own self-generated SAP program username and password to also access the scholarship database.

    Why Scholarships Are Needed

    The Choctaw Scholarship Advisement Program was created in late 2006 to help overcome consistently high Native American college dropout rates. SAP has two primary goals: Prepare students for college and, once enrolled, keep students on track for a college degree.

    A recent (2008) report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) underscores the drop-out rate problem and the role that financial pressures play on the drop-out rate for Native American students. At the same time, NCES’ report, Status and Trends in Education of American Indians, lists both good news and bad news for Native Americans seeking college degrees.

    The good news is that 44 percent of American Indians age 25 or older had attended some college in 2007. Further, an encouraging trend has emerged: Indian enrollment in college has been increasing over time. In fact, Native American higher education enrollment has more than doubled in the past 30 years, according to the study.

    But the bad news lies in the report’s second finding. Even though 44 percent had attempted college, only nine percent of American Indians age 25 or older had earned a bachelor’s degree as their highest level of educational attainment. While there are many reasons for the high dropout rate, lack of money continues to be one of the big contributors. In Oklahoma one of every three Native Americans lives below the poverty level, compared to one in six people in the state’s general population, says Oklahoma Indian Legal Services. And no matter what a student or family’s financial position, rising college costs (increasing at 5 to 8 percent a year, according to the non-profit means finding money for college is more important than ever.

    “Helping students and parents find money for college is the most common – and pressing – request made of our program,” says SAP program Director Jo McDaniel. “It’s a question we deal with on a daily basis.” The scholarship database will go a long way toward helping our members meet their higher education financial needs, says McDaniel.

    “The desire to attend college – and earn a degree – is strong among CNO’s top student scholars,” says Chief Pyle. “The proof lies in the growth in enrollment in our Scholarship Advisement Program.” In less than two years, the CNO’s Scholarship Advisement Program has enrolled nearly 2,000 students and parents and gets well over 1,000 visits a month to its web site.

    Best Possible Scholarship Database Ingredients

    A number of features make the Choctaw’s Scholarship database much different – and better – than anything else, according to SAP Director Jo McDaniel.

    • Unique Partnership with Reference Professionals – The engine powering the CNO’s scholarship database is provided by Reference Service Press (RSP), a California-based business born in 1975 from an idea of reference librarian Dr. Gail Schlachter (Ph.D./Library Science). Schlachter, who admits to being driven by a passion to identify and fill information needs, found just such an opportunity over 30 years ago for a largely ignored diversity segment: college-bound women.

    Working nights and weekends for two years – and using the resources of the University of California library system – Schlachter collected and published the first reference book of its kind: The Directory of Financial Aids for Women. It was a collection of highly detailed descriptions of hundreds of funding programs representing millions of dollars – all set aside specifically for women. “The letters and comments I got told me the book changed women’s lives,” says Schlachter. It also created a business – Reference Service Press.

    Over the next 30 plus years, Schlachter expanded upon her original idea. By hiring other reference librarians, RSP kept adding diversity and other specialized titles to its unique list of offerings. The company now publishes more than 25 financial aid directories for a wide variety of diversity and specialized segments of the population, including Financial Aid for Native Americans. RSP’s massive database of scholarships, loans, grants, awards, and internships has now grown to over 40,000 records and identifies billions of dollars in financial aid. This is the database that, through a unique arrangement, the CNO has tapped and RSP has customized for CNO college-bound students and parents.

    • Expertly Researched - Results Not Found Anywhere Else – The great majority of the listings in this database are not found anywhere else. These scholarships have been identified and verified by reference librarians using trained research skills. These scholarships aren’t found browsing the Web or on so-called free Internet scholarship sites. They’re found by people who know what they’re seeking – and how to find it.

    • No Spam Business Model – One hundred percent of RSP’s revenue comes from providing access to the best researched financial aid database for its specialized categories. RSP never sells personal information it collects from users. That information is used solely to make user searches more relevant. Compare RSP to the business model of so-called “Free” scholarship Web sites, where invasive pages-long questionnaires of personal preference information must be filled out before free access is granted. In that business model, “free access” to a database of (often marginal) opportunities means users must “opt-in” to allow their name and information to be sold to marketers anxious to fill inboxes and mailboxes with soup-to-nuts offers.

    • Transportable Scholarships – The vast majority (more than 90 percent) of the scholarships listed in the Choctaw Scholarship Database are completely transportable. The funds can be used at any college or university.

    • Uniform – Logical Arrangement of Information Fields – Each record in the Choctaw Scholarship Database provides the right actionable information. The field list for each record is as follows:

    • Program Title – Popular and official titles of scholarship, loan, grant, award, or internship
    • Sponsoring Organization – Name, address and phone number, toll-free number, fax number, e-mail address and Web site
    • Summary – Identifies the major program requirements
    • Eligibility – Qualifications required of applicants plus information on application procedures and the selection process
    • Financial Data – Financial details of the program, including funds offered, expenses for which funds may and may not be applied, and cash-related benefits supplied (e.g. room and board).
    • Duration – Period for which support is provided, renewal prospects
    • Additional Information – Any unusual (generally nonmonetary) benefits, features, restrictions, or limitations associated with the program
    • Number awarded – Total number of recipients each year or other specified period
    • Deadline – The month by which applications must be submitted.
    • Subject focus: Fields of study supported by the program
    • Where you can go: Where the money can be spent
    • Online links: To information about and applications for the funding program

    • Profile-based Query Structure – A database finds opportunities that suit you best when the database knows what you’re seeking. That’s why the Choctaw Scholarship Database first asks each user to fill out an online questionnaire. Completing the questionnaire helps target funding opportunities that match student and parent plans. By answering the questions, students and parents customize and narrow search criteria to create their own best-match list of scholarships, loans, grants, awards, and internships. The more questions students answer (some questions are required, but others are optional), the more precise and focused results will be. As students go through the questionnaire, they may not be exactly sure how to best respond. That’s why each question has a link to a page of tips to help students and parents best answer each question. Once the questionnaire is completed, students and parents can view their completed profile and edit or change any responses any time they wish.

    • Summary Search Results – A well filled-out questionnaire produces between 50 and 100 records that best mach the student’s profile. Search results are first displayed in a summary table that lets students quickly view key information to determine if they want to know more about the opportunity. The summary table lets students and parents read a brief overview of each opportunity, the award amount and the deadline for application. The title of the opportunity is a clickable link to the program’s complete report. A “save” button lets students or parents put any opportunity in a “favorites” list which students and parents may review any time.

    Custom Designed for CNO Members: Database Identifies Free Money, Loans, and Internships Too

    The CNO’s funding database doesn’t just list scholarships. The database is also rich in information on available awards, grants, loans, and internships. The database is updated constantly by RSP’s staff of reference librarians. With search rules custom designed specifically for the Choctaw Nation, the database of tens of thousands of funding opportunities will only produce opportunities for which CNO members are eligible and will automatically delete opportunities not available for CNO students.

    Greatest Amount of Listings – Always Most Current Information

    RSP’s reference books have long set the standard for financial aid reference books in U.S. libraries. But directly accessing the RSP online database is actually better than using a book. That’s because RSP edits/updates most of its more than 25 reference books on a two-year cycle. New opportunities posted after a book’s publication must necessarily wait for the next edition. But, not so with the CNO’s Scholarship Database, which is updated continually by Reference Service Press. As a result, CNO users searching the online database are assured of finding up-to-the-minute information on all types of funding opportunities available to them.

    Scholarship Database Pic 1 Through a unique partnership arrangement with Reference Service Press, the nation’s leader in researching financial aid opportunities for diversity candidates, the CNO is offering its students – and their parents – free Web access to a unique Web based database of scholarship, loan, grant, award, and internship funding opportunities that has been custom-designed for CNO members.

    Scholarship Database Pic 2 A database finds opportunities that suit you best when the database knows what you’re seeking. That’s why the Choctaw Scholarship Database first asks each user to fill out an online questionnaire. Completing the questionnaire helps target funding opportunities that match student and parent plans.

    Scholarship Database Pic 3 As students go through the questionnaire they may not know how to respond. That’s why each question has links to a page of tips that help students and parents best answer each question.

    Scholarship Database Pic 4 Once the questionnaire is completed, students and parents can view their completed profile and edit or change any responses any time they wish.

    Scholarship Database Pic 5 A well filled-out questionnaire usually results in 50-100 opportunities that best match the student’s profile. Search results are first displayed in a summary table that lets students quickly view key information to determine if they want to know more about the opportunity.

    Scholarship Database Pic 6 In the summary page the title of the opportunity is also a link to the complete record which lists all information available.

  • Scholarship Advisement Program Launches Web Presence Upgrade

    Scholarship Advisement Program

    New Web site Features Improved Navigation, Enriched Content and New sections for Parents and College Preparation. Also Blog, Facebook and Twitter

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) Scholarship Advisement Program (SAP) has unveiled a major upgrade of its Internet Web site and online presence at The update is much more than a cosmetic facelift according to SAP staff. It’s a major communication boost that meets the needs of SAP’s dramatic growth over the past three years. In addition to its enriched content, SAP’s new Web site also provides access to a trio of new social media communication tools including a Web log (blog) at as well as a Facebook page and Twitter.

    The new Web site nearly triples the content of SAP’s original site and includes a new section for college preparation and a new section strictly for parents. College Preparation features nine separate pages dealing with topics ranging from college entrance test preparation to tips on college selection. A new Parents section offers link-filled pages on resources, finances, planning and a page titled “Free Money,” that helps parents access and use SAP’s custom-built online scholarship database.

    SAP was formed in 2006 to fight discouragingly high college dropout rates in the Choctaw Nation (a problem common to Native Americans). SAP’s mission: Focus on college preparation and retention for Choctaw students. From its beginning in 2006, SAP has grown to more than 3,000 enrolled student members and nearly as many actively involved parents. The combination of students, parents and others interested in SAP has led to dramatic increases in the progam’s Web traffic.

    In the two years since it first launched its Web site, SAP’s web traffic has increased by 180 percent in visits and more than 85 percent in page views and visitation time. Today SAP’s Web site receives more than 3,000 visits per month. An average visitor spends nearly eight minutes on the site browsing five different pages. The growth in SAP’s online newsletter has been equally dramatic. Nearly 13,000 now receive SAP News, the bi-weekly online newsletter of the Scholarship Advisement Program.

    SAP’s revised website can be found at the same URL address: In addition to the new sections for college preparation and parents, the new SAP Web site includes a long list of other new pages, listings and updated or expanded topics:

    • Staff
    • Peer Advisors
    • College Partners
    • FAQs
    • Favorite Web links
    • Other Choctaw Youth Programs
    • ACT Test Preparation, Schedules, and Workshops
    • College Selection Guide
    • College Planning Timeline
    • College Counseling
    • Internships
    • Summer programs
    • Resume Building
    • Online Newsletter Signup
    • News Archive
    • Facebook, Twitter, and blog links
    • Videos
    • Calendar
    • How to donate to SAP
    • Friends of SAP
    • Contact SAP
  • Website Welcome


    I’m delighted to welcome you to our newly designed website for the Choctaw Nation. You will find all the most popular features of our old site and many new ones, including an easy-to-use rolling calendar of events so you can quickly see what activities or deadlines could be coming each day of the month. And on our home page we will always have the latest news about the tribe and the applications for assistance so we can do our best to quickly serve tribal members’ needs.

    Some things may be in different places than they previously were. However, we have tried to use all of the most relevant content from the old site. We have also tried to more logically order information and make the site more graphically appealing and user friendly. As the world becomes more digitally oriented each day, we want to be on the forefront of those changes. I hope you will make our website the first place you go to when you have a question relating to the Nation.

    It takes a while to get accustomed to anything new and this website is no different. But I want to know what you like and what you don’t like about what we’ve done to If you have praise, suggestions or criticisms, please pass them along to our Web Director Vonna Shults at I promise you every comment will be read. As much as we like what we’ve done, we’re open to changing it even more to make it better.


    Chief Gregory Pyle

  • Choctaw Chief speaks to Congressional Committee on importance of Self-Governance

    News from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    For more information please contact: Judy Allen, Executive Director of Public Relations 580-924-8280 ext. 2249 529 N. 16th Durant, OK 74701

    June 14, 2010

    Choctaw Chief speaks to Congressional Committee on importance of Self-Governance

    Choctaw Chief Gregory E. Pyle was invited last week to testify in front of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources on legislation dealing with Tribal Self-Governance. His testimony requested that Congress pass HR 4347, which would create consistency between the Title IV Self-Governance initiative in the Department of Interior and the Title V Self-Governance initiative in the Department of Health and Human Services.

    According to Chief Pyle and others who spoke in favor of passing HR 4347, Title IV and Title V have two different sets of administrative requirements. The legislation, which was introduced by US Congressman Dan Boren (OK-Dist. 2), would minimize some of the existing administrative burdens and advance Self-Governance opportunities within other Interior agencies.

    “Self-Governance is about Tribal empowerment, accountability, responsibility and self-sufficiency,” said Chief Pyle. There are 260 Tribes under Self-Governance today.

    “Self-Governance works because it places management responsibility in the hands of those who care most about seeing Tribal programs succeed and services to citizens improved – the Tribal government itself,” said Chief Pyle.

    The entire health delivery system of the Choctaw Nation has been managed by the Tribe since 1985 thanks to Self-Governance. This includes a hospital, eight clinics, two substance abuse in-patient centers and a wide range of preventative programs including nutrition counseling and a diabetes wellness center.

  • Choctaw Nation signs contract for wind energy

    News from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation

    For more information please contact:
    Office of Public Relations
    580-924-8280 ext. 2111
    529 N. 16th
    Durant, OK 74701

    Wind Energy Contract Signing

    DURANT, Okla. (April 12, 2010) – Choctaw Chief Gregory E. Pyle signs a contract with OG&E as Assistant Chief Gary Batton looks on. The contract, which goes into effect at the end of April, allows the Choctaw Nation to get all its energy from wind power. Using wind power will cost the Choctaw Nation about $15,000 more per year. “We’re investing in the protection of our future and our resources and that’s something you can’t put a price tag on,” said Assistant Chief Gary Batton.

  • Choctaw Artists: Deadline to enter Annual Choctaw Art Show drawing near

    TUSHKA HOMMA, Okla. – Attention Choctaw artists! The deadline is getting close for the 7th Annual Choctaw Indian Art Show being held during the Labor Day Festival at Tushka Homma. With prizes being awarded and the opportunity to have more than 20,000 people view the displays, registered Choctaw artists are encouraged to participate and show off their artwork.

    Applications to participate in the show must be postmarked by July 31 to be accepted. To request an application, contact Valarie Robison in the Choctaw Historic Preservation Department by phone, 800-522-6170, ext. 2377, or email,

    The categories for the show are: Paintings, Basketry, Graphics, Cultural, Sculpture, Jewelry, and Pottery.

    Prizes will be awarded in each category in the following denominations: 1st place - $400; 2nd place - $200; 3rd place - $100; and Heritage Award - $500. A Best in Show award will also be chosen from all the categories with a prize in the amount of $1,200.

    For a $10 entry fee, artists may enter up to three pieces of art in any category.

    The Art Show will begin at 10 a.m. on Sept. 4 on the second floor of the Choctaw Nation Capitol Museum.

  • 2nd Annual Project Solemates begins and is dedicated to late employee, Christina Willis

    The Choctaw Nation Youth Outreach Program is getting prepared for the 2nd Annual Project Sole-Mates: we began this project one year ago and it was a great success. This project provided shoes for our Youth Outreach kids so that they could start the school year in a stylish fashion.

    It’s hard to believe that it is already getting close to that time of year again when parents began to start shopping for school clothes and supplies. As many of you know the economy is still struggling and it makes it that much harder for our parents to start getting children ready for school. Once again we have decided to do this project and help our Youth Outreach kids get ready for another great school year.
    >Through the generosity of donations from individuals, Sole-Mates provides new shoes for children in our program who would otherwise not be able to purchase a new pair of school shoes. It not only puts a smile on their faces but also helps build their confidence. Last year, we made several children excited about starting school when they saw that they had a new pair of shoes to start the school year.

    Project Sole-Mates is not a federal or tribal funded program; it is solely funded by individual donations. Many of the donations are made by getting a shoe size from the Youth Outreach Program for a specific boy or girl, and then return the purchased shoes to the Youth Outreach office. There have also been monetary gifts that Youth Outreach staff can use to purchase shoes for the children in the Youth Outreach Program.

    Donations can be sent to:

    PO BOX 88
    HUGO, OK 74743
    Or dropped off at
    219 N. Broadway in Hugo, OK
    For more information, call Choctaw Nation Outreach about Sole mates at (580) 326-8304

  • Preserving Choctaw heritage through buffalo herd

    For more information please contact:
    580-924-8280 ext. 2588
    529 N. 16th
    Durant, OK 74702

    Aug. 5, 2010


    Preserving Choctaw heritage through buffalo herd

    Story by Bret Moss, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    DURANT, Okla. – The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) has been building a reputation for its efforts to preserve its native heritage. An exemplar form of this heritage preservation comes in the form of raising massive wild beasts. That’s right, buffalo.

    These staples of Choctaw history can be found roaming the meadows and pastureland at the CNO ranch in Tushkahoma, one of the four working ranches of the CNO.

    The Tushkahoma ranch is 2,930 acres of native pastureland and natural landscape with a pond about every quarter of a mile, said Jack Pate, the Executive Director of Special Programs, as he explained the landscape. These conditions provide the buffalo with ample room and resources to thrive.

    “We have 37 mother cows, three bulls, and 21 calves in our buffalo herd,” stated Pate. “They are primarily for heritage reasons,” he continued. The herd is kept to a manageable number due to expenses. At one time the CNO had in excess of 150 head of bison/buffalo.

    The CNO ranching operation is a completely self-sufficient business endeavor with almost all of its revenue coming from the beef cattle operations. The cattle make enough profit to sustain the buffalo herd.

    Besides heritage reasons, the buffalo are also used for breeding purposes. Other breeders may utilize the Choctaw herd to aid their own herd production by the purchase of bulls and heifers. As of now, CNO is the only tribe of the five major tribes to have a buffalo herd.

    “These are true North American Bison, typically called Bison,” said Pate. They are tested annually for brucellosis/tuberculosis and certified disease free by the Federal Veterinarian Services.

    A small piece of land at the ranch is being fenced off in respect to the Labor Day festivities, which are fast approaching. Buffalo tours will be set up from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday during the festivities. A bus will take groups out into the pasture where the buffalo have been moved and visitors will be able to observe the buffalo in a natural state as they go about their daily activities. The herd will be put into the tour area the night before the tours begin and will remain there for the two-day period.

    While the tours are completely safe for the public, there are precautions to be taken while visiting the buffalo. Visitors are prohibited from trying to touch (pet) the buffalo, get close to the fences where buffalo are being kept, or conduct any activity that would make the buffalo feel threatened.

    These buffalo are not intentionally mean, but “people have to remember that these are wild animals,” stated Pate. He continued by saying that he recommends people stay on the bus during the tours. Patrons will not be allowed to get close or walk among the animals.

    In addition to the buffalo, the Tushkahoma ranch is home for three Longhorn show steers, 20 beef cattle, and four Paint colts. The ranch sported over 330 Mustangs at one point, but due to economic reasons has decided to narrow its horse population and focus on the beef cattle.

    This very successful ranching operation is being used as a model for other ranching operations, and due to this success, CNO will be able to maintain the valuable history that lies within the buffalo herd.

  • Scholarship Advisement sets date for 3rd Annual Ivy League and Friends

    For more information please contact:
    Scholarship Advisement Program
    529 N. 16th
    Durant, OK 74702

    Aug. 5, 2010


    Choctaw Scholarship Advisement Program Sets Date for Third Annual Ivy League & Friends

    DURANT, Okla. – The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) Scholarship Advisement Program (SAP) has set Nov. 6, 2010, as the date for its third annual Ivy League & Friends Choctaw Student Recruitment. The praise and feedback SAP received from past Ivy League & Friends sessions ensure the 2010 gathering of students, parents and the nation’s top colleges will be an occasion CNO scholars from across the country will not want to miss.

    Ivy League and Friends began in 2008 when Harvard University visited Durant to meet with nearly 200 Choctaw students and parents. The interest and response to the Harvard session prompted SAP to expand its 2009 event to include not only Harvard, but Yale, Dartmouth, Columbia, Penn, Johns Hopkins, Cal/Berkeley and Phillips Academy as well. More than 300 CNO scholars and parents from nine different states attended Ivy League and Friends 2009, proving beyond a doubt that the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma’s college-bound students and parents are eager for information about, and the chance to meet, America’s top schools.

    In 2009’s post event survey more than 95% of respondents said they would be extremely likely to recommend attending Ivy League and Friends to a fellow CNO scholar. The highly positive feedback from last year also provided constructive recommendations that will make this year’s Ivy League and Friends even better. Additions and improvements for 2010 include an impressive list:

    More Schools - It’s anticipated this year’s Ivy League and Friends will more than double the number of the 2009 attending colleges. SAP expects 20 or more of the nation’s top colleges will attend. Schools and programs already scheduled to participate include Columbia, Johns Hopkins, Cal/Berkeley, Purdue and College Horizons. Harvard, Yale, and Princeton are among the group of selective institutions that have also been invited.
    More Time and More Break-out Sessions – Ivy League and Friends 2010 will be a full day, not just an evening affair. Students and parents will have time to learn more about each school and attend their choice of numerous special breakout sessions scheduled throughout the day. Sessions are planned for each college and university and much more time for one-on-one question and answer opportunities will be provided.
    Special Presentations - Breakout sessions will also highlight special presentations on a variety of college preparation topics. Look for sessions covering Financial Aid, College Test Preparation, Resume Building and more.
    Added Graduate Student Emphasis – Ivy League and Friends 2010 has more information and emphasis for graduate students. The event will include graduate student breakout sessions and many colleges will bring graduate student recruiters.
    Held at the Choctaw Casino Resort – Ivy League and Friends 2010 will be held at the new Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant, Oklahoma. The new Resort Hotel features over 300 well-appointed rooms and luxury suites complete with exclusive amenities. The Resort Hotel offers a business center, fitness center, retail outlets, shuttle service and, of course, access to Oklahoma’s finest casino and entertainment experience.

    Browse SAP’s website for more information and updates. Also, be sure to check out SAP’s Facebook, Twitter, online newsletter, and blog for the latest Ivy League & Friends news.

  • Something for everyone at Choctaw Nation Festival

    Labor Day Map

    2010 Labor Day Brochure

    TUSHKA HOMMA, Okla. – Each year, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma conducts its Labor Day Festival and Pow Wow at Tushka Homma. The Labor Day Festival offers many activities that appeal to all ages and personalities. Whether it’s sports, quilting, learning more about Choctaw traditions or experiencing awesome performances, Tushka Homma is the place to be on Labor Day weekend!

    The 2010 Labor Day Festival has many exciting activities and events in store for its visitors this year. The festival begins Thursday, Sept. 2, with the Choctaw Nation Princess Pageant held at 7 p.m. at the amphitheater. The Choctaw Princess Pageant district winners will all compete in this pageant for the title of Little Miss, Junior Miss or Miss Choctaw Nation.

    A ribbon cutting will celebrate the opening of the new arts and crafts facility on Friday morning. Construction of this new building started on the day after Labor Day last year. Festivalgoers will be able to enjoy the new air-conditioned facility while viewing all of the wonderful arts and crafts. Many hand-made Native American items will be on display.

    “This facility is a huge asset,” said Executive Director of Cultural Resources Sue Folsom. Vendors will no longer be set up outside; everyone will be inside this “beautiful facility.” The building will also house the Outreach Program, Community Health Representatives, Security and the Labor Day Office.

    “We have heard many great comments about how proud the people are of this new addition to the Tushka Homma grounds,” exclaimed Sue.

    “We have several special events during this Labor Day Festival,” said Chief Gregory E. Pyle. “On Friday, I will have the honor of unveiling a ‘Heroes of the Past’ statue at 6 p.m. in front of the Choctaw Capitol building along with the Council and the statue’s creator, John Gooden. This statue’s face is that of Joseph Oklahombi, one of the most well known of the Choctaw warriors of World War I. He has his arrow aimed toward the future.”

    Gooden has also done some sculpting for Choctaw Nation in the past with his larger-than-life statue of Choctaw Medal of Honor winner Tony Burris of Blanchard.

    The annual Choctaw Nation Pow Wow will follow the unveiling. Hundreds of dancers travel from around the United States to compete in the inter-tribal pow wow. This year’s emcee is Tim Tallchief. Head gourd dancer is Darrell Wildcat, head man dancer is Cecil Gray, head woman dancer is Rebecca Roberts, southern drum is Thunderhill and northern drum is Dry Creek. The splendor of the dancers on the Capitol lawn is an awe-inspiring experience.

    A Red Warrior memorial will be revealed at the softball field at noon on Saturday. This monument was constructed to honor deceased ball players of Tushka Homma. “It’s meant to be a dedication to honor all people who have played at Tushka Homma,” commented Director of Choctaw Higher Education Larry Wade. “We are paying our respect. The memorial is just something people can look at and appreciate.” “Tushka” means Warrior and “Homma” means Red in the Choctaw language.

    A great way to begin any day of the festival is by visiting the Choctaw Nation Museum. The museum holds many historical artifacts and information about the Choctaw culture and past, including actual objects that were carried across the Trail of Tears and interactive exhibits. The hours of operation throughout the festival are Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday noon to 5 p.m., and Monday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

    For individuals who want to become an official member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, there will be the opportunity to do so. A CDIB/membership booth will be set up inside an air-conditioned building along the road to the cafeteria, across from the carnival rides. The booth will be open to the public starting Friday from noon to 8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday noon to 7 p.m., and Monday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. All first-time applicants need to provide an original state-issued birth certificate and copies of documentation tracing to their ancestor on the Dawes role to obtain a CDIB.

    Each year, the Labor Day Festival consists of several concerts by well-known talented performers, and this year is no exception. On Friday evening starting at 5:30, country music singer Jimmy Wayne will be performing at the amphitheater. Following Jimmy, Stoney LaRue will go on at 7 and Travis Tritt at 9. On Saturday night at 7, Neal McCoy will perform followed by Vince Gill at 9. And last but not least, there will be performances by The Crabb Family at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday followed by Casting Crowns at 9. As always, these concerts are free of charge.

    Many sporting events and competitions will take place at the festival as well. The annual Chief Pyle Physical Fitness Challenge for youth ages 8 to 18 is a popular event. The kids compete in several obstacles and activities that test their physical fitness and athletic abilities. For the adults, there is a fast-pitch softball tournament, a 5K race, a 3-on-3 Choctaw War Hoops basketball tournament, horseshoe tournament, co-ed volleyball tournament and the Tough-Tough Choctaw contest.

    Throughout the entire festival, there will be carnival rides, courtesy of Chief Gregory E. Pyle and the Tribal Council. There will also be numerous specialty acts, including magician Russell Turner, Robinson’s Racing Pigs, Superplay, rock climbing, mechanical bull rides, pony rides and Inca flute players. There is also a Choctaw Art Show in the museum, quilting and gospel singing, along with many other fun activities and information booths. The Choctaw Village will hold several activities including Choctaw dancing, stickball skills, banaha making, storytelling, silver smithing and the making of primitive weapons. There will also be activities for children held including a corn game and pottery.

    The Labor Day Festival promises to be an exciting and fun-filled time. Opportunities to learn more about the Choctaw tribe will surround all who attend. The Choctaw Nation shows great pride for its military warriors, sports heroes and Christian leaders by showing them the honor and respect they rightly deserve.

  • Asst. Secretary of Indian Affairs visits Sardis Lake

    News from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    For more information please contact:
    580-924-8280 ext. 2249
    529 N. 16th
    Durant, OK 74702

    Chief Pyle and Asst. Secretary Echohawk handshake FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Aug. 11, 2010

    Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs visits Sardis Lake

    Story and photos by Judy Allen, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk and Senior Advisor to the President on Indian Affairs Kim Tee Hee visited the Choctaw Nation August 10th for a first-hand view of Sardis Lake. The Assistant Secretary said he felt very grateful to be in Southeast Oklahoma and have an opportunity to do a site visit of Sardis Lake, especially since there had been dialogue concerning the lake with the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations in the past few months.

    Echo Hawk reiterated the request in a June 11 letter to the Oklahoma Water Resources Board that any final action of the proposed transfer of water be deferred pending consultations with appropriate federal officials as well as both tribes.
    Chief Pyle, Tee Hee and Asst. Sec. Echohawk

    “I am very pleased to show Assistant Secretary Echo Hawk and Ms. Tee Hee the beauty of Sardis Lake and reaffirm the tribe’s interests during this important visit,” said Choctaw Chief Gregory E. Pyle. “It is the sincere commitment of the tribal nations to protect water of Oklahoma. This is a Tribal Trust issue and we appreciate the Assistant Secretary’s help and involvement in this aspect. We have experienced a good relationship with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of Interior in the past and look forward to continued association.”
    Asst. Secretary at Sardis Lake

    Chief Pyle also commented on his appreciation of Ms. Tee Hee’s visit. A member of the Cherokee Nation, Tee Hee serves in the White House under the appointment of President Obama as his Senior Advisor on Native American issues. “Kim Tee Hee’s service in the White House has been a tremendous benefit to Indian Country. Tribes across the United States are appreciative of her efforts as a liaison, and the Council and I are thrilled to host her in our Nation. We feel confident that she will carry our message of commitment back to Washington, D.C. I know from working with her on past issues, she has been a great asset.”

    During the visit to Sardis Lake, Echo Hawk and Tee Hee learned of the proximity of Choctaw Capitol at Tushka Homma (Choctaw for Red Warrior) to Sardis Lake. The historic seat of government for the Choctaw Nation is home to the Council House Museum, constructed in 1884 and is located only about a mile or so from the lake. This two-story red brick building has been in continuous ownership and use of the tribe since it was erected. Current uses for the Council House include the museum and a Tribal Court.

    “Tribal Nations and the Federal Government enjoy a government-to-government relationship and being this close to the Choctaws’ Capitol is a very appropriate closing to the afternoon’s tour of this area,” said Echo Hawk. His first visit to this part of Oklahoma, Echo Hawk admired the beauty of the hills and the water around Sardis.

    The Choctaw Tribal Council were on the shores of the lake to greet the team of people from Washington, D.C. As representatives for the twelve districts inside the boundaries, as well as the Choctaws living across the globe, the Council presented a united front in their request for assistance from the Federal officials in protecting Sardis Lake. -30-

  • Head Start students receive special gift

    Sisters honor mother by continuing hat donation project

    Story by Chrissy Dill, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
    Head Start Hats

    DURANT, Okla. – A couple of years ago, Elizabeth Adams and her sister, Esther Paris, were a part of a nation-wide group of individuals who made and sent winter hats to underprivileged children across the nation. The few hats that Elizabeth and Esther made were sent to the Choctaw Nation Head Start. Brenda Ivie and Rebecca Hawkins of the Choctaw Nation Head Start sent Elizabeth their appreciation with a thank-you letter and pictures of the Choctaw children enjoying their new hats. Although the organization Elizabeth and her sister were a part of was no longer making hats, she asked Rebecca and Brenda if they could still send them. Rebecca and Brenda excitingly accepted the kind offer, and the 310 Hats Project began.
    /> “Throughout our conversations, I mentioned that we have 310 kids that we’re funded to serve here at the Choctaw Nation,” said Brenda. “She took it upon herself to start this project to make hats for all of our children.” When Elizabeth asked Brenda if she could make the 310 hats for all of the Head Start, she was concerned. “She’ll be knitting her fingers to the bone!” said Brenda. “It’s a big project.”
    /> Though the feat of hand-making 310 hats sounds tiring, Elizabeth had the motivation she needed to accomplish it. During her first year of making hats for children, she had the help of her mother. When her mother passed away, Elizabeth continued her contribution. “She said it was a good memory of her mother and she just wanted to keep doing it because her mother was the instigator of her participation in the project,” said Brenda. “It’s a way for her to honor her mother.”
    /> With the combination of the inspiration of her mother, the help of many people who were more than happy to contribute and her own determination, Elizabeth met her goal of 310 hats in less than a year. “We kept count of how many hats were coming in with each shipment,” said Brenda. “Our last shipment came in about three weeks ago, and that gave us hats for all of our kids this year.”
    /> The shipments of hats came from Elizabeth who resides in Massachusetts, but the hats came to her from across the nation. Esther sent hats to Elizabeth from Rhode Island. There were shipments of hats made by the 8 to 10-year-old children at her church to Elizabeth from her friend in California. Elizabeth returned home from running errands one morning and found a bag of hats on her doorstep. The shipment of hats that brought Elizabeth to her goal of 310 came from Kalamazoo, Mich., straight to Durant.
    /> The shipments arrived at the Head Start “really fast,” said Brenda. “Probably less than a month between shipments.” When all of the courteous individuals participating started working and getting together it didn’t take them long to make 310 hats. “From the time she decided she wanted to make hats for all of our kids, it was less than a year until she completed it.” The least amount of hats that came to the Head Start was about 85; usually there were about 100 hats in one shipment. “They came in really quickly,” Brenda said.
    /> Brenda and Rebecca will give the kids of the Choctaw Nation Head Start their hats in “late November or early December. Definitely before Christmas,” said Brenda. “It’s going to be a big surprise to the kids when they get them.”

    Elizabeth Adams and Esther Paris have shown how big their hearts are by providing the kids of the Choctaw Nation with their winter hats. All of these individuals have made a huge effort to show they care and their participation and hard work is greatly appreciated by the children. “We appreciate so much their willingness to get involved in a project like this for children who aren’t even from their part of the country,” said Brenda. “It’s just a kindness that you don’t see very often in this day and time.”
    /> A blog of the 310 Hats Project’s progress can be found at

  • Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations file lawsuit to protect water rights

    OKLAHOMA CITY – After several years of unsuccessful attempts to establish government-to-government negotiations with the state to resolve water issues, the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations filed legal action today in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City to protect the tribes’ water resources.

    “Citizens of the Chickasaw Nation, like all Oklahomans, have a vital interest in maintaining the conditions necessary to ensure a strong economy and a thriving natural environment for our children and grandchildren,” said Bill Anoatubby, Governor of the Chickasaw Nation. “Because sustainable management of our water resources is imperative for the progress and prosperity of all Oklahomans, we have worked diligently to establish a working relationship with the state on this issue. Unfortunately, our efforts have been unsuccessful, leaving us no realistic alternative to legal action.”

    Tribal efforts to establish negotiations regarding management of water resources can be traced back at least a decade. Three years ago the Chickasaw Nation sent a letter to then Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry and Oklahoma Water Resources Board Executive Director Duane Smith. That letter, dated June 10, 2008, expressed support for Oklahoma’s effort to update the water plan but also communicated the critical concern that the effort had excluded government-to-government dialogue between the state and tribes. Without such dialogue, the Nation said, the State’s water planning would be inadequate and flawed.

    Offering no meaningful response, the State never took steps to engage substantively with the Nations on the subject.

    Stephen Greetham, counsel for the Chickasaw Nation, said today’s action was filed to protect tribal water rights against one-sided action by the state of Oklahoma.

    “The Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations hold treaties with the United States that secure prior and paramount rights to the ownership and management of water resources throughout their territory,” said Greetham. “This action seeks declaratory and injunctive relief to bar unilateral state action on water resource management issues. The Nations’ treaties secured them a permanent homeland, and without the sustainable and long-term management of its water resources, that homeland will be undermined.”

    Recent formation of a state joint legislative water committee based on the presumption of the supremacy of state law on this issue is yet another indication of disregard for tribal rights and demonstrates a commitment by the state to take unilateral action.

    “A lack of any real progress on the initiation of meaningful government-to-government talks on these matters, leads us to believe further inaction would simply mean the deepening of our present challenges,” said Choctaw Chief Gregory E. Pyle. “Therefore, we have concluded that we must act now to protect the Nations’ rights by taking our case to the federal courthouse.

    “The Choctaw Nation is committed to protecting and preserving the sustainability of water in Southeast Oklahoma and the rest of the state. We will continue to seek a resolution that works for all of us, and I have faith that through the Court, we can reach a decision that is fair, meaningful, and serves the best interest of all Oklahomans.”

    Michael Burrage, lead counsel for the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations on this action, said the suit is carefully structured to avoid disruption to the public.

    “We haven’t gone out looking for a fight on all this. We’re using the courts to protect our water, period. The Nations have been working for a solution for a long time now, but they can’t do that alone. Given that the State couldn’t figure out a way to the table, we had to make our way to the courthouse,” said Burrage.

    When asked why the Nations had filed this complaint in the federal court system, Choctaw Nation attorney Bob Rabon responded, “For decades, the Tribal Nations have been in the wilderness waving their message that ‘State and Oklahoma City – you are making decisions about our property. We need to be considered.’ This message from the tribes has been ignored. The Nations have decided to come out of the wilderness and protect their rights.”

    View the complaint as filed and other pertinent documents at:

  • Choctaw Code Talkers documentary comes to public television in Fall 2010

    Native American Public Telecommunications, Inc. (NAPT) proudly announces the release of a new documentary that examines the pivotal role that Choctaw soldiers played in helping shape an earlier end of World War I.

    In 1918, not yet citizens of the United States, Choctaw members of the American Expeditionary Forces were asked by the government to use their Native language as a powerful tool against the German Forces in World War I, setting a precedent for code talking as an effective military weapon and establishing them as America’s Original Code Talkers.

    Co-produced by Red-Horse Native Productions, Inc., Valhalla Motion Pictures and Native American Public Telecommunications, Inc. (NAPT), Choctaw Code Talkers will transport viewers back to World War I for an intimate and engaging look into the lives of these brave men, their families, their dreams and their patriotism to a country who would remember them as heroes, but not until after their death.

    Please click the link below to check air-dates and times in your market.

    Choctaw Code Talkers Air Dates

    “The government had sworn them to secrecy about what they did,” said Evangeline Wilson, relative of Code Talkers Mitchell Bobb and James Edwards, Sr.

    Choctaw Code Talkers is a follow-up to the award-winning documentary True Whispers: The Story of the Navajo Code Talkers, a PBS nationally broadcast documentary produced by Valerie Red-Horse, President, of Red-Horse Native Productions, Inc. with Gale Anne Hurd, CEO, of Valhalla Motion Pictures.

    “By launching the original concept of code talking for secure military communications, these brave Choctaw men laid the foundation for all other battlefield code talkers, including the Navajo, who were so instrumental in World War II. Even though it is overdue, nearly 100 years since their service, I am honored to be a part of bringing this important American story to the screen,” Red-Horse said.

    In World War I, by 1918, the German Forces had deciphered the Allied Forces’ radio codes, tapped into their phone lines and captured messenger runners in order to anticipate the Allied strategies. The Allied Forces were desperate to attain secure communications and requested Choctaw soldiers to use their language to transmit messages in the field and from the trenches.

    “If you don’t have secure communications, it will end in stalemate or defeat,” stated Matt Reed, Curator of the American Indian and Military History Collections at the Oklahoma Museum of History.

    “This is an important story of heroic men whose wartime contributions helped to change the course of world history. Their Code was created while the men risked their lives fighting in Northern France during the fiercest and bloodiest battles of World War I. The Choctaw American Indian soldiers outwitted their German opponents, turning the tide of the War and ensuring the Allied victory,” said Hurd.

    Native American Public Telecommunications (NAPT) shares Native stories with the world through support of the creation, promotion and distribution of Native media. Founded in 1977, through various media—public television, public radio and the Internet—NAPT brings awareness of Indian and Alaska Native issues. NAPT operates the AIROS Native Network, a 24/7 Internet radio station that features music, news, interviews, documentaries and audio theater. AIROS also features downloadable podcasts with Native filmmakers, musicians and Tribal leaders. VisionMaker Video is the premier source for quality Native American educational and home videos. All aspects of our programs encourage the involvement of young people to learn more about careers in the media—to be the next generation of storytellers. NAPT is located at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. NAPT offers student employment, internships and fellowships. Reaching the general public and the global market is the ultimate goal for the dissemination of Native-produced media.

    Additional Information Regarding Choctaw Code Talkers:
    Run time: 56:40

    Broadcast feed dates/times:
    NOLA Code SD: CCTK 00 KI
    Release/Feed Date SD: Saturday, October 23, 2010, at 1900-2000ET/SD07;
    National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA)
    Credits: Co-produced by Red-Horse Native Productions, Inc., Valhalla Motion Pictures and Native American Pub Telecommunications, Inc. (NAPT).

    Funding for Choctaw Code Talkers: Major funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding provided by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

    Press Kit available online at:

    About Valerie Red-Horse (Cherokee), Producer/Director/Writer
    Valerie Red-Horse, who is of Cherokee ancestry, is the owner/founder of Red-Horse Native Productions, Inc. which has become the pre-eminent collaborator with American Indian Tribal Nations to bring important Native stories accurately and respectfully to the screen. Red-Horse’s body of work spans over two decades of film and television content creation and production; always proving insightful, sensitive and unique perspectives for both the historical and contemporary indigenous story.
    From the Company’s premiere feature film—Naturally Native, an official Sundance Festival selection which Red-Horse wrote, produced, co-directed, starred in and distributed, to Pop Hunter’s Dew Drop Inn, a PBS/NAPT short about an American Indian owned legendary night club—Red-Horse consistently brings unique access, community-based insight and a depth of creative experience to any production. Perhaps best known for her award-winning True Whispers: The Story of the Navajo Code Talkers, a PBS nationally broadcast documentary produced with Gale Anne Hurd of Valhalla Motion Pictures, Red-Horse is currently in pre-production as director/producer for the feature film Standing Bear, depicting the first American Indian Human Rights Trial in the United States. Red-Horse’s collaborations have included projects funded by or working with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, the Navajo Nation, the Powhatan Renape Nation, the Chumash Band of Mission Indians, the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay, the Choctaw Nation and the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska.

    Gale Anne Hurd, Producer/Writer
    Over the course of her career, Gale Anne Hurd has produced more than two-dozen feature films that have generated billions of dollars in revenue, and earned Oscar nominations and scores of awards. She has further distinguished herself by championing paradigm-shifting technological innovations, carving out a pre-eminent position within the previously all-male ranks of epicscaled film production. As the chairman of her own production entity, Valhalla Motion Pictures, Hurd continually develops a broad range of projects, highlights include: The Incredible Hulk, Armageddon, The Ghost and the Darkness, the Terminator Trilogy, The Abyss, Aliens and the Sundance Audience Award-winning drama—The Waterdance. Hurd is currently the Executive Producer of the upcoming AMC series, The Walking Dead, based on the best-selling graphic novels by Robert Kirkman, and written and directed by Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption).

    Distributed by: VisionMaker Video, a service of NAPT
    1800 N. 33rd Street; Lincoln, NE 68503 | 1-877-868-2250
    Educational Version Available September 23, 2010; retail price $225.00
    Home Version Available October 23, 2010; retail price $29.95

  • Chief Pyle's State of the Nation Address

    State of the Nation Address

    State of Nation Address
    Cooler temperatures over the weekend brought out huge crowds to enjoy all that the Choctaw Nation Labor Day Festival has to offer. A highlight of the festival every year is Chief Gregory E. Pyle’s State of the Nation address as thousands gather on Monday on the Capitol grounds at Tuskahoma.

    Bertram Bobb Lifetime Achievement Award “This year’s Labor Day theme is ‘Heroes of the Past.’ Certainly Brother Bertram Bobb is one of our past, and current, heroes,” said Chief Pyle of a special presentation made to Tribal Chaplain Bertram Bobb, recognizing him for a lifetime of achievements. “Many of our past heroes were members of our military and we will always honor their service to our country.

    “We have a great relationship with the military. The Choctaw Nation provides support to our troops in many ways. We continue to send care packages to our troops stationed overseas, whether they are Indian or non-Indian,” said Chief Pyle. “We will provide a deployment send-off when the Oklahoma National Guard leaves for Afghanistan in January.

    “We also provide help with Wounded Warrior flights. This is where we fly wounded troops to various locations around the country for medical care or to rejoin them with their families. Recently, on one of these flights, the control tower in Houston learned that a wounded warrior was on the flight and asked if they could speak to him. Our pilot, a veteran himself, gave the microphone to the soldier and told the controller to go ahead. The controller started talking to him. He thanked the soldier for his service and wished him a speedy recovery. He then said that anyone else on that frequency who wanted to say anything could go ahead. One after another, they kept talking. One pilot would get on then another. They continued lining up, all wishing the soldier well and thanking him for his service and sacrifice. We are so proud that the Choctaw Nation is able to help in this effort.

    “We have to support our neighbors,” Chief Pyle said. “A recent flood in Arkansas took the lives of 19 people. Several of our forestry staff volunteered to go to Arkansas to offer aid.

    “Our Going Green program continues – ‘sustaining our people, our traditions, our earth.’ The Choctaw have always been protectors of the environment, especially water. This is extremely important,” Chief Pyle stressed. “You are probably aware that others are interested in acquiring the water from Sardis Lake and some have even made a monetary investment toward that. By treaty, the tribe’s water has never been given up. This is still our water, and we will fight for the protection of this natural resource for all of southeastern Oklahoma, even though it may take years to resolve.

    “One of Choctaw Nation’s most successful programs is the STAR program,” he informed the audience. “This program, Success Through Academic Recognition, rewards Choctaw students who make good grades or have perfect attendance. Through our STAR program, we have seen a significant increase in our students’ grades and school attendance. We are happy to announce that this program is now going nationwide.

    “The Choctaw Nation continues to grow and prosper. Some of the new construction recently completed includes a new arts and crafts building at Tuskahoma, a new Child Development Center in Durant, new Social Services building and Wellness Center in Hugo, new scoreboards at ballfields here at the capitol grounds and a new Red Warrior statue in front of the capitol building.

    Plans for future construction include new community centers and child development centers as well as a new amphitheater at Tuskahoma. The new amphitheater will be twice this size.

    “Our tribal vision is ‘to achieve healthy, successful, productive and self-sufficient lifestyles for a proud nation of Choctaws.’ This continues to be our goal – to better serve you … the Choctaw people. Our continued economic development will create more jobs, more revenue and ultimately more services for our tribal members. Road projects will improve access to health care, schools and jobs. I want all of our families to achieve our vision of healthy, successful and self-sufficient Choctaws.

    “I want to take a moment to recognize our Tribal Council who take their responsibility to the Choctaw people very seriously,” Chief Pyle said. “They continually look out for the needs of our people and we appreciate their service to the Nation. We also want to remember one of our Councilmen who passed away just last month. Hap Ward was a good friend of mine and a friend to all Choctaws. He loved his people and spent his time serving him. Although Hap can never be replaced in our hearts, a special election will be held Oct. 30 for the District 1 Council position.

    “In closing, I want to emphasize that the Choctaw Nation continues to be strong. As we honor our heroes of the past, we remember our heritage and continue our traditions. Our strength and our continued growth will sustain our future generations to follow. And we will remain a proud Nation of Choctaws!”

  • 2010 Art Show Winners


    1st Place: Two Princesses Standing by Kevin Hardin
    2nd. Place: “Lone Choctaw-1700’s Hidden behind the beauty of the forest with brother turtle” by Janie Semple Umstead
    3rd. Place: Cattle Drive by Vickie Earthman Tipton
    Honorable Mention: The woman who posed as Pocahontas by Kevin Hardin
    Heritage Award: Code Talker by Dylan Cavin


    1st Place: God’s Girl by Melanie Yost
    2nd Place: Choctaw Greeting by Gwen Coleman Lester
    3rd Place: Jenny by Carol Ayers
    Honorable Mention: No Award
    Heritage Award: God’s Girl by Melanie Yost


    1st Place: We lost but we gained by Lyman Choate
    2nd Place: The Hunter’s by Lyman Choate
    3rd Place: Walk On by Yvonne Huser
    Honorable Mention: No Award

    Heritage Award: Ancient Traveler by Lyman Choate


    1st Place: Yaklush-Storage Vessel by Edmon Perkins
    2nd Place: Nuni-Fish by Verna Todd
    3rd Place: Okfuchush-Duck by Verna Todd

    Honorable Mention: Owl Vase by Edmon Perkins
    Heritage Award: Yaklush-Reproduction of 1830 Storage Vessel


    1st Place: Choctaw X Basket by Lizabeth B. Mitchell
    2nd Place: Friendship Basket by Lizabeth B. Mitchell
    3rd Place: Choctaw Elbow Basket by Susan Locke Charlesworth
    Honorable Mention: No Award
    Heritage Award: Choctaw Pouch by Lizabeth B. Mitchell


    1st Place: Timikachi-Beating of the Drum by John H. Johnson White
    2nd Place: Shoboti-Shutik / The Heaven’s Smoke by John H. Johnson White
    3rd Place: Jarvis Johnson, Sr.
    Honorable Mention: Gourd Vessel with Turtle Lid by Cathy Nyman
    Heritage Award: Beadwork by Shirley Lowman


    1st Place: Repousse Spirit Horse by Theresa Renegar
    2nd Place: Nishkin-The Eye by Robert Proctor
    3rd Place: Favorite Colors by Theresa Renegar
    Honorable Mention: “Tuklo hoshonti” Two Shadows by Erin Proctor Herb
    Heritage award: Stickball Jewelry by Jerry Lowman

    Best of Show

    Pisatuntema by Dylan Cavin

  • Ghost Stories to be told at complex

    Ghost Story
    On Monday, October 25 and Tuesday, October 26th at 8:00 p.m. each night there will be chilling stories of Choctaw lore and also stories told about the Oklahoma Presbyterian College where the Choctaw Nation now has their administration offices.

    Tim Tingle, Greg Rodgers and Olin Williams well share the stories with those who are brave enough to venture into the old building at night.

    Free Tickets may be reserved by calling 800.522.6170 Et. 2347 or by emailing

  • Choctaw Nation to honor veterans

    The Choctaw Nation will honor its veterans with a ceremony on Nov. 11 at Tushka Homma. The ceremony will begin at 11 a.m.

    “We look forward every year to having this special opportunity to thank our veterans,” said Chief Gregory E. Pyle. “As I look at their faces, young and old, I am reminded of the sacrifices made so that we can enjoy our freedom.”

    Maj. Gen. Leroy Sisco is keynote speaker. Sisco is currently retired after a 42-year career with the military. General Sisco’s military experience spans command positions from company to Deputy Commander 49th Armored Division and Commander of the Texas State Guard. His commands included the 231st Engineer Company, the 386th Engineer Battalion, and 111th Area Support Group which required a lot of his time in Germany working the 21st TAACOM. He has served in a variety of joint and combined assignments that included major staff positions with the 71st troop command. In his civilian career he is the CEO and president of Military Warriors Support Foundation.

    The State of Texas has honored him twice with a joint resolution on the House floor from the Senate and House for his duty and dedication to the State of Texas and his country.

    Capt. Teri Scroggins is scheduled to present the Tvshka Chunkash (Heart of a Warrior) scholarship. She began her tour at IKD-M as a Ground Military Intelligence Analyst covering the 15 countries of West African Region and would be the first Army Element Officer-In-Charge for IKD-M. Currently, she is a dynamic targeting officer. The Tvshka Chunkash Scholarship is a $1,000 scholarship offered through the Choctaw Nation Scholarship Advisement Program. Tribal members who are enrolled in SAP and are attending an accredited college or university were eligible to apply. The award is given on behalf of the veterans of the Afghan and Iraq wars. Capt. Scroggins is responsible for starting this scholarship and a major contributor for the award.

    Cara Caldwell, a Texas Tech Junior from Ovilla, Texas, was selected as this year’s scholarship recipient. Staff will be on hand at 10 a.m. on the Capitol Grounds near the War Memorial to present all Choctaw veterans with a token of gratitude from the Choctaw Nation. A free lunch will be provided.

  • Choctaw Code Talkers recipient of DRUM Award for patriotism

    The inaugural DRUM Award for patriotism is being awarded Nov. 1 to the Choctaw Code Talkers of World I for their contribution to freedom, liberty, peace and security.

    A decade ago, news of the Choctaw Code Talkers was beginning to spread around the country. “Who were they?” many asked. Everyone had heard of the Navajo Code Talkers in World War II but the small group of Choctaw who first used their language to win a war was an enigma.

    Many Choctaws volunteered their service to the United States at a time when some Native Americans weren’t considered citizens of the country they swore to protect. Their language was being banished. Often, talking to each other in Choctaw had to be done secretly.

    Some of these Choctaw men were heard speaking their Native language in the midst of battlefields in France, prompting an officer not to punish but to grasp an opportunity he felt would make a difference in a war where the enemy seemed to have the upper hand.

    Nineteen soldiers, members of the 36th Infantry Division, were trained to use their Choctaw words as “code.” They were placed strategically on front lines and at command posts so that messages could be transmitted without being understood by the enemy. The Germans had been tapping the Army’s phone lines, but when the Choctaws were put on the phones and talked in their Native speech, the Germans couldn’t effectively spy on the transmissions. The project was so successful, the U.S. Army recruited Native Americans before the beginning of World II to perform the same duties the Choctaws did in World War I.

    “The Choctaw Nation is proud of the legacy of its Code Talkers,” said Chief Gregory E. Pyle. “They were sworn to secrecy and many of them kept the secret of their participation until they died. They are the epitome of valiant patriotism. It is fitting that the very first DRUM Award for patriotism honor the Code Talkers of World I.

    “Legislation has also been passed in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate that includes awarding a gold medal to our Choctaw warriors and other Indian Code Talkers in subsequent wars,” Chief Pyle said. “We dedicated a monument last month on our capitol grounds honoring Tushka Homma, or red warrior. The face of the warrior is that of Joseph Oklahombi, one of the World War I Code Talkers,” he said. “Oklahombi was awarded the Silver Star for his bravery in service to our country. His face is symbolic of all Choctaw warriors including those on the line today.”

    There are bits of information passed down through families and newspapers about the private lives of some of the Choctaw Code Talkers.

    James Edwards was a member of the Choctaw language “relay team” for messages. He also helped develop the code. “Twice big group” in Choctaw was used for battalion, “eight group” was a squad, “scalps” referred to casualties, “fast shooting gun” meant machine gun and “big gun” was field artillery.

    Walter Veach was put in charge of creating an all-Indian company in the 36th division. Prior to the war, Veach served in the National Guard on the border between the United States and Mexico. His company had a major hand in stopping the Pancho Villa invasion of Texas.

    Otis Leader, one of the most notable heroes of World War I, was 34 when he joined the Army. He and his Swiss employer, a rancher from Allen, Okla., went on a cattle-buying trip to Fort Worth. While there, the Swiss accent of the rancher combined with Leader’s tall, dark looks resulted in them being taken for a German spy and his Spaniard companion. This mistaken identity infuriated Leader so much he immediately went to the nearest recruiting office and signed up.

    Solomon Louis was actually underage when he entered the armed services. The young man from Bryan County attended Armstrong Academy and followed his older friends to enlist. He pretended to be 18 so he, too, could join. Victor Brown received a citation from President Wilson after being wounded and gassed with mustard gas. Tobias Frazier was among the Choctaw men who helped break the Hindenberg line in 1918.

    The other members of the World War I Choctaw Code Talkers were Robert Taylor, Jeff Nelson, Calvin Wilson, Mitchell Bobb, Pete Maytubby, Ben Carterby, Albert Billy, Ben Hampton, Joe Davenport, George Davenport, Noel Johnson and Ben Colbert.

    Every Code Talker played a significant role in turning the outcome of the war, ensuring our freedom today.

    The Drum Awards brings together citizens of Native American nations with a national awards program recognizing individuals and tribes for their accomplishments and contributions to society. The Awards are designed to build prestige for Native Americans and to promote a healthy sense of worth through first-class treatment of one another.

  • DRUM awards to be webcast live on November 1

    Be sure to check out the live webcast of the DRUM awards on November 1 at 7:00 p.m.

    link to DRUM Awards Webcast

  • Tribal Leaders, Residents feel shorted by Lake Sardis Water Deal

    ( Video)[]

  • Williston sworn in as Choctaw Nation District 1 Councilman

    Thomas Williston swearing in DURANT, Okla. - Thomas Williston is sworn into office by tribal judge David Burrage on Nov. 29 at the tribal complex in Durant. Williston was elected to fill the vacancy left when District 1 Councilman Hap Ward passed away Aug. 3. A special election was held Oct. 30 and required a run-off between Williston and Matilda Paxton. He received 51.6 percent of the votes in the Nov. 20 run-off.

    Williston will fulfill the remainder of this term, which runs until the next regular election in July 2011.

  • Water Policy


    Welcome to the water policy section of the Choctaw Nation website. The future of water resources in our region of Southeast Oklahoma is of critical importance to the Choctaw people. We take very seriously our responsibility to protect the natural environment– the plants, animals and fish – that depend on our abundant, clean, fresh water. We are fully committed to protecting this resource for future generations as well as for today’s recreation opportunities and economic development of Southeast Oklahoma. I hope you find the information here helpful and inspiring. By all of us working together, we hope to develop the scientific plans and programs needed to protect our future and our water in a way that will benefit all Oklahomans.

  • Child Care Assistance Program launches new website

    Online Presence Helps Members Learn How Child Care Assistance Program Benefits Native American Families

    DURANT, OK - The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) Child Care Assistance Program (CCA) has launched a new Internet Web site at “We hope Native Americans will view us online to discover how our program works and to see if it can help with their family child care needs,” says Program Director, Marilyn Williams. The Choctaw Nation Child Care Assistance Program is funded by a federal grant through the US Department of Health & Human Services and Administration for Children & Families for the purpose of assisting eligible families with their day care expense.

    CCA helps low-income, Native American families with their child care costs for children under the age of 13 years who reside in the CNO’s 10 ½ county service area of southeastern Oklahoma. “We currently provide assistance for just under 1,000 children and contract with 143 day care centers and homes for their care. The majority of the providers are licensed by the Oklahoma Department of Health and Human Services, but in some cases a relative of the child could be paid for their care,” says Williams.

    To qualify for Choctaw Child Care Assistance parents or guardians of the children must be working, going to school, or in an educational training program, and therefore have a need for their child to attend a day care. Eligibility is based on the parents’ income, the number in the household, and their work schedule. Parents are required to pay a certain portion (co-payment) of their child care expense for each child. The Program will pay the balance of the costs to their day care provider. In some cases, CCA may be able to pay for child care while parents or guardians search for a job. Applicants should ask about the Job Search program to see if they qualify.

    Native American families who qualify for the CCA program are encouraged to visit the new web site at or contact CCA at Choctaw Tribal headquarters at 580-924-8280 to learn how CCA can assist their family.

  • E-Waste Recycling day in Durant on January 22

    This event is open to the public. You may bring electronic waste to events center on January 22. Please see flyer for details.

    E-Waste Recycling Day in Durant on January 22

  • Choctaw Nation Photo Contest

    Capture the Spirit of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and share your heritage with tribal members around the world.
    Winning entries will be used in the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma’s 2012 Calendar.

    Digital images are preferred but not required.
    High resolution 300 dpi RGB JPG files are preferred.
    To be considered for a top inside calendar page, images need to be at least 2 to 5 mb JPG files in horizontal format.

    All photos must be received by July 1, 2011.
    All photos must be accompanied by photographer’s contact information including name, address, phone number and e-mail address.
    The subject(s) of the photos must be identified.

    All photos will become the property of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
    Watch future Choctaw publications and web sites: Even if you don’t win this calendar contest, your image may be used in future publications!

    A Grand Prize of $150 will be awarded to the person submitting the cover photo.
    Individual $50 prizes will also be awarded each person whose photo is chosen for calendar pages.

    E-mail entries to or
    mail to Lisa Reed, PO Box 1210, Durant, OK 74702

  • Ribbon cutting for Hugo Services

    Hugo Ribbon Cutting

    Tribal Services in Hugo have never been easier for tribal members to access. A ribboncutting on Jan. 13 marked the opening of the new 24,300-sq.-ft. Tribal Services facility and the new 10,000-sq.-ft. Wellness Center in Hugo. The two buildings were added near the Choctaw Community Center, Head Start and Clinic in Hugo. With new landscaping and a walking track around a picturesque pond with a water fountain, the Tribal Services campus is a beautiful area off Hwy. 70 on the west side of the city.

    The master plan is to eventually have all of the Choctaw Nation’s Hugo tribal operations situated in a central location, allowing easy accessibility and ample parking for the Choctaw people. The facilities were funded by separate HUD Indian Community Development Block Grant funds in the amount of $1.6 million each and tribal funds.

    The two-story Tribal Services facility has 58 offices, housing staff of several programs including Guest Services, Social Services, Children and Family Services, Agriculture, WIC, Law Enforcement and Outreach’s Vocational Rehabilitation, Victims Assistance, Youth Outreach, Project Empower, Empower 2 Dream, Injury Prevention, Hokli Nittak, Chahta Inchukka, Transit, CHIPRA, Choctaw Support for Pregnant and Parenting Teens, Community-based Social Work, Elder Advocacy and Faith-based Counseling.

    Offices are open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For information, call 580-326-8304 or 877-285-6893. The center provides some of the finest workout equipment in southeastern Oklahoma as well as a basketball court. Wellness Center staff have activities scheduled Monday through Saturday with something for everyone including a wide array of exercise classes as well as classes in self-defense, senior nutrition and ballroom dancing. An after-school program is held four days a month with a different age group each day.

    The Wellness Center is open 6 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturdays.for Choctaw Nation tribal members and employees. For more information, call 580-326-9422.

  • New Choctaw Nation recycling center helping to reduce environmental impact

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    DURANT, Okla. – The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma proudly celebrates its recently opened recycling center in Durant, taking another step towards green living and being good stewards of the land and environment. The recycling center, designed to save energy and help offset the amount of waste ending up in landfills each year, was funded through an Energy Efficiency Community Block Grant from the Department of Energy.

    The 30,350-sq.-ft. facility has four full-time employees and receives newspaper, office paper, shredded paper, magazines, catalogs, plastics #1, 2 and 5, aluminum cans, steel cans, cell phones, printer cartridges and cardboard for recycling.

    Since opening for business on Dec. 1, the Choctaw Nation has collected more than 700 printer cartridges, 2,700 pounds of aluminum cans, and nearly 135,000 pounds of plastic bottles, various paper and cardboard to be recycled. At an E-Waste event held in January, the Choctaw Nation collected almost 37,000 pounds of electronic material waste.

    Chief Gregory E. Pyle is proud of the facility given that, prior to its opening, there was no public facility within the 10-1/2 county area that allowed for businesses and individuals to drop off items to be recycled.

    “The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is a large entity and it is encouraging to know that we have employees who care about our environment. They have devoted many hours to finding solutions, from handing out ‘green’ cups to reduce the use of styrofoam to opening this fantastic facility,” said Chief Pyle. “It fulfills a need in the Durant area, giving everyone an opportunity to recycle.”

    The facility, located at 3108 Enterprise Drive in Durant, is open to the public for dropping off items from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

  • Choctaw Nation to repatriate 124 ancestors

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    DURANT, Okla. – The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) will be repatriating 124 of their ancestor’s remains this coming spring. This is a great success in more ways than one, and for more tribes than just the Choctaw Nation.

    The remains of ancestors are sacred to many Native American tribes, and the Choctaw Tribe is no exception. These 124 remains are believed to be around 500 years old, based on cultural material and records from the past, and hold great significance to members of several tribes from the Southeastern United States.

    The people of the Choctaw Nation have long believed that the deceased will become one with the earth. “It is a traditional Choctaw belief that when people die, their spirits take a journey to the Land of Souls, and part of that is their body going back into the ground,” explains Dr. Ian Thompson, Choctaw Tribal Archaeologist.

    These remains were taken from their place of burial decades ago during two separate excavations, one in the 1950s and the other in the 1960s. This was a time when archaeologists were looking to amass large quantities of Native American remains for their collections. These remains were taken without the consultation of the tribes to which they belong. Most consider this desecration a tragedy of the severest kind.

    Now that the Choctaw Nation has reacquired their ancestor’s remains, they plan to rebury them. This is done out of respect to the individuals who have passed away, as well as the family that originally laid them to rest in the earth centuries ago, said Thompson.

    Other than sheer respect for the departed, the Choctaw belief is that “where they were buried, the soil around them is part of them,” mentions Terry Cole, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer.

    Cole went on to explain that, when a body starts to deteriorate, the physical body is absorbed into the ground around the grave. This makes the area around the grave sacred.

    The remains are not only important to the Choctaw people, but are significant to numerous other tribes. The remains are believed to be those of the Taensa tribe, who lived in the area at that time. They are identified as such by the material culture, location, early written records and the way that the burials were put in the ground, said Thompson.

    “They are one of tribes who lived near the Choctaw, and for a time they lived among the Choctaw and they intermixed,” therefore some of today’s Choctaw people have Taensa lineage, continued Thompson.

    The Taensa also lived near and intermixed with the Alabama and the Chitimacha at different times, therefore, those same tribes of today can also trace their linage back to the group being repatriated. Today, several tribes have affiliation with these remains, such as the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians, the Alabama-Coushatta and several others. This reburial act of respect is for more than just the Choctaw Nation, but is a great success for multiple tribes.

    The return of these remains is a significant and spiritual event for Choctaw Nation that has been guided by a NAGPRA Advisory Board, made up of distinguished Choctaw people from various walks of life.

    Similarly, the reburial is a very spiritual process and will be handled with great care by all involved. Several Choctaw spiritual and religious advisors will direct the reburial, and out of respect for the departed, no large equipment will be used to put the remains back into the ground.

    Individuals working on the reburial will hand dig every grave with a shovel in order to keep the process as respectful and traditional as possible. The remains will be placed in the most precise way as can be determined to match how they originally came from the earth.

    This may seem like a great deal of work, but to those involved, it is worth every bit of work. “It is not something great that we do, it is something great that we are allowed to do. Its a privilege to get to honor the ancestors,” said Thompson as he described his feelings toward the repatriation.

    Cole followed by mentioning that the ancestors have handed down responsibilities to the generation of today and one of those responsibilities is to take care of those who have passed away. “It is our responsibility and our job.”

    This great honor is not just for the Choctaw Nation, but for all the tribes to which the remains are affiliated. The Choctaw Nation Department of Historic Preservation has invited those certain tribes to partake in this event as well.

    The process of obtaining the remains was not completed by just a dedicated few, but by a dedicated many. The Coalition of Southeast Tribes, which includes a number of Native Tribes, has been working to improve the process that tribes must use to obtain remains.

    This process is dictated by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), which is a federal law passed in 1990.

    The road that led to this particular reburial began when the tribe was first consulted in 2002 when a federal institution, the Natchez Trace Parkway, under requirements of NAGPRA, went through their collection of human remains and found that particular remains could be traced to the Choctaw Nation.

    Since then, the research compiled about these remains had lead to the conclusion that they are of Choctaw affiliation. The Choctaw Nation filed a Repatriation Claim in 2009 and in turn, the institution published an Intent to Repatriate to a national publication - the Federal Register.

    In working with the Natchez Trace Parkway, the Choctaw Nation requested a Ground Penetrating Radar survey of the original burial site to better understand how the remains were buried and subsequently removed. The Natchez Trace Parkway then took a thorough inventory of their collection and found that some of the collection had been dispersed to other locations. The Choctaw Nation had them assemble the collection as a whole.

    Cameron H. Sholly, Superintendent of the Natchez Trace Parkway, and Christina Smith, Cultural Resource Manager for the Natchez Trace Parkway, who have been working very closely with Choctaw Nation through the repatriation process, will be at the Choctaw tribal headquarters on Feb. 23 in Durant to sign the Repatriation Agreement. This document officially transfers the custody of the remains to the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

    Within Choctaw Nation, this work is of such a sensitive and important nature, a NAGPRA Advisory Board has been assembled within the tribe to give the Historic Preservation Department direction on how to proceed with repatriations and reburials. This is a group of ten members, including tribal elders, traditional people and tribal council members.

    A great deal of effort has been poured into this endeavor; individuals throughout the Choctaw Nation and many others who have handled various aspects of the repatriation. Through this work, the Department of Historic Preservation has made progress that will help with future repatriation.

    “Through this, we are building positive relations with the National Park Service in the Southeast, and those relationships will make it much easier to repatriate other ancestors who need to be brought back to their homes, ” said Thompson.

    Thompson went on to tell, that in times past, that burial sites like this one have been subject to grave looters and other malicious activity. He stressed that to disturb the reburial site, and those like it, would be to commit a federal offense.

  • Labor Day Festival Information

    The 2011 festival will be held September 1 - 5 at Tushka Homma, Oklahoma.

    Labor Day Pow Wow Information

    Area RV Parks and Lodging

    Schedule of Events

    5K Run Brochure

    Please note that schedule may change at a later date.

    Entertainers will be:

    Friday 6:00 pm - Neal McCoy
    8:00 pm - .38 Special
    10:00 pm - Clay Walker

    Saturday 6:00 pm - Ronnie Milsap
    8:00 pm - Jamey Johnson
    10:00 pm - Gary Allen

    Sunday 7:00 - The Kingsmen 9:00 pm - Third Day

  • KXII Choctaw Days at the Smithsonian Parts I and II

  • Chief Pyle unopposed three terms in a row

    Chief Gregory E. Pyle is unopposed in this year’s election, according to Choctaw Nation Election Board officials. This is the third term in a row that Chief Pyle has been the only one to file, something that has never happened in the history of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

    Also, unopposed in the 2011 election are Councilman Kenny Bryant, District 3; Councilman Perry Thompson, District 8; and Councilman Thomas Williston, District 1.

    Several candidates have filed in District 5, the seat to be filled after the death of Councilperson Charlotte Jackson in January. They are Michael B. Jordan, Leland L. Sockey, Carolyn Thompson Harris, Ronald Perry, Norma Nunn Anderson, and Louisa Terrell Gonzalez.

    Five have filed in District 2: Incumbent Mike Amos, Ivan Battiest, Jeffery Jefferson, Tony Messenger, and Austin Battiest.

    Incumbent Bob Pate and Daniel E. McFarland have filed for the District 11 seat.

    Election day is July 9. Polls will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

    District 2 voting precincts are the Choctaw Community Center, Stigler; the Kinta Community Center, Kinta; the County Barn, Keota, and the Choctaw Community Center, Spiro.

    District 11 voting precincts include the Choctaw Nation Health Center, McAlester; City Hall, Hartshorne, and Kiowa High School, Kiowa.

    Runoff elections, if needed, will be July 30.

  • KXII - Choctaw Days at the Smithsonian Part 1

  • Keepseagle Native American Farmer Settlement

    This is an important meeting about filing claims in the $760 million Keepseagle Native American Farmer Case.

    Get Free Legal Help in Filing a Claim

    July 19-21 9:00 a.m. - 5:00p.m. Choctaw Nation Complex 529 N 16th in Durant, OK

    The $760 million settlement with the US Department of Agriculture has received final approval. Please come to a meeting with the Keepseagle Class Counsel to submit your claim to share in that settlement. At the meeting you can receive assistance competing your claim form.


    For more information, please all 888.233.5506 or visit

  • Donations for SOLEMATES now accepted

    by Lisa Reed, BISKINIK Editor

    Starting the school year off on the right foot is more of a challenge for some students simply because of their economic situation. A group of individuals with the Choctaw Nation decided two years ago to boost the morale of students by holding fundraisers so young people on the Youth Outreach Program can enter the classroom wearing a new pair of shoes each August.

    SOLEMATES is in its third year, and the shoe purchases are totally supported through donations. The first fundraiser is set for Friday, July 29th, with donations being accepted at locations across the Choctaw Nation. Volunteers will be at each of the Choctaw Travel Plazas and each of the Choctaw Casinos to accept any and all donations. Donation sites will be open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

    The SOLEMATES volunteers have a list of the sizes and types of shoes needed by the 121 youth who are on the program, so they are ready to head to the store and buy footwear that is suited for each individual as soon as donations start coming in. “We start purchasing shoes and delivering them to the students during the two weeks following the fundraiser so they can have their shoes when school begins,” said Director Randy Hammons.

    SOLEMATES workers hope to follow the past two years’ successful history and bring in enough donations that they can once again give donations of shoes to some of the needy children on other programs in the Choctaw Nation and in the community after serving the Outreach Program participants.

    “We will accept monetary donations or new shoes of any size that can be worn year-round,” said Hammons. “Providing a pair of shoes to these students gives them a sense of pride – they love to wear a great new pair of tennis shoes into the classroom on the first day of school, and we love being able to assist them.”

    “It is amazing how such a small thing as a single pair of shoes can bring a big smile to these kids,” said Chief Gregory E. Pyle. “This is an important effort that will improve the self-esteem of many of the young people to be able to wear brand-new, nice shoes that they could not otherwise afford. It touches my heart to know that people will join us in contributing to this worthy cause.”

    A second round of fundraising for SOLEMATES will take place at the Tribal Headquarters in Durant and at the Choctaw Nation Hospital in Talihina on Monday, Aug. 8.

    If a Choctaw family in the 10 ½-county area of the Choctaw Nation thinks they qualify for the Outreach Program, they may call 580-326-8304 or 877-285-6893.

  • KXII Choctaw Days at the Smithsonian Parts II

  • Participants needed for Indian Film-Training Program

    “The Cherokee Word for Water” Indian Film-Training Program

    The Cherokee Word for Water is a feature length movie being filmed in the Tahlequah area in September. We are currently seeking paid participants for our Indian Film-Training Program. This is a real hands-on work program where the participants will be trained by the heads of each department in which they work. By the end of the program, participants will have real work experience that will extend beyond the film world, with credit in the film. Once completed, participants can be added to Oklahoma state crew production list for future films shot in the state. Participants should be ready for long hours (a minimum of 10 to 16 hours days) and able to work 6 days a week. Lunch will be provided during shoot weeks. Participants do not have to live in Tahlequah but must be responsible for their securing and covering their own housing.

    Applicants must be at least 18 years of age, have a valid Oklahoma state driver’s license, a clean driving record and agree to commit to the full four weeks of filming, including necessary pre-production time. The rate of pay is $600/week.

    If interested in applying for The Cherokee Word for Water Indian Film-Training Program, please email the following information to no later than August 3, 2011. Please feel free to include your resume or other relevant information about your skills and interest in this project.





    Tribal Affiliation:

    Date available to start:

    Do you have any scheduling conflicts?

    Please describe your past work experience.

    Please list any special skills you have.

    Why are you interested in this program?

    What areas of movie making most interest you?

    Do you have a car? If so, what make/model?

  • Tornado Relief Concert hosted by Choctaw Casino Resort nominated for a VH1 “DO SOMETHING!” Award-Please VOTE!!

    Follow this link to VOTE!!

    DURANT, OKLAHOMA – VH1 has announced nominees and opened voting for The 2011 Do Something Awards. On this year’s list is the Tornado Relief Concert which was hosted at Choctaw Casino Resort and featured Oklahoma natives Reba McEntire and Blake Shelton.

    The public is invited to vote by visiting by August 14, at 9 a.m. The homepage has a direct link to the awards and visitors can click through to the voting page. The Tornado Relief Concert is listed in the “Concert” category.

    Since 1996, has honored the nation’s best world-changers. The Do Something Award is the premier national award for social action. Nominees and winners represent the pivotal “do-ers” in their field, cause or issue.

    “We are up against some stiff competition so we’re asking fans to visit and vote for the Tornado Relief Concert,” said Janie Dillard, executive director of gaming for Choctaw Casinos. “This is an opportunity for us to keep the Atoka County devastation top of mind and continue offering support.”

    Held on May 25 and 26 at Choctaw Casino Resort, the Tornado Relief Concert was co-headlined by Oklahoma natives Reba McEntire and Blake Shelton. The two sold-out shows raised $500,000 for victims of tornadoes in Atoka County, Oklahoma.

    The Do Something Awards will be taped at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles and premiere Thursday, August 18, at 8 p.m. CST on VH1. Emmy and Golden Globe winner Jane Lynch will host the star-studded telecast for a second year.

    To vote for the Tornado Relief Concert hosted at Choctaw Casino Resort, visit or . Information also can be found on Choctaw Casino Resort’s Facebook page (Choctaw Casino Resort – Durant, OK).

  • Recruits being sought for Choctaw Nation Color Guard

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma’s Color Guard is an esteemed group of Military Choctaw Members who assist the Nation by posting colors at Tribal events and community Organizations, rendering military funeral honors, Pow-Wows, marching in Parades and Trail of Tears Walks. Events are scattered throughout the United States so we would love to have members located across the Nation.

    Requirements are as follows:

    Able Bodied and Dependable Able to march at least 4 miles Able to perform prolonged standing Have dependable transportation to travel long distances Arrive early at scheduled time for events Have telephone number to be contacted NO alcohol beverage will be consumed prior and during any events

    For more information regarding benefits and details of service, please contact:

    Herbert Jesse P.O. Box 156 Haworth, OK. 74740 580.212.0227


    Jason Burwick Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma 800-522-6170 ext. 2160

  • Red Eagle inspiring youth to soar above negative influences

    By LARISSA COPELAND Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    “When the police kicked in my door I thought they had the wrong house,” tells Jesse “Red Eagle” Robbins, a 25-year-old Choctaw from Oklahoma City. That wasn’t the case though and it was in fact Robbins that the police were after.

    He was 20 years old at the time and had been on the wrong path for several years prior to that. “I got a felony drug charge, my first criminal charge ever, for dealing drugs,” said Robbins. “I was given five years of probation and 100 hours of community service. But by the time I got busted I’d already ‘woken up’ and finding my Choctaw culture is what saved me.”


    The charge was for something old that he had done (at age of 18) but it didn’t matter in the eyes of the law. “I still got it and I’m going to use it for good,” said Robbins.

    He does this by reaching out to the youth who may be on the same negative, confused path he went down as a young teen. “I travel to middle schools around south Oklahoma City to speak to the kids about anti-gang and anti-drug activity,” he says. “I speak to them from experience. When I was their age, I was so lost. I try to get to them in middle school. You have to catch them young or it’ll be too late.”

    Robbins knows this first-hand. He began to go down the wrong path around the age of 15. “I’ve never drank alcohol and I’ve never smoked or done drugs in my life because I’ve seen what it’s done to our people. I didn’t want that. What I did though was get involved in gang activity.

    “I was confused about what a warrior was,” he said, explaining the attraction he felt. “Gangs provide a false sense of belonging for kids. But they don’t protect – they destroy. They provide a false sense of identity. I thought I was being different but I was conforming. Gangs take you outside your culture. I’m Choctaw but I was with mostly Hispanics. They were my clan. I was striving for a tribe, an identity, a warrior role. A gang provided that, or so I thought.”

    It was around the same age when Robbins was looking to gangs for acceptance, he was also turning to a more creative outlet for his thoughts – writing poetry.

    “When I first started visiting the schools I’d read my poetry but the kids couldn’t really relate to that so I turned to music,” he says, “and I can’t sing or play guitar…so I guess you could say hip-hop chose me.”

    Robbins has had much success spreading his message and connecting to the kids through his music. “I represent a bridge,” he says. “I do music to connect generations. I take the elders’ message and put it in a form the youth relate to and understand. They don’t speak the same ‘language’ anymore. I get to play coyote, be a trickster. The Choctaw culture is so dope (cool). When kids hear it in the music, they hear how cool the culture is.”

    He thinks that it’s someone like himself who is best suited for reaching this group of kids too. “They want to hear me say it, not some 50-year-old they can’t relate to.”

    Another thing he tries to impress upon the youth he visits with is the power of an education, as his father did to him. His father, Dr. Rockey Robbins, is an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma in the educational psychology department. His focus is in multicultural counseling and according to Robbins, he has always instilled in him the importance of education. “Education is a ladder. My dad taught me that early on,” he says. “I tell that to the kids too. I say to them ‘go to college.’ Some kids never hear that word at home.”

    This is something Robbins took to heart himself. After graduating from Little Axe High School in 2004, he enrolled in Oklahoma City Community College. He plans to transfer to OU in Norman in Fall 2011.

    Beyond setting the groundwork for his culture and education, his father has been at his side during his hard times. “I’m lucky because my dad stands by me,” said Robbins. “But I did come from a broken home. I think that’s another reason the kids can connect to me. Not all these kids have a great home life either. I get that. I want my music to be a positive message in the ears of those kids with their headphones on, their heads bobbing up and down, while their parents might be in the other room fighting.”

    Robbins never had a relationship with his mother. He was born in Durant but soon moved to the Kickapoo Reservation in Kansas where his father was a teacher at the time. He lived there until he was about five years old, and even spent a short period of time in foster care, until coming back to live with his father. He considers Oklahoma City and Norman home. His siblings are Tiffany York, Seth Fairchild and Cheyenne Murray; two of these three he didn’t even know until he reached adulthood.

    “My family life was part of where my rebellion started,” he admits, “but my culture is what set me straight.”

    He considers himself fortunate for being raised by a father who immersed him in the tribal-cultural ways of the Choctaw at an early age. And those roots stayed strong. His Choctaw name, “Onse Homma” or “Red Eagle” was given to him during an old Choctaw traditional naming ceremony; a ceremony that Robbins fears is being lost through the generations. “My grandfather gave it to me when I was five years old,” he said. “He walked out into the woods and when he came back he told me that was my name.”

    From the time he was a young child the ways of the Choctaw always had deep meaning to him. Though he took a slight detour from these ways during his late teen years, he soon realized the greatest limiting factor to his connection to his tribe was himself. “Now, I do what I can to keep our old ways and our ceremonies alive. I want our people to speak our language. I speak Choctaw, play stickball, go to the stomp dances.”

    Robbins was also part of the Choctaw Nation stickball team that played in the 2010 Stickball World Series in Mississippi.

    Today, Robbins considers himself an advocate for Native Americans everywhere and he uses his music to get his point across. “Native Americans need a voice,” he explains. “I’ve been backed into a corner. I am a warrior and I will fight for our culture. Peace and love scare people but a warrior is peaceful. Music is a form of protest and I use it to be an activist for the tribe.”

    Robbins considers himself a modern day storyteller. “Music is breath to me,” he says. “This is more than a hobby. Every song is catered to Native Americans. It’s an opportunity for me to reach kids, to tell them you can get through hard times, to turn to the old ways. It’s my opportunity to give the youth a voice, to just lend a hand to this generation and help revive a youth appreciation of our culture,” he says.

    In addition to visiting middle schools and visiting with youth, his music has created many other unique opportunities for him. Most recently and according to Robbins, one of the most interesting, was being invited in February to present in New York City at Columbia University’s prestigious 28th Annual Cross-Cultural Winter psychology roundtable, themed “Privileging Indigenous Voices.”

    A Native American professor at Columbia heard his music and enjoyed the message it sent, leading to his invitation to the university. He led the youth plenary session, opening the meeting by leading the group with a Choctaw snake dance. He then performed half his presentation by reading his poetry and half by performing his hip-hop music. A large photo slide show was projected on the wall behind him during his presentation, displaying numerous images of Choctaw people during various stages of history. He received a standing ovation from the students and faculty in the audience.


    In addition to radio airplay on numerous radio stations, Robbins performs his music live whenever possible. He was also honored to have been offered a position to play at the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow in Albuquerque, N.M., in April but was unable to attend this year. He performed on May 14 at Jones Academy and was joined by fellow Choctaw hip-hop artist Chris Taylor and Anthony “DJ Pyro” Mnic’opa, a Dakota/Seminole. Together they make up the group “Native Nation.”

    Robbins has put out several mix tapes over the years. He recently released a mix tape in New York entitled 1491 and is currently in the final stages of another album. He’s also in the beginning phase of producing a poetry album. His music can be heard on his Youtube page, onsehomma21, or his Facebook page,

    Just a few of his Native American themed songs include “Seventh Generation,” “We got that Swag,” Women,” “Ain’t Your Mascot,” among many, many more.

    As heard in the lyrics to “Seventh Generation,” it’s easy to know he walks the talk when he says his music encourages his people to stay connected to who they are:

    “Keep the shells Keep the songs Keep on stomping all night long Keep the dance Keep the drum Keep the language on your tongue,”

    He takes that to heart and lives it. By being someone the kids can relate to, Robbins plans to continue using his music to inspire and encourage the youth to soar above negative influences.

    But he doesn’t want people to think that because his subject matter is serious that his music is all somber and solemn though. “Humor is a huge part of my music,” he says, “and it just might make you dance!”

  • Choctaw Nation makes annual donations to county drug courts

    By CHRISSY DILL Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    DURANT, Okla. – About eight years ago, Chief Gregory E. Pyle of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma made the decision to provide financial assistance for the drug court in Bryan County. The court wasn’t receiving the adequate amount of funding from the state to sustain its services for its participants or employees, so it sought the tribe’s assistance.

    According to Choctaw Nation Tribal Management Executive Director Shannon McDaniel, who’s been employed by the tribe for 24 years, today the tribe makes yearly donations to aid in maintaining the drug court programs of Bryan, McCurtain, Pittsburg, Atoka and LeFlore counties. “Drug courts are funded by the state,” said McDaniel, “but just not enough funding comes through, so that’s the reason we jumped in and started helping.”

    The purpose of a drug court is to enlist a participant with non-violent drug offenses in an 18- to 24-month program and provides counseling, drug testing, jobs and assigns daily activities that require completion, all in efforts to keep them from entering a correctional system. Currently, there are roughly 90 participants in Bryan County’s drug court, and average 60-90 participants in the other counties where the, with a large percentage of Native Americans, providing another motive for the Choctaw Nation to make their aid available.

    At the time the individual receives a drug court sentence, they’re also given a state sentence to a penal institution, which they don’t have to abide by unless they aren’t able to maintain their position in the drug court, according to McDaniel. “If they don’t meet drug court rules, they immediately go into a correctional facility,” he explained.

    The Tribal Management Department’s main responsibility is helping families of the Choctaw Nation in as many ways possible, which explains its involvement with the drug court assistance program.

    “Our thought on it is if we can keep these people out of the prison system, it not only saves money for the state, but it gives them the help and assistance they need to change their life so drugs and alcohol will no longer be a part of their life,” McDaniel explained. “We want to help these people become more productive in society and not make them a burden of the state.”

    Each drug court is overseen by a number of board members. “Each board is made up of people in the community who deal with issues relating to drugs, alcohol, mental health, law enforcement,” said McDaniel.

    The drug court board and district attorneys make decisions relating to the individual’s acceptance into the drug court program and their graduation from the program. “This program encompasses everyone in the community to make it work,” McDaniel added. “It goes in full circle.”

    According to McDaniel, without the financial support of the Choctaw Nation these drug courts probably would not be able to function and would have to scale down the number of participants they attend to. “The tribe gives them the subsidy to take care of their employees,” he said.

    Not only has the Choctaw Nation provided assistance for the area’s drug courts in times when the state could not meet its payment schedules to the county they have given funds in the interim period. “We’ve done that for almost all counties,” said McDaniel.

    “The Choctaw Nation has made a tremendous impact,” said drug court judge Farrell Hatch. “Any assistance we’ve asked for, they’ve helped us with.”

  • Isaac James takes title of tribal DARE officer

    Isaac JamesNewly appointed Choctaw Nation DARE officer, Isaac James has begun his principal tasks for his new duty, which is to educate young minds on the dangers of drugs and alcohol, as well as teach them how to avoid situations that could produce encounters with such substances.

    “I can not tell you how excited I am,” said James as he spoke about beginning his Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) classes, which kicked off in August. He will be covering five schools in the 10.5 counties over a nine-week period. He will travel to a different school each day of the week; making a five-school circuit that he will repeat each week.

    During the nine weeks, he will be in fifth grade classrooms for 45-minute sessions, beginning with an introductory course to DARE, telling of its beginnings, purpose and goals. Following this, each class will focus on various aspects of how to keep safe from drugs, alcohol, firearms and other dangerous matters.

    DARE is a program that began in 1983 Los Angeles, as a result of the efforts of the late LAPD Police Chief Daryl Gates who wanted to prevent the youth from getting involved with drugs and other destructive habits.

    Now DARE is a functioning program in all 50 states of the United States as well as in 43 countries worldwide. In elementary schools, the fifth grade classes are privileged with partaking in the DARE program and taught how to avoid substance abuse and the peer pressure that leads to it.

    Upon accepting the call to become the DARE officer, James was required to attend a two-week training located on the Natchez Trace Park in Wilderesville Tenn. James described the first week as being filled with classes and information. He would have to be in class until the late afternoon and then proceed to group activities and lesson planning in the evening, making for quite intensive training.

    The second week of training was more hands-on. James and those participating were able to present and actually go to a school to do their inaugural DARE lesson. Once he finished this week, he came back to Southeastern Oklahoma, very excited to begin his new job. “Its quite an accomplishment,” mentioned James.

    He went on to say that the training gave a greater spark to the interest he already had in the program. It made him realize the true impact he can have in his new position, mentioning that what he will be doing over the next few years can have a real effect on the lives of the youth and he stressed how much an education can detour a child from making a negative decision.

    James is excited about that fact, and has an overarching goal for his work in DARE to make it happen. “I would like to see more kids get involved,” said James as he described how he will make it a point to reach as many youth as possible.

    Reminiscing on his time in elementary school, he tells that he was not presented with this kind of education, and did not know the severity of the misuse of certain substances and the effects of peer pressure. In his position, he hopes to lend this knowledge to the widest audience possible so they will be able to know how to avoid dangerous situations early.

    James spent his elementary years in Hartshorne School, and later moved on to Wilburton for high school, where he played football and baseball. He graduated in 2003 and went to work outside of law enforcement for a couple of years. In October of 2005 he became a reserve officer in Wilburton while he worked for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. In July of 2006 he earned his status as a full time police officer for the Latimer County Sheriff’s Department.

    His decision to enter law enforcement came about due to his family’s close association with the profession. Two of James’ older brothers were officers, placing him around law enforcement since a young age. Spending time around it all, “I knew it’s what I wanted,” described James.

    In February of 2009, James joined the ranks of the Choctaw Nation Public Safety Department where he patrolled the areas of Wilburton, Talihina and Tushkahoma for the Choctaw Nation. He was notified of the opening for this position via his connection with tribal officer, John Hobbs. “I have always heard good things about the tribe, so I decided to apply,” said James.

    With the tribe, aside from doing his usual patrol duties, he was assigned to serve as tribal sentinel at the monthly tribal council meeting. Upon his move to DARE officer, he has been helping with outreach activities, such as speaking at the annual event, Outreach at the Beach. He will continue to do various presentations in addition to his usual classes.

    Along with his new title, James has also received another considerable change in his work environment. He is now the driver of the award winning tribal police Camaro, a car the demands attention wherever it goes. “You are the center of attention wherever you go… everybody wants a picture,” mentioned James. This particular car won an award for being the most outstanding car at the Oklahoma DARE Officer Association Car Show.

    Being a police officer is highly important to James, but being a father is a duty that he claims above his profession. James is the proud husband of Jaclynne James, whom he met while in high school, and is the father of four children; three girls and a boy.

    James holds much anticipation for the upcoming school year and his duties therein. James hopes to spread much knowledge and detour many away from negative situations in his time as the Choctaw Nation DARE Officer.

  • 2nd annual Inter-Tribal Storytelling August 13

    The 2nd Annual Inter-Tribal Storytelling, organized by the OK Choctaw Tribal Alliance, will be held Aug. 13 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 5310 S. Youngs Blvd. in Oklahoma City. All Indian storytellers are invited to attend and share traditions, tales and childhood memories. A taco sale will also be held. For more information, please call Stella Long at 405-949-2147.

  • Choctaw Nation Wellness Centers now open to military members


    Chief Gregory E. Pyle and Assistant Chief Gary Batton are proud to announce that beginning Aug. 15 the Choctaw Nation Wellness Centers in Durant and Hugo will be open free of charge to all active duty military, reservist and National Guard members and their dependents. Service members do not have to be Native American to take advantage of this offer.

    To join the Wellness Center, the service member or his/her dependents will need to present a valid military or dependent ID card in order to be issued an access card to the facility. The only cost the member will incur is a one-time $10 fee when issued the access card.

    Anyone with questions can contact the staff at the Choctaw Nation Wellness Center in Durant at 580-931-8643.


  • Official Election Results for July 30 Runoff

  • Game is bridging the gap

    Sport of stickball bringing together tribes, communities stickball_team_with_chief_for_web By LISA REED Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    The centuries-old game of stickball has always been the Choctaw national sport. Once used to settle disputes, it is played today strictly as a sport and is fast growing in popularity. All ages are picking up sticks to play the game of their ancestors.

    Last year, the OK Choctaws team played in its first World Series of Stickball in Philadelphia, Miss., with 35 players. This year, 63 men followed Chief Gregory E. Pyle onto the field July 8, ready to meet the opposition, Nukoachi. The players, many with painted faces, raised their sticks in the air, yelling challenges and displaying no fear of the more experienced team as the beat of the drums and shouts from the crowds added to the intensity.

    Cultural Services Executive Director Sue Folsom explained, “It’s more of a sports game now and played more for fun but we still take pride in the games and want to win. I am extremely proud of how they played.”

    Each team is comprised of 30 players on the field, normally divided into 10 on defense, 10 on offense and 10 centers or “shooters.” After the opening ceremony, all but the 60 players leave the field and the game begins with four 15-minute quarters on the clock. It is usually played on a 100-yard football field with a tall pole (“fabvssa”) set as a goal post on each end.

    The score at the end of the first hard-fought quarter of the late-night game was in favor of Nukoachi, 4 to 2. The OK Choctaws dominated the entire second and third quarters, tying it 4-4 and holding Nukoachi scoreless. The Mississippi team caught the Oklahoma team off guard in the last quarter, overloading their defense to stop the OK Choctaws’ control of the game. Nukoachi scored 2 more points, winning the game 6-4.

    The game is very physical and very fast-paced. Few fouls for roughness are called and an injury has to be pretty serious for the game to stop. There are not any pads or helmets in the game of stickball but players are banned from hitting each other with sticks, tripping or pulling hair. Anyone on the sideline needs to stay there, well out of the way both for safety and to not be a distraction to the players who are giving everything they have to win the game.

    The coaches made it a point to play every member on the team – first-year players and veterans – to build experience and confidence.

    “We played tough and we earned the respect of the Mississippi Choctaw,” Folsom said. stickball1_for_web

    “I could hear people in the stands cheering for our team, the Oklahoma Choctaws. We are bridging the gap, re-establishing a relationship with the Mississippi Choctaw through the games and other cultural activities. We gain their trust by showing we care about what we are doing,” said Folsom.

    The team was so well-received in Mississippi, the game so exciting that Chief Pyle and Folsom discussed ways to build on that momentum back in Oklahoma.

    “We will be having stickball camps next year for the youth of the Choctaw Nation, just like we hold football, softball and basketball camps every summer,” Chief Pyle said.

    “These young boys and girls will acquire knowledge of the game and its cultural significance and we will eventually see it handed down more through the generations.

    “The whole community turns out every night to watch the world series tournament in Philadelphia,” Chief Pyle added. “I see small children who are just beginning to walk picking up the sticks their mom or dad just laid down. They learn that passion early.”

    The OK Choctaws meet to practice once a week and they are not only sharpening their skills, they are also learning the history of stickball, known as “ishtaboli” or “kapucha” in the Choctaw language.

    Les Williston, defense coach for OK Choctaws, is teaching players to make their own stickballs and sticks, something that will also play a major part in the youth summer camps.

    “Stickball is enjoying a major resurgence,” said Dr. Ian Thompson, tribal Historic Preservation Department assistant director. “This ancient and passionate game is bringing more excitement to more Choctaw communities than it has at any time in the past 100 years.”

  • Attention Biskinik E-News readers

    Biskinik E-News readers – We have changed how we get the news to you! Instead of sending several stories every two weeks we are publishing them as they happen. Watch for the link on Facebook or log on to www.choctawnation/news-room for the latest news from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Each month’s Biskinik is also available in pdf version.

  • 2011 Miss Choctaw Nation Kristie McGuire Farewell

    Goodbye Halito, My name is Kristie McGuire I have held the Miss Choctaw title for a year and now I am here tonight to place this crown on the next girl who will be an ambassador for the great Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.


    I don’t know where to start other than thanking all of you for being here tonight. Whether it is for support, helping with the pageant, or just to watch the events take place tonight. I need to thank Chief Pyle, Asst. Chief Batton and all the tribal council for their wonderful hard work they do for the great people of the Choctaw Nation. These guys do so much for their people, such as allowing us the opportunity to conduct a pageant and putting together this great festival we host every year, and I would like to stand up and give them a round of applause. I also need to personally thank Faye and Elaine. Both of you have helped me in ways I couldn’t imagine and I’ll never forget what you have done for me, so thank you!

    This year has been a wonderful, fun filled learning experience. Especially with Elaine and Faye being the pageant coordinators. Let me tell you that there is never a dull moment when being around those two. They are a hoot to be around and they have taught me how to have fun and enjoy life. I am truly going to miss you both. I have learned so much from the two of you and it has been a pleasure being able to travel with you and get to know you both a little more. Mahala, you are like a little sister to me and I love you and your family so much. You all have truly touched my heart and although we are saying farewell tonight this is not goodbye. Rachel I hope that I have been a role model for your beautiful children and can continue to be there although our princess year has come to an end. Nikki this year has been so much fun and I was so fortunate that I was able to share some of the best memories of my life with you and Dayla. Many memories have been made throughout this previous year. I’ll never forget the time Rachel, Mahala, and I were in California driving through the mountains to see the giant sequoia and red wood trees and we almost ran out of gas! We had no cell service and nothing to eat but an orange, but due to God we made it to the gas station in the nick of time! Or when I got into a vehicle accident with Faye, Elaine, and Connie. I will never forget the time that Elaine lost the truck keys and we had to call someone and wait forever on the corner for the extra set to arrive. I have met so many wonderful people with this title and visited so many beautiful places while traveling, I just hope that this next girl can enjoy this whole year as I have. I have learned many valuable assets that I will carry with me throughout my life.

    Since I was a child, this has been a goal of mine that I had always wished to achieve. It took many many times before I finally won. I didn’t give up on what I wanted and neither should you. If you see something you want, work for it. Don’t get discouraged if at first you don’t succeed. There are other opportunities and just keep your mind set that you will achieve all that you have worked for. I would like to thank everyone for their encouragement and support. So now I say farewell and I wish the best of luck to the next princess. kristiestuff

  • Chief Pyle sworn in for fourth term

    Chief Pyle sworn in for fourth term

    Delivers State of the Nation to capacity crowd Chief Pyle sworn in for fourth term

    Chief Gregory E. Pyle greeted a huge crowd as he stepped to the podium on Sept. 5 at Tushka Homma. The amphitheater was filled to capacity and hundreds more stood on the Capitol grounds for the closing ceremony of the annual Labor Day Festival, listening as Pyle gave the State of the Nation address on the day that marked the beginning of his fourth term as Chief of the Choctaw Nation.

    “This year’s Labor Day theme is ‘Building and Sustaining our Heritage Through the Legacy of Those Who Came Before,’ he said. “We are a proud nation of Choctaws and we have a mighty legacy to live up to. Our ancestors were brave and strong and determined, and they survived many hardships to become the great tribe we are today. It is our responsibility to sustain our heritage in such a way to honor those who came before us, and to continue this legacy by teaching our children their heritage. “Our Going Green program continues – ‘sustaining our people, our traditions, our earth.’ The Choctaw Nation has always been a protector of the environment, especially water, and we continue in that role today,” Chief Pyle emphasized. “By treaty with the federal government, the tribe’s water has never been given up. This is still our water and we will continue to fight for the protection of this natural resource in southeastern Oklahoma. Our interest is in a solution that is beneficial to our region and all of Oklahoma.

    “Speaking of treaties, it was my honor and privilege recently to see some of the original treaties between the Choctaws and the U.S. government. During Choctaw Days at the Smithsonian, Assistant Chief Gary Batton and I were allowed to access a vault in the National Archives in Washington, D.C., where these treaties are kept. They were in a small room with extremely tight security. When we entered the National Archives building, we were met by a host, one of only four people with a key to this secure room holding the treaties.

    “We were allowed to see several treaties, but the most impressive was the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, dated Sept. 27, 1830. This is the first removal treaty and ceded about 11 million acres in Mississippi in exchange for 15 million acres in Indian Territory. Shortly after this treaty was signed, the Choctaws began the first Trail of Tears in the fall of 1831.

    “We saw several other treaties, but none compared to viewing the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. Thousands of Choctaws died along the Trail of Tears as a result of this treaty and the ensuing removal.

    Tribal Council sworn into office

    “Today the Choctaw Nation continues to grow and prosper. Our tribal vision is ‘to achieve healthy, successful, productive and self-sufficient lifestyles for a proud nation of Choctaws.’ This continues to be our goal – to better serve you – the Choctaw people. Our continued economic development will create more jobs, more revenue and ultimately more services for our tribal members. Road projects will improve access to health care, schools and jobs. “For example, here at Tushka Homma roads on our Capitol grounds were recently paved. We will continue to provide for our Choctaw people,” Chief Pyle said. “I want all of our families to achieve our vision of healthy, successful and self-sufficient Choctaws. “I want to take a moment to recognize our Tribal Council. These 12 people have made a commitment to serve the Choctaw people and we appreciate their service to the Nation. We are especially pleased to introduce two new Council members – Ron Perry and Tony Messenger. We welcome them to the Council and look forward to working with them.

    “We also want to remember one of our Council members who passed away this year. Charlotte Jackson was an incredible lady who will long be remembered for her devotion to all Choctaws. She loved her people and served them well for many years.

    “We also want to take a moment to honor members of our military and their service to our country,” Chief Pyle said, asking all veterans to stand and be recognized. Several generations of warriors rose to their feet, representing World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    “We have a great relationship with the military and the Choctaw Nation provides support to our troops in many ways. We continue to send care packages to our troops stationed overseas. We also provide help with Veterans Airlift Command flights that assist our wounded warriors to visit family or for medical treatment.

    “In closing,” he said, “I want to emphasize that the Choctaw Nation continues to be strong. As we honor our culture and the legacy of our ancestors, we remember our heritage and continue our traditions. Our strength and our continued growth will sustain our future generations to follow. And we will remain a proud Nation of Choctaws!”

    Photo 1: Chief Gregory E. Pyle, with wife Patti by his side, is sworn into office during the Labor Day ceremony by Tribal Judge Mitch Mullen.

    Photo 2: Tribal Judge Fred Bobb swears in the Tribal Councilmen during the Labor Day ceremony, from left, District 1 Thomas Williston, District 5 Ronald Perry, District 11 Bob Pate, District 8 Perry Thompson, District 3 Kenny Bryant, and District 2 Tony Messenger.

  • Saving Money, Staying Warm: Winter Energy Efficiency Tips from Energy Star

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 25, 2011

    Saving Money, Staying Warm: Winter Energy Efficiency Tips from Energy Star

    WASHINGTON – The average family spends $2,200 a year on energy bills, nearly half of which goes to heating and cooling. With winter approaching and Americans heading indoors, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star program is offering easy energy saving tips that increase household efficiency while helping Americans save money and stay warm.

    EPA recommends taking the following steps this winter:

    Maintain your heating equipment. Dirt and neglect are the top causes of heating system failure. If your heating equipment is more than 10 years old, now is a good time to schedule a pre-season checkup with a licensed contractor to make sure your system is operating at peak performance. Check your system’s air filter every month and when it is dirty, change it. At a minimum, change it every three months. Use a programmable thermostat. Control your home’s temperature while you’re away or asleep by using one of the pre-programmed settings. When used properly, programmable thermostats can save up to $180 every year in energy costs. Seal air leaks in your home. If rooms are too hot/cold or you have noticed humidity or excessive dust problems you should consider taking action to seal air leaks. Sealing air leaks with caulk, spray foam, or weather stripping will have a significant impact on improving your comfort and reducing energy bills. If you are adding insulation to your home, be sure to seal air leaks first, to ensure you get the best performance from your insulation. Utilize the Energy Star website. Use Energy Star’s Home Energy Yardstick to compare your home’s energy use to similar homes across the country and see how your home measures up. Energy Star’s Home Energy Advisor can give recommendations for energy-saving home improvements for typical homes in your area. Look for Energy Star qualified products. Whether you are replacing light bulbs or appliances in your home, Energy Star qualified products can help you save energy and reduce energy bills. The label can be found on more than 60 types of products ranging from heating and cooling equipment to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs).

    Energy Star was introduced by EPA in 1992 as a market-based partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy-efficiency. Energy Star offers businesses and consumers energy-efficient solutions to decrease energy consumption, save money, and help protect the environment. More than 20,000 organizations are Energy Star partners, committed to improving energy-efficiency in homes, products, and businesses.

    Information on cutting energy costs this winter: Information on other ways to save energy year round:

  • A life of honor and commitment

    Frank Watson

    A life of honor and commitment

    By LARISSA COPELAND Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    Honor. Courage. Commitment. These are the values on which the U.S. Navy was founded and built. Frank Watson, a Choctaw born in 1924 on his family’s 160-acre government allotted farm land near Lone Grove, has lived these values from day one, so it seems fitting, almost destined, that he would someday become a sailor. Through his actions, Watson has built an honorable life – a life spent in service to his family, his community, his country and his tribe.

    He came from a large family, the fifth of six children, and was raised on very modest means, the entire family working the farm to get by. This meant hard work but everyone pitched in.

    “It was a lot of fun,” says Watson, “but it was also a lot of hard work. But we did what we had to to survive.”

    Unlike his siblings, Watson chose not to attend an Indian school when given the option by his father. Instead he attended a local public school, walking two miles daily to the two-room school. A “good choice” he was told by his father.

    It was during his school days that he developed a love for baseball, which he played often. It was this love of playing the sport that indirectly led to his joining of the Navy in 1943.

    “I was a good baseball player,” he says proudly.

    In the early 1940s, a minor baseball league was established in Oklahoma and Texas, one team forming in Ardmore. Watson, with confidence and high hopes, tried out for the team, along with many other men his age. He made it past the first day of try-outs and was one of only three players asked to return for a second go-round. At the end of the day though, he was told he didn’t make it, which he took hard.

    “They said I was good but not good enough,” he says. “That made me angry because I knew I was a good player. After that, I joined the Navy to prove to myself I was just as good as someone else.”

    Watson enlisted and was sent to San Diego for boot camp. During his training and for six years of his time in service, he played on the Navy’s baseball team.

    “We had some great professional baseball players on our team and I played right beside them. I knew then I was a good enough player.”

    Baseball aside, over the next 20 years the Navy provided Watson, and later his family, with many worldwide adventures, beginning with his first assignment during World War II along the coastal waters around Australia, New Zealand and New Guinea. There, he worked on an auxiliary repair ship, the USS Dobbin.

    “My job,” he explains, “was to work on ships that could be repaired and send them back to war, or if not, send them back home. During the war years, I was on various ships all over the Pacific waters.”

    When the war ended, Watson returned to the United States and was assigned to the Naval Training Center in San Diego for the next three years.

    Following the Korean conflict, Watson was assigned to numerous bases and ships around the world. He served on nine different ships during his tenure with the Navy and spent time in Texas, Oklahoma, California, Washington, and many other states, along with a stint at the Iwakuni, Japan, Marine Air Base.

    “The Navy was good to me,” he says. And Watson did his best to serve the Navy as well, giving back by volunteering in each of the communities he and his family, which included three sons, were assigned. They were very involved with community activities at each base, stressing his pride in his Choctaw heritage in particular. This earned him numerous awards, recognition and commendations for his actions.

    After 20 years of service to his country, Watson decided it was time to come home. He and his family relocated to Dallas, Texas.

    His transition from military to civilian included many changes but one thing that remained consistent was his desire to stay involved in his community. He began volunteering with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, helping to welcome Native Americans being brought into the city during the BIA’s Native American urban relocation initiative. He felt the program was a good idea in theory, but in practice, saw many flaws. One flaw was the lack of preparation for those being relocated.

    “I saw a need so I recruited some people to help me,” he says. “We’d take those new to the area around to get acquainted with things…shopping, doctors, schools, bus stops, places to go in an emergency. Things like that.”

    This group of volunteers became known as the American Indian Center (A.I.C.) of Dallas and Watson was elected chairman. The group lacked funds to operate effectively so Watson journeyed to Washington, D.C., to request funds from the BIA, thus setting in motion the major growth of the A.I.C. in Dallas. Eventually, the group would start up a Head Start program, JOM social services, programs for adult education, and numerous other services for the Indians in the area.

    The group also traveled to Livingston, Texas, by request, to establish an intertribal pow wow, one that is still put on today and has grown to one of the largest pow wows in the country.

    Frank Watson Pow wow

    Pow wow dancing was another passion for Watson, one he also passed on to his sons, Glen, David and John.

    In 1977, Watson and his family moved from Dallas to Durant, where he still resides today, and he went to work for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma in the industrial development department.

    Along with repeating the role he had with the A.I.C. by going to Washington, D.C., to request funds for programs for the tribe, which he did many times successfully, Watson was also appointed to be a part of the Choctaw Nation Constitution of 1983 Commission. The task of the commission was to revise and establish a constitution that meets the current needs of the entire tribe. A group of six spent close to three weeks drafting the document.

    “It’s a good feeling to have been asked to be on the commission,” he says. “It’s a piece of history and I’m deeply grateful and proud to have been a part of it.

    Watson, also a grandfather of five, has impacted and affected changed for the better in so many ways during his life. Whether through his family by instilling values and a deep appreciation of their heritage, or his community through his volunteering, or his country through his two decades of honorable service, or his tribe through programs he helped to get funded or, most of all, helping to establish a constitution. His actions – his commitment – has created a lasting impact. This impact, made through his long life of honorable deeds and selfless service, will continue to shape and guide the tribe for years to come.

  • War on the waves

    SA Wells navy

    War on the waves

    World War II Naval veteran recounts battles at sea

    By BRET MOSS Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    Outside the city of Marietta, Okla., lies the residence of U.S. Navy veteran Sylvester Alfred Wells, a man who has seen many important pieces of American naval history.

    Wells, who is known as S.A. to most, boasts nine battle stars, each representing a naval battle in which he served his country during World War II in the Asiatic and Pacific arena.

    Wells was born in 1925 near Marietta and attended Tahlequah Indian School from the first to sixth grade and then moved with his family because his stepfather worked on the railroad, which required relocation. They later moved back to Marietta in 1939.

    Wells’ biological father was full-blood Choctaw, making him half Choctaw of which he is very proud.

    On June 23, 1943, 17-year-old Wells enlisted in the Navy. “I went in on what they call a Minority Cruise in the Navy. You go in when you’re 17 and you get out when you’re 21,” he said. He went to boot camp in San Diego, and from there, went to torpedo school in Newport, R.I.

    In a rather clever move, Wells chose to enlist in the Navy to avoid being drafted into the Army.

    Upon completing his torpedo training, Wells was sent to Recife, Brazil, to a repair ship called the Melville. The Melville repaired a wide variety of naval equipment. It contained a machine shop that allowed for repairs to whatever was needed. “They could do just about anything and repairs for other ships,” recalls Wells.

    After a year with the Melville, he travelled to Brooklyn, N.Y., where he boarded the Melvin, a Fletcher-class destroyer. This was the second ship of the U.S. Navy to be named after John T. Melvin.

    “It was a new ship… we had to take it on a shakedown cruise,” said Wells. Shakedown cruise refers to a sort of trial run for the ship and crew. They would test the guns and other functions of the destroyer to make sure operations went smoothly and familiarize themselves with the workings of the ship, he explained.

    The Melvin’s shakedown cruise took place in February of 1944, in Bermuda. After the shakedown, they traveled with the battleship Iowa through the Panama Canal to Pearl Harbor where Wells and the Melvin’s crew got their first assignment in the Marshall Islands.

    This assignment was part of the United States’ efforts to take back ground on the Pacific front. The Melvin would go from island to island, fighting to relieve them of Japanese control. “Just about every engagement they had, we were in,” stated Wells.

    For these engagements, Wells’ battle station was the portside depth charges on K-Guns. He would fire 300-pound canisters of TNT to certain depths in order to sink submerged submarines that opposed the American efforts.

    Wells’ job was to set the depth at which the canister would explode to make the most efficient impact to the submarine. Each certain depth was calculated by sonar and then relayed to Wells as he competed his duty.

    Wells was also charged with loading the canisters after they were fired. When it came time to reload, about three or four men would load the 300-pound cylinder that had an approximate two-foot diameter and three-foot length.

    Other than manning the K-Guns and depth charge canisters, Wells was also assigned to do maintenance on torpedoes.

    Over the course of his tour in the Pacific, Wells recalls engaging about six submarines. “In Saipan, we caught one on the surface and we were going to ram it,” declared Wells. This was not an unusual approach to sinking surfaced submarines at the time. The Melvin was equipped with a cutting bow, which was a large piece of steel designed to ram subs without hurting the ship.

    The crew had fired a shot at the sub before attempting to ram it, and when they got to where the sub was, it had already submerged. Wells is unsure whether or not the shot made contact and sank it, or if the sub submerged to avoid the ship because it was in the blackness of night.

    Among the most notable events in his travels, Wells took part in the largest naval battle in World War II and what is said to be the largest naval battle in history. “We escorted the 25th Army Division into Leyte Gulf for that invasion,” said Wells.

    While in Leyte Gulf, the Melvin got an assist for sinking a Japanese battleship and destroyer and fired nine torpedoes, according to Wells. “They were firing at us and they were hitting all around, but they didn’t hit us,” mentioned Wells as he told of how the Japanese radar systems were sub par to its American counterpart at the time.

    The crew of the Melvin also used a witty tactic to avoid shots from the enemy. The crew in the firing room would burn oil to create a large amount of smoke to construct the illusion that the ship was on fire, making the Japanese suspect they had disabled the vessel. This would also provide a smoke shield, making it hard for the Japanese to see the Allied Forces. “She [the enemy ship] thought we had been hit, but we were making smoke,” exclaimed Wells.

    Wells and the Melvin were involved in numerous other World War II naval battles in the effort to win the Pacific for Allied Forces. Out of all these conflicts, “what scared me most out there was the weather,” stated Wells as he recalled how nature was sometimes a more menacing foe than the opposing force. Traveling through several typhoons and over the 7-mile-deep Mariana Trench, the deepest place on Earth, did not sit well with him. “I didn’t know it at the time and I’m glad I didn’t,” said Wells with a laugh.

    During the patrols in the Pacific, the crew of the Melvin went 62 days without seeing land. At one point during the patrol, the aircraft carrier Saratoga lost a man overboard. Because of this, three destroyers containing about 900 men were sent back to rescue the fallen naval seaman.

    Eventually the Melvin found the individual and rescued him safely. This was a dangerous task according to Wells. “There we were with searchlights and if there had been any submarines out there, they could have sunk us,” because they would have seen the searchlights, said Wells.

    He traveled to Iwa Jima and Okinawa, and towards the end of the war, he was within 70 miles of Tokyo. They fired upon the enemy, but by that time they didn’t have enough resources to fight back. Not long after that, Japan surrendered on Sept. 2, 1945.

    After Japan’s surrender the Melvin was ordered to patrol an area near Japan to clear out underwater minefields. The crew would cut the cables that the mines were anchored to, they would float to the top and then the crew would shoot them to make a huge explosion.

    In February of 1946, Wells was discharged from the Navy in Norman. He went on to work in the oil field and did a variety of jobs there. He became very adept at repairing machinery and fixing various things. He traveled to the ends of the country working for the oilrigs and even worked on some offshore rigs.

    Wells now resides in Marietta and has a wife and two daughters, Tanis and Leslie. He is proud to have served his country in its time of need and is humble about the great service he has given for every American citizen.

    SA Wells today

  • For tribe and country, three generations deep in tradition

    Harry, Michael and Chad

    Three generations of veterans from the James family take part in the gourd dance at the pow wow during the Choctaw Nation Labor Day Festival. Patriarch Harry James of Talihina, center, his son, Michael James of Tahlequah, right, and grandson Chad Murphy, currently residing in Fort Carson, Colo., regularly participate in intertribal pow wow dancing, as do many of Harry’s grandchildren. Teaching his children and grandchildren tribal dances has always been very important to Harry.

    For tribe and country, three generations deep in tradition

    By LARISSA COPELAND Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    “In Indian ways, as grandparents, you’re the teachers,” says Harry James of Talihina. “If you don’t teach them (the grandchildren), who will?”

    A man of few words, Harry and his wife, Carol, of 54 years, have tried to pass on what they know of the tribal ways to their 12 children, 26 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren. This was done through their actions.

    Harry Clyde James was born in 1927 near Talihina, the oldest child of Cleo Patrick Johnson James and Aaron James, both full-blooded Choctaws. Along with his seven brothers and sisters, he was raised on a farm in Talihina and attended school there.

    “We were mostly self-sufficient on our farm, raising almost everything we ate,” he says.

    During his school days, Harry was very active in sports. “I really like sports. We didn’t have a lot of students so we all had to play to have enough for the team. That’s what you do in a small school,” he says. “I played all the sports offered, football, basketball, baseball, and ran track.” Outside of school, Harry also spent time boxing at a local club.

    At the age of 19, before his school days were over, Harry decided to enlist in the U.S. Army.

    “Everybody in this part of the country is pretty patriotic,” he says, including his parents. “They let me do what I was supposed to do. If they didn’t feel it was right, I’m sure they wouldn’t have let me do it. I think Indians feel different about joining the service than others do.”

    Harry went to Fort Bragg, N.C., for basic training. There he was asked if he spoke any foreign languages and he said he did. “English,” he says with a laugh, knowing it wasn’t the answer they were looking for, “Choctaw is my first language.”

    Upon completion of basic training he was soon shipped overseas. As an infantryman assigned to the 11th Airborne, he served his country in World War II during an occupation mission of Hokkaido, one of the northern islands of Japan.

    After the war, he entered the Army Reserves, returned to Talihina and reentered school graduating in 1949.

    In 1950, Harry was again called back to active service with the Army, this time for the Korean War.

    Uncomfortable speaking about his experiences during the wars, he says he felt lucky that he made it home uninjured. “I try to forget about all that,” he says.

    He received two Battle Stars for his service during the wars.

    Never one to try to sway his children or grandchildren’s decisions, his actions, his honorable service, has made a lasting influence on some of their choices on joining the military themselves.

    Harry has several who followed his footsteps into service in the armed forces – son Michael served in the Marine Corps and son Thomas was in the U.S. Army. His grandchildren also continued the path with granddaughter Kristi Durant and grandson Chad Murphy both enlisting in the Army. Chad and his wife, Jeri, have both been deployed to Iraq, Chad twice and Jeri once. Chad is currently stationed at Fort Carson, Colo.

    Harry said Chad called him from Iraq when he got his CIB (Combat Infantry Badge). “He was excited,” says Harry. “He wanted me to know.”

    Growing up in the James household, Michael says his father’s service wasn’t much of a topic for discussion. “My dad didn’t talk much about the military when we were kids,” says Michael. “Sometimes he’d bring up the training, the way they were taught to think, but nothing about actual things that happened to him. He grew up in a different time, a time when they didn’t really talk about the things that they experienced. It’s worked for him though, to keep it in. When we were growing up and something happened, his saying was, ‘Shake it off. Tomorrow is a new day’.”

    Though Harry was humble about his service, it is one of the reasons Michael decided to serve his country. “It’s because of my dad and my uncles,” he says. “Talihina’s got a lot of veterans. It’s a very patriotic area.”

    Once, Harry told Michael about Joseph Oklahombi, one of the Choctaw Code Talkers, though Michael didn’t know that about Oklahombi at the time. “He compared him to Sgt. York. That’s all he said about it though.” (Note: At the Battle of Mont Blanc Ridge Oklahombi reportedly captured more men than York did during the Battle at Argonne Forest, both similar battles. Oklahombi was awarded the Silver Star for his actions; however, York was awarded the Medal of Honor.)

    Michael, who today is a nurse at the W. W. Hastings Indian Hospital in Tahlequah, joined the Marine Corps in 1979. Since he was only 17 he needed a parent’s signature to enlist. Harry reluctantly signed the papers allowing him to join. Michael sensed that it troubled his dad that he was signing up but he never tried to talk him out of it, only offering advice. Michael remembers his dad telling him, “Nobody wins in war.” Harry took the day off of work when Michael shipped off for his training.

    After attending boot camp in San Diego, he was stationed at Camp Pendleton where he worked in the communications field and completed two extended overseas training missions. His first deployment was to Japan and the Philippines, conducting numerous training missions on different islands, at one point spending over 30 days on a small Filipino island. His second trip over focused on helicopter operations in Japan, and he also spent time in Korea.

    “I learned a lot from those trips, about how people are around the world,” says Michael.

    Michael returned back to Oklahoma and he began nursing school after receiving an honorable discharge from the Marine Corps in 1983.

    Though military service throughout family lineages isn’t too uncommon, the James family stands out for many other reasons as well. Three generations deep in the armed forces, the family is also steeped in the traditions and culture of their tribes. “As Indians, we do a lot of things out of respect,” says Michael. “I learned a lot about respect from dancing; my parents made sure of that.”

    “I started war dancing in 1957 at a pow wow in Binger, Okla.,” says Harry. “Carol was dancing long before that though.”

    According to Carol, being raised among many different tribes, immersed in the cultures, is where she found her love of dancing. “I grew up with the dancing,” she says, “the culture, just learning it. I’m still learning. You never stop.”

    Together, Harry and Carol raised their children engaged in the tribal dance cultures, taking them to pow wows, and continuing the tradition with their grandchildren. As a family, they attended and danced at pow wows and social gatherings.

    “Carol and I always took our kids with us everywhere we went,” including pow wows and Choctaw social gatherings, says Harry. “That’s how they learned, they just got out there and danced. Now, we take our grandchildren when we can.”

    Along with intertribal dancing at pow wows, Harry and Carol also took their family to meet with other families in Talihina as part of the Indian Club for Choctaw social dancing and other traditionally native activities. “I remember my older friends playing games of stickball with the other kids, too,” says Michael.

    This is something Michael is grateful for. “I’m glad mom and dad recognized how important our culture is and that we needed to participate in it and know it,” says Michael. “We were always around the dancing.”

    It was at a pow wow in Talihina where Harry began gourd dancing. Gourd dancing is believed to have been started by the Kiowa tribe and revived in Carnegie, Okla., in the mid-1950s.

    During the gourd dances, they sing and dance, usually holding in one hand a fan of feathers, in the other a gourd rattle, usually a metal can or salt shaker rattle.

    “It’s very spiritual,” says Michael. “Like a prayer in movement, the positive vibration, the drumming. It’s like singing a hymn in church. I feel a connection to earth and sky, like it’s all interwoven during the gourd dancing.”

    Michael says his dad has no pain when he dances.

    Both Harry and Michael have been asked to be the head gourd dancer at the Choctaw Nation Labor Day pow wow, with Michael performing the duty this year. “I was very honored to get to be the head gourd dancer at the pow wow,” says Michael. “It’s like we came full circle with my dad being able to be there after he’d been the head dancer before. It was awesome to be able to have my nephew, Chad, there too,” who, with his family, was visiting Oklahoma while on leave from the military.

    Speaking on his nephew, Michael says he’s a lot like Harry. “He’s an impressive young man,” he says. “His mannerisms are like my dad’s.”

    Chad’s young daughters also took part in the pow wow dancing.

    With the children grown and not being one to keep still for long, Harry has stayed busy over the years working in the art and trade of silversmithing. Harry retired from the Choctaw Nation Health Care Center in Talihina in 1982 after 28 years, with 33 years total in civil service. In 1980, knowing his retirement was soon approaching, Harry sought out a skilled hobby to keep him busy during his retirement. He was taught to be a silversmith by fellow Choctaw silversmith Jerry Lowman. “He’s been at it ever since,” says Carol.

    What started as a hobby has turned into a small side business. Harry sells his jewelry pieces at art shows, fairs, festivals and pow wows. He focuses on jewelry and often incorporates symbols of Choctaw culture.

    The Choctaw social dancing still has a place at the James’ family get-togethers during the holidays. Michael usually plays the role of Santa Claus at the family Christmas gathering, much to the delight of the children and leads some of the social dances. “He comes in and does a war dance,” says Carol. “The kids just love it.”

    “It’s good to see that it’s moving forward with this generation too,” says Michael. “Our parents taught us that our culture, like anything good, will endure.”

  • Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations file amended water complaint

    News from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    For more information please contact: 580-924-8280 ext. 2249 PO Box 1210 Durant, OK 74701

    Nov. 12, 2011


    Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations file amended water complaint

    In the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations’ ongoing effort to protect regional water resources and tribal rights, lawyers for the tribes have filed an amended complaint in the Sardis Lake lawsuit proceeding before Judge West in federal court. Lawyers for the Nations said the amended complaint was necessary to address a request by defendants to delay negotiations and set aside the federal court lawsuit so that they could file a separate action in state court.

    Tribal attorneys assert that the federal court already has jurisdiction over the issues and a separate state court action would serve only to delay resolution.

    “Judge West, pretty wisely, made clear last week that he sees the negotiating table as the parties’ best path to resolution. We agree and have said that for years,” said Mike Burrage, attorney for the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations. “We believe this request would only complicate the process unproductively since the federal court has jurisdiction over these questions already. We think further delay would be a mistake, So we filed an amended complaint to clarify our position on that point and the main issues.”

    The amendment underscores the inherent federal nature of the issues to be resolved.

    According to tribal attorneys, federal courts alone are responsible for the interpretation of treaties between the federal government and Indian nations which serve as the basis for the tribal claims.

    Tribal attorneys also assert that a portion of the Atoka pipeline was constructed in trespass of tribal trust lands, though the Nations have made no claim that would require the shutting down or otherwise change ownership of that pipeline.

    “We are committed to resolving the matters already before the court. We’re looking for a resolution that works for all of us,” said Burrage. “But we are also committed to taking the actions necessary to protect our right to work it out in federal court.”


  • Students first to complete Choctaw Language and Culture minor at SE

    Language minor

    Students earning a Choctaw Language minor are, in no particular order, Kandace Folsom, Nicholas Charleston, Justin Fite, Kristin Pate, Anjanette Williston and Caleb Taylor. They are being congratulated by Chief Gregory E. Pyle (far left), School of Choctaw Language Director Jim Parrish (second from left) and Assistant Chief Gary Batton (far right).

    Students first to complete Choctaw Language and Culture minor at SE

    By CHRISSY DILL Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    In collaboration with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Southeastern Oklahoma State University’s English, Humanities and Languages Department offers a minor in Choctaw Language and Culture and recently produced its first six students to officially hold the minor.

    To receive a minor in the Choctaw language at SE, the student is required to obtain 18 hours. Choctaw language courses offered include Choctaw Language and Culture 1, 2, 3 and 4, Intermediate Conversational Choctaw and Advanced Conversational Choctaw.

    The following students, who earned their undergraduate degrees prior to earning their Choctaw minor, are the first to receive recognition for successfully completing the Choctaw Language and Culture minor at SE. They completed 18-21 hours in Choctaw courses to meet the minor requirements and were approved by the English, Humanities and Languages Department: Nicholas Charleston, Justin Fite, Kandace Folsom, Kristin Pate, Caleb Taylor and Anjanette Williston.

    “Since these students had already received their bachelor’s degrees, Southeastern recognized their completion of the Choctaw Language and Culture minor with a notation on their transcript during this fall semester,” said Kristie Luke, Associate Dean for Admissions and Records/Registrar at SE.

    “The minor became available fall 2011,” said SE Native American Center for Student Success Director Chris Wesberry. “Southeastern is the only university right now that Choctaw Nation has an agreement with for the minor,” he added.

    “As Language Director, I look forward to future students receiving their minor,” said School of Choctaw Language Director Jim Parrish. “This partnership with SE helps us to prepare teachers to teach in the Choctaw Language School.”

    The Choctaw Nation Language Department offers language classes over the Internet as well and will continue to expand those classes to meet the needs of those who are interested in enrolling, according to Choctaw Nation’s website. In addition to learning how to read and write the native language, students will also learn about the history and culture of the tribe through the classes.

    The School of Choctaw Language encourages anyone who is interested in learning more about the Choctaw language and culture to visit, where lessons are available, according to Parrish. “All words and phrases have audio, which is spoken by a first-language speaker.”

    Distance learning through One-Net is now in approximately 40 high schools within the Choctaw Nation and in three colleges, Carl Albert Jr. College, East Central University and Eastern Oklahoma State College. In addition to courses at SE, the program is also being taught in 40 different community classes in various locations in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and California as well as 14 head starts.

    If you are a student and interested in earning a minor in Choctaw Language and Culture at SE, contact Chris Wesberry at 580-745-2376 or email at

  • Choctaw Nation distributes more than 3,000 food vouchers to needy Choctaws

    Thanksgiving voucher

    Shannon McDaniel, executive director of Tribal Management, and Randy Hammons, executive director of Outreach Services, display the food available from the Thanksgiving food vouchers distributed by the Choctaw Nation to needy Choctaw families. Christmas food vouchers will be distributed next month as well.

    Choctaw Nation distributes more than 3,000 food vouchers to needy Choctaws

    By LARISSA COPELAND Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    Choctaw Nation Outreach Services gave out 3,021 food vouchers this month ensuring no Choctaw family goes without a warm meal for Thanksgiving. The vouchers, which were made available to needy Choctaw families in the 10-½ county service area, included a turkey, two cans each of corn and green beans, a can of yams, cranberry sauce, a box of tea bags, a bag of sugar, dinner rolls and a 10-inch frozen pie.

    “Our first year, we handed out about four food baskets,” says Betty Jackson from the Choctaw Nation Outreach Services Program, “and it has evolved to where it is today. We began this program about eight years ago after hearing tribal members say the meal they ate at the Choctaw Nation Thanksgiving dinners would be the only one they had for the holiday.”

    To receive a voucher for the food, tribal members completed an application that included income verification. The vouchers were made available for pick-up at their local Choctaw Nation Community Center and could be redeemed at certain local grocery stores. Outreach Services employees went shopping for and made deliveries to those who were homebound and unable to pick up their food.

    Those receiving a Thanksgiving voucher are automatically qualified for the Christmas vouchers that will be distributed in early December. It’s not too late to apply for a Christmas voucher, however. The deadline to apply is Dec. 2 and applications can be picked up at the Choctaw Nation complex in Durant or at any Choctaw Nation Community Center.

  • Choctaw Nation wins multiple awards for environmental preservation efforts


    Choctaw Nation’s Recycling Center staff shows off the awards won for the tribe’s environmental preservation efforts. The staff includes, back row from left, Lance Clinton, Justin Tillery, Terry Garner, Chris Stover, and kneeling, Cyndi Houser, Tamera Couch and Tracy Horst.

    Choctaw Nation wins multiple awards for environmental preservation efforts

    By BRET MOSS Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    In an effort to protect the land and environment dear to its heart, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) has taken tremendous strides to increase the amount of recycling occurring in Southeastern Oklahoma.

    As a result of these actions, the staff of the recycling center has recently been awarded three notable awards, two by Keep Oklahoma Beautiful, a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental improvement.

    At the 21st annual Environmental Excellence Awards Celebration held on Nov. 10, in Oklahoma City, CNO won in the state/tribal category of environmental excellence, which granted consideration for the “Best of the Environmentally Best” award, which CNO also took home.

    On a separate occasion, CNO also was awarded the Recycling Government of the Year at the America Recycles Day event held in Tulsa on Nov. 15, 2011.

    These awards are the first awards that CNO recycling has won. According to Director of Project Management, Tracy Horst, the credit for winning these awards can be attributed to the new recycling facility located near the Choctaw Casino and Resort in Durant.

    December 2011 marks the first full year of operation for the new recycling facility. The facility and the functions within are the only one of its kind in the Southeastern Oklahoma area.

    The large facility boasts the ability to recycle large amounts of paper, plastics, cardboard, and even electronics. It will soon be able to process styrofoam, making it one of only two known facilities in the state that has that capability.

    The recycling facility came about by efforts from the Going Green Team, who was inspired to help the environment on a larger scale. They teamed up with the Grants Department, and in 2009 were awarded an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG), which pays for the facility as well as many other recycling activities and events.

    This recycling initiative employs five personnel; three driver/collectors, Terry Garner, Chris Stover and Justin Tillery; one administrative assistant, Tamera Couch, who also does occasional driving and collecting; and coordinator, Cyndi Houser.

    The drivers/collectors duties are to travel across the 10.5 counties of the Choctaw Nation to replace the receptacles, called “roll offs.” When one gets full, they will be called and take an empty one to replace it, and in turn, take the full roll off back to the facility where the contents are emptied and sorted. The facility sees about 1.5 full roll offs each day on average.

    Once the material is sorted, it is placed in one of two bailers and compacted into squares, each weighing anywhere from 700 pounds to just a little over a half ton, stacked on pallets and made ready to be transported to other facilities that purchase them and use the material to make other usable products.

    Horst explains that much of the paper products will be shipped to paper mills and reformed into a downgraded version of its original state. She went on to say that once a paper product goes through this process, it loses some of its durability, and thus cannot be reformed back into the same object, but is still valuable in other forms.

    Getting the most out of a resource is a top priority because what is reused not only subtracts from waste, but also offsets the usage of new resources, therefore postponing the need to gather fresh supply.

    The environment is not the only beneficiary of these actions; the bottom line is also reaping the benefits as well. Horst makes mention that businesses, namely the Casino and Resort in Durant, save money on their trash bill by recycling a large portion of their waste. Since the volume of disposed matter is subtracted from the dumpsters at no cost, it leaves more room for non-recyclable materials.

    Horst, who is responsible for communicating with city governments and other entities, as well as grant regulation and personnel, is making a strong effort to encourage this type of relationship with businesses and recycling.

    She has used her knowledge to help the cities of Wilburton and McAlester begin a similar program, and also has teamed up with the City of Durant to maximize the amount of recycling in the area.

    Over time, she hopes to have many more roll offs at various Choctaw locations and she is also pushing for other businesses to join the effort as well. “If they have a place where they can keep it [recyclables] separate from the trash dumpster, we can go around once or twice a week and pick up their cardboard or shredded paper,” said Horst as she spoke of the mutually beneficial relationship between business and recycling.

    The practices and facility that won the recent awards are fairly new and only in the first stages. At the current time, Durant is the only hub of the operation and where most of the action takes place, but it is the hope of the staff that this initiative spreads to other locations across Choctaw Nation.

    In the short time between March and June, the number of roll offs have increased from three to 26, and numerous new and creative ways have been employed to help recycle since 2009.

    Crayon recycling is a prime example of the innovation to this endeavor. At Choctaw head starts, large cylinders have been decorated like giant crayons and used as receptacles for which children dispose used crayons. These small pieces are then used to create new crayons without using fresh resources.

    The recycling crew has also teamed up with the Choctaw Nation Outreach Program to help with annual toy and coat drives, which help usable items stay in homes and out of landfills.

    The recognition for the many efforts CNO is making, along with the recent awards is just a sidebar to the real results of the actions. The environment that the people of the Choctaw Nation care so deeply for is being preserved and protected through this initiative. The Choctaw Nation is, and plans to continue “Making Southeastern Oklahoma cleaner and greener,” the motto of the recycling effort.

  • Choctaw Nation donates $1 million to Dean McGee Eye Institute

    Choctaw Nation donates $1 million to Dean McGee Eye Institute

    Dean McGee Eye Institute Ophthalmologists and Choctaw Nation celebrate 10-year partnership

    Oklahoma City – The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has contributed $1 million to the Dean McGee Eye Institute Capital Campaign, putting the Institute within $2 million of its $46 million campaign goal. The capital campaign has provided funds for completion of the new, five-story, 78,000-square-foot, world-class research and clinical facility that was dedicated on September 30 and for renovation of the existing 70,000-square-foot building constructed in 1975.

    “We are extremely grateful to the Choctaw Nation for this very generous gift. Our ophthalmologists, led by Dr. Stephen Fransen, have enjoyed a long and meaningful relationship with Choctaw leaders since 2001 in working together to preserve vision for the Choctaw people through the Diabetic Retinopathy Outreach Program clinic in Talihina,” said Dr. Gregory Skuta, President and CEO of the Dean McGee Eye Institute and Edward L. Gaylord Professor and Chair of the OU College of Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology. “This gift helps to expand our clinical and research capabilities in treating and preventing vision loss from diabetes and other disorders in the hundreds of tribal members who visit our doctors both in Oklahoma City and in Talihina.”

    Dr. Fransen and other Dean McGee Eye Institute ophthalmologists have treated over 3,000 tribal members at the two clinics, performing nearly 600 retinal laser procedures in the Talihina clinic alone.

    “Encouraging American Indians to seek vision care is a major health goal of the Choctaw Nation, especially considering the high risk of diabetic retinopathy in this population,” said Chief Gregory E. Pyle of the Choctaw Nation. “The Dean McGee Eye Institute has proactively dedicated itself to working with us to help diagnose and treat retinal problems earlier in the disease process and thereby achieve better outcomes.”

    The newly-expanded Dean McGee Eye Institute facility, which adjoins the original facility, doubles the space for research laboratories, expands clinical capacity by 40 percent, and consolidates all of the clinical care, vision research, teaching, and administrative functions into one location.

    The Institute’s clinical and surgical teams provide more than 150,000 patient visits (both adult and children) in addition to 7,000 surgical procedures each year. Dean McGee Eye Institute physicians and scientists are internationally respected and hold numerous leadership positions in major professional and scientific organizations. The residency and fellowship training programs at the Institute, which are affiliated with the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology, are highly competitive and attract top candidates from throughout the country.

    About Dean McGee Eye Institute

    The Dean McGee Eye Institute is one of the largest and most respected eye institutes in the United States and houses the Department of Ophthalmology for the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. Its research and training programs are among the most highly regarded in the country. More than half of the Institute’s ophthalmologists are listed in The Best Doctors in America; its Director of Vision Research is a Past President of the International Society for Eye Research; two members of the faculty are recent or current directors of the American Board of Ophthalmology; two serve on the Board of Trustees of the American Academy of Ophthalmology; and one recently served as president of the American Glaucoma Society.

    About Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    The Choctaw Nation is the third largest tribe in the United States, governed under the leadership of Chief Gregory E. Pyle since 1997. Under the constitution of 1983, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is a three-branch government – legislative, judicial and executive. Making up the 10 ½ counties of the southeast corner of the state, the Capitol of the tribe is at Tushka Homma, located in Pushmataha County, where the tribal council makes legislative decisions and the judicial branch holds court.
    The administrative headquarters are in Durant (Bryan County), and 17 community centers scattered in the various counties house field offices for the many programs and services so that the tribal members are served with convenience. A new hospital and clinics have been constructed over the past several years, and 5,000 new jobs have been created since 1997 through economic and program development.

  • Corps of Engineers, Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations enter study agreement

    TULSA – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tulsa District and the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations recently entered into an agreement to develop the first phase of Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations Regional Water Plan.

    This science-based regional water plan will assess the water resources of the Nations’ treaty territory, an area that roughly covers the 22 counties of southeastern and south central Oklahoma.

    The plan is designed to develop strategies for the sustainable management of the region’s water resources by considering current and future water needs as well as the condition and adequacy of infrastructure throughout the region.

    The $180,000 cost of the study is federally authorized through the Planning Assistance to States and Tribes program and will be shared equally between the Corps of Engineers and the two Nations.

    “We are proud to partner for the first time with the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations,” said Col. Michael Teague, Tulsa District commander. “Our goals of environmental stewardship and sustainability are very closely aligned and we look forward to a continued partnership.”

    The first phase of the study will focus on developing methods to evaluate in-stream flows and infrastructure.

    A panel of scientists selected by the Nations natural resources committee from federal agencies, academia and other highly qualified individuals will conduct the study of in-stream flow.

    “It is envisioned that the recommended methodology will be used to establish minimum stream flow levels necessary for highly valued water supply and hydropower,” said Cynthia Kitchens, tribal liaison and project manager for the Corps of Engineers. “But just as important, these flows will help sustain natural resources, cultural, and recreational needs that are also extremely important to the Nations and the region for economic as well as other reasons.”

    The infrastructure assessment methodology will be developed to determine data gathering procedures that will help regionalize and prioritize improvements to aging infrastructures.

    “This can be challenging when you consider gathering data from tribes, municipalities, counties, rural water districts, and others who employ a multitude of consultants,” Kitchens said. “This phase of the study will identify how to gather data and what data should be obtained. The results will have broad reaching impacts within the region and the Nations.”

    The first phase of the study is expected to be completed in summer 2012.

  • Durant Choctaw Casino KOA receives top service scores


    Charlie Tyree, right, manager of the Durant/Choctaw Casino KOA, is congratulated on his top service scores by Dr. Kevin Freiberg, one of the nation’s top customer service experts. Freiberg was a speaker at the KOA International Convention in November in Las Vegas.

    Durant Choctaw Casino KOA receives top service scores

    The Choctaw Casino KOA Campground in Durant was recently recognized for receiving the top customer service scores in the 488-park Kampgrounds of America system in North America.

    The Choctaw Casino KOA, owned and operated by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, is managed by Charlie Tyree.

    Tyree was recognized as receiving one of the top three customer service scores in the KOA system during the annual Kampgrounds of America International Convention last month in Las Vegas, Nev.

    Each year, more than 200,000 KOA campers provide extensive feedback surveys regarding their stays at each KOA campground. Those scores provide the basis for KOA’s annual President’s and Founder’s Awards. The Choctaw Casino KOA received both of those honors for its performance in 2011.

    Kampgrounds of America, founded on the banks of the Yellowstone River in Billings, Montana in 1962, is now the world’s largest system of open-to-the-public family campgrounds. KOA has 475 locations in the United States and Canada.


    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Last week, Congressman Dan Boren secured language in the Omnibus Appropriations bill that would reinstate Jones Academy, a Choctaw Nation school in Hartshorne, Oklahoma, to the Bureau of Indian Education (BIA) school system. This change will mean that Jones Academy is eligible for more federal funding. The bill passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 296 to 121.

    In 1953, during a period of Tribal termination, many Native American schools, including Jones Academy, were removed from the Bureau of Indian Education school system. H.R. 2055 would allow the school to once again be a part of the BIE system, and receive the support this designation affords.

    “Restoring Jones Academy to the BIA has been a priority of mine,” said Boren. “In the 1950s, our government instituted a program terminating tribes. It was repealed in 1970, but a consequence that still lingers today is the removal of Jones Academy from the Bureau of Indian Education. Allowing this school to again be a part of this program is an important step in keeping the promises we have made as a nation to our tribes”

    “It is imperative to support Native American education,” continued Boren. “Tribal students have a dropout rate higher than any other racial or ethnic group in America. As a result, many of their languages and cultural traditions are beginning to disappear. Schools like Jones Academy, which teach tribal languages and craftsmanship, are working to reverse this trend.”

    “Reinstating the Academic Program at Jones Academy will ensure that our students receive a complete academic education in a culturally rich setting,” said Choctaw Nation Chief Gregory E. Pyle.

    Established in 1891 by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the school is located on a 540 acre campus five miles northeast of Hartshorne, In the past, the school has enrolled students from 29 different tribes. Students come from parts of Oklahoma, Texas, Mississippi, New Mexico, Nevada, South Dakota, and several other states. Each student is a member of a federally recognized Indian tribe.

  • Choctaw Nation to host E-Waste collection events


    Choctaw Nation to host E-Waste collection events

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma will be hosting two electronic waste (e-waste) collections this January in an effort to reduce the amount of reusable raw materials placed in landfills.

    The first collection will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 14, at the Choctaw Nation Recycling Center, located at 3408 Wes Watkins Blvd. in Durant (north of the Choctaw Casino and Resort, off Enterprise Drive).

    The second will be at the Choctaw Village Shopping Center at 1421 SE Washington in Idabel from 9 a.m. through 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 21.

    Each collection will allow those seeking to dispose of electronic waste to do so in an environmentally safe fashion. E-Waste is the most rapidly growing segment of the municipal waste stream. It is produced when electronic products from homes, schools, and businesses become obsolete or no longer functional and need to be discarded.

    E-Waste contains many valuable, recoverable resources such as aluminum, copper, gold, silver, plastics and ferrous metals, all of which require considerable energy to process and manufacture. Recycling old, unwanted electronics conserves natural resources, helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, and saves energy and raw material resources. Recycling also prevents the toxic chemicals found in electronic components (mercury, lead, cadmium, beryllium and chromium) from leaching into our soil when land filled.

    In observance with these facts, the Choctaw Nation encourages everyone to take part in this environmentally conscious effort. “We are certainly happy to provide an opportunity for people to dispose of this type of waste. It is important that we not only advocate going green, but also facilitate the necessary actions to make a real difference, and that is what we are doing here,” said Chief Gregory E. Pyle.

    Acceptable items for recycling include computers, laptops, fax machines, washers, dryers, gaming equipment, cell phones, hard drives ($20 fee to wipe memory), television sets, fitness equipment, auto batteries and anything else that runs on electricity.

    To put things in perspective, Choctaw Nation Recycling would like everyone to remember that, “Recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by 3,657 homes in the United States in a year. For every one million cell phones recycled 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 of silver, 75 of gold, and 33 of palladium can be recovered.”

    For any questions about the E-Waste Collections, call 580.775.4231, or email

  • Adult Education program creating better opportunities for tribal members

    Adult Education program creating better opportunities for tribal members

    By CHRISSY DILL Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is home to over 6,000 employees whose goal is to provide Choctaw members with helpful programs and departments that work to meet their various needs. The Adult Education program gives members the opportunity to further their education by earning their GED credentials.

    The purpose of the Adult Education program is to improve educational and employment opportunities to any adult that possesses a CDIB card. “The program provides an opportunity for those adults who did not complete high school to acquire the basic educational and/or learning skills for functioning effectively in today’s changing world,” explained Adult Education Director Neal Hawkins.

    The program began in 1993 when Joy Culbreath was asked by the Choctaw Nation to help build an adult education program, according to Hawkins. “She began the program as its only employee, doing everything from teaching GED classes to doing clerical work,” he said.

    Since then, the program has gained more valuable help, now having three full-time employees and three part-time employees.

    With the beneficial work these employees provide, Adult Education has gained much success throughout the years. “Since Chief Pyle took office in 1997, we have had over 1,000 students attain their GED diplomas through our program,” said Hawkins. “In the last three years, we have averaged between 140 to 150 students each year earn their GED credentials.”

    According to Hawkins, GED classes are currently offered in Durant year-round and classes are offered every 13 weeks, alternated between McAlester, Poteau, Stigler, Wilburton, Hugo and Broken Bow; these classes are taught by Vicky Alford, Beth Lawless and Charles Thompson.

    “We also have our Distance Learning classes taught by Martha Childs, which repeat every nine weeks at six of our community centers,” continued Hawkins. These centers include Atoka, Coalgate, Talihina, Smithville, Bethel and Wright City.

    The Adult Education program received recognition two years ago for becoming the official GED test site for Bryan and Atoka counties. “This allows us to test our students immediately after concluding GED classes,” said Hawkins, explaining that, in the past, students would on occasion have to wait a month or two before they were able to find a test site that would be able to administer the GED test.

    Now, Hawkins and his employees are allowed by the State Department of Education Lifelong Learning Program to travel throughout the Choctaw Nation and administer the test at several Choctaw Nation community centers and at the Eastern Oklahoma State College McAlester campus.

    It is Hawkins responsibility as director to provide guidance to employees when questions or problems present themselves. He also performs clerical work, scheduling of tests, advertises upcoming classes, as well as many other jobs.

    Hawkins acknowledged his employees as the motivation and real hard work behind the program. “The real contributions are made by the teachers that work day-to-day, teaching the students and providing counseling and tutoring to the students when needed,” said Hawkins.

    “The teachers are the employees that make the program a success,” Hawkins continued. “If it wasn’t for their desire and care to see the students succeed, the program wouldn’t be what it is today.”

    The Adult Education program has brought the Choctaw community opportunity to grow and excel even more than it already has and provides tribal members the chance to become more successful in their professional career. “When our students achieve their educational goals, they become more successful in acquiring better jobs and promotions, which enables them to increase their personal incomes, improving the lives of those students and their families,” said Hawkins. “Hopefully the children and other family members will realize the importance of an education and become role models for future generations.

    “If our department can improve the life on one family, then we have been successful,” said Hawkins, “but if we can improve the lives of 140 to 150 students each year, then those families can make the Choctaw Nation a place where hope, pride and success are an everyday occurrence.”

    If you are interested in enrolling in GED classes, you may contact Neal Hawkins at 580-924-8280, ext. 2319, or Kathy Springfield at ext. 2122.

  • What's Cookin' with Carmen?


    Carmen holds her dessert of the day, brownies made with black beans. By rinsing and pureeing the beans, their taste is disguised while their benefits for helping maintain healthy blood sugar remain in full. She also prepared pot roast and biscuits containing sweet potatoes, creating a full meal with a short preparation time of only 45 minutes.

    What’s Cookin’ with Carmen?

    By BRET MOSS Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) Food Distribution has made many efforts in recent years to improve the health of its members and employees. From cooking videos and health brochures, to health fairs and 5k runs, CNO is highly invested in the well being of its people.

    One of the most effective assets CNO has in this initiative is a highly energetic woman with a love for her profession named Carmen Robertson, who is most known for her work doing an event at the four food distribution centers around the Choctaw Nation called Cooking with Carmen.

    Cooking with Carmen is a four-hour educational event, occurring from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., eight times each month, twice at each distribution center. There are distribution centers in Antlers, Durant, McAlester and Poteau.

    At these events, Carmen will take a common recipe she has modified to include healthy alternatives to substitute for some of the unhealthy original ingredients and demonstrate how to prepare it to perfection. She will sometimes even cook her original recipes she has concocted with creativity and experimentation.

    She always cooks a full meal, including side dishes and desserts. All the meals have low/no sugar content and are fat free. She uses recipes likely to expand the palette of those attending without using hard to find or expensive ingredients.

    By showing her audience, which usually consists of about 30 or 40 people, how to prepare the common commodities they already have in a healthy way, she hopes to make eating healthy an everyday occurrence for the Choctaw people.

    When developing and preparing meals at her cooking events, Carmen sticks to three main points. She wants all meals to be quick, easy and inexpensive. She believes if she sticks to these criteria, people will be more apt to attempt these recipes on their own.

    Carmen believes just teaching healthy cooking and eating habits is not enough. “A lot of them will not try a recipe if they haven’t tasted it. So I have been trying to introduce different types of food and ways to prepare it,” said Carmen as she explained the importance of tasting a new recipe.

    While she is cooking, she is also taking questions from the audience and educating them on the nutritional aspects and the effects different foods have on the body. It has become common for her to take mailing and email addresses so she can modify recipes by request.

    Three of the four distribution centers are equipped with a full kitchen allowing her to simulate a common setting for the average audience member. The ingredients and utensils used on the set are those most familiar to the largest portion of the audience.

    Carmen not only teaches at the Cooking with Carmen events, but plays a role in the Cooking with Council videos produced by the Lifetime Legacy staff, the Going Lean Team, health events at the wellness centers and after-school specials.

    She deems working with the kids at the schools and the younger generation of the utmost importance. She knows if she can spark healthy lifestyles in them, those ways will be instilled for a lifetime and hopefully passed on to generations to come.

    “In order to stop the childhood obesity, we’ve got to hit these young mothers, and that’s what I’m trying to do,” said Carmen as she explained how health issues in children are a serious problem she would like to see subside in the near future. By teaching young parents to prepare foods with a knowledge of the effects each dish has on a person, particularly the children, she hopes to stop bad habits before they even begin.

    Carmen is not only equipped with the knowledge of recipes and nutrition, her expertise is reinforced with experience. She grew up in the small town of Opal, Wyo. with a large family. She mentioned the winter the snow would make it hard for people to get groceries and they would have just one bag for a long period of time.

    She and her family would make bread and other dishes from scratch, can food and grow produce. At her young age, she learned how to create meals with various ingredients and be creative with her combinations.

    She graduated from Kimmerer High School in 1989 and moved to Oklahoma in 1999. She worked as a phlebotomist, drawing blood and working in a lab when she first arrived. She eventually went to work for the OSU Extension Office in Atoka. “We would go into the homes and I would teach low income families basic nutrition and different life skills,” said Carmen as she explained her beginnings in the art of food demonstration.

    Many of the commodities she used to cook came from the CNO distribution center, which is how she got her connection to Lisa Mullens, director of Choctaw Nation Food Distribution. After 3.5 years with OSU, Lisa offered Carmen the job, and she began her work in 2007.

    While she worked at the OSU office, Carmen struggled with a weight issue herself, weighing 325 pounds. As she taught people how to prepare nutritional meals, she made a commitment to practice what she preached, and in 15 months, she had lost 150 pounds.

    She is sure this aspect of her life has helped her encourage, relate to, and better teach others about healthy choices. “It’s hard for somebody who has a weight issue to listen to somebody that never has… but when people know that I have been there, and done it, they want to know how I did it,” Carmen exclaimed.

    Carmen has also recently earned her bachelor’s degree in Science, Nutrition and Dietetics from Kaplan University. What she learned through life experiences and her collegiate education combined with her general love for cooking and creativity in the kitchen make her well qualified to give health advice to anyone seeking a healthier way of life.

    She teaches many things to those around her, one of which is the 28-Day Rule. It has been proven that a person can break a bad habit or create a new one after 28 consecutive days of committing an action. Carmen gives an example, saying if you ride your bike every day for 28 days in a row, it will become habit and therefore make it easier to ride daily.

    The act of “eat less, more often,” she deems most important of all her advice. If you consume a small amount of calories on a usual basis, you keep your metabolism working regularly while keeping the over-eating and splurging at bay. She keeps a small amount of food on hand wherever she is to practice this act.

    She also teaches that everyone eats with their eyes first. If food is made more appealing to the eyes, it is more likely the viewer will desire it. This is particularly true for children. This is something she practices with her 10-year-old daughter, Jeannie. The two will cook healthy dinners using different foods in creative and colorful designs to make healthy eating fun.

    The act of eating in proportion to one’s activities for the day is also something she stresses. Carmen and Jeannie are regulars at a tae kwon do gym in Atoka. Carmen eats more whole grain carbohydrates for energy if she knows they will be doing a highly strenuous activity along with protein after, but a lighter meal if the exercise is of a lower difficulty.

    Since finishing her education, Carmen now has more time to share her skills in the kitchen and plans to finish a cookbook, which is already under way, as well as increase her involvement in the education of healthy living. It is her hope to spread her knowledge and love of healthy lifestyles to not just Choctaw members, but to everyone she meets.

  • "To Bridge A Gap" conference to be held April 2-5

    Complete Information to conference

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma will be hosting the 11th Annual “To Bridge A Gap” Conference, in collaboration with the National Forest Service.

    This conference is designed to strengthen Government-to-Government relationships between federal/state agencies, and federally-recognized Tribes with interests in our Forests. The Forest Service and Tribal Governments have a desire and obligation to establish Government-to-Government relationships where there are mutual interests in managing the cultural and natural resources of the Forests. In November of 2009, President Obama issued a White House Memorandum on Tribal Relations.

    The To Bridge A Gap Conference is a wonderful opportunity to discuss tribal relations and cultural preservation issues, and participate with others whom are dedicated to improving this relationship.

  • To better protect and serve: Choctaw Nation Public Safety gets upgrades in the new year


    The Choctaw Nation SWAT team in front of the new Public Safety office before another intense day of training.

    To better protect and serve: Choctaw Nation Public Safety gets upgrades in the new year

    By BRET MOSS Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    Great strides have recently been made for the Choctaw Nation Public Safety Department. With new equipment, facilities and access to quicker information, Public Safety is better prepared than ever to serve and protect the people of the Choctaw Nation.

    To kick off 2012, the administration of the Public Safety moved into the former Durant Head Start building, which has been renovated to make excellent office space for those housed at the Tribal Headquarters.

    “We are extremely excited,” declared Executive Director of Public Safety John Hobbs, whose office is in the new facility. The older space was cramped with not enough storage space, but now “we can feel comfortable and not have to share desks,” he continued.

    The new offices are not the only aspect adding excitement to the new year, Tribal Police now have access to the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Telecommunication System (OLETS). This is a system that has, until now, been predominantly available to state agencies.

    OLETS will allow officers to contact Choctaw Nation 24-hour dispatch who can quickly check information on vehicle tags, drivers licenses, warrants, check for stolen items and criminal histories, along with many facts that will be helpful to officers in the field.

    “In the past, we had to rely on the local law enforcement agencies,” stated Hobbs as he recalled the process prior to OLETS. The Choctaw officers would have to dial the local dispatch via cell phone and have them search the OLETS data, putting extra work on the local law enforcement, and adding time to traffic stops.

    With the system in place, the Choctaw Police can be reliant on the Choctaw dispatch, giving them more speed and safety in situations, as well as relieving the local dispatch from extra duties.

    Choctaw Public Safety Dispatch has 12 certified operators who are the only personnel who may access OLETS. They are housed in the Casino and Resort in Durant and are supervised by the Choctaw Nation Security division of the Public Safety Department led by Scott Harper.

    With OLETS access in place, Hobbs and the rest of Public Safety have now set their sights on a radio system for officers out of range of the dispatch. Officers stationed outside radio range of dispatch still need to use cell phones to call for OLETS information.

    From a safety standpoint, ”If we have an officer wounded, it is easier for him to key a radio and call for help than to start trying to dial a number,” stated Hobbs as he discussed the benefits of a nationwide radio.

    Officers within range of local law enforcement can already radio the closest department if they are in immediate need. When help is needed, a cross-deputization agreement allows local police to interact in Choctaw Nation affairs and vice-versa. “They are right there beside us to help us and back us up,” said Hobbs.

    Even with local support on standby, the Choctaw Nation officers need to have a quick connection to other Choctaw police, and because of this, the Public Safety Department is working on an innovative way to get them connected.

    Conventional radio requires many repeater towers to relay signals over large areas such as the 10.5 counties of the Choctaw Nation. This hardware would be physically and financially unfeasible. For this reason, the Public Safety is working to set up an IP radio system.

    This system will broadcast over the Internet, which will allow signal to travel much further and be broadcast at the nearest repeater to the recipient. The radio system will first be in place in the hotspots, such as hospitals, casinos and schools.

    Public Safety is not only improving its ability to protect and serve, but also helping others. One way will be some members of public safety participating in the Polar Plunge, which is to be held Feb. 4, 2012, at the Oasis located in the Durant resort. The Polar Plunge is an event where individuals jump into water during one of the coldest months of the year to raise money for Special Olympics.

    The Choctaw Nation DARE officer is also increasing his impact with the Choctaw people by taking on more schools to finish out the year. Latimer County was without a DARE officer to finish the school year, but Tribal DARE officer Isaac James stepped in to make sure the children received their full education on such an important subject. He now covers Clayton, Haileyville, Red Oak, Buffalo Valley, Wilburton and Panola.

    Other notable facts about the Public Safety Department include the Bike Patrol at the Durant, Grant and Pocola casinos. These are security personnel who are certified by International Police Mountain Bike Association (IPMBA), an organization that trains bike police all over the world.

    These security guards patrol the large parking lots of the casinos to make sure patrons are not only safe inside the building, but outside as well. “It’s not a second-rate course… it’s the exact same course any police officer goes to,” said Hobbs as he explained how the security officers receive the same training as the police.

    IPMBA teaches how to use the bike as a defensive weapon, stop the bike without putting feet down, maneuver in extremely tight areas and even how to crash properly.

    One of the most exciting, but little known aspects of Choctaw Nation Public Safety is the SWAT team. It is comprised of 10 men - four firearms instructors, two are defensive tactics instructors and two certified snipers.

    Though they have not had to respond to a call to date, they stand prepared for any situation that has escalated beyond the equipment and training of a standard law enforcement agency. These men are 10 of the 31 tribal police officers, who are always ready to assemble in case of an emergency.

    They received their basic SWAT training at Sothern Methodist University in Dallas a little over a year ago and have been regularly training ever since. They are constantly being trained to use special equipment, weapons and tactics

    Hobbs acts not only as the executive director of the department, but the SWAT team commander. “I do everything they do,” said Hobbs as he spoke of the intense training the team undergoes. He has two team leaders under his command in case the team needs to split during a mission.

    This team is relatively new, but is constantly bettering themselves. They are equipped with everything they need to deal with high-risk situations, such as thermal and night vision, gas masks and suppressed fully automatic weapons.

    One of the greatest assets the team has is its knowledge of Choctaw Nation facilities. “They know our buildings, where outside agencies won’t,” added Harper. This will allow them to plan their moves in a quick and efficient manner.

  • Choctaw Nation holds appreciation luncheon for sheriffs departments, district drug courts

    sheriffs lunch

    An opportunity to discuss county issues arose during a luncheon for sheriffs departments and drug courts held by the Choctaw Nation. Pictured are Justin Humphrees, Councilman Anthony Dillard, Judge Richard Branan, Chief Gregory E. Pyle, Councilman James Frazier and Billy Stephens, senior director of Choctaw Nation’s Children and Family Services. Humphrees and Branan work with the Atoka County Drug Court.

    Choctaw Nation holds appreciation luncheon for sheriffs departments, district drug courts

    By LISA REED Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma held a luncheon Jan. 24 in Durant for representatives from all of the sheriffs departments and district drug courts in southeast Oklahoma in appreciation of all that they do.

    “I admire them for their hard work,” Chief Gregory E. Pyle said. “What they face is so different from 20 or 30 years ago. Kids, especially, are having problems we never dreamed of when I was young. Our partnership with the county law enforcement and drug courts is longstanding and valuable in making southeast Oklahoma a safer place to live.”

    The Choctaw Nation makes an annual donation of $5,000 to each of the entities to assist in their efforts.

    With the donation, the sheriffs departments are able to purchase additional equipment such as light bars or walkie-talkies for the officers that can be very important in ensuring their safety while on the job.

    Sheriffs departments benefitting include those in Bryan, Pittsburg, Pushmataha, McCurtain, LeFlore, Latimer, Hughes, Haskell, Atoka, Coal and Choctaw counties.

    Drug courts in seven counties – Bryan, Pushmataha, Atoka, Choctaw, Poteau and McCurtain – also received a donation. The help with supplemental funding allows many of them to purchase much-needed office equipment and has also made the difference in being able to hire personnel.

    This is the first year the tribe has held a luncheon for the agents.

    “It was an informative meeting,” Chief Pyle said. “We had the opportunity to visit with several of the men and women, one-on-one, about issues in their county. They have a positive impact on our daily lives of which we are often unaware.”

  • The Essentials for Oklahoma's Water Future

    This link will allow you to view a brochure that will explain how the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations are working to shape Oklahoma water needs now and in the future.

    The Essentials for Oklahoma’s Water Future

  • Choctaw Nation, Southeast OK State University announce launch of Choctaw University

    Jack Hedrick, M.S., Curriculum Designer/Instructor
    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    Feb. 14, 2012

    Choctaw Nation, Southeastern Oklahoma State University announce launch of Choctaw University

    DURANT, Okla. – The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Learning & Development Department in partnership with Southeastern Oklahoma State University is proud to announce the launch of its newest endeavor, Choctaw University. The purpose of Choctaw University (Choctaw U) is to grow knowledge and skills of all associates by instilling a deeper understanding of their purpose within the organization. Participants will receive superior professional development training, build knowledge, and improve their skills to be more efficient and productive leaders. Choctaw U includes two series for development, the Leadership Series and the Continuing Education Series.

    According to Susan Stockton, executive director of Human Resources for the Choctaw Nation, “Developing highly skilled, highly qualified workers is the goal of every organization. Choctaw University is about more than professional development…it’s about empowering our associates to advance and succeed in the organization while achieving the dream of higher education.”
    The five levels of training within Choctaw U mirror that of a standard university. The official launch of Choctaw U was Jan. 26, 2012. More than 100 people have made the first year-long commitment to Choctaw U. The participants attended the orientation at Choctaw Casino and Resorts in Durant. During the meeting, participants learned how the program builds on Chief Greg Pyle’s long-term vision of growing and sustaining the tribe. Choctaw U challenges this group of leaders to begin planning towards the next century of the Choctaw people.

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and Southeastern Oklahoma State University have created a partnership with a goal to achieving college credit for the Leadership Series of Choctaw U. Courses included in this agreement include Leading Generational Diversity, Transformational Leadership, Managing People, Effective Coaching and Mentoring, Change Management, and Succession Planning.
    “We are enabling our associates to grow into positions across our many business enterprises while helping them complete their college education,” says Tana Sanders, director of Learning and Development.

  • Stickball Player's Stickball Stick Making Class

    Friday, March 30, 2012 - Cultural Services bldg. Durant, OK
    March 30th-31st
    9:00 AM
    Cultural Services bldg. Durant, OK

    Link for more information
    Cultural Services will be hosting a traditional art class for stickball players to learn how to make Choctaw style stickball sticks. We ask that participants be stickball players or interested in playing stickball. Materials will be provided, however if participants have access to tools such as draw knives and/or rasps, wood such as hickory or bodark, or leather lacing to please bring them to the class. Any wood brought needs to be atleast 5-6in in diameter and atleast 4ft in length.

    If you can’t make it or live too far away we will be hosting the class in other locations in the future. The deadline to sign up for the class is Friday, March 23rd.

    Teachers: Josh Willis, Les Williston, and Ramsey Williston

    To sign up for the class please email or call (800) 522-6170 ext 2137.

  • Hands Across the Water - The wheeling and dealing of water rights takes a deft wrist

    By Arnold Hamilton

    Tulsa Urban Weekly
    Outlet: Urban Tulsa Weekly
    Publication Date: 2-22-2012

    In her recent State of the State address, Gov. Mary Fallin lamented Oklahoma’s looming federal court battle with the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations over water rights.

    “We continue to hope this issue can be settled through mediation, without huge legal fees, and with all parties negotiating in good faith,” she said.

    “In the event, however, that the tribes do not share that goal, we intend to defend the water rights of all Oklahomans against a claim that favors one group over the interests of the entire state and all its citizens.”

    Routine carrot-and-stick rhetoric? Hardly. It was a classic political two-step.

    Fallin wasn’t defending the water rights of all Oklahomans. She and many elected state Republican leaders are – pardon the pun – carrying water for deep-pocketed Oklahoma City-based special interests, the kind that bankroll political careers.

    This whole dust-up with the tribes is a result of Oklahoma City’s thirst for control over southeastern Oklahoma’s Sardis Lake.

    The capital’s big money interests and developers know that a sufficient water supply is key to ensuring central Oklahoma’s growth – and their profits from it.

    It all but ignores the needs of southeastern Oklahoma, where the two tribes are headquartered and are now financial powerhouses in their own rights.

    So, of course, the taxpayers will end up footing the state’s portion of this mounting legal tab that could have been avoided if Oklahoma’s approach to water management didn’t more closely resemble a Three Stooges routine.

    State leaders for years focused primarily on striking a deal to sell surplus water to North Texas – the equivalent of the state treasury winning the biggest Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots every year, forever and ever, amen.

    One question cooled the windfall fever: When considering its long-term needs and roller-coaster weather, does Oklahoma really have surplus water to sell?

    State leaders did the smart thing, ordering up a comprehensive statewide water plan that was designed to give policy-makers the information necessary to determine what’s in the state’s best long-term interests.

    Unfortunately, the $16 million analysis was a dud, victimized by back-room special interest gamesmanship that overrode science and common purpose.

    No one at the Capitol wants to admit that, of course. It’s especially difficult in these lean budget times to explain how a multi-million-dollar investment could produce the equivalent of a dry hole. Hence, House Speaker Kris Steele’s praise of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board’s “thorough job” in producing the statewide water blueprint.

    To their credit, Steele and state lawmakers are taking some steps that could transform chicken litter into chicken salad.

    It will take several years to develop the strategy, but Steele hopes a conservation and management plan can keep Oklahoma’s fresh water consumption at current levels over the next half century.

    If the state does nothing, he said, water use is expected to jump 33 percent in the 50-year period.

    Lawmakers also appear intent of getting to the bottom of a question that should have been answered by the statewide water plan: How much useable water does Oklahoma have?

    First, the state is woefully behind in monitoring its 87 groundwater basins, leading to “a shortage of accurate data to inform water management decisions,” according to one recent House news release.

    Second, Oklahoma hasn’t systematically considered possible uses for brackish (high-salt content) water or so-called “gray” water – described as water left over from routine activities like laundry, dishwashing and bathing that possibly could be used for watering flowerbeds or lawns.

    The most daunting challenge for lawmakers? How to finance an estimated $82 billion in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure needs over the next 50 years.

    Before you waste much energy feeling sorry for your elected policymakers, know this: It’s a conundrum of their own making.

    Republicans wrested control of state government away from Democrats by running against government – vowing strict allegiance to Grover Norquist’s goal of shrinking government to the size where the rest can be drowned in a bathtub.

    It’s not easy to ask the taxpayers to pony up more when you’ve spent the last three decades demagogically ranting against government overspending and waste.

    Rep. Phil Richardson, R-Minco, conceded as much when he outlined proposed legislation that would establish 13 regional water planning groups as part of the overall strategy of effectively managing Oklahoma’s water resources.

    The knock on the proposed planning groups, he said, is that it’s “growing government.” You could almost see legislative Republicans shudder collectively. Richardson insists these groups won’t cost taxpayers a dime, though there will be cost to assembling information the groups compile.

    By late May, it will be clear whether legislative leaders are merely putting earrings on a pig or making substantial progress toward effectively managing the state’s most critical resource.

    Thanks to competing well-heeled special interests, it would have been a daunting task even if the comprehensive water plan had been all it could have been.

    It’s even more difficult now with all the state and federal court challenges – not only involving the Chickasaws and Choctaws, but also North Texas interests.

    As Steele put it, “We will not be deterred by litigation and will work aggressively this session to lay a foundation for Oklahoma’s water future.

    “As the elected officials of all Oklahomans, it is our duty to ensure each and every Oklahoman has the water they need.”

    Fallin, Steele and Co. need to remember that all means all. Not just their deep-pocketed benefactors in Oklahoma City. Not just the tribes. But all Oklahomans, whether in Boise City or Idabel, Miami or Hollis, Blackwell or Thackerville.

  • Trevin Cole wins 2011 Young Native Writers essay contest


    Chief Gregory E. Pyle, Assistant Chief Gary Batton and Tribal Councilmen James Frazier and Anthony Dillard congratulate Trevin Cole on his award-winning essay.

    Trevin Cole wins 2011 Young Native Writers essay contest

    Trevin Cole of Coalgate has earned the 2011 Young Native American Writers Scholarship from the Holland and Knight Law Firm in Washington, D.C. The “Young Native Writers Essay Contest” is a writing contest for Native American high school students and is designed to encourage young Native Americans to think about the critical issues impacting their tribal communities today. First-place winners received an all-expense paid trip to Washington D.C. to visit the National Museum of the American Indian and other prominent sites. The winners were accompanied by the teachers that inspired their entries into the contest. Winner also received special awards for display at their home or school. In addition, winners were given scholarships of $2,500 to be paid directly to the college or university of his or her choice. Trevin wrote the 1,200-word essay and was notified the day after graduation he had won the national scholarship and would later go to Washington D.C. He, along with the teacher who inspired him to write the essay, Laura Clark, made the trip to Washington in July of 2011. He had dinner at the Kennedy Center every evening except one evening, when he went to Maryland and had dinner with the Holland and Knight Law Firm’s CEO. He spoke at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., in front of many Congressmen and women as well as many political figures. He was awarded his scholarship and was the only person representing the Choctaw Nation. Trevin is working on his bachelor’s degree at East Central University where he received the Presidential Plus Scholarship and will later attend Harvard Law. Trevin’s parents are Travis and Katherine Cole, grandparents are Johnny D. and Debbie Ward and Shirley Cole, and great-grandparents are the late Nell Prince and J.C. Ward, Doc and Pat Ingram, and Rebecca Cole.

    Announcing The 2012 Young Native Writers Essay Contest

    The Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation is proud to welcome entries for the Young Native Writers Essay Contest, which we organize each year in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian.

    This essay contest for Native American high school students is designed to encourage young Native Americans to think about the most important issues affecting their tribal communities, as well as ways in which challenges can be addressed.

    Hundreds of Native American high school students participate each year. While all participants receive a Certificate of Honor for submitting their essays and adding their voices to this important dialogue in Indian Country, the five first-place winners are awarded an all-expenses-paid “Scholar Week” trip to Washington, D.C., accompanied by a teacher or mentor nominated by each winner, to visit the National Museum of the American Indian and other prominent Washington, D.C. sites. Each winner also receives a $2,500 college scholarship.

    Please help us spread the word about this year’s contest by forwarding this email to groups and individuals who might be interested in submitting an essay. The deadline for submission is April 30, 2012.

    We look forward to reading this year’s essays!

    For more details please visit:

  • Choctaws helped starving Irish in 1847 – this act shaped tribal culture

    Irish Famine Donation

    The Choctaw people have a history of helping others – one of the best examples is the $170 that was given to the Irish in 1847 during the potato famine. To realize the beauty and generosity of this story, one has to understand what a challenging couple of decades this had been for the Indian people.

    In 1831 the Choctaw Indians were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands in Mississippi to what is now known as Oklahoma. The Choctaws were the first of several tribes to make the trek along The Trail of Tears. The years during and immediately following this journey were very difficult for the tribal people. The winter of this particular Trail of Tears was the coldest on record - the food and clothing of the people were severely inadequate and transportation needs were not properly met. Many of the Choctaws did not survive the trip, and those that did not perish faced hardships establishing new homes, schools, and churches.

    A few years after this long, sad march, the Choctaws learned of people starving to death in Ireland. The Irish were dying because although there were other crops being grown in their country, all but the potato were marked for export by the British rulers. The Irish poor were not allowed any other sustenance than the potato, and from 1845-1849 this vegetable was diseased. Only sixteen years had passed since the Choctaws themselves had faced hunger and death on the first Trail of Tears, and a great empathy was felt when they heard such a similar story coming from across the ocean. Individuals made donations totaling $170 in 1847 to send to assist the Irish people. These noble Choctaw people, who had such meager resources, gave all they could on behalf of others in greater need.

    This charitable attitude resonates still today when crisis situations occur across the world. In 2001, tribal people made a huge contribution to the Firefighters Fund after the Twin Towers attack in New York City and have since made major contributions to Save the Children and the Red Cross for the 2004 tsunami relief and 2005 Hurricane Katrina and victims of the Haiti earthquake. Good works are not exclusive to humanitarian organizations and funds. The Choctaw Nation received the 2008 United States Freedom Award for the efforts made for the members of the National Guard and Reserve and their families. There are countless stories of Choctaw individuals and churches who have looked past their own needs to help their neighbors. “It is only right that the tribe share what God has so generously allowed us,” said Choctaw Chief Gregory E. Pyle.

    The people of Ireland have never forgotten the kindness shown from the Choctaw Indians. The Irish, realizing that these Native American had delved deep into their own pockets for what little they had to share, have welcomed delegations from the Choctaw Nation and have visited the tribal lands in Oklahoma. In 1992, a plaque was unveiled at the Lord Mayor’s Mansion in Dublin, Ireland that reads, “Their humanity calls us to remember the millions of human beings throughout our world today who die of hunger and hunger-related illness in a world of plenty.”

    Check out this Childrens book. (Amazon sells it)

    The Long March: The Choctaw’s Gift to Irish Famine Relief by author/illustrator Mary-Louise Fitzpatrick

    Endorsed by the Choctaw Nation.‚ A Smithsonian Notable Book for Children, 1998.‚ Children’s Books of Ireland BISTO Book of the Year Merit Award, 1999.

    ** also - There is a facebook page for Choctaw Irish Famine

  • On-line Auction of surplus materials

    Auction website

    The Choctaw Nation will now be holding the first on-line auction.
    The viewing of items will start March 26th with the final deadline coming on April 3, 2012.
    It will be handled by Rene Bates Auctioneers.
    If you are interested in becoming a bidder please register through the Renee Bates Website.
    If you have any questions you may call Jeremy Loper at 1-800-822-6170 ext.2407.

  • Depicting history with a pen and canvas: Choctaw artist Theresa Morris to present at Smithsonian


    Depicting history with a pen and canvas:
    Choctaw artist Theresa Morris to present at Smithsonian

    Putting pen to paper and paint to canvas to create images that please the eye and excite the psyche is a talent desired by many. For Choctaw artist Theresa Morris of Tahlequah, this is a gift she realized early and has put to work for herself and her tribe.

    Morris will be one of the many talented artists featured at the Choctaw Days event at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in June. Her work, Windstar, is one of her many works that will be featured at the venue. This image was featured as the branding image of the Denver Choctaw Day event in 2011.

    Morris spent her early childhood years at Oaks Indian Mission in Oaks, Okla. She had two strong influences in her youth who led her to know about her Choctaw heritage. The first was her grandmother who had attended Wheelock Academy in Millerton.

    Her mother became interested in the Choctaw culture when she began to write her book, “How Thunder and Lightning Came to be,” which was based on Choctaw legend. After completion of this book, she began her second work, “Longwalkers Journey,” which focused on her own family’s history during the Trail of Tears. “It was then that I became fascinated and started learning more about my own people,“ stated Morris.

    Along with a love for her heritage, her passion for art began at a young age. “Art runs through my veins,” declared Morris. Ever since she entered and won her first art contest at Tulsa Indian Youth Camp, she was hooked. “After that art became my passion,” she mentioned.

    She took her inaugural first place prize the age of 10, and continued at winning ribbons, trophies and certificates ever since. She continued this activity into her college years where she earned an associate’s degree in art from Tulsa Community College. She then enrolled at Montana State University – Northern where she gained a bachelor’s degree in graphic design with a minor in Native American Studies.

    She put her education to work after college designing various items such as business cards and logos for companies. She has done many types of artwork ranging from portraits and landscapes to abstracts and animals.

    She was one of the featured artists at NDN Custom Frame and Art Gallery in Tahlequah, and her art was used on the cover of the brochure for the Tahlequah Art Guide, 2011. Some of her work was also displayed at the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee. Visitors to the Choctaw Nation gift shop in Tushka Homma will see her work on mugs, tiles and jewelry boxes.

    While Morris enjoys all types of art, she has a slight preference for graphite and ink due to her love for the effects of black and white. She has also dabbled in carving, making miniature woodcarvings of peace pipes for Lyon’s Indian store in Tulsa.

    “I’m such a perfectionist so I truly get involved with whatever I’m doing,” said Morris as she explained that no matter what type of artwork she has on her agenda, she is always giving 100 percent. She puts such effort because she knows her craft has purpose.

    She has hopes that the work she is doing for the Choctaw Nation will bring awareness about her culture to those who have limited knowledge on the subject. She recalls a graphite portrait of former Choctaw Chief Allen Wright, which brought about questions on Choctaw history while on display in Tahlequah.

    She was able to educate curious onlookers on the fact that Mr. Wright was the man who suggested the name “Oklahoma” as the name of the state and the Choctaw meanings to the word. Choctaw words “Okla,” meaning people, and “humma” meaning red were combined to make “Oklahoma” which translates to “land of red people.”

    She is currently working on a series of portraits featuring the Choctaw Code Talkers of World War 1. She hopes to find information on each Code Talker for that generation to generate a well-rounded work of art.

    She has varied interests other than art. “I love older, classic, muscle cars and I know how to work on them. I’ve rebuilt a few engines and I’ve even done some bodywork,” declared Morris. She went on to tell that she has worked at Rocky Mountain National Park as a park ranger, a job she greatly enjoyed.

    She recently had a small acting part in the movie “The Cherokee Word For Water.” It is a story about Wilma Mankiller’s role in getting water to the Indian community of Bell, Okla. It was filmed in Tahlequah in October 2011 and is set to be released October of this year.

    Morris is the mother of three sons and a daughter. She also has a website for her artwork, “” where her art can be viewed. She hopes to start a business in the future, but is currently aspiring to finish her Code Talker series.

    She is greatly anticipating her role at Choctaw Days, saying “I hope that kind of exposure opens up many opportunities for me. What I really want is to be successful at what I do and leave a lasting impression.” She continued by saying, “If I can make a living doing art and at the same time bring awareness about the history of the Choctaw and the contributions they have made then I will have succeeded.”

    Choctaw Days will be held June 20-23 at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. For more information about the event visit or call 800.522.6170.

  • Slam dunk success with a message: Choctaw Kenny Dobbs inspiring youth on and off the court

    Kenny Dobbs shows off his dunking talents at Bloomer Sullivan Arena on the campus of Southeastern Oklahoma State University.

    Slam dunk success with a message:
    Choctaw Kenny Dobbs inspiring youth on and off the court.

    In the history of the Choctaw people, many have risen to success in their field of expertise, but one Choctaw in particular has leaped above the rest to success, a 48-inch vertical leap to be exact.

    Phoenix native and slam dunk champion Kenny Dobbs spent some time in the Durant area recently to attend the Madness in March All-Indian Basketball tournament, bringing with him gravity-defying dunks and an encouraging testimony of his rise to success.

    Searching “Kenny Dobbs” on youtube or google will quickly flood the screen with jaw-dropping slam-dunks. Kenny is a heavily decorated slam-dunk contest champion and dunk inventor with the title of 2010 Phoenix Sprite Slam Dunk Champion, 2011 Sprite LA Slam Dunk Champion and 2011 “Ball Up/ Streetball” Slam Dunk Champion as just a few bullet points on his resumé.

    As a member of the Choctaw Nation, Kenny was delighted to spend time in the Choctaw Nation. He was able to meet with Chief Gregory E. Pyle and even get his basketball signed. Kenny was brought to Durant by Ivy Bridge College as a celebrity guest for the Madness in March event to serve as a motivation for the youth to create positive goals in their lives and pursue those goals with diligence.

    Kenny was chosen to speak to the participants of Madness in March because his story was not always one of success. Kenny had to overcome tremendous odds to get where he is today, and at one point he could describe his life in one word: “hopeless.” His ability to find the drive to overcome a hopeless situation and his ability to dunk a basketball while jumping over four people was a combination that sparked interest in all ages.

    Kenny grew up in a gang atmosphere, becoming involved in drugs and alcohol at a young age. He spent his time with a group of friends who kept his aspirations at bay and damaged his hopes of playing professional sports, a dream he had as a little boy.

    He spent his time concerned with partying, which led him to be expelled from his home at the age of 15. His education suffered and he was not able to play high school sports, which severely lowered his chances to play anything past the street court.

    All of his reckless activity came to a climax at the age of 17, when he and several friends were involved in a robbery. Those with him were caught while Kenny escaped. His accomplices reported him as the main culprit and divulged his location to law enforcement. Kenny was arrested and was told he would be tried as an adult.

    As he sat in jail awaiting trial he began to seriously consider the choices in his life. He began to realize he needed to make changes. “I cried out to God,” said Kenny as he told how he began ask God to help him out of this situation and promised Him that he would make those changes he knew he needed. “I went from being this hardcore thug little man, to being a scared little boy that just wanted his momma to hold him,” continued Kenny as he described his desperation.

    When Kenny had his day in court, his prayers had been answered. Both the witness of the crime and police officer who was set to testify failed to show up in court that day, and the others involved owned up to their portion of the crime, granting Kenny only fines and no jail time.

    “My attorney looked to me and he said, ‘ It’s a miracle that you aren’t going to prison.’ And when he said that, it was a remembrance of the month before when I was sitting in the jail cell and crying out to God, making a promise,” exclaimed Kenny. From this point he knew he would have to make those changes he had promised to make.

    His first goal was to finish high school. He had dropped out around the time he was kicked out of his home with only three credit hours. He had the option for a GED, but as one of the eldest in the generation of his family, he wanted to be an example and get his diploma. He now had the goal, but those influences which brought him down before were still holding him back.

    One night while Kenny was out, his sister was sleeping in his bed and bullets began to fly through the window all around her. No one was injured, but as the next day dawned, he came home to over 30 shell casings and bullet holes covering the section of the house where he usually spent his time.

    He looked over his room, seeing bullet holes in posters depicting violence and drug abuse and realized these influences and the associations with certain people were not only endangering his future and life, but his family as well. He then came to the conclusion that the first step in meeting his goal was to cleanse his life of those influences which brought him down.

    Though he endured criticism for his it, he made known his decision saying, ”I have a plan and a purpose for my life and I am not going to waste it.” He cut out those people from his life and began to focus and work like he never had before. He needed 22 credits to graduate high school and did not want to spend three and a half years earning them, so he hit the books hard.

    He enrolled in a program allowing him to attend school from 7:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. “When I got out of school, I would take home these great big books and have to read about five chapters, and then take a test online,” said Kenny as he remembered his studies He would write the words “diploma” and “graduation” above his door, so when he woke up he would be reminded of his goal and keep himself motivated.

    Each of his tests was worth a quarter of a credit, and after a year and a half of solid schooling without breaks or vacation, he had finished his high school education. He had completed his first major goal and tasted success. He then knew he could do anything and used this experience as the blueprint for all his future accomplishments.

    His next goal was college. He attempted to get sport scholarships with several schools, but without a high school resumé and coaching, none would look at him. Eventually he got his shot while talking with Glendale Community College. It happened by chance they were doing a scrimmage while Kenny was visiting and they let him hit the court. He did not fail to impress and was signed soon after.

    This was his first experience with a real team and actual coaching. It improved his knowledge of his body and abilities. He began to jump higher and gain a greater ability to dunk. He took these improvements to a local “Hoop It Up” dunk competition. He won this competition with ease.

    Shaquille O’Neil’s cousin happened to be at that event and invited Kenny to compete in a dunk event in Las Angeles promoting Shaq’s new shoe, Dunkman. This was Kenny’s first time against major opposition.

    As he stretched and readied himself for action he watched many opponents complete impressive dunks during the warmup. He began to feel nervous and unconfident, dreading his turn on the court.

    Inspiration came when the match began. He noticed the others were doing the exact same dunks in the main event they were doing in practice. He realized he had seen them at their best already and there was nothing else to expect from them while he still had many tricks up his sleeve.

    After slamming down an off-the-backboard windmill dunk, “the crowd went crazy and these guy’s jaws dropped,” explained Kenny as he told how he won the event. “After that point, I realized, never doubt in myself again, never let somebody intimidate me to take me out of my game plan,” he continued.

    As he emerged victorious, Kenny witnessed the excitement in the crowd, especially with the youth. He began to think about how he could impress and captivate audiences with his talents, and the potential he had with that attention. He thought of how dunking was the most attention-getting action in the game of basketball and explored the potential to intertwine his testimony with his talent.

    While he was completing this high school education, he was also growing his faith in God by becoming involved in discipleship classes. This strengthened his faith, boosted his confidence and allowed him to begin spreading his words of encouragement to those who were currently in the negative situations he knew too well. At the age of 19 he became a youth pastor for Glory to the Lord Church.

    He had continued working with troubled youth up to this point, steering them away from the kinds of ways he once knew and on to a path of success. He had done considerable work in the Phoenix area to forward his message, and as he won this particular completion, he realized the most effective medium he had to deliver it.

    He resolved to become “the best slam dunk artist in the world.” With that title he would be able to travel many places, impress many people and most of all, spread his inspiration more than ever. With his next goal in mind, the climb to the top began.

    Since that time Kenny has soared above the opposition, dedicated his body to training and his time to spreading his message of encouragement. He has sustained a considerable wrist injury that took months to heal, a leg injury from which some thought he would never completely recover, and a head injury he sustained from the rim during a competition which he went on to win; all experiences which he uses to illustrate how perseverance and hard work will overcome obstacles hindering progress.

    He has played with teams overseas, performed in sold-out arenas and won the armature slam-dunk contest at the NBA All Star Weekend. He had offers to play for big bucks internationally, sign contracts with sponsors, and offers to try out for professional basketball.

    He has turned down these offers to be able to keep performing for youth so he can motivate them to stay in school and away from negative lifestyles. During the year of 2011 he devoted more time to Native American lands, attempting to help out those with a similar cultural background to his own.

    Now that he has been at this mission for some time, he is beginning to see his work pay off. The youth he has spoke to now contact him and let him know his influence helped their situation considerably.

    “That is what keeps me passionate… no amount of money that I can get paid is going to be able to equal the sense of saving these young peoples’ lives and encouraging them,” said Dobbs “Hearing these stories is letting me know that I truly am having a huge impact in these young people’s lives and I wouldn’t trade that for anything,“ he continued.

    To pursue his goal of being the best basketball dunker, he postponed his college career for a time, but has recently enrolled with Ivy Bridge College and can take classes online anywhere he travels. He shares this fact to parents in the crowd at his shows, telling them it is never too late for education.

    Kenny is a parent himself. He and his wife, Danae, are the proud parents of two daughters, Uriah, 6, and Audrina, 3. He takes delight in the fact that his daughters are showing promise in basketball much like he did during his youth.

    Kenny hopes to finish his degree and become well versed-in political sciences, noting that he is currently able to affect the youth by relating to them, steering them towards a positive path, but he desires to take on more responsibility in the policy aspect. He hopes with a better knowledge of the politics, he will be able to make situations like those of his youth less prominent among the youth of tomorrow.

  • Choctaw Nation Princess Pageant schedule and guidelines

    Choctaw Nation Districts schedule annual Princess Pageants

    District 1
    May 19 at 6:30 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in Idabel. Deadline for applications is May 14. For more information, please call 580-286-6116.

    District 2
    May 4 at 6 p.m. at the Community Center in Broken Bow. Applications may be picked up at the McCurtain County Boys and Girls Club. Deadline for applications is 5 p.m. on April 27. For more information, please call 580-584-3636.

    District 3
    May 29 at 6 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in Talihina. Deadline for applications is May 21. For more information, please call 918-567-2106.

    District 4
    May 12 at 4 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in Poteau. Deadline for applications is May 1. For more information, please call 918-647-9324.

    District 5
    May 9 at 12:30 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in Stigler. Deadline for applications is April 27. For more information, please call 918-967-2398.

    District 6
    May 12 at 4 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in Wilburton. Deadline for applications is May 4. For more information, please call 918-465-2389.

    District 7
    May 21 at 6 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in Wright City. Deadline for applications is 3 p.m. on May 11. For more information, please call 580-298-3856 or 580-981-7011.

    District 8
    May 18 at 6 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in Hugo. Deadline for applications is May 11. For more information, please call 580-326-3528.

    District 9
    June 1 at 5:30 p.m. at the Event Center in Durant. The pageant is in conjunction with the annual Magnolia Festival. For more information, please call 580-924-8280, Ext. 2504.

    District 10
    May 1 at 7 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in Atoka. Deadline for applications is April 16. For more information, please call 580-889-6147.

    District 11
    May 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in McAlester. Deadline for applications is April 20. For more information, please call 918-423-1016.

    District 12
    May 25 at 6:30 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in Crowder. Deadline for applications is May 4. For more information, please call 918-334-5344.

    Princess Pageant Guidelines

    1. Behavior to be conducted in a professional manner at all times.

    2. Respect and honor all requests from Royalty Coordinators of Choctaw Nation.

    3. All pictures taken by Choctaw Nation during term of Princess are property of Choctaw Nation.

    4. Should Princess become, married, pregnant, resign or not perform duties, or not complete her reign as District Choctaw Princess, title and crown will be surrendered upon request.

    5. Not performing duties required or requested of a Princess may result in disqualification and unable to enter or run for the same category again, be it Senior, Junior or Little Miss.

    6. All travel receiving stipend and per diem must have prior approval.

    7. If title of Little Miss CN, Junior Miss CN or Miss Choctaw Nation has been won at Tushka Homma level, royalty holding these titles cannot run for the District title in the same category.

    8. In the event a Princess is unable or unwilling to complete her reign representing Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, if there is no runner up to take her place, District council person may appoint her replacement. Either runner-up or by appointment she is eligible to run in the District and Tushka Homma level.

    Requirements to run in each category

    Little Miss
    Resident of District competing in
    Between ages of 8-12 by Labor Day Pageant
    1/16 degree Choctaw or higher
    Be willing to attend Choctaw History and Culture classes
    Not held title of Little Miss Choctaw Nation

    Junior Miss
    Resident of District competing in
    Between ages of 13-17 by Labor Day Pageant
    1/16 degree Choctaw or higher
    Be willing to attend Choctaw History and Culture classes
    Not held title of Junior Miss Choctaw Nation

    Senior Miss
    Resident of District competing in
    Between ages of 18-23 by Labor Day Pageant
    1/16 degree Choctaw or higher
    Be willing to attend Choctaw History and Culture classes
    Not held title of Miss Choctaw Nation

  • Giving wings to wounded warriors

    web_Wounded_Warrior_Flight Choctaw Nation pilots Al Cherry and John Wesley greet their passengers and the VAC flight coordinator before take off. Pictured, from left, are Spec. Terry Ligman, Tanya Boulgakova, Cherry, Sgt. 1st Class John Faulkenberry, Mark Parker, Wesley, and Maria Miles, the flight coordinator from VAC.

    Giving wings to wounded warriors

    Choctaw Nation Flight Operations makes 24th volunteer flight by taking wounded service members to Bataan Memorial Death March

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has a philosophy of caring for military veterans, both Native and non-Native. This is accomplished in a variety of ways through numerous tribal departments by providing services and assistance, holding several annual events, giving out mementos to veterans and military members, and more. The list goes on.

    More recently though, over the past two years the tribe’s Flight Operations department, which consists of three pilots, Al Cherry, John Wesley and Quentin McLarry, and two aircraft, has stepped in to do its part too.

    The team provides an invaluable service to wounded service members and veterans by providing free air transportation for medical or other compassionate purposes. This is done through the Veterans Airlift Command, or VAC, which is a non-profit organization that arranges such flights through a network of volunteer pilots and aircraft.

    “I read an article in an aviation magazine about the VAC,” says Cherry, who is also director of flight ops at Choctaw Nation. “I thought it would be a good way for us to show our support for the troops.”

    His fellow pilots agreed and are proud to be a part of the program. “These men and women have sacrificed their lives for our country,” says Wesley, “and have paid a heavy price with their injuries. Flying for the VAC is something we can do for them to let them know that we appreciate their service.”

    To date, the flight team has made 24 of these volunteer flights, with 116 flight hours and more than 36,000 miles covered in support of the VAC.

    “In addition to our primary passenger on each flight,” Cherry adds, “we have flown 36 additional passengers, most being family members riding with the veteran.”

    The latest trip they’ve flown was made on March 23 to transport a group of wounded warriors from Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to Las Cruces, N.M., for the annual Bataan Memorial Death March.

    A total of 17 wounded soldiers, physical therapists, case workers and support staff were flown by volunteer pilots, including Cherry and Wesley in this case, on four aircraft to take part in the 26.2-mile march honoring the military heroes who suffered through the 80-mile march on the Philippine Islands during World War II.

    “This is our first time being part of something this big, with this many people and the other planes involved,” said Cherry. “This one was significant, both in numbers and because of the event (the Bataan Memorial Death March).”

    Passengers on the Choctaw flight were two of the wounded soldiers, Sgt. 1st Class John Faulkenberry and Spc. Terry Ligman, along with physical therapist Mark Parker and Tanya Boulgakova, a case manager at the Center for the Intrepid, or CFI.

    All the soldiers making this particular voyage are receiving treatment for their injuries at CFI, a branch of the Brooks Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston. CFI provides rehabilitation to those who have sustained amputations, burns, or functional limb loss in combat during Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. Both Faulkenberry and Ligman have undergone below-the-knee amputations and have been fitted with prosthetic limbs.

    In 2007, Faulkenberry, a 29-year-old former Army Ranger from Midland, Texas, was on his third combat tour, having deployed twice to Iraq before going to Afghanistan. It was there, in Northern Afghanistan while his platoon was assisting fellow soldiers who were greatly outnumbered by enemy forces, that he was shot by machine gun fire several times in his right thigh during the fierce firefight.

    Faulkenberry lost two friends in that battle.

    “We’d been in country about three months when it happened,” he says. “We got a call [on the radio] that another platoon had been ambushed and mine responded. I was shot in my upper leg and twice below the knee. I lost a lot of muscle in my thigh because of it, so, even though I have the same below-the-knee amputation as some guys, I don’t have the same leg strength because I have less muscle mass here,” he says, pointing to his right thigh.

    After an unsuccessful three-year effort to salvage the limb, he ultimately chose to have the lower part of his leg amputated in 2010.

    “I’ve gone on a VAC flight once before this to do research before I decided to have my amputation,” says Faulkenberry, who had already undergone dozens of surgeries and would most likely have had ongoing pain and a limp for life had he not had the operation. “We tried for a long time on my ‘limb salvage,’ not quite as long as him though,” he says, gesturing towards Ligman.

    “Four years,” Ligman responded, referring to his long struggle to save his leg. After an IED blast in Iraq, Ligman, a 28-year-old tanker originally from Fort Gibson, Okla., was left enduring a painful fight to save his seriously injured foot and leg.

    “It was my first deployment in 2007,” he says, “and we’d only been there for about a month when it happened. My tank hit a roadside bomb and my left foot got crushed in the explosion,” he says.

    He, like Faulkenberry, initially tried “limb salvage” by undergoing numerous surgeries, painful recovery and therapy over a span of years, but eventually he had his leg amputated below the knee in late 2011.

    “I had a lot of pain,” said Ligman, “not anymore though, since the amputation.” Both Faulkenberry and Ligman have chosen to medically retire from the military because of their injuries. “Mine was official on March 20th,” says Faulkenberry. Ligman’s medical retirement is still in the works.

    Their injuries have not slowed them down though. This year’s Bataan march was a first for both men, who prepared by doing weekly marches and walks with their physical therapists.

    The march is a challenge that Parker says is an important step in the injured soldiers’ rehabilitation.

    “We want to help make things easier for them but not too easy because this is life,” says Parker, a six-time “Bataan” participant. “Even with their injuries, these guys just keep pushing and pushing, and it’s a huge morale boost for them to make it the entire 26.2 miles in the sand. They don’t give up and there’s no greater satisfaction seeing that.”

    According to Ligman, he knew it wouldn’t be an easy task but he wasn’t deterred. “I signed up for the challenge,” he says, “to make it to the end.”

    Boulgakova, who was making the march for the first time, says that a special kinship is formed between the caseworkers and physical therapists and the wounded warriors by participating in the march with them. “A bond is created by going through this together,” she says. “We want them all to finish and we’re here to assist them as needed. We don’t do this for our time on the march, we do it to support them.”

    Parker states that the flights like the one provided by the Choctaw Nation through the VAC make this undertaking – successfully completing the march – more attainable for these soldiers.

    “The flights are such a huge convenience for us,” says Parker. “It makes it easier for us all to get here and for these guys to accomplish their mission. They can focus on the march and not worry about the travel to get here. Being able to just walk out and get on the plane and not have to go through all the normal security procedures is so very helpful. This is a luxury.”

    Security procedures at airports, though necessary and mostly just time-consuming to most travelers, prove to be an even more uncomfortable aspect of travel for those wearing prosthetics.

    “This is much more convenient [than commercial travel] for us,” adds Ligman, who was on his second VAC flight. “Going through security and having to take off your leg to go through the metal detectors. Or other times we have to go to a separate room to be wanded…” he said, trailing off. “I enjoyed this flight today. It was comfortable and just really nice.”

    Parker explains it further, having worked with many wounded warriors through the years, “These guys are dealing with a lot of emotional stuff during their recovery. Having to go through airport security, having to remove their prosthesis to go through the metal detectors and X-rays…it’s not that they forget, but it throws it back into their faces that, ‘hey, I’ve lost my leg,’ or their arm or whatever the case may be. [Security procedures at the airports] are just the way of the world today and we understand that. But by having these flights available, it’s just so helpful and we’re very grateful. It’s all about taking care of our wounded veterans.”

    “[The flight] is such a wonderful thing,” adds Boulgakova, “so special and so appreciated. None of these warriors take it for granted.”

    “The support we get is amazing,” says Faulkenberry. “I can’t say enough about it.” And those being flown aren’t the only ones who take something away from this flight program…the pilots are just as affected by the experience and feel it’s just a small way to show gratitude for their special passengers’ service.

    “Seeing these soldiers and hearing their stories about the hassle and sometimes embarrassment they go through with airline travel makes me proud to be able to help them,” says Wesley.

    Cherry agrees with that point of view. “It is a very awe-inspiring time for me,” he adds. “These young men and women have given so much of their time and effort, and it has cost them physically, mentally and emotionally; yet they still maintain a very positive attitude and many are still involved in helping others. I don’t think we can do enough to show them how grateful and appreciative we are.”

    Cherry says Chief Pyle and Assistant Chief Batton are both very supportive of the flights, allowing the flight team freedom to schedule the trips when and where their schedule allows. Another wounded warrior flight is already on the books for this month, and according to Cherry, there’s “more to come.”

    web_VAC_DSC_0628 Volunteer pilots, including those from Choctaw Nation, flew 17 wounded soldiers, physical therapists, case workers and support staff, from Fort Sam Houston, Texas, on four aircraft to Las Cruces, N.M., take part in the Bataan Memorial Death March. The flight was organized by Veterans Airlift Command and was the 24th volunteer flight made by the Choctaw Nation Flight Operations.

  • Umsted exhibits great pride in tribe through art, utilizes family experiences as inspiration


    Umsted exhibits great pride in tribe through art, utilizes family experiences as inspiration

    Eager eyes and ears will be taking in Choctaw Days at the Smithsonian again this summer.

    Artist Janie Umsted is very proud to have the opportunity to be one of the chosen few to show her Native American artwork at the National Museum of the American Indian.

    “It is such a great honor for me to be chosen by the Choctaw Nation to be one of the Choctaw artists to travel to Washington, D.C., this summer,” said Umsted; however, this will not be the first time Umsted will be visiting this particular museum. “I was so fortunate to be able to be with the Choctaw delegation at the grand opening of the museum several years ago,” she said. “I thought my heart would burst with pride to be a part of such a beautiful display of pride in our heritage of the first Americans.”

    Umsted possesses a rich Choctaw family history, which she cherishes. “My great-great-great-grandfather was Peter Pitchlynn, chief during the Civil War,” she said. “My great-uncle was William F. Semple, chief right after Oklahoma statehood in the early 1920s.

    “My great-aunt, Dr. Anne Semple, was one of the earliest Choctaw women in Oklahoma to receive a PhD and was the only Choctaw woman to be named as Oklahoma Poet Laureate of Oklahoma,” continued Umsted. “She also wrote the History of the Oklahoma Presbyterian College,” which site now serves as the tribal headquarters of the Choctaw Nation.

    Another family member of hers experienced the Trail of Tears firsthand, she said. “This is a family history of which I am extremely proud.”

    Umsted said to have the opportunity to return to the Museum of the American Indian and share her art is unbelievable, and she plans to have a number of her paintings and perhaps some small sculptures on display during the event.

    She gained her initial experience as an artist at the University of Oklahoma, graduating in 1969 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, and has been working professionally in art ever since.

    Even before she was able to gain a formal education to further her artistic career, Umsted’s family played a part in her growing talent. “I am from a very artistic Choctaw family and all of my art training started early in life,” she stated.

    She said her training was considered very traditional and academic in style and was very predictable as far as results. “By that, I mean that I was taught to draw and paint from a realistic point of view,” she explained.

    Today, Umsted practices a form of art entitled “Batik,” which she calls a very unusual and unpredictable technique that she has been doing for over 40 years and is mostly self-taught. The Batik process involves materials such as melted wax, brushes, dyes and fabric.

    Umsted plans to feature pieces she has used Batik to create at her exhibit during Choctaw Days, as well as some works done using acrylic paint.

    Overall, she plans to have artwork that reflects her theme of “A Military History of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma,” which was inspired by men in her family who have served in the military.

    “My father was a bomber pilot in World War II and received numerous medals, including the Distinguished Air Cross,” she said proudly, adding that her brothers are both graduates of the Naval Academy. “They are proud of their Choctaw heritage and proud of their military service.”

    Along with Umsted’s theme of the Choctaw Nation’s involvement with our nation’s military, she also plans to create for her display a piece that highlights the Choctaw game of stickball, a piece entitled “Little Brother of War,” and pieces paying respect to the Choctaw Color Guard, the Code Talkers and the Veteran’s Day Celebrations of the Choctaw Nation. “I will be incorporating both the Choctaw flag and the United States flag in much of my work,” she added.

    Umsted’s exhibit is sure to demonstrate the great pride she has for her Choctaw tribe, and therefore show many museum visitors how tradition-oriented the great Choctaw Nation is and the respect its tribal members hold for its culture. “To have the opportunity to display my artwork at the Museum of the American Indian is one of the highlights of my career and my life,” she said.

  • OU students learn how water has shaped Choctaw culture, past and present

    The visitors from OU are welcomed to the Choctaw capitol grounds by Regina Green, who gives them a lesson on Choctaw history and culture in the capitol building while in traditional dress.

    OU students learn how water has shaped Choctaw culture, past and present

    BRET MOSS Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    It’s no secret that water is a precious resource to Oklahoma, one that is in the forefront of Choctaw Nation’s preservation efforts. The water in southeast Oklahoma affects much more than just the drinking habits of the people – it has strong ties to the past, present and future of the Choctaw people.

    Recently, a handful of University of Oklahoma students traveled to the capitol grounds of the Choctaw Nation in Tushka Homma to learn just how deep the water runs in the culture of the Choctaw people.

    The students, who are enrolled in an applied climatology class, were invited to the capitol because they are partnering with the Choctaw Nation in developing its sustainable water plan and drought planning process.

    These students have been charged with the task of gathering data on factors that influence the climate in the area. The group requested a visit to Choctaw Nation to get a better feel for the area they were to be researching, and see first-hand the water’s influence on the environment.. Several cultural experts on differing aspects gathered to accommodate this request, assuring a well-rounded glimpse into the Choctaw Nation for the students.

    Choctaw baskets, weapons and pottery were displayed to demonstrate how water affects many staples of Choctaw culture. River cane and cattails grow only in the specific conditions created by water in the Southeastern region of the United States, and these are the resources used to create many Choctaw items.

    The availability of these objects and other substances such as clay for traditional Choctaw pottery are afforded by the water conditions in the Choctaw Nation. The students were able to get a hands-on feel for the products of the conditions they are currently investigating.

    The work being done by the climatology class is part of a project constructed by Director of Research for South Central Climate Science Center, Renee McPherson, Ph. D., to enable the students to make serious contributions in their field of study.

    Choctaw Nation is part of a league of government and academic entities which helped create the new South-Central Climate Research Center that will, according to OU’s website, “address the topics of climate variability and change.” Other members in this consortium are Texas Tech University, Louisiana State University, The Chickasaw Nation, Oklahoma State University, and NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.

    The efforts of the this climate research center and those of the class which traveled to the Choctaw capitol will provided Choctaw Nation with valuable information to help construct a water plan that is beneficial to everyone in Oklahoma as well as sustainable for future generations.

    Brian McClain takes the group to the edge of the Kiamichi river to explain how quickly the water passes through the area. river_caneWEB
    Ryan Spring tells about the Choctaw arrow and the necessity for river cane in its creation. He explains that this particular type of river cane only grows in the southeastern portions of the United States, and nowhere else in the world. The conditions created by the flooding of riverbanks make Oklahoma prime areas for river cane to grow. pottery_bucketWEB
    Spring showing the visitors a bucket of clay used to make Choctaw pottery. He tells about mussel shells, which were a key ingredient to Choctaw pottery. He tells that 297 species of freshwater mussels are native to the Southeastern United States. Of these, 35 species have gone extinct, 70 species are endangered or threatened, and 180 species are considered critically impaired. The Kiamichi River is one of the best remaining habitats for freshwater mussels in the United States. water_wellWEB
    Todd Baughman shows off clean drinking water from a natural spring near the Choctaw capitol which used to provided water for the early Choctaw government.

  • Expressing cultural, historical ideals through art

    Choctaw artist D.G. Smalling poses with a sculpture he created using glass and steel. The four-sided tipi, which he says represents tribal, state, and federal judicial systems working together in unison and with necessary transparency, is prominently displayed in the Oklahoma Judicial Center’s Supreme Court Reception Room in Oklahoma City.

    Expressing cultural, historical ideals through art

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    To represent the tribe as a presenter at Choctaw Days at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) is a huge, humbling honor, says artist D.G. Smalling of Oklahoma City, an honor that helps to affirm the skills and ideals he has dedicated his life to representing.

    “Number one, to be there with the tribe is a very important thing; it validates me as an artist. It validates, too, that the nation sees value in it. That is exciting to me, that I’ll be there presenting with my peers,” he says.

    “Second, the Smithsonian is a big thing, huge,” he adds. “To be there, to just be present for this, it means a lot. I grew up as a kid going to the Smithsonian and I always get excited about it.”

    Creating art has been a lifelong venture for Smalling, though he’s only been at it professionally for nine years. Though his Choctaw roots are prevalent in his work, his methods are varied and his influences vast. Smalling is quick to point out that his style is such that he can’t be boxed into any particular category.

    “I’m an artist,” he asserts, “not just a ‘Native artist.’ I’m Native, yes, but I am adamant about not being pigeonholed with who I am as an artist. I need the flexibility.”

    It was this diversity that has made different cultures seek out and appreciate his work. His first piece exhibited to the public was in a Cuban gallery in Miami, Fla., something that helped affirm to himself that he was being taken seriously in the field.

    “The fact that it was a non-Native gallery that exhibited my art authenticated to me that I am an artist,” he says. “It showed me that subject matter wasn’t what was important. It was the skill of my technique that attracted them to my work.”

    Today, his pieces are displayed in museums, galleries, government buildings and homes in locations around the world. Smalling creates in many formats, from painting and drawing, to sculptures of steel and glass. “My art is proportionate, fluid.”

    Working with Choctaw hieroglyphs, one technique he often uses is a contemporary “one line” format, the drawing of a single, constant line without interruption to create intricately detailed sketches. “I use the old ways but keep it modern,” he says. “That’s exciting to me.”

    His methods are also simple and done with commonly used tools, such as Sharpie® markers and pens. “I want kids to be able to see what I do and what I use so they’ll realize, ‘hey, I can do that,’ when they see that my tools are readily available,” he says, crediting the diversity of exposure to other artists and situations throughout his life.

    Smalling grew up in Idabel and Haworth, but then at age 8, he and his family packed up and left southeastern Oklahoma to do missionary work overseas. Together, they lived in Switzerland, Cameroon, and South Africa, where he was continually influenced both politically and artistically by his travels and exposure to other cultures.

    After graduating high school in South Africa, while his parents continued their missionary work in numerous countries around the world, Smalling returned to the United States to attend the University of Oklahoma where he earned his degree in political science. Today, while creating art feeds one passion, his full-time job in Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Yvonne Kauger’s Sovereignty Symposium office, fuels another passion for him – educating tribal members.

    “I owe a debt to my tribe,” he explains. “My great-grandmother, it would have been so easy for her to forget, to not carry on the language, the culture. We could have disappeared so easily. But she refused. My faith and my debt is so much that I have to continue it. It’s a beautiful obligation.

    “It is important for us to remember that someone far back in our families felt strongly enough that we need to be Choctaw, that in the face of everything that tried to submit it, to beat it out of them, they refused,” he continued. “That’s why I refuse. I celebrate it that we survived. That’s why I say there is a debt. This is who I am and I’m proud of that.”

    Along with the responsibility of educating and empowering of tribal members, he believes strongly for tribes to encourage the output of quality art and Native-created items. “We fought long and hard to control our art,” he says, referring to the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990. “It’s important that we understand and respect that.”

    He says tribes can ensure that idea by developing an artist registry with quality artists who accurately reflect its history and views. “Outside people go to the registry when seeking out art from a particular tribe and registries are often their starting point. The registry reflects back on the tribe and is why the artists need to be vetted – to ensure the tribe is represented in the right way. The quality is just as important as who is making it.”

    Smalling plans to take that to heart when he presents at Choctaw Days at the NMAI in Washington, D.C. There, he will display his work and do demonstrations, along with lectures and presentations on the Choctaw Code Talkers. Smalling is a great-grandson of World War I Code Talker Calvin Wilson.

    Choctaw Days will take place at the NMAI from June 20-23. The public is encouraged to visit the event and experience Smalling’s artwork and knowledge, along with additional artists, dancers and others representing the tribe, and take part in a memorable, rich Choctaw cultural experience.

    Additionally, Smalling can be heard every Saturday morning hosting a radio program on Oklahoma City station, The Spy FM. His hour-long show is dedicated to discussing pertinent topics and trends with leaders and friends in Indian country, and also showcasing the music of Native artists, giving them a platform to show their diversity and talent. Podcasts and apps to remotely listen to his show are available for download on

    Smalling adds color detail to one of his “one line” sketches. The entire drawing is made with a single continuous line without interruption, pictured below in closer detail.

  • Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Choctaw Nation team up for theatrical debut at Smithsonian
    Kathleen Hardgrove, bottom right, directs her cast as they prepare for the production of Antigone: At War. Rebecca Sparks is atop the stairs while Tanner Risner, left, and Dustin Curry listen at the bottom. Both Tanner and Dustin will be a part of the Smithsonian production.

    Setting the stage for a hit:
    Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Choctaw Nation team up for theatrical debut at Smithsonian

    The curtain is set to open this summer on the very first theatrical production featuring the dual efforts of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) and Theatre at Southeastern Oklahoma State University (SE). This tag-team effort will take place at the annual Choctaw Days event hosted by the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, June 20-23.

    After the success of last year’s Choctaw Days, CNO has been reaching out even further to bring exciting and immersive talents to this showcase of Choctaw heritage and culture. “Given their close ties with the Choctaw people, knowledge of the culture and exceptional talent, SE was an easy choice to bring Choctaw ways to life on the stage of the Rasmusen,” said Chief Gregory E. Pyle.

    Though not yet finalized, the working title of the production is “It Wasn’t Code to Us,” and will cover a great variety of Choctaw aspects, with an emphasis on the World War 1 Code Talkers who pioneered using a native language as military code. It is “an interesting look into the expanse of the Choctaw language,” said Director Kathleen Hardgrove of SE’s staff.

    The production will also give glimpses into Choctaw issues such as stickball, basket making and many others as it follows a young Choctaw woman who learns about her heritage from an elder of the tribe. Her education will be the underlying plot tying the wide spectrum of Choctaw culture together.

    The performance will be in dual narrative featuring the truest form of the Choctaw language, and will be presented in an ambitious new style termed “theatrical collage.” In this style of presentation, actors on the stage will be accompanied by sound tracks, videos, picture montages and will be acting opposite filmed actors who will be filmed on sets in Oklahoma.

    “Obviously we can’t play stickball on the stage, but we want to show a lot of visuals of iconic [scenes] of the nation,” said Hardgrove as she explained how the video and picture aspects will work to immerse the audience further into the Choctaw experience. Hardgrove and her theatre crew have been perfecting this new style with other productions, most recently with the Greek play, Antigone.

    While the style of the production may be a new technique, the content about the Choctaw people is well-rooted in American history. Professor Randy Prus of SE’s English Department has taken the charge to write the content of the play.

    Prus has been well-versed in the Choctaw culture and was an easy pick to write the content. “He is the expert on campus,” mentioned Hardgrove as she reiterated his qualification. He has been in contact with various cultural experts within the Choctaw Nation to bring the most accurate and intriguing script to the stage.

    “I saw this as an opportunity to learn more about the Choctaw people and culture, especially their history,” said Prus as he discussed his motivation for his work on the project. “I’ve never done anything quite like this before and welcomed the opportunity to learn new things, meet new people, and work on a collaborative effort. I hope people recognize some of the uniqueness of Oklahoma Choctaw, mostly I hope people enjoy it and it makes their lives a little bit sweeter,” he continued.

    CNO is very excited to have its heritage displayed yet again at the Smithsonian, especially through the medium of performing arts. With almost 30 percent of the student body being Native American, SE has not only the capability to bring that heritage to life, but the background and close ties with the culture.

    There are over 500 Choctaw students at SE, lending the university to a heavy dose of Choctaw ways and history. SE has offered classes on the Choctaw language for years, and in the fall of 2011, an 18-hour minor in Choctaw became available.

    With a venue as renown as the Rasmusen on their summer roster, no one has to explain the opportunity this production presents for the students of SE. “My students are extremely excited to be a part of this,” stated Hardgrove as she told how her students anticipated the occasion and collaboration with CNO. “It’s definitely something that is going on next year’s recruitment brochures,” she continued.

    The upcoming trip to the Smithsonian is a summer plan that has the Theatre at SE crowd buzzing, but it is far from their first round with prestigious venues. SE has been conducting the Hamlet Tour recently, which is a small version of Shakespear’s Hamlet, written by the Chair of Art, Communication and Theatre at SE, Dell McLain, while on sabbatical in New York working with professional actors.

    They have taken the Hamlet Tour across Oklahoma and Arkansas to cities such as Tulsa and Eureka Springs. That performance has even been conducted at the Globe of the Great Southwest, the only standing replica of Shakespeare’s globe in the United States, located in Odessa, Texas.

    Along with their Hamlet Tour, SE has preformed in and hosted several festivals. They have also performed across the country in locations as far as the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and have plans on gracing the Stella Adler Theater in Los Angeles.

    In addition to the many productions and festivals SE hosts and attends on a regular basis, they also host after-school plays for children, produce student films and demonstrate student written and directed plays annually.

    The high level of both quality and quantity of work that pours out from Theatre at SE not only stems from a highly motivated and talented student body, but an exceptionally well-qualified staff. According to McClain, every theatre faculty member at SE currently works professionally in the industry.

    Hardgrove, who is leading this production, graduated from SE and went on to work as a teacher, costume designer, actor and director in various places such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York. Her time touring across the country has led her to theatre work in every state in the continental U.S.

    She decided to bring her experiences and knowledge back to SE because she liked the way they trained and is now the theatre historian. She still travels nationally and internationally to attend the most world-renown tours such as the Humana Festival to gather ideas, trends and techniques to deliver to the students of SE. These travels are prime examples of how SE is meeting its charge to “bring the world to SE.”

    The cooperative effort between CNO and SE is sure to be a hit at Choctaw Days coming in June. SE has high hopes to bring to life the rich culture of the Choctaw people in a fun and immersive way. It is a chance for both organizations to shine in the national spotlight.

    If you would like to know more about Theatre at SE, contact 580-745-2735 or visit For more information on Choctaw Days, contact 800-522-6170, or visit

  • Choctaw Nation officers take part in ‘Click It or Ticket’ seat belt campaign

    web_ciot_DSC_2336 Choctaw Nation Public Safety Officers Lt. Brant Henry of Atoka, in foreground, and Sgt. Mike Johnson of Durant work a police check point in Atoka, checking for seat belt use among drivers and occupants, as part of this year’s “Click It or Ticket” seat belt enforcement campaign.

    Choctaw Nation officers take part in ‘Click It or Ticket’ seat belt campaign

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    ATOKA, Okla. – The Choctaw Nation Public Safety Department is once again joining up with its Southeastern Oklahoma Traffic Safety Coalition (SOTSC) partners for this year’s “Click It or Ticket” seat belt enforcement campaign.

    The operation kicked off with a press event on May 14 at the Atoka High School, and was followed by a police checkpoint to ensure drivers and vehicle occupants were in compliance of the state’s seat belt laws. The checkpoint was operated by Choctaw Tribal officers and law enforcement agencies from Idabel, Hugo, Calera, and Atoka Police Departments, as well as the Atoka County Sheriffs Department and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

    Eight-hundred-forty-four vehicles passed through during the two-hour checkpoint, resulting in 25 citations and 47 warnings issued to the motorists. Additionally, officers also performed 11 child safety seat inspections and served six warrants.

    The main push for “Click It or Ticket” will run from May 21-June 3. Officers will be out both day and night patrolling Oklahoma roadways and running checkpoints to crack down on seat belt violators.

    According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belts are the most effective vehicle safety feature ever invented, yet so many of those hitting the road still fail to buckle up regularly. The goal for this year’s “Click It or Ticket” blitz is to increase the seat belt use percentage of Oklahoma motorists and occupants to at least 90 percent.

    Sgt. Johnson checks the backseat of a vehicle stopped at the checkpoint to ensure all occupants were wearing their seat belts.

    Lt. Henry explains the seat belt campaign to a driver passing through the checkpoint in Atoka.

  • Choctaw culture celebrated at state capitol

    A crowd gathers to watch the Raccoon Dance.

    Oklahoma State Senate declares May 15, 2012, as ‘Choctaw Day’

    BRET MOSS Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma assembled a group of cultural experts and artists at the Oklahoma State Capitol building on May 15, 2012, to bring the Choctaw experience to the people of the Oklahoma City area and the leaders of the state.

    Brightly clothed Choctaws filled the capitol’s second floor rotunda in their traditional clothing ready to leave an impression on guests of the capitol. As soon as booths were set up and ready to go, guests were eager to get involved with what the Choctaw Nation had to offer.

    Exhibits of various staples of Choctaw heritage were on display, including stickball, pottery, flute making and beadwork. The Choctaw museum had an exhibit giving a background on the history of the people, and Choctaw Language teachers gave guests of the capitol a sampling of the native words.

    Artists whose work has been featured throughout the Choctaw Nation were also on display. Artists included Jane Umsted and Dylan Cavin, whose work has been featured on various Choctaw publications, as well as Paul King, the creator of the branding image for the 2011 Choctaw Days in Washington D.C., and Theresa Morris, whose “Windstar” design has been widely used for Choctaw events and publications.

    Many people also enjoyed visiting a booth featuring the Choctaw Code Talkers that reminded patrons of the service to their country.

    Storytellers Greg Rodgers and Stella Long told Choctaw tales to eager ears and the Choctaw princesses demonstrated the Lord’s Prayer in sign language, a familiar activity of Choctaw events.

    Traditional dancers got the audience involved with the Stealing Partners Dance and the Snake Dance. Throughout the day, they demonstrated many other traditional dances including the Walk and War Dance.

    Many members of the Choctaw Tribal Council were in attendance to enjoy conversing with the guests and show their support for the spreading of the Choctaw culture. Assistant Chief Gary Batton addressed the crowd, proclaiming how proud he was to see the Choctaw Nation on display in such a venue.

    Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb followed Batton, and mentioned he was happy to see the Choctaw Nation spreading its heritage and teaching people of the Oklahoma what it means to be Choctaw.

    Senator Josh Brecheen spent time with members of the Choctaw group and, as the event came to a close, made a motion before the Oklahoma State Senate that this day be recognized as “Choctaw Day.” This motion was accepted and Batton addressed the senate showing his appreciation for the honor bestowed on the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

    To view photos of the Choctaw Day activities visit Choctaw Nation’s Facebook page at

    Choctaw_Group_cropped_web The Choctaw Nation group after meeting with the State Senate.

    Gary_at_Senate_copy Assistant Chief Gary Batton addresses the Oklahoma State Senate.

  • Biskinik receives OPA Better Newspaper Contest awards

    By Lisa Reed
    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma’s newspaper, Biskinik, has joined the ranks of other outstanding tribal programs and ventures and has been recognized for its efforts with eight awards from the Oklahoma Press Association Better Newspaper Contest.
    OPA held an awards presentation program June 8 at the Reed Center in Midwest City as part of its three-day annual convention. The contest drew 937 entries from 98 newspapers and was judged by members of the Nevada Press Association. The top winners in each of the 10 divisions took home the Sequoyah Award, 120 first place plaques were presented during the banquet and newspapers receiving second, third or fourth place received certificates.
    The Biskinik competed in Division 8, which is for Sustaining Memberships. First place awards were received for In-Depth Enterprise, a continuing series of history/culture columns provided by the Choctaw Nation Cultural Services department; Editorial Comment; and Community Leadership for the informative manner water rights issues are presented to keep readers up-to-date. Other awards included two third places – News Writing and Sales Promotion. The Biskinik entered its pages of Labor Day information and brochure in the Sales Promotion event. The Biskinik also placed fourth in Sports Coverage for stickball and Labor Day tournaments, Advertising and Personal Columns by Chief Gregory E. Pyle and Assistant Chief Gary Batton.
    The Choctaw Nation’s newspaper is mailed to more than 80,000 tribal members every month. Its name aptly reflects the legend of the Choctaws’ “little news bird.” Biskinik would live around Choctaw homes and let them know when someone was approaching, tapping out messages on trees. The small, watchful yellow-bellied sapsucker would also accompany hunting or war parties.
    The Biskinik strives to continue keeping the Choctaw members abreast of current events, beneficial information on healthy lifestyles, opportunities to improve education, program benefits and news from Choctaws around the world to share with others. Its office is located in the tribal headquarters in Durant with five staff – Editor Lisa Reed, Assistant Editor Larissa Copeland, Reporter/Production Assistants Bret Moss and Chrissy Dill and Purchasing Coordinator Karen Jacob. The Biskinik is a division of the Public Relations Department under Executive Director Judy Allen and includes many PR activities on its daily schedule.
    Press releases and on-the-spot news are also posted to the Choctaw Nation’s Facebook page and in the News Room on the Choctaw Nation’s website, .
    New technology has provided many opportunities to provide digital communication and another way for Biskinik to spread the news.

  • Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma stickball team wins first place trophy

    Team Tvshka Homma gathers for a picture.

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma stickball team wins first place trophy

    Team Tvshka Homma, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma’s official stickball team, captured the first place trophy at the First Annual Chikasha Stickball Tournament on May 19. The tournament was hosted by the Chickasaw Nation at their ceremonial grounds in Kullihoma, OK. Team Tvshka Homma (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma), team Okla Hannali (community Choctaw team), and team Chikasha To’li (Chickasaw Nation) competed.

    Jeremy Wallace, Chikasha Kaputcha To’li’ Coach, presented the trophy to Josh Riley, representative of team Tvshka Homma, at the Jim Thorpe Native Games on Sunday, June 10. Teams Okla Hannali and Chikasha To’li took second and third places respectively. Selected members from all teams participated in the Jim Thorpe Native Games in Oklahoma City on June 15 and 16.

    Choctaw stickball was recently featured as integral part of Choctaw Days at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC on June 21 and 22. Several members of team Tvshka Homma, as well as other Choctaw tribal members, participated in exhibition games at the Reflecting Pool on the National Capitol grounds to demonstrate the basics of play and educate about the long-standing tradition of stickball. Team Tvshka Homma’s next competitive game will be held at the World Series of Stickball hosted by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians in Philadelphia, MS on July 7.

    To learn more about stickball, visit the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Cultural Services Division website at .

  • Choctaw Nation’s Scholarship Advisement Program announces two upcoming scholarship opportunities

    Choctaw Nation’s Scholarship Advisement Program announces two upcoming scholarship opportunities

    Tvshka Chunkash (Heart of a Warrior) Scholarship

    The scholarship is a $1,000 scholarship created by Capt. Teri Scroggins and provided through the Choctaw Nation’s Scholarship Advisement program. Offered on behalf of all the veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, this award is presented every fall to a student whose life and educational goals have been affected by these wars and the veterans who have served in them. This scholarship is awarded to one student at the beginning of every fall academic year, and presented at the CNO Veterans Day ceremony, on Nov. 12, 2012, in Tushka Homma, Okla.

    To be eligible to apply, students must be a member of SAP, attending an accredited college or university and submit an essay. The essay should be an original 500-word essay discussing the following topic: Is there an individual, event, or story from the wars in either Iraq or Afghanistan that has impacted your life? Please explain how this individual, event, or story may or may not have impacted decisions on your education and/or future goals.

    More information about this scholarship, including the application, can be found at

    The deadline to apply for this scholarship is Aug. 1, 2012.

    Tina Willis Memorial Scholarship

    Two students will be selected this fall to each receive a $500 scholarship. Last year’s recipient and the first ever recipient of this prestigious award was Sara Higley of Keota. Sara graduated in May 2012 from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah.

    This competitive award is a $500 scholarship available to Choctaw students majoring in Criminal Justice or Social Work. In addition to being Choctaw and majoring in one of the two fields, candidates must be a resident of the 10 ½ counties tribal service area, have at least a GPA of 2.5, submit an application and write an essay describing, “Why do you want to obtain a degree in social work or criminal justice? What does it mean to you to be Choctaw and how will you apply the social work or criminal justice degree to your Choctaw community?”

    More information about this scholarship, including the application, can be found at

    The deadline to apply for this scholarship is Aug. 1, 2012.

  • Don’t Let Welding Activities Spark a Wildfire

    Each year, numerous wildfires are caused as a result of welding, cutting, and grinding. Therefore, these activities require extreme caution. When conducting these types of activities, always check the local regulations to determine if they are allowed or a permit is required. Additionally, make sure to:

    • Work only over a non-combustible surface of at least 10 feet x 10 feet, and/or use welding blankets or screens to cover combustible materials within 10 feet of the arc or flame.

    • Work only when wind speeds are less than 20 mph.

    • Have another person on site to serve as a fire watch with pressurized water or a fire extinguisher.

    Before starting any welding, cutting, or grinding projects, contact your local fire department.

  • All Oklahoma Counties Under An Outdoor Burning Ban

    Wildfire News from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    For more information please contact: Choctaw Nation Forestry
    PO Box 602
    Talihina, OK 74571

    Aug. 10, 2012


    All Oklahoma Counties Under An Outdoor Burning Ban

    Governor Mary Fallin issued a statewide Burn Ban on August 3, 2012. This ban supersedes all county burn bans currently in place and remains in place until conditions improve and it is removed by the Governor.
    “Guidelines for Oklahoma’s Ban on Outdoor Burning” which addresses activities that are prohibited and allowed under the Governors Burn Ban is available at

  • Choctaw Nation Going Green Poster Contest

    Choctaw Nation Going Green Poster Contest

    Contest Description:
    The Choctaw Nation Going Green Team is sponsoring a Water Conservation poster contest.
    The theme of the contest is practicing and educating others about water conversation by submitting an entry into the poster contest in a way that represents the Nation and the Going Green team.
    Each division winning poster will be printed as a Christmas card to be used by the Going Green team.

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Tribal Members in school, grades Pre-K through the 12th grade.

    The following grades will fall into four divisions:
    Pre-K thru 2nd grade
    3rd grade thru 5th grade
    6th grade thru 8th grade
    9th grade thru 12th grade
    You will enter by what grade you are enrolled for the 2012-2013 school year.

    Each first place division winner will receive an electronic tablet.

    Contest Deadline:
    All Entries must be postmarked no later than September 12, 2012.
    Winners will be announced on October 15, 2012.

    -All posters must be submitted on 8.5 inch x 11 inches white paper.
    -Use only original artwork.
    -Do not write name on front of poster.
    -Must include copy of Tribal Membership card with entry.
    -All posters must have the following, written in PENCIL, on the back of the poster.
    -Student’s first and last name, grade, address, phone number and email.
    -No trademarked, copyrighted materials, computer generated artwork or copy machine aided work can be used.
    -Reproducibility of the poster will be a factor in the judges’ decisions.
    -Only one entry per tribal member.
    -All media are accepted. Chalk, charcoal and pastel entries should be sealed with a fixative spray to prevent smearing. Do not laminate entries.
    -Three-dimensional entries will not be accepted. Nothing may be glued, stapled, or attached to the artwork in any way.
    -Artwork should be done on a flexible material, so it can be rolled for shipping in a mailing tube. Do not fold poster.
    -Participants accept all responsibility for late, lost, misdirected or illegible entries.

    -Entries sent with insufficient postage will be disqualified.
    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is not responsible for entries damaged, destroyed or lost during the judging process. Entries cannot be acknowledged or returned. All entries submitted become property of Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

    How to Enter:
    Mail entry to:
    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
    Attn: Green Team
    P.O. Box 1210
    Durant, OK 74702

    Questions ? ? ? Email:

  • Allen named among state’s Top 50 Women

    Allen named among state’s Top 50 Women

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    DURANT, Okla. – The Journal Record has named Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma’s Judy Allen as one of 50 nominees for its 2012 Woman of the Year “Making a Difference” award. Allen and her fellow nominees will be honored at the Journal Record’s Woman of the Year awards gala, where the Woman of the Year recipient will be named, on Oct. 4 at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

    As the tribe’s Executive Director of Public Relations, Allen guides media and marketing, serving as a voice for the Choctaw Nation, while staying mindful of what is in the tribe’s best interest.

    Allen came to work for the Choctaw Nation in 1984, first serving as the assistant editor for the tribal newspaper before being promoted to editor in 1986. In 1999, Chief Gregory E. Pyle appointed Allen to her current position as the Executive Director of Public Relations.

    “I’ve known Judy for many years,” said Chief Pyle, “and know her to be an outstanding individual in every sense of the word. Her contributions to our community, the Choctaw Nation and to the entire state of Oklahoma have been extraordinary.”

    Over the last 28 years, she has taken the lead on numerous tribal projects and ventures and takes great pride in knowing the Choctaw Nation is now a household name. Allen is upheld as the gold standard for determination, a positive attitude, ingenuity and initiative. Her leadership and participation in numerous projects throughout the years have helped to develop a sense of pride and identity for the Choctaw Nation.

    Her most recent endeavor has been the successful coordination of Choctaw Days, an annual four-day tribal festival held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma was the first Native American tribe to hold such an event at the Smithsonian. The inaugural Choctaw Days in 2011 was such a tremendous success that the NMAI has it scheduled as an annual event and has asked other tribes to replicate the Choctaw festival.

    She’s also been a champion for the recognition of the Choctaw Code Talkers, blazing the trail in having the Code Talkers Recognition Act of 2008 passed in U.S. Congress. She never gave up despite the Act’s failure to pass with a two-thirds vote twice in previous years. Her firm leadership and unyielding lobbying ensured the Code Talkers, who were unrecognized during their lifetimes, received the proper acknowledgment and decoration for their vital contributions to our country and our nation’s military during World War I and II. Due in no small part to her dedication and tireless efforts, legislation was finally passed in 2008 to honor the Choctaw Nation Code Talkers, as well as Code Talkers from 11 other Indian tribes. This was both historical and monumental to the tribe and the families of all the Code Talkers.

    She also led teams to begin the first Commemorative Choctaw Trail of Tears in 1992, and the Choctaw Nation Veterans Day ceremony, which are both now annual heritage events attended by thousands of Choctaws.

    The Public Relations department, under her strategic leadership, has more than quadrupled in size since she first stepped into the position. She is at the helm of a diverse department that includes public relations, marketing, the tribal newspaper, Biskinik, the circulation department, genealogy, the Choctaw Nation website and social media, and Texoma Print Services.

    In addition to her commitment to her career, Allen devotes her time to personally making a difference in her community, serving on numerous boards and committees. She recently graduated from Class XXV of Leadership Oklahoma and is on the Board of Directors of the Choctaw Code Talkers Association, Creative Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Arts Institute. She also serves on committees for Choctaw Nation Natural Resources, Tribal Donations, and Employee Benefits.

    Some of her past honors include awards for Preservation of Choctaw Culture from the Okla Chahta Clan in 2000 and the Meritorious Service Award from the DFW Native American Chamber of Commerce in 2009. She was also honored to serve as Faculty in Residence in 2012 for the National Education for Women’s Leadership Initiative at the University of Oklahoma.

    She and Ray, her husband of 33 years, reside in Coleman and have one son, Phillip. They are also grandparents to five beautiful grandchildren.

    Both Ray and Phillip have diabetes and often struggle with the complications associated with the disease. Allen has been an advocate for them and all diabetics. She’s also active in her church, and says sharing her trust in God is an extremely important part of her life.

    Allen’s philosophy is simple: “Be kind to others,” she says, “say thank you with sincerity, give more than you take and always have a positive attitude.”

    Assistant Chief Gary Batton, one of many who nominated Allen for the Woman of the Year Award, stated, “I believe Judy is a wonderful wife, mother and grandmother who excels at balancing those duties with a career as a leader in her tribe, community, and the state of Oklahoma.”

    Allen joins a long list of esteemed Woman of the Year nominees representing those who are “making a difference” in a vast and diverse array of backgrounds and career fields throughout the state of Oklahoma.

  • Wind Horse Family Counseling Center ready to serve McCurtain County

    Tribal Councilman Thomas Williston, surrounded by members of the Choctaw Nation and the Idabel community, cuts the ribbon to the Wind Horse Family Counseling Center.

    Wind Horse Family Counseling Center ready to serve McCurtain County

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) officially opened the doors of the Wind Horse Family Counseling Center with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012.

    The center, located at 1303 Lynn Lane in Idabel, near the Idabel Children’s Clinic, will provide drug and alcohol counseling, as well as mental health help in areas such as trauma, grief counseling, depression, anxiety, etc.

    Any CDIB cardholder will be able to receive help with any one of these disorders from qualified mental health professionals. Lisa Meredith, who heads operations at the center, has over 20 years of experience in the field of mental health and substance abuse treatment.. Her associate, M. Jane Wilson, has also had extensive experience in the field and both are ready to make an impact in the Idabel area.

    As the ribbon was cut and doors opened on the facility, new possibilities to aid the people of McCurtain County were realized. We really want to expand our counseling opportunities and incorporate many types of counseling services, said Wilson as she explained her hopes for the impact of the center. “We are always looking to improve our services and expand,” followed Meredith.

    The center will be open to appointments, walk-ins, and emergency calls when needed. In cases of emergency, anyone seeking help after hours will need to call the hospital emergency room at 918-567-7000 and someone will reach the on-call worker and have them return your call.

    Based on the assessed need of the area, Meredith expects to see between 50 and 100 patients per week. A receptionist will aid Meredith and Wilson with the flow of patients. Plans to add a third member to the counseling team are in effect as well.

    A facility such as this has been a goal of District 1 Tribal Councilman Thomas Williston for some time. During his 25-year law enforcement career in McCurtain County, Williston has seen much heartache associated with alcohol and substance abuse.

    With the high rate of substance abuse in the area, many individuals feel the direct and indirect effects. Children, spouses, family and friends all suffer mentally, and sometimes physically, when someone they care for becomes involved in these types of activities.

    Idabel’s Assistant Chief of Police John Martin describes the mental state of substance abusers as a cycle. Once they get involved, it is hard to break that streak. “We are hoping this is an intervention that will get them out of that system,” stated Martin.

    It is the hope of all involved in this effort, that the resources and aid provided by the facility will give those who feel they are trapped by addictions or mental ailments, the power to pull themselves out of their rut and break the cycle.

    “We want to be there to give a hand to people,” said Assistant Chief Gary Batton as he gave his remarks before the ribbon was cut.

    The Wind Horse Family Counseling Center is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. -4:30 p.m. If you would like to make an appointment of find out more about services provided, please call 580-286-7025.

  • The importance of Medicare and its benefits

    What is Medicare? Medicare is health insurance for the following:
    • People 65 years or older,
    • People under age 65 with certain types of disabilities,
    • People any age with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) (which is kidney failure that requires dialysis or even a kidney transplant).

    There are four parts to Medicare:
    Medicare Part A is the hospital insurance that covers inpatient care in hospitals, skilled nursing facility, hospice services and home health care. For most, Medicare Part A has no additional premium costs.
    Medicare Part B is the medical insurance that covers doctors’ and other health care providers’ services, outpatient care, durable medical equipment (such as canes, crutches, walkers) and home health care. Part B also covers some preventive services to help you maintain your health and keep certain illnesses from getting worse. Coverage for Part B requires a premium payment. Premiums are determined by Social Security.
    Medicare Part C is also known as Medicare Advantage plans or Medicare Replacement plans. This part of Medicare replaces “traditional Medicare” and is run by private insurance companies that act as Medicare. As a tribal member, this type of Medicare coverage may not provide the best coverage as they may apply restrictions based on the county in which you reside. This could pose a problem if you are cared for in one of the many Choctaw health facilities located outside of the county in which you reside. Use caution when enrolling in Part C or a Medicare Advantage plan in order to maximize your healthcare benefits and coverage.
    Medicare Part D is the prescription drug coverage and helps cover the cost of prescription drugs. This part of Medicare designed to help lower prescription drugs costs. The premiums for Part D are determined by the type of plan selected and the out-of-pocket costs expected to be paid at the pharmacy. For those receiving extra help through Social Security or Medicaid may qualify for assistance in paying the Part D premium. Watch for valuable information coming in the mail before the enrollment period begins.
    Choctaw tribal members that are Medicare eligible should consider signing up for the Part B (medical insurance) and Part D (prescription drug coverage) benefits as a “safety net” for health coverage.

    What are the Benefits of Being a Tribal Member and a Medicare Beneficiary?
    • Choctaw Nation health care facilities perform patient screening prior to your visit to determine if each patient has additional health care benefits. If so, insurance claims are filed to employer insurance plans, Medicare, Medicaid and many other types of insurance for reimbursement for services rendered. This allows each facility to be reimbursed for the services provided and continue to offer the quality health care to our members.
    • In the event that our health care facilities cannot meet your medical needs, you may be transferred outside the Choctaw Nation health care system for medical care. If that happens, those outside medical providers will need/require your medical insurance information for insurance billing purposes. Medicare can and will be your insurance “safety net” for the care required. Not having Medicare benefits could cause additional financial responsibilities for you as a patient. Choctaw Referred Care (CRC) could be an option to assist with the additional out-of-pocket expenses, however CRC is always the payor of last resort and assistance through this appropriation is based on strict eligibility criteria.
    • Medicare Part B has an annual deductible. Choctaw Nation will bill Medicare Part B for services provided and help you meet that deductible. This will help you in the event you see other health care providers outside of Choctaw Nation by helping satisfy the annual deductible, therefore reducing your out-of-pocket expenses at those other health care provider’s offices.
    • The Part D prescription benefit does require a premium payment; however having this coverage under Medicare allows you to have prescriptions filled outside of the Choctaw Nation health care system. If you are in need of a prescription that is not dispensed through our local pharmacies, you will have to have that prescription filled with an outside pharmacy. Without Part D coverage the costs associated with getting the prescription(s) filled will be out-of-pocket to you as the patient. Having the Part D Medicare prescription drug coverage will act as a “safety net” for you as a patient.

    Did You Know?
    If you are currently working (or your spouse is currently working) with coverage through an employer insurance plan, Medicare would be the secondary (supplemental insurance) payer for any health care service provided. Make sure you always advise the Patient Registration staff of your (or your spouse) employment status and any other health insurance benefits you may have. This will ensure that your insurance profile within your chart is up-to-date and will allow for accurate and timely insurance claim submission.

    Where Do I Get My Medicare Questions Answered?
    • General questions can be answered by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (800) 633-4227.
    • Social Security Administration (SSA) can assist with questions as well as ordering a replacement Medicare card, changing your name or address or applying for extra help you may contact SSA at: (866) 237-4482.
    • If you are a Railroad retiree and have questions relating to benefits, eligibility, replacing of your Medicare cards or to report a death, you may contact the Railroad Retirement Board at: (877-772-5772.
    • You may also speak one-on-one with a Benefit Coordinator at any of the Choctaw Nation health care facilities for assistance. You may call (800) 349-7026 and request a Benefit Coordinator within the various facility locations.
    • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has published a detailed publication, Medicare & You, 2012, which provides details about Medicare. This publication covers enrollment, coverage and can be found at:

    What to Expect From Medicare in the Future?
    On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act. This law sets into place health insurance reforms with will begin and continue into the next four years. Some important changes to look forward to:
    • 50% discount for name-brand drugs during the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage “donut hole”.
    • Expand the number of Americans receiving preventive care for patients at little or no cost.
    • Additional payments to hospitals that improve the quality of patient care.
    • Payments to physicians based on value of patient care versus the volume of services provided.

    Benefits under the Affordable Care Act not directly related to Medicare:
    • Expansion of state Medicaid funding to provide preventive services for patients at little or no cost.
    • Increase payments to designated primary care physicians treating Medicaid patients.
    • Provides two additional years of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to continue coverage for children not eligible for Medicaid benefits.
    • Expansion of Medicaid enrollment will allow Americans who earn less than 133% of the poverty level (approximately $14,000.00 for an individual and $29,000.00 for a family of four) to be eligible to enroll in Medicaid. This will allow many without insurance coverage to qualify for additional healthcare benefits! States will receive additional funding during the first three years to support the expanded coverage.
    • Beginning in 2014, if your employer does not offer insurance, you will be able to buy it directly in an Affordable Insurance Exchange. You will have the option to select a health insurance plan with specified benefits and cost standards.
    • Under the law, those that can afford it will be required to obtain basic health insurance coverage through an Insurance Exchange or pay a fee to help offset the costs of caring for uninsured Americans.
    • Additional tax credits to help middle class individuals afford insurance with income between 100% and 400% of the poverty line who are not eligible for other affordable coverage. This tax credit is immediate and will reduce the monthly premium cost. As an example, if the premium was to be $100.00 and you were to receive a $90.00 immediate tax credit the monthly premium would only cost you $10.00.
    • Workers meeting certain requirements who cannot afford the coverage provided by their employer may take whatever funds the employer might have contributed to the insurance and use those resources to purchase a more affordable plan under the new Affordable Insurance Exchange.
    • The new law will prohibit new plans and existing group plans from imposing annual dollar limits on the amount of coverage an individual may receive.
    • The new law will prohibit insurance companies from refusing to sell coverage or renew policies because of an individual’s pre-existing conditions. Also provides criteria for certain companies to charge higher rates due to gender or health status.
    • Allows small businesses a business tax credit to provide health insurance for employees.

    Choctaw tribal members have access to a vast array of health care services located throughout the 10 ½ counties in Oklahoma. Members can receive health services in many different locations such as: the Choctaw Nation Health Care Center located in Talihina provides inpatient care plus multi-specialty outpatient care, outlying clinics in Atoka, Broken Bow, Hugo, Idabel, McAlester, Poteau, and Stigler. Choctaw Nation also has an Employee Health clinic located in Durant and the Community Clinic in downtown Talihina.
    Having a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB) card as a benefit and the additional Medicare coverage, you can have the confidence that you are well protected with your health care needs.

  • Choctaw Nation giving back to community with Labor Day Festival


    Choctaw Nation giving back to community with Labor Day Festival

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is giving back to the community this weekend with the annual Labor Day Festival – five days of admission-free concerts, carnival, and sporting events.

    “We are blessed to have tremendous neighbors in the towns and communities across the Choctaw Nation,” said Chief Gregory E. Pyle, “Hosting an enjoyable festival for all to come and attend is one way that we can show our appreciation.“ Everyone is welcome to attend, and fun can be found for all ages at the Choctaw Capital Grounds in Tushkahoma.

    Activities will begin on Thursday, Aug. 30, with the crowning of the new Choctaw Princesses, and will continue through Monday morning, Sept. 3, with Chief Pyle’s State of the Nation speech.

    The Inter-Tribal Pow Wow will begin Friday at 7 p.m. with the Grand Entry. It will feature colorful Native American dancers from several tribes – a true sight to see.

    This year’s concert line up is outstanding, with Hankerin’ 4 Hank kicking off the entertainment on Friday, followed by superstars Sarah Evans and Josh Turner. Saturday will feature Ricky Skaggs and Martina McBride, with Sunday boasting a long lineup of gospel singing through the day and Christian artists, The Kingsmen, Brit Nicole and Newsboys later that night.

    The Traditional Choctaw Village will give patrons an interactive lesson about Choctaw past while demonstrating flint napping, weapon making, dancing, pottery and more. You and your family can enjoy dancing with our Choctaw dancers and getting your hands dirty while making arrowheads.

    A stickball tournament will also be hosted during the festival for everyone to witness. It is a fast-paced, intense and exciting game that has deep roots in the history of the Choctaw Nation. This year’s tournament will feature teams from multiple tribes.

    Sports competitions for youth and adults, held on Saturday will include basketball, horseshoes, volleyball, a 5k run/walk and a tough man competition. A softball tournament will be ongoing through the weekend as well.

    Carnival rides and games will be a source of excitement for all. They will be available through the whole weekend and are absolutely free to ride.

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is happy to host this annual event and provide a fun filled holiday weekend that everyone can enjoy. These events and many more are sure to make the Choctaw Nation Festival the destination this Labor Day weekend.

  • 2012 Labor Day Festival Results

  • Race becomes Labor Day Festival staple

    Men’s 2012 overall 5K winner, 17-year-old Tysin Davis, crosses the finish line with a time of 18:31.

    Race becomes Labor Day Festival staple

    The Choctaw Nation Labor Day Festival is a fast-paced weekend for thousands of visitors and employees of the Choctaw Nation. Many events have patrons running to and fro, and perhaps the one that has them moving the quickest, is the 5K Run.

    Beginning about a mile south of the historic Choctaw Capitol Building, looping around festival grounds, and ending between the capitol building and Council Chambers, the 5K has been a solid 3.1 miles of excitement and enjoyment for many runners over the years.

    Today’s race is much different than in earlier years. In the 1980s it was a simple run that added to the festival’s event lineup for entertainment and not a sanctioned race. In the early 90s, the now Head Start and Johnson-O’Malley Director, Rebecca Hawkins, became the race director put the event on the path to what it is today.

    “They were just trying to get activities for participants,” stated Rebecca as she described the earliest days of the race. As runners voiced requests for a sanctioned run, it became apparent that it was to be more than just a “fun run.” Under Rebecca’s direction, a Tulsa-based company, Glen’s Road Race, certified the run.

    The certification allowed it to be recognized by the USA Track and Field Association and the Oklahoma Track and Field Association, permitting runners to have their times posted nationally and points added to their membership to the association.

    To promote the newly certified race, Rebecca scheduled Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills to make an appearance. Mills provided the shirts and a speech to motivate runners. “Getting him to come down brought a bigger crowd of people versus us just having the run,” Rebecca stated. That year’s run was a considerable success with Mills encouraging participation.

    As years have passed, numbers have grown and logistics have improved. Now, under the direction Adult Education Director Neal Hawkins the race sees over 500 runners and utilizes electronic chips attached to runners’ shoes to track time.

    Starting in the 2011 race, chips were issued by DG Productions, the company which now provides equipment for the race, that a runner can lace into a shoestring. As the chip passes the finish line with the runner, it stops the timer and records the finishing time electronically.

    Previously, stopwatches were used and times were written down according to bib numbers. The new way “makes it much easier,” exclaimed Neal as he explained how it significantly reduces the chances for error and time involved in finding placement within age category.

    As Chief Gregory E. Pyle has led the Choctaw Nation to focus on the health of its members, promotion, participation and accommodation for the run has grown. The run has always been open to CDIB and non-CDIB cardholders alike, but before 2010, it cost $10 to enter. In 2010 the $10 fee was waived for CDIB cardholders and in 2011 it was made free to all in an effort to encourage physical activity for Labor Day Festival guests.

    The Choctaw Nation believes that by offering a free run, they will inspire more people to train and participate, which leads to increased diet and exercise of tribal and non-tribal members. Evidence shows this tactic effective, with numbers increasing from 239 in 2010 to upwards of 550 in 2012’s run.

    A wide variety of people are also getting involved as well, with this year’s ages ranging from 7 to mid 80s. The finishing times of top runners are consistently under 19 minutes for the 3.1 mile dash with this year’s winner, 17-year-old Tysin Davis, crossing the finish line at 18:31.

    A considerable amount of planning and coordination are required for Choctaw Nation to host this event. It is completely hosted by the volunteer efforts of about 20 employees and their families, as well as seven police officers.

    The tribal police and EMTs are on site in case of emergency, to manage traffic and keep it from disturbing the run. Choctaw employees are there to help with registration, hand out water, keep track of times and aid runners in any way they can.

    As well as time and manpower, Choctaw Nation also invests in various supplies such as running chips, T-shirts, food, drink and medals. This service is all in an effort to push healthy activities and add more enjoyment to guests of the Choctaw Nation.

  • Six Oklahoma State University students to benefit from $350,000 Choctaw Nation endowment

    From left, Joy Culbreath, Chelsea Porter, Shauna Williams, Chief Gregory E. Pyle, President Burns Hargis, Jo McDaniel, Morgan Two Crow and Brittany Snapp.

    Six Oklahoma State University students to benefit from $350,000 Choctaw Nation endowment

    Six Oklahoma State University students began their fall semesters with a boost in confidence and coin. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Scholarship Advisement Program (SAP) recently gifted a $350,000 endowment to the university as part of OSU’s billion-dollar scholarship campaign, “Branding Success.” This, combined with the Pickens Legacy Scholarship match, will bring the total amount of scholarship money to $1.05 million.

    This marks the largest donation by a Native American tribe in the history of the university.

    “We are pleased to partner with OSU in this endeavor. It helps ensure a bright future for not only these students today, but for others to come. I am proud to be aiding our people in earning a degree from such a sterling university,” stated Chief Gregory E. Pyle.

    “OSU graduates more Native American students than any other university in the United States,” said OSU President Burns Hargis during a luncheon celebrating the donation on Monday.

    Taking this fact into account, along with the Pickens match, led SAP to choose OSU as the recipient of the donation. “It [OSU] just seems like a good fit for Choctaw students,” said SAP Scholarship Development Specialist, Shauna Williams.

    The six students receiving the scholarship were awarded the funds near the beginning of the school year, and were formerly congratulated at Monday’s lunch by President Hargis, Chief Pyle and other foundation dignitaries.

    “Words can’t even describe how thankful I am,” declared graduate student Brittany Snapp, Southeastern Oklahoma State University alum, as she thanked Choctaw Nation and OSU for her award.

    Other recipients include junior Business major, Chelsea Porter; junior Pre-Law major, Morgan Two Crow; junior Animal Pre-Vet major, Jessica Collins; senior Engineering major, Luke Serner; and grad student pursuing her MBA, Crysta Watson.

    These six students mark the first of what is sure to be many beneficiaries of the endowment. SAP will continue to work with OSU to select students over the coming years.

    The scholarship is shared between the Anne Jones Slocum Scholarship and the Choctaw Nation Business and Leadership Scholarship, with Watson being the sole recipient of the latter at this time.

    The Slocum Scholarship honors Choctaw OSU alumni Anne Slocum and does not require a certain major, but does have upperclassmen preference. There are already many scholarships aimed at incoming freshmen, and “sometimes it takes the little bit of extra funding to get them [upperclassmen] graduated,” stated Williams as she explained the preference.

    “It is very exciting to finally see it come to fruition,” declared Williams. This joint venture has been years in the making, with first mention beginning over two years ago. Finding the most effective way to utilize the funds by paring it with the Pickens Match took time, but in the end will maximize the impact for Choctaw students.

  • CNO Bike Team hosting events in support of breast cancer awareness

    CNO Bike Team hosting events in support of breast cancer awareness

    event_56383702The Choctaw Nation Bike Team is hosting several events – a 1.1-mile walk, a 5k run and 5-, 15-, and 25-mile bike rides – on Oct. 20 at the Choctaw Community Center in Talihina to support and encourage breast cancer awareness.

    Warrior Survivor Walk
    The 1.1-mile event will start at the Choctaw Senior Citizens’ Center in Talihina, Oklahoma. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. at the Choctaw Senior Citizens’ Center. Onsite registration will be available. T-shirts will be based on availability. Walk starts at 8:45 a.m. Collected donations may be turned in at time of registration.

    Survivor & Warrior Pre-registration recommended.
    Registration Fee:
    Additional $5 for breakfast

    Pink Pajama Pancake Run
    This 5k event will start at the Choctaw Senior Citizens’ Center in Talihina, Oklahoma. Runners are encouraged to wear their pajamas over their running gear and encouraged to raise donations. If more than $100 is raised, runner will receive a sporty “Every Ribbon Tells a Story” duffle bag.

    Medals will be awarded to the top three male & female finishers for the 5k event. Registration begins at 7:30 am at the Choctaw Senior Citizens’ Center. Pre-registered participants will receive at-shirt. Onsite registration T-shirts will be based on availability. Run Starts at 8:30 am.

    Deadline date Oct. 13, 2012
    Registration Fee:
    $15 (including T-Shirt)
    Additional $5 for breakfast

    Breast-Cancer-Awareness-Ride-2012-HeaderBicycling Events
    The Bicycling event will start at the Choctaw Senior Citizens’ Center in Talihina, Oklahoma. Medals will be awarded to the top three male & female finishers for the Bike ride event. A Best Young Rider Award will also be presented. Must be between 18-24 years old. Registration begins at 5:15 am at the Choctaw Senior Citizens’ Center Talihina. Pre-registered participants will receive a t-shirt. Onsite registration will be available. T-shirts will be based on availability. Ride Starts at 6:00 am. If a rider collects $100 donations he/she will receive a breast cancer awareness jersey.

    Deadline date: Oct. 13, 2012
    Registration Fee:
    $15 (5mi)
    $25 (15mi)
    $35 (25 mi)
    $40 (25mi + 5K run)
    Additional $5 for breakfast

    Please see included applications below.

    Bicycle Event application

    Warrior Survivor Walk

    Pink Pajama Pancake Run

  • Choctaw Day in San Francisco

    Mike Scott leads the Choctaw dancers as Brad Joe chants.

    Choctaw Day in San Francisco
    Bringing culture to the bay

    Friendly faces from the San Francisco bay area filled the Fort Mason Center on Sept. 23, 2012, all eagerly anticipating Choctaw Day. The day was filled with Choctaw art, crafts, dancing and more.

    Early comers were able to participate in a basket weaving class. Nearly half of the 200 guests arrived early to make woven placemats. “It takes a lot of concentration,” mused Christine Atchison of Salinas, Calif., as she focused on her project. Atchison’s work was not in vain though – she completed a fine placemat fit for a Choctaw.

    The Choctaw dance troupe then took center stage to display traditional Choctaw dances – the Wedding, Raccoon and Four-Step War dances – as more guests filled the room.

    Lunch was provided as Joey Tom and Billy Eagle Road gave stickball lessons to interested guests. Exhibits featuring traditional Choctaw weaponry, beading and language were also available throughout the meeting.

    Following lunch, language instructor Lillie Roberts opened the formal presentation with a prayer in both Choctaw and English. Assistant Chief Gary Batton spoke to the guests, telling them about the current events within the Choctaw Nation.

    Retired police officer of over 30 years, John Smith, joined Batton by the mic and placed a valuable artifact in the care of the Choctaw Nation. Smith donated a Colt 32.20 single action pistol, carried by Joseph Durant, a believed Choctaw Lighthorseman.

    “This piece of history should be in a museum instead of keeping it locked up in a drawer,” said Smith. The tribe concurs with Smith and will be placing the revolver at the Choctaw Museum, located on the capitol grounds in Tvshka Homma, where it can be seen and enjoyed by all.

    Batton accepted the pistol from Mr. Smith with much gratitude.

    Following Batton’s speech, the Choctaw Dance troupe took center stage again and got the crowd involved with the Stealing Partners, Snake and Walk dances. Chanter and singer Brad Joe then took the mic to display Choctaw flute playing and the singing of a Choctaw hymn.

    Joe’s display of musical talent concluded the formal portion of the meeting. The crowd was then able to meet Assistant Chief Batton and other Choctaws, enjoy refreshments, return to booths to learn about language, stickball and weaponry, or learn Choctaw beading with the Cultural Services instructors.

    Choctaw Day in San Francisco also saw many distinguished guests…

    Robert ‘Tomaka’ Bailey

    Though California is thousands of miles away from the physical boundaries of the Choctaw Nation, the culture is still strong with brothers and sisters to the west. One Choctaw keeping the culture alive in the Golden State is Robert ‘Tomaka’ Bailey.

    Bailey, a professional magician by trade, is an instructor for a community Choctaw language class in the Northern California area. Bailey coordinates with Richard Adams of the Choctaw Language Department to make sure he is teaching the language identical to his Oklahoma counterparts.

    Bailey is on the Board of Directors for the Friendship House Association of American Indians Inc. of San Francisco. This association’s facility is the location where his classes are taught. There are currently eight students who attend the class on a steady basis with constant interest from others.

    Bailey’s class currently meets for two hours each Saturday and he teaches with a 50/50 emersion method. When he writes on the blackboard, all sentences are in Choctaw as well as English. It is his hope for the class to be speaking Choctaw exclusively during the lessons by March.

    Due to the large amount of time required to become fluent in a language and the limited time allotted in class, Bailey has recorded CDs for his students to take home and study. CDs are in a “Rosetta Stone type format,” stated Bailey. There are full sentences in Choctaw followed by the English version.

    Bailey began learning the language in 2000 when inspired by his cousin, Ida Wilson, who already spoke the language and encouraged him to become more familiar with his Choctaw roots.

    As he began to learn about his Choctaw heritage, he began to see how important it was to keep the language alive. His mother, who formerly spoke Choctaw also served as a motivation for his dedication to the study.

    “I’m giving back to the tribe to preserve a very important part of our culture,” said Bailey. “It is my responsibility to pass this on.”

    In addition to teaching the language, he also incorporates his Choctaw background into many of his performances. He does magic shows at venues such as school assemblies and veteran’s theater, often tying in Choctaw language and history.

    Bailey has recently won a 2012 Jefferson Award for this work with the Friendship House, the language classes and his work with schools and veterans. The Jefferson Award is a prestigious award that has honored public servants for their efforts since 1972.

    Artists Sean Nash and Merisha Lemmer

    The San Francisco area is home to many artists. The Choctaw Nation was proud to showcase the work of two of its own during Choctaw Day.

    Sean Nash and Merisha Lemmer both took time out of their schedule to join the Choctaw Nation and brought with them several impressive pieces of work.

    Nash is an Oakland native who has lived in the San Francisco area for 15 years, working on his art and producing films. His first animated short film was recently recognized at the Sundance Film Festival.

    His art and films take a unique perspective on Native American heritage, focusing on before there were divisions among, not just natives, but all people.

    Nash mentions that all people have a story of how they came to be, but he is focusing on where they were before that. He has noticed that many origin stories, though different, have many similarities. Before there was Native American, Asian or African, there was just man.

    Nash teaches art at several venues and is studying for his Master’s of Fine Arts in painting and film at the San Francisco Art Institute.

    Lemmer is a resident of Sanoma County who grew up in Camp Meeker, Calif. In high school “I felt art was a way I could express myself,” said Lemmer.

    As she came to enjoy art, she attended Oxbow Art Program, and later Savannah College of Art. There she studied design and illustration. She has illustrated several of her own children’s books which she then published.

    Lemmer also has a strong connection to the Choctaw people. She was a Choctaw princess for the California Okla Chahta group in 2000-2001. Her family also encouraged her to learn more about what it means to be Choctaw.

    After learning more of her roots, she began to focus her books on the Choctaw language. “It is important for people to learn their heritage,” stated Lemmer.

    One of the children’s books that she has published is illustrated with animals and a Choctaw phrase describing the animals. It is her hope that whoever reads her books will get a little dose of the Choctaw language and that it inspires a younger generation to learn the language of her people.

  • Choctaw Outreach Services to host coat drive at tailgate party

    Choctaw Outreach Services to host coat drive at tailgate party

    The Choctaw Nation Coat Drive is in full swing and will be accepting donations this Friday at the Annual OU/Texas Tailgate Party. The party will be hosted at the Choctaw Travel Plaza West off hwy. 75 south of Durant, near the Casino and Resort on Oct. 12, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    Guests of the event will not only be able to enjoy the company of former OU standouts Marcus Dupree, Jamelle Holieway and De’Mond Parker, but will be able to help Choctaw youth in need with a donation of gently worn or new coats.

    The 2012 coat drive began Oct. 1, and will last until Nov. 30, but “We are always accepting donations for our Solemates, the coat drive and any other needs that may arise throughout the year for the Choctaw youth,” stated Paul Roberts, director of Choctaw Nation Youth Outreach. Solemates is another program led by Youth Outreach, which acquires shoes for Choctaw youth to begin their new school year.

    Though coats are the focus of the drive, “if you would like to donate other clothing items we would gladly be willing to accept,” said Roberts. The goal is to get all tribal members ready for the cooler times of the year. Monetary donations will also be accepted and used to purchase new coats.

    If you have unused coats in your closet, but are unable to make it to the event, many drop-off locations are made available throughout the Choctaw Nation service area. Donors may bring items to the tribal headquarters in Durant, the Talihina hospital, the Hugo Tribal Service building, the Broken Bow Outreach office or call 580-326-8304 for pickup. Donations can also be mailed to 403 Chahta Circle, Hugo, OK. 74743.

    The coat drive began in 2010 when the Choctaw Nation began to notice that not all of its members were dressed to weather the cold temperature of the Oklahoma winter. The Choctaw Youth Outreach coordinates the effort and is supported by all other Outreach Services.

    The coat drive assists young tribal members who live within the 10.5 county services area and all funds are 100 percent donated and through fundraisers in which Outreach clients participate.

    “We are doing our best to help our Choctaw youth in need. It is very important that our clients have coats for the winter,” stated Roberts.

    Donna Tawkowty donates a coat during a past coat drive as Choctaw Outreach employee Joey Tom accepts.

  • Final beam tops off Pocola casino


    Final beam tops off Pocola casino

    Topping out celebration held to signify final milestone in casino expansion

    By LARISSA COPELAND Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    Screen_shot_2012-10-10_at_4.18.18_PM POCOLA, Okla. – A “topping out” ceremony was held Oct. 9 at the Choctaw Casino in Pocola with the placing of the final structural beam, symbolically marking the last phase of major construction on the expansion.

    Janie Dillard, executive director of gaming, and the Choctaw Tribal Council welcomed tribal and casino management, representatives from Manhattan Construction and the Worth Group Architects, as well as the members of the construction teams and numerous other guests, to join them in signing the final beam before it was hoisted into place high atop the newly expanded Choctaw Casino Hotel addition.

    “This is another milestone for the Choctaw Nation,” said Dillard. “It’s a great feeling.”

    Shannon McDaniel, who stood in for Chief Pyle, said of the occasion, “[Chief Pyle] appreciates the construction teams and everyone here on the ground, and all those behind the scene making this happen, helping us realize our dream.”

    He continued, saying the expansion is a benefit to both tribal members and to members of the surrounding Pocola area. “By doing [the expansion] it’s helping our tribal members and that’s what it’s all about. But, as you can see with this, it’s helping everyone in the area by giving back to the economy.”

    The way it helps the economy is in the form of jobs. Dillard explained that additional personnel will be hired to support this expanded property, anticipating more than 350 new employees at the casino by the end of construction.

    “The impact the Pocola Casino does to this area on a yearly basis with salaries alone is $11 million with just the 500 employees it has now,” said Dillard. “But we are going to almost double that employee count in 2013.” And that means almost doubling the salary flowing back into the local area as well, she says. “That says a lot about what the Choctaw Nation does and brings to these economies.”

    The construction at the casino is being done in two phases and is scheduled to be completed by May 2013. The result will be 150,000 square feet of gaming, entertainment, dining, and lodging space at the casino.

    The first phase is set to be completed by December and will include new gaming options with a larger slot floor, a high-limit gaming area and a 12-table pit in addition to the current games already offered. The casino will also offer a new restaurant, lounge and gift shop.

    Phase II has a scheduled completion date in spring 2013 and includes a hotel with 118 guest rooms and 12 suites, a 600-space parking garage, a restaurant/entertainment space and an updated Centerstage multipurpose event room.

    The Pocola Casino is one of eight operated by the tribe. For more information visit


  • A Cultural Awakening – Keeping Choctaw Traditions Alive


    A Cultural Awakening – Keeping Choctaw Traditions Alive

    By LARISSA COPELAND Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    The rich and diverse culture and language of this country’s Native American people is more than something to be put on display at weekend craft shows and expos or a hobby to pass the time – it’s a livelihood, an identity. Unfortunately, for many tribes, pieces of that identity have been lost or have been faded throughout the generations, and the Choctaw Nation is no different.

    However, the Choctaw Nation is taking steps every day to reconnect current generations with their ancestral roots, and the tribe has placed the revitalization of its culture on the forefront of its priorities.

    “My long-term vision is that every generation in the future is more self-sufficient and successful than the generation preceding,” says Chief Gregory E. Pyle. “To achieve this, it is important we understand the culture and history of the Choctaw people. It is vital that the traditions of our great tribe be sustained.”

    Leaders of the tribe wanted to give members from coast to coast the opportunity to learn about and experience this living, thriving culture for themselves…so they took to the road. “Choctaw Days” is a name that has become synonymous with experiencing the culture and heritage of the Choctaw Nation. Choctaw Days festivals are celebrations of Choctaw history, art, dancing, language, music, food, and more, put on display at various locations across the nation and are presented by the passionate teachers, artists, dancers and craftsmen who make conserving Choctaw heritage a way of life.

    In the past year, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma hosted the second annual Choctaw Days festival at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., held Choctaw Day at the State Capitol of Oklahoma, in San Francisco, Calif., Denver, Colo., Bakersfield, Calif., and many more cities across the nation and have a busy schedule slated for the next year.

    An upcoming Choctaw Day event will be this Monday in Durant at Southeastern Oklahoma State University’s “Native November” celebration. The event is from 2:30-4:30 p.m. on Nov. 26 in the atrium of SE’s Glen D. Johnson Student Union, and will include demonstrations of Choctaw culture – including dancing, visual artists, beadwork, flute making, Choctaw language, storytelling and stickball. The event is free of charge and open to the public.

    Screen_shot_2012-11-21_at_1.28.34_PM Also, the Choctaw Casino Resort’s 8th Annual Pow Wow is on Nov. 23-24 at the Choctaw Event Center in Durant. This pow wow has grown to become one of the largest pow wows in the nation and, along with the two days of dancing and vendors to visit, it will be the setting for many enlightening cultural experiences that are open to anyone who wishes to attend and learn about the tribe’s rich heritage, including Choctaw social dance presentations by the Choctaw Employee Dance Troupe, which is a group of volunteers made up of tribal employees who perform and teach the traditional dances. Additionally, the Cultural Services Department will give stickball presentations and two stickball teams will play a stickball exhibition game across the street from the Event Center. The Historic Preservation Department will also be at the two-day pow wow, giving demonstrations and teaching historic lessons about Choctaw pottery for all who would like to experience and learn more about the ancient art.

    These actions are just a tiny snapshot of the huge picture; the efforts and undertaking the tribe is making to preserve its precious, priceless identity is vast and requires the dedication and hard work of so many.

    All across the Choctaw Nation, classes, large and small, formal and informal, are being held to help pass down the traditional ways of life of those who came before us and instill in the children the need to continue to pass on this knowledge for generations to come.

    From pottery and native art, to stickball and beadwork, the old ways of the Choctaw are making a comeback after being so close to becoming forgotten at one time.

    One sacred element to the Choctaw culture is its language. The native language is spoken in the homes of many Choctaws, and has even earned the distinction of being named the first Native American language to be offered as a minor at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. It is offered as a distance learning language option in more than 40 high schools and three colleges in Oklahoma as well.

    Screen_shot_2012-11-21_at_1.55.57_PMThe Choctaw Nation School of Choctaw Language offers classes, which are taught by certified language instructors who are eager to preserve and perpetuate the language and culture of the tribe. At present, the school has approximately 50 certified instructors who teach the language in communities all across the Choctaw Nation and beyond. For example, at the Choctaw Community Center in Antlers, certified language teacher Dora Wickson teaches two classes every week. Her beginner classes are on Mondays from 6 to 8 p.m., and advanced Choctaw classes are on Wednesday evenings from 6 to 8 p.m. These classes are open to the public. The course is 16 weeks long and is taught in four phases.

    “We just started up a new class and it’s not too late to join us,” said Wickson. “We would love to have anyone that is interested in speaking the language to come out and learn Choctaw!”

    The classes taught by Wickson and the numerous other certified Choctaw instructors are just one example of the numerous Choctaw language programs offered by the Choctaw Nation. To learn more, visit the School of Choctaw Language department website.

    Screen_shot_2012-11-21_at_1.45.19_PM Traditional Choctaw dance is now being highlighted as well, most recently with the Choctaw Employee Dance Troupe. The group, organized by Choctaw Nation Marketing Director Lana Sleeper, is made up of tribal employees, all who volunteer their time, spending many hours each month practicing and perfecting the traditional dances they perform at community functions, such as parades, festivals or anywhere the group is invited to attend around the tribal area. “We do a short presentation,” Sleeper explains, “telling the story of each dance, then explaining the steps. We then perform and we pull in people from the crowd and have them dance with us!”

    The dance group came about as part of Chief Pyle and Assistant Chief Batton’s cultural awakening initiative. “Only a small group of people knew these Choctaw social dances,” Sleeper continued, “and we wanted to spread that knowledge so that all Choctaws could learn the dances.”

    Sleeper started a social dance program in 2009, but on a smaller scale – at the tribe’s 13 Head Start centers, making weekly visits to the classrooms to teach the dances to the students. It was because of her experiences while teaching the youngsters that she was inspired to organize the employee dance troupe. “It was then that I saw how many others wanted to learn the dances too,” she says, and that is when the dance troupe was formed. Approximately 14 employees from various departments dance in the group, all dressed in traditional Choctaw clothing, all of which is handmade, from the Choctaw diamond shirts and dresses, to the intricate beaded collars, necklaces and earrings. “I’m hoping in time we’ll grow, with more employee volunteers joining the group and learning the dances,” says Sleeper.

    Also today, thanks to the nonprofit Chahta Foundation, the social dancing experience has now been extended even to those unable to attend the performances or presentations. The foundation recently produced an instructional dance DVD utilizing the talents of the group.

    “The Head Starts actually use the DVDs now too,” says Sleeper, “The teachers lead the lessons and we provide the shirts for the children.”

    The Choctaw Employee Dance Troupe will be performing in front of their largest audience to date as they perform in front of several thousand guests over the two-day span of the pow wow, and it will be the first time for the social dancing to be featured at the Durant event.

    Additionally, the Choctaw Nation Historic Preservation Department works adamantly to ensure the traditions of the tribe are not lost by doing its part to pass on the many trades and ancestral skills of the Choctaw. One such craft is pottery.

    The department hosts bi-weekly pottery classes in Antlers and Durant, free of charge for anyone who wants to attend and learn the skill. The two classes, held on alternating Thursdays, meet at the Antlers Public Library, located at 104 SE 2nd St., and in Durant at the Choctaw Cultural Services Building, at 4451 Choctaw Rd., from 5-8 p.m.

    Screen_shot_2012-11-21_at_1.10.39_PM Students of the classes, which are led by Director of Historic Preservation Dr. Ian Thompson, are taught the traditional Choctaw methods of digging clay, cleaning clay, and preparing the appropriate materials, such as sand or mussel shell, to mix with the clay. They also learn traditional methods for making different types of Choctaw pottery, the traditional designs used on the pottery, how to fire the pottery in a wood fire, and how to cook in and eat out of the finished pottery, according to Thompson.

    The class is open to and welcomes anyone, from beginner to advanced students, who are interested in learning the art of pottery. “The teachers and experienced students can teach people with any level of experience,” he says.

    The department also teaches pottery at various locations around the area as requested. In addition to the pow wow presentation they are also slated to give lessons later this month at a Choctaw language class in Sherman, Texas, and anytime when requested.

    Screen_shot_2012-11-21_at_1.56.43_PMIn addition to the pottery classes, Historic Preservation and Cultural Services departments teach many programs throughout the year on the cultural ways of the Choctaw including moccasin-making, archery, bow-making, beading and basketry classes.

    “We can also give presentations by request on the food, history and life ways of the Choctaw people,” says Thompson. More information can be found on the Choctaw Nation Cultural Services department website.

    Employees of the Choctaw Nation have embraced the tribal heritage and the tribe has officially made the first Monday of each month “Heritage Monday” at all its office buildings. On that day, employees put forth a conscious effort to dress traditionally, greet guests in the native language and share the unique Choctaw culture through social dancing, history and storytelling, songs, crafts and traditional food.

    No matter how large or small the endeavor, each act in this cultural awakening, this revitalization – this assurance that the history and characteristics that define who we are as a tribe and a people, are perpetuated, protected and maintained – will continue to be fuel in keeping the tribe alive and thriving for years to come and ensure a prosperous future generation of Choctaws.

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  • Southeastern OK State University hosts Choctaw Day on campus

    Ryan Spring shares his knowledge of Choctaw weaponry with Bradley McMillian and Paul Buntz.

    Southeastern OK State University hosts Choctaw Day on campus

    Students get a hands on experience with traditional Choctaw culture

    Southeastern Oklahoma State University’s (SE) observance of Native American History Month received a boost from the Choctaw Nation with a Choctaw Day event hosted on campus Monday, Nov. 26. Several cultural experts, artists and dancers filled the Glen D. Johnson Student Union atrium to share knowledge and demonstrate traditions of old.

    “It’s a great thing,” said SE student John Crews who expressed his satisfaction with the event. “Though I am a Choctaw, I don’t get much exposure to the culture, so this is absolutely wonderful,” he continued.

    Fellow student Erin McDaniel reflected the sentiment with, “It is really exciting to bring Choctaw culture to campus. In high school I didn’t get to experience it much, so having it on campus is great.”

    Choctaw Day at SE was a cooperative effort between the Choctaw Nation and SE’s Native American Center. “We thought it would be a nice thing to include in Native November events,” stated academic advisor for SE’s Native American Center, Chantelle Standefer.

    Previously in the month, Native American culture was celebrated with a host of events including “To Us It Wasn’t Code,” a play highlighting the Choctaw Code Talkers, a Native student visitation for high school students, and even traditional Choctaw cuisine served in the cafeteria.

    “I think a lot of people seemed to enjoy it,” said Standefer. The Native American Center has received positive feedback from those who were in attendance and look forward to another Choctaw Day in 2013.

    Monday’s event began in the early afternoon with Standefer presenting the opening remarks. She then turned over the mic to Choctaw language teacher, Lillie Roberts, who filled the room with the sounds of the Choctaw language as she lead the opening prayer, speaking in both Choctaw and English.


    Miss Choctaw Nation Cheyenne Murray then displayed her vocal talents as sang the Lord’s Prayer in Choctaw. Following the song, Roberts involved the audience by teaching a small lesson on the Choctaw language, encouraging everyone to speak to one another.

    Attention was then drawn to the middle of the room for the Choctaw dancers who demonstrated the Wedding, Stealing Partners and Snake dances. Many people were plucked from the crowd during the Stealing Partners and stayed to enjoy the Snake Dance.

    Brad Joe, who had chanted during the dances, remained in front of the mic where he performed Amazing Grace with a handmade Choctaw flute. Then storyteller Terri Billy shared her knowledge of several Choctaw tales and concluded the presentation of Choctaw Day.

    Visitors were then free explore various booths, ask questions and get a hands-on experience with Choctaw artifacts. Choctaw weaponry, pottery and basketry were among the exhibits.

    More information on the Choctaw culture can be found by visiting or by calling 800-522-6170.

    The Choctaw dancers get the crowd involved

  • Military mother's surprise Christmas homecoming

    Jennifer Rodriguez holds Josef as he meets her at the door.

    Military mother’s surprise Christmas homecoming

    Two young boys were overwhelmed when their Christmas wishes were granted early at the Choctaw Nation Head Start and Daycare in Durant. Their mother, Army 1st Lt. Jennifer Rodriguez, who has been deployed overseas since early 2012, surprised them during the center’s annual children’s Christmas program on Dec. 20.


    “I feel like my heart is going to jump out of my chest,” said Jennifer as she eagerly awaited the time when she could reveal herself to the boys.

    As the program came to an end, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” began to play and Jennifer walked through the door. Astonished, Jason, 6, and Josef, 4, almost seemed to not believe their eyes as they first gazed upon their mom.

    As the realization of who had arrived took hold, the boys jumped from their positions among the children. Their faces displaying a mix of disbelief and excitement, they ran to their mother in the midst of a great applause by those in attendance.

    The applause was loud and the hugs were long as shear joy of the reunion reminded the audience of how special the bond is between mother and child.

    Josef leapt into his mother’s arms and the two became inseparable. When asked what he was going to do with mommy now that she is back, his response was simply, “Gonna give her hugs.”


    Having their mother home was atop their Christmas list this year, making this a Christmas wish come true for both boys.

    Jennifer is stationed in New York, and will travel back to the Northeast with her boys near the end of the month, but not before spending Christmas with them and family in Oklahoma. The family has many fun events scheduled during this time, including taking the boys to a Dallas Cowboys game.

    Josef and Jason had been staying with their grandmother, Linda Gothard, in Durant since Jennifer left for duty in February. “I’m going to miss my boys, but I’m glad she is home,” stated Gothard, as she spoke about Josef and Jason going home with their mom.

    The reunion on Thursday night was not only the first time to see her children since she had returned, but also her entire family. When she arrived at the program many friends and family greeted her as she attempted to contain her excitement before seeing her children.

    After Jennifer was revealed, hugs, tears and affection surrounded her and the boys from family and friends alike. As the crowd cleared, Josef and Jason shared stories with their mother, telling her all the stories of how they missed her and their plans now that she has returned. Every onlooker could clearly see the joy in Jennifer’s face as she listened and held her little boys.

    The 28-year-old finance officer, who was stationed in Bagram, Afghanistan, during her deployment, had the idea of surprising her children for some time. She arrived back in the United States on Dec. 9, but had been at a demobilization site out-processing until her big debut. She had to be careful about her location when speaking to the boys over Skype, as to not clue them in on the pending Christmas surprise.


    Jennifer made plans to surprise them during a class period, but Donna Holder, director of the Choctaw Nation Day Care, suggested that she up the excitement and make it the showcase of the night at the Christmas program. The surprise was a success and everyone in attendance was able to witness a Christmas wish come true.

    Check out the video at KTEN or KXII’s websites by clicking the station name.

  • Choctaw Nation Strives to Improve Lives of Tribal and Non-Tribal Neighbors

    Choctaw Nation Strives to Improve Lives of Tribal and Non-Tribal Neighbors

    The Choctaw Nation is far more than the third largest tribe in the United States. It is also far more than an owner of casinos in Oklahoma. And far more than a sovereign government with more than 6,000 employees with a payroll approaching $300 million.

    The tribe, in fact, manages a rapidly diversifying group of businesses with a vast network of programs and initiatives that impact tribal and non-tribal people throughout the state and nation. In total the tribe’s activities and their indirect impact contribute nearly $2 billion in goods and services to the state’s economy.

    “The story of the Choctaw Nation is one of constantly striving to improve the lives of our tribal members and all Oklahomans,” said Chief Gregory E. Pyle, who has overseen the explosive economic growth and business diversification of the tribe for the last 15 years.

    Among the tribe’s non-gaming businesses are the nation’s leading Native American defense manufacturer, travel plazas, cattle ranches, a printing company, a major employment placement services for the federal government and others, a digital document storage company and others.

    The profits of the varied businesses fund medical care access, educational advancement, social services and economic development opportunities for Oklahoma residents and Choctaw Nation citizens. In 2010, the study said, direct payments of $235 million were designated for those activities. The Choctaw Nation also brought in $27 million in federal funds for road and infrastructure improvements that Oklahoma residents otherwise would have had to pay.

    “The Choctaw Nation is the biggest employer in Southeast Oklahoma and one of the biggest in the state,” said Assistant Chief Gary Batton. “We view that fact as a solemn responsibility to work with our neighbors, who are some of the poorest in the state, to improve economic conditions for the entire region.

  • Choctaw Nation Recycling to make an IMPACT in northeastern region of the Choctaw service area

    Choctaw Nation Recycling to make an IMPACT in northeastern region of the Choctaw service area

    Choctaw Nation Recycling will soon begin an ambitious new endeavor titled Choctaw Project IMPACT, which will focus on recycling efforts in the northeast portion of the Choctaw Nation.

    The project will allow for a recycling center, similar to the existing location in Durant, which will serve as a hub for all mobile rollaway receptacles located in the area and be able to compact materials.

    It is expected to be located in Poteau and functional in early January 2013, and will be able to process all types of paper, cardboard, tin/steel cans, aluminum cans, plastics (1, 2 and 5), printer cartridges and Styrofoam. It will be open to all residents and businesses in the community and is not limited to Choctaw Nation tribal members, employees or businesses.

    IMPACT will also hire two new employees, create opportunities to educate communities and host special collection activities much like those hosted in Durant.

    Collection events would include e-waste collection and recycling collection days where the staff will collect materials at a special location. Communities will be engaged by working with Girl/Boy Scouts, youth groups, senior citizens, etc., to help citizens learn more about the importance of recycling.

    IMPACT is funded by a grant issued to Choctaw Recycling by Administration for Native Americans (ANA), Social and Economic Development Strategies (SEDS). The grant is set for $151,280 for the first year and will be funded at approximately the same rate for two additional years.

    ANA is a part of the Department of Health and Human Services and has the mission to promote the goal of self-sufficiency for Native Americans by providing funding for community-based Matt_Toone_Recycling_web projects and for training and technical assistance to tribes and native organizations.

    “Through the grant we expect to reach around 120,000 people,” stated Director of Project Management Tracy Horst. This recycling program is aimed at providing education and collection activities to divert recyclable waste from landfills or being dumped through our communities. These types of efforts will “definitely make a positive impact on community health and well-being,” continued Horst.

    This effort will not only benefit the environment, but can also cut trash costs for businesses and individuals. Though Choctaw Nation already cooperates with businesses, it will be able to reach many more through the grant. “We look forward to speaking and working with clubs, schools and businesses within the northeast area of the Choctaw Nation,” remarked Horst.

    If you would like to know more about the Choctaw Nation’s recycling efforts and how you can help, contact Tracy Horst at (580) 920-0488 or (800) 522-6170.

    Matt Toone organizes shredded paper at the Durant Recycling Center.

  • 2013 Bow Shoot Schedule


  • Cultural Services Staff members attend Native American Museum Studies Institute

    Recently, two members of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Cultural Services team attended the Annual Native American Museum Studies Institute on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley. Sue Folsom, Executive Director of Cultural Services, and Shelley Garner, Director of CAAE, were two of twenty-five participants chosen from a nation-wide pool of applicants. Other tribes attending included Pawnee, Hopi, Sac & Fox, Fort Sill Apache, Costanoan Ohlone, Inupait, Oglala Lakota, Spokane Tribe of Indians and Barona Band of Mission Indians. Other participants were staff members from Mission San Francisco de Asis (Mission Delores), the Southern Ninesan Maidu Museum, the MACT Health Board and the Californian State Indian Museum.

    Folsom and Garner spent a week in intensive study with a wide array of tribal professionals and cultural innovators. The institute focused on topics related to the museum practices and cultural preservation. Presentation topics featured fundraising, grant writing, NAGPRA, museum curation, museum collections management software, conservation and care of objects, museum education and curriculum, museum law, exhibit design and digitizing collections. Also, on site clinics were held at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology (Berkeley) and Mission Delores (San Francisco).

    The goal of the Joseph A. Meyers Center for Research on Native American Issues is to assist tribal professionals in networking and learning from each other in a shared environment. The annual Museum Studies Institute aims to help those working specifically in tribal museums, cultural centers, archives and other similar institutions to increase their level of knowledge, share tribally specific issues dealing with collections and best practices, and create a strong network of tribal professionals.

    To learn more about Choctaw culture, visit . For details on the Joseph A. Meyers Center for Research on Native American Issues and the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues please visit .

  • Southeastern OK State University's Native American Center gets an upgrade

    Governor Bill Anoatubby,SE President Larry Minks, Chancellor Glen Johnson and Chief Gregory E. Pyle.

    Southeastern OK State University’s Native American Center gets an upgrade

    By BRET MOSS Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    Students at Southeastern Oklahoma State University (SE) in Durant can now experience an ease of access to many resources offered by the university with the opening of its new Center for Student Success.

    The center, located in the heart of the campus, is comprised of a group of campus programs, which includes the Native American Center for Student Success (NACSS), Academic Advising and Learning Center, among other programs. These university entities have been moved from separate parts of campus and brought together under one roof in the midst of the highest student traffic area on campus, meaning more attention and ease of access.

    A large crowd was on hand as the Center for Student Success officially opened its doors on Jan. 24 with a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony. The event began in the afternoon with a reception for guests, followed by a dedication service in the atrium of the student union. The sizable audience heard remarks from several state leaders, including Choctaw Nation Chief Gregory E. Pyle, Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby, Oklahoma State Regent John Massey and former SE president and current Chancellor of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education Glen D. Johnson.

    Following the dedication, patrons gathered to witness the ribbon cutting, officially opening of the newest addition to SE’s campus.

    Many students who toured the NACSS were pleased to see the new accommodations. “It looks good,” said Dakota Estrada who was quite excited to see where he would be spending his time. Student worker Hailey Cusher followed Estrada by mentioning she preferred the new location, noting it is much easier to find.

    The building that houses the center is the former location of the SE bookstore, which moved in 2007. The structure has since been unoccupied due to the requirement of extensive renovations. With those requirements fulfilled, activities will be able to occur in a prime position on campus, which is expected to draw more student interest.

    “It is easier for them to find us and I feel like I make more connections here. Having advising so close definitely helps,” said Erin McDaniel, a peer advisor for the Choctaw Scholarship Advisement Program whose office is housed in the center.

    The cohabitation of the building with other SE programs will allow more exposure of the center to Native students who may not have known the resources offered to them. The Academic Advising Center is a starting place for all new students, which had previously been on the opposite end of campus, meaning many new Native American students may have missed the original NACSS.

    Now that these departments are in the same building, these students are sure to be fully aware of this significant resource they have at their disposal. “I’ve been able to see a lot more Native American Students,” stated academic advisor for the NACSS, Chantelle Standefer.

    The previous NACSS helped to enroll students, assisted with schoolwork, and facilitated many events that promoted Native culture. The new facilities will serve all the same functions as well as add a computer lab, conference room, a lobby to serve as a meeting ground for Native American student groups, and more exposure for activities occurring there.

    The new center will help “us better serve Native American students and make them more aware of the resources available to them,” mentioned Standefer.

    Currently, 30 percent of student body is of Native American decent with Choctaw members comprising the largest of the tribes represented on campus. That 30 percent translates into about 1,100 students with Choctaws numbering over 500, according to Standefer. With Native American students being a large portion of the student body, the upgrade of the NACSS should see even more positive reception and use as time passes.

    The new NACSS is filled with cultural artifacts, the majority from the Choctaw Nation, with many donated by the tribe and tribal members. Choctaw baskets, artwork and other artifacts such as stickball sticks line walls and fill display cabinets.

    The renovation and relocation of offices was made possible by a combination of a U.S. Department of the Education grant written by SE staff and Chris Wesberry, director of the NACSS, and contributions from SE and other sources. The grant is currently in its second year of its five-year term with a goal of increasing the number of Native American graduates.

    To find out more, visit NAC’s web page.


  • Preparation is key to success

    Choctaw Nation Chief Gregory E. Pyle adds his signature to resolutions approved during the Five Civilized Tribes Inter-Tribal General Session on Friday in Durant. Photo by LISA REED/Choctaw Nation

    Preparation is key to success

    Economic development important to future of Oklahoma’s tribes

    By LISA REED Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    A recurring theme emerged as leaders of the Five Civilized Tribes explored the future – the necessity of expanding economic development.

    The Five Civilized Tribes Inter-Tribal Council met for two days in Durant, the top objective to improve services for their people. With expected cuts to federal budgets, the tribal representatives focused on how to continue programs providing assistance, health benefits, education and cultural awareness.

    “The Inter-Tribal Council is one of the oldest organizations in Indian Country,” said Choctaw Nation Chief Gregory E. Pyle. “The unified effort of members of the council and its delegates is important in our communication on a state and federal level.”

    A full day of committee discussions on Thursday opened the third quarterly meeting of the Inter-Tribal Council since it reconvened in June 2012. Staff from the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Seminole and Muscogee-Creek Nations formed work groups to share information and ideas on boosting tourism, housing, social services, communication technology, cultural preservation, transportation and more.

    Pyle welcomed nearly 200 in attendance Friday at the council’s general session in the Choctaw Resort’s conference area. He highlighted the Choctaw Nation’s top priorities – education, health and jobs. The expansion of tribal business is vital to the success of enhancing the lives of tribal members. The impact is good for Oklahoma as well, providing much-needed jobs and generating positive economic activity.

    Seminole Nation Chief Leonard Harjo, who has worked at the executive level for over 20 years, commented on the growth and progress among the five tribes, commending his peers for the strides that have been made carrying their people forward.

    “We are well on the way to achieving our dreams,” he said of the Seminole Nation. “We opened the second expansion phase of our Seminole language immersion school two weeks ago. We will be able to have 18 children in the full immersion environment five days a week.”

    Funding is available to provide classrooms and develop curriculum through third grade and the next phase will expand the immersion school through the sixth grade. Their goal is to eventually have a full immersion school available for pre-K through 12th grade.

    “I have challenged our language program to create the opportunity for our tribal youth to be bilingual within 20 years,” Harjo said.

    The commercial efforts of the tribes are what make this possible, especially with the looming issues of probable federal funding cuts due to the fiscal cliff. It will have an effect on everyone. Preparation is the key.

    “Tribes are able to step up and help the federal government with the funding process,” explained Chickasaw Gov. Bill Anoatubby. By making choices and prioritizing, the tribes can still do what is needed because of the income from their businesses. Anoatubby said he remembers what it used to be like and is thankful for where the tribes are today. When the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975 was implemented, a lot of changes took place in Indian Country.

    “Today, we can say self-determination works, self-governance works,” he said.

    Expanding tourism is a fast-growing solution to generating economic growth. Each tribal leader talked about the progress in Oklahoma, listing new ventures under way including unique enterprises such as the Chickasaw Nation’s Welcome Center at the intersection of Interstate 35 and Highway 7. The Chickasaws’ Bedré Chocolate factory will be relocated to the new center, considered a “gateway for travelers.”

    “When our tribes are successful, Oklahoma is successful,” said Muscogee-Creek Chief George Tiger, who is currently serving as chairman of the Inter-Tribal Council’s executive committee. The Muscogee-Creek Nation is following a new path in developing a Department of Energy and establishing a utility company. Tiger said small business is also a driving force in Indian Country and has partnered with Oklahoma Small Business Development Center to assist tribal citizens with starting a business.

    He introduced U.S. Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn who reiterated the importance of increasing tribal land and employment. Washburn told the group that around 197,000 acres had been restored to tribes in trust status last year. “We consider restoring the land to tribal homelands one of our great successes,” Washburn said. “We want to keep that success going forward.”

    The tribes are striving to maintain the upward momentum – a force fueling the prosperity of communities throughout the state.

    Inter-Tribal Council approves resolutions

    • Res. 13-01 – establishing a Standing Committee of Social Services to address issues concerning the social and economic well-being of Indian communities.

    • Res. 13-02 – in support of the position of the Indian Child Welfare Act and of the position of the Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation citizens concerning the case of Adoptive Couple vs. Baby Girl, et al.

    • Res. 13-03 – supporting and urging the Oklahoma Supreme Court and the Oklahoma Board of Bar Examiners work together with the Oklahoma Bar Association Indian Law Section to include Indian law principles and subject matter on the Oklahoma Bar Exam.

    • Res. 13-04 – to establish a Standing Enrollment Committee, recognizing that tribal enrollment is the baseline for the Nations to exercise sovereignty, perform commerce-related activities, preserve and protect culturally significant sites; and the vital role of enrollment services and their contributions to each tribe’s sovereignty and existence.

    • Res. 13-05 – establishing a standing committee who addresses regulations and issues pertaining to the field of environmental protection.

    • Res. 13-06 – establishing a Standing Committee of Health to address health-related policies and programs promoting the common welfare of American Indians.

    • Res. 13-07 – supporting negotiated rulemaking of the Native American Housing and Self Determination Act (NAHASDA).

    • Res. 13-08 – establishing a Standing Realty Trust Services Committee.

    • Res. 13-09 – recommending and addressing the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act.

    • Res. 13-10 – to continue financial support for the annual To Bridge a Gap Conference during which the U.S. Forest Service, tribal governments and federal agencies and offices gather to discuss issues relevant to historic preservation and Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).

    • Res. 13-11 – supporting the position of the Cherokee Nation in opposition to the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit’s application of ex parte Young to tribal sovereignty.

    The Cherokee Nation is scheduled to host the next quarterly meeting of the Inter-Tribal Council in April.

  • Choctaw Nation visits San Diego and Phoenix

    Miss Choctaw Nation Cheyenne Murray and Melissa Jones keep up the pace in the Snake Dance.
    Click the link below for a video


    Choctaw Nation heads west to revive culture

    By BRET MOSS Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    Choctaw Nation traveled west last weekend to visit tribal members in San Diego, Calif., and Phoenix, Ariz., all in an effort to bring members of the tribe together and revive the ways of the traditional Choctaw.

    Many Choctaws from both locations gathered to meet with Chief Gregory E. Pyle, Assistant Chief Gary Batton and cultural experts from among the tribe. Patrons who had signed up in advance were able to attend a bead working class facilitated by members of the Cultural Services Department.

    “It’s fun, I think I have a new hobby,” said Kimberly Kogler of Oceanside, Calif., as she concentrated on her beading project. Kimberly attended the event with her mother to satisfy their yearning to learn more about their heritage. “We always look for the Southern California Choctaw events so we can go,” continued Kimberly.


    “I have always seen these [type] earrings and wondered how they are made,” said Leilani Hernandez of Phoenix, who came with her good friend, Summer Alahdali. Both girls were excited to learn a new skill, stating, “This might inspire me to do more beading.”

    Larry Lambert, a Phoenix resident and new member of the Choctaw Nation, was also in attendance for the beading class. “It is an art and people that do that have lots of patience,” he stated.

    “I couldn’t make it to Oklahoma, so I am glad you came here,” said Larry, who had looked forward to the meeting and learning about many different aspects of his Choctaw heritage. He mentioned that he had been reading a copy of the Choctaw dictionary, studying the language of his tribe, and was excited to speak with language experts.

    “If you are lucky enough to have ancestors who are Native Americans, take advantage of it,” said Larry as he discussed how proud he was of his lineage, and the rich background that comes with a family tree with native roots.

    Along with the revived traditions and knowledge brought by the Choctaw Nation to the west, another benefit for patrons of these meetings was the gathering of locals with similar heritage. As the meetings hit their attendance peak, hundreds of Choctaws accumulated, displaying just how large a portion of the local population shares the same background.

    Two guests of the meeting with a distinguished history, Anna Hennessy and Barbara Weaver, attribute their friendship to a Choctaw connection. Nearly two years ago, Anna placed a note on Barbara’s car window telling her that she was Choctaw and left contact info. The two met up and have been friends ever since, attending Choctaw functions together.

    “I was parked at a shopping mall parking lot, and when I came out I found a note on the window that said, ‘I am Choctaw also,’” stated Barbara. Anna knew of Barbara’s connection to the Choctaw Nation because of a Choctaw vanity plate. “I got out of my car, was walking across the parking lot, and right there, ‘Choctaw,’” exclaimed Anna. “I could not pass that up,” she continued.

    Local Choctaw artist George Willis was able to demonstrate his talents to those in attendance of the San Diego meeting. George resides in Carlsbad, Calif., and is a craftsman who makes jewelry and small sculptures from an array of raw materials.


    “I work in a lot of different ways,” George stated. Many techniques are used in his pieces, including what he calls, pierce and apply, which he utilizes when creating his pictorial artwork from multiple sheets of metal. He cuts the scene from one piece of metal and then carefully applies it to another with a strong form of solder, then adds the details and texture by hand.

    When making scenic pieces, George always includes a piece of gold in a tiny detail in his work. He is also very precise in how he depicts his scenes. “I have more research time than bench time,” he stated as he explained that a great deal of time goes into finding out how to correctly depict his subjects. George elaborated on a particular piece, which included Choctaw Code Talkers, saying he had to pay attention to every detail, from the guns used to the hats worn in the set.

    George is also quite skilled with buffalo horn. He is able to transform a rugged and harsh horn into a beautiful piece of jewelry. Precise cutting and sanding are involved in this work, which he mentioned could create quite a stench. George laughed as he told about the smell, but admitted the end product was well worth the toil.

    The meetings also featured an opening prayer, presented in both English and Choctaw, a language lesson from Choctaw language instructor Lillie Roberts, dances from the Choctaw traditional dancers and musical entertainment provided by chanter and bead artist Brad Joe and Miss Choctaw Nation Cheyenne Murray.


    “It was really fun,” mentioned San Diego resident Sara Shelden, who was “stolen” during the Stealing Partners dance and tested her speed in the Snake dance. Sara was one of many audience members who were able to actively participate during the demonstration of the age-old ways.

    In the midst of the occasion, Chief Pyle and Assistant Chief Batton spoke to their fellow Choctaws, telling them of the many strides the Choctaw Nation is making, not only in keeping its culture alive, but flourishing in present customs. Chief Pyle spoke of the Choctaw businesses’ ability to turn a profit during a recession and the programs that were made possible by the success of Choctaw endeavors.

    He made mention of programs such as the STAR Program that encourages Choctaw students everywhere to participate and try their best in school, leading to brighter futures for the youth of the nation. He spoke of opportunities provided by programs and what it means in the lives of the Choctaw people.

    Among all the activities provided, a favorite of the crowd was getting to speak and take a picture with Chief Pyle and Assistant Chief Batton. Guests were able to meet and visit with both before and after the meeting, sharing stories of their families, histories, as well as compliments and concerns for the tribe.

    “It is always good to get a perspective from our members who are not here in Oklahoma. They are a big part of the tribe and we want to reach out to them as well, stated Chief Pyle as he spoke about his trip west. “It was a great trip. I’m glad we are able to bring our culture across the United States,” he concluded.

    To keep up to date with the latest in Choctaw information and more pictures visit, our Facebook page, and our Twitter page.

    Chief Pyle and Adolphus Lee, 80, have their picture taken at the Mesa meeting. Adolph was born in Oklahoma and moved to Arizona when he was a young child.

  • Sidney’s Sticks


    Sidney’s Sticks

    By LISA REED, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    “Sidney White sticks” – It’s a term synonymous with perfection to most who play stickball.

    Born in 1889, Sidney White lived a long and active life and is well-known for his expertise in many things, but especially for the strong, distinctive sticks he made for stickball players. There aren’t many of Sidney’s sticks around any more. Those in possession of them know what a treasure they have.

    A pair of Sidney’s sticks hangs in the Choctaw Nation Capitol Museum.

    “Daddy never made a pair of sticks he didn’t intend to be played with,” said Folsom White of Clayton, remembering the care his father put into creating each one. Folsom and his mother, Mary, recently sat in the living room of her home in Tuskahoma and shared memories of working alongside Sidney. Their main contribution was to cut hickory trees and split the wood.

    “We didn’t have chainsaws,” Folsom explained about this time as a young boy in the ’60s and ’70s. “We used crosscut saws, wedges, sledge hammers. Me and Mama would use the crosscut saws to cut down the trees.”

    Screen_shot_2013-02-27_at_1.20.42_PM Mary chimed in with a laugh and said she was always scared of the falling trees. Folsom and Mary did what they could to help, though.

    Once the tree had been split and Sidney had rasped a piece down to the thickness he wanted, he would rub used motor oil on the wood.

    After building a fire, Sidney would heat the stick then rub the motor oil deep into the grain, heat then rub. He would start bending one end a little at a time to form the cup, adding just the right bit of flare to make the stick better at handling the ball.

    “The prettiest sticks Daddy made were when he used heat and oil,” Folsom described. The oil would seep deep into the wood and as the sticks aged, the oil would become dark-ribboned patterns.

    “He would go to boot shops and different places to get good scrap leather,” Folsom said. “He had a little knife about that long,” his fingers drawing a 3- to 4-inch half-of-a-heart-shaped blade in the air. “Daddy would tie the leather around a tree or something stationary, hold that knife straight out in front of him and walk backwards – 100 to 200 feet if he had room. That’s how he cut the strips of leather.”

    The leather is used to make a lacing inside the cup and for holding down the end of the stick as it loops around.

    Screen_shot_2013-02-27_at_1.19.12_PM Every one of Sidney’s sticks took on a unique shape. He didn’t make them in pairs. He would finish one and set it aside. When he was ready – sometimes two, three or four weeks later – he would make a stick to pair with another.

    “When he made sticks that were a good pair, you could set your hand down on that thumb,” Folsom’s left hand met his right thumb as he held two sticks up, “and the cups would fit together, with one about 3/4 inch longer.”

    Sidney’s knowledge of the game was ingrained in his very being as deeply as the texture weaving through the hickory he used. He wrote two publications about the game, “Stickball” and “Tolih.”

    A descriptive excerpt from “Stickball” reads:

    “In my time an Indian ball game was equal to a county picnic. A lemonade stand or two were set up. A watermelon farmer would bring a wagonload of melons and sell out during the game. A hard-fought or well-matched game would often last a whole afternoon.

    “The people would travel in wagons, buggies and on horseback and pitch two separate campgrounds near springs or on the banks of two clear water streams in order to have good camp water.

    “Small personal articles were bet on a game of tolih. A man rode at high speed on a good horse from camp to camp to collect the bets. Horses were bet and guns of all styles and calibers. Then all articles were put in a bounty wagon near the middle ground. …”

    Folsom said there wasn’t a lot of interest in playing stickball when he was young, but his dad would gather up some of the boys and try to get them to play. Sidney would have been about 80 years old at that time.

    It was a team sport, but more about one-on-one competition back then, utilizing each player’s individual skills. Sidney would line the kids up and let them know who was responsible for defending another player.

    Sidney taught them how to throw, how to pick up the ball with the sticks while on the run. He taught them to play hard but wouldn’t tolerate intentionally hurting other players.

    “When (David) Gardner was elected chief, Cleland Billy and a teacher from Jones also got involved,” Folsom said. “Once other adults were involved, a stickball team was put together. During warm months we would meet at the Council House.”

    Folsom was among a small group invited to play stickball during the United States’ Bicentennial Celebration on July 4, 1976, in Washington, D.C.

    “For a young country kid, it was something else,” Folsom said, still feeling the excitement of being a 17-year-old on a trip across the country to the nation’s capitol. “It was a good experience. All of the Civilized Tribes had a team there.”

    The stickball teams took turns in round-robin play where each team competed against each other once, demonstrating the game of their ancestors beside the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall.

    “We had some good games,” Folsom remembered, “and the Creek team gave us some competition,” he added with a laugh.

    “We started showing off a bit and would get set up with someone on the other team. We would knock each other into the pool. We also broke the goal down once. We had a great time!”

    A difference noted in the game then compared to today’s way of playing is that no one blocked the goal. It remained open. Sidney would tell the players that hitting the goal was part of the skill they wanted to show each other and the public. To make a score or “kill the ball” it should strike the pole on the facing side and fall to the ground in the inner court. Teams now have goalies.

    Also in Sidney’s time, players could throw the sticks and the ball up against the goal to score which isn’t allowed today.

    Choctaw historian Olin Williams said change comes with every generation.

    “Anything that’s alive grows and changes,” Williams explained. “After stickball became looked at more as a sport, changes began taking place. Each generation adds something they see of value.”

    Sidney White added more than his share to stickball during his lifetime. He contributed to the history of the tribe’s ancestral game both in the ways he taught and in the beautifully crafted sticks, testament to his deep understanding of what it means to play.


  • Atoka community leaders install six new storm shelters

    Community leaders from the Atoka area dedicate one of the six storm shelters at the Hillcrest Baptist Church in Atoka.

    Atoka community leaders install six new storm shelters

    By BRET MOSS Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    Though it has been nearly two years since an EF3 tornado marred the city of Tushka, work towards full recovery and heightened safety measures have not ceased in Atoka County. Community leaders gathered March 5 to dedicate six new storm shelters dispersed throughout the Tushka/Atoka area.

    The shelters are large underground cellars designed to hold a considerable number of people in case of another tornado. They are located at:

    • Pleasant View Freewill Baptist Church located at 503 Star Rd., Atoka

    • New Zion Methodist Church located on Boggy Depot Rd. East, near Forrest Hill Rd.

    • Posey Park located on the East side of Atoka on the corner of Kentucky and B St.

    • The old Choctaw Community Center located at 1410 S. Gin Rd., Atoka

    • Southside Baptist Church located at 1200 South McNally Dr., Atoka

    • Hillcrest Baptist Church located at 335 E Highway 3, Atoka

    Two of the shelters measure 6-by-6-by-16 ft., with the remaining four measuring 6-by-6-by-24 ft. All shelters are FEMA approved and are highly capable of protecting occupants from strong winds. The cellars are buried deep in the ground with concrete filling the bottom portion around the metal casing, anchoring it firmly in the earth.

    According to Pastor Victor Cook, member of Atoka County Tornado Organization for Recovery (ACTOR), the shelters are designed to comfortably hold 12 people in the smaller cellars and 25 in the large ones. He went on to mention that even though these were the numbers assigned to the shelters, many more would be able to access safety during emergencies.

    The shelters were purchased from Standard Machine in McAlester and installed by Keith Southerland, both of whom, according to Cook, worked favorable deals for the community. The purchasing and installation price summed up to $50,480, slightly more than the funds remaining from the Reba McIntire and Blake Shelton benefit concerts hosted at the Choctaw Event Center following the devastation of 2011.

    Picking up the remainder of the bill was the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. “We are so grateful for the Choctaw Nation, we couldn’t have done this without them,” said ACTOR member Dr. Steve Havener, as he addressed Choctaw Nation’s Atoka County Councilman Anthony Dillard during the dedication. “We do appreciate all the tribe has done,” echoed LaQuita Thornley.

    “Everybody has really been excited to get the cellars,” stated Cook. It is going to benefit a lot of people, because many residents don’t have their own storm shelters, he continued as he discussed the community’s need for this improvement.

    According to Cook, the locations were selected based on the disbursement throughout the community as well as the availability of entities to maintain and supervise them. He stated that the churches and the city have been cooperative in accepting responsibility for the shelters, both in the upkeep and manning them in cases of emergency.

    The installment of the shelters came as the third project made possible by the benefit concerts, where over $500,000 was raised. The first two projects were to first get people back into their homes and second to clean up the immediate devastation.

    These first two steps were extensive, requiring both a large amount of time and money. Through this work, the ACTOR was assembled. ACTOR has been behind much of the recovery and the planning for future readiness. ACTOR was formed by INCA Community Services, a national community action agency that took the reins once FEMA finished its immediate aid.

    INCA has been the administration behind much of the relief efforts. It organized volunteer work, making sure everyone was working in the most effective way to rebuild, and handled the funds used to do such work. Six core personnel with 30 volunteers comprise the INCA efforts involved in rebuilding the Tushka area. INCA also assisted ACTOR by coordinating bids for the shelters and helping find the locations.

    To find out more, visit INCA’s web page. and visit Standard Machine’s web page.

  • Rattan school wins JOM exemplary school award

    Chief Gregory E. Pyle, Rattan’s JOM Coordinator Felicia Morse, Superintendent Shari Pillow, Vice Chairperson Roseanna Sorrells, Chairperson Kendra Taylor and Choctaw Nation Sr. Director of JOM Rebecca Hawkins display the award for exemplary school.

    Rattan school wins JOM exemplary school award

    By BRET MOSS Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    The Muscogee (Creek) Nation hosted the 2013 Johnson-O’Malley (JOM) Awards Banquet to honor the exemplary JOM programs from each of the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma. The meeting was held on March 5 at the Tulsa Renaissance Convention Center and featured an invocation by tribal princesses from all nations represented.

    Chief Gregory E. Pyle and a number of the Choctaw Tribal Council were in attendance to display their support for the JOM program and education of Native students. District 7 Councilman Jack Austin was especially proud of the Rattan JOM program from his area, which won this year’s exemplary JOM Program Award from the Choctaw Nation.

    “It is a testimony to what great services we provide to our Native American students,” said Rattan School Superintendent Shari Pillow. “It makes me very proud of our school,” she continued. Pillow was accompanied in accepting the award by Rattan’s JOM Coordinator Felicia Morse, Chairperson Kendra Taylor and Vice Chairperson Roseanna Sorrells.

    June Praytor, member of the Joint Tribes Planning Committee, presented Rattan’s JOM associates the award, making note of the longevity and consistency of the program’s uninterrupted service to Native students. She mentioned that though the down economy funding has caused difficulties in the realm of education, Rattan’s JOM program has done an exceptional job providing steady support for Native students.

    The evening served as a conclusion to a two-day JOM gathering and was complete with entertainment from flutist Rev. Nelson Harjo and musicians Julian B and Nokvs Haga. Tickets were drawn for door prizes as well as items raffled to raise money for educational programs.

    Muscogee (Creek) Principal Chief George Tiger addressed the audience, expressing his appreciation for all in attendance. “I feel like we have been invaded by Choctaws,” he jested as he acknowledged the strong Choctaw presence at the banquet. He continued by stating that the turnout was a testament to how much the Choctaw Nation cares about education.

    To find out more, visit JOM’s web page.

  • **Salt pork and the pursuit of sweet tea**

    © Vonna Shults, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Biskinik

    Bacon. Bacon is everywhere. We see bacon on our breakfast plates, on our cheeseburger at lunch, wrapped around a filet mignon for dinner, and we may enjoy bacon-flavored ice cream for dessert. Folks love the flavor of bacon, have their preference for the wood used to smoke it, and have a favorite brand. Chahta people love to gather together with friends and family to socialize with each other and more often than not, food is shared. One of the most popular Choctaw foods can easily be described as “bacon on steroids” and we call it salt pork. My first experience with salt pork came many years ago in the heart of Jayhawk country in Lawrence, Kan. I had traveled there with a group of fellow Choctaw Nation employees to attend a community meeting with nearby Choctaw families. While we were there, a local Choctaw group invited us to eat a traditional meal at their church. I was so excited because I never had the pleasure of enjoying a traditional Choctaw dinner before. As I watched them prepare the food, I noticed one gentleman carefully watching over a Dutch oven and ever so often he would very carefully remove some sort of fried food. I was not close enough to tell exactly what he was preparing, so I assumed by the size of the portion and the hot grease that he was preparing fried catfish for all of us to enjoy. I love to eat catfish, as most Oklahomans do, and I was thrilled to enjoy one of my favorite foods for dinner. Finally, we were called over to eat. We were instructed to go through the line to fix ourselves a plate. I stacked plenty of this “catfish” on my plate. As I took the first bite, I noticed right away that it was very salty and tasted a lot like bacon! I made the comment to my co-worker about how my “catfish” tasted and she immediately burst into laughter at my ignorance. She quickly let me know that I was not eating catfish, but salt pork. I felt like a fool, but I was a happy fool because in my mistake I had gotten plenty of this delicious creation for myself. I ate and savored every morsel. After our dinner, we then greeted all of the guests that had traveled to come to the meeting. My responsibility at the meeting was to take photos of anyone who wanted a photo with Chief Pyle. We would then print the photo out for you to take home that evening. It was at the beginning of the photo session when I realized my mistake in eating so much salt pork – it makes you very thirsty. Desperately, I searched to see if I had any sweet tea left to drink. It was empty. I then searched to see if my co-worker had any tea remaining. Her glass was also empty. At this point I am desperate. My thirst had made my mouth feel as dry as C-3PO’s joints as he crossed the Tatooine desert. I wondered why my fellow co-workers had not warned me as they sat next to me at dinner about the perils of eating too much salt pork. I made a mental note to question them thoroughly, but right now finding something to drink was my number one priority. I turned to check on my waiting guests, the thirsty part of me hoping for a small line of people who were willing to wait their turn with Chief. No such luck, the line is out the door of the church. Finally, the last photo is taken and printed. I sprint from the sanctuary of the church and used their kitchen faucet as a drinking fountain. Never has there been a time that tap water tasted as good as what I was drinking directly from the faucet, using my hand as a cup. Did I even bother to wash my hands? I do not know, nor did I care. As I was leaving the meeting, I felt much better. As we walked out of the church, I thanked the elders for the meal they had worked so hard to provide for us and told them next time I would only eat two small slices of salt pork. I told them what had happened to me earlier and how much salt pork I had eaten. They were very gracious and did their best not to laugh out loud at me. We then bid each other “chi pisa la chike.” I knew after that evening that salt pork, in small portions, was a very delicious addition to a meal. It is a true delicacy of the Chahta people. Only now I needed to learn how to prepare it for my family…

  • The dangers of distracted driving

    The dangers of distracted driving

    Screen_Shot_2013-03-14_at_9.04.20_AM With ever increasing demands on our personal and professional time in today’s busy society, learning to juggle multiple tasks at once is something we all face daily. As a result, a new traffic safety epidemic has emerged on America’s roadways that demands immediate attention: distracted driving.

    In 2010, 3,092 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver. One of the most alarming and widespread forms of distracted driving is cell phone usage. According to a Carnegie Mellon study, driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent. And a report from the National Safety Council found that more than one out of every four traffic accidents is caused by people talking on cell phones or sending text messages.

    “Distracted driving is an epidemic on America’s roadways, and we’re doing our part to help put an end to it,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “Texting and cell phone use while driving is extremely dangerous, and we know simply getting drivers to turn their phones off when they get behind the wheel will make our roads significantly safer.”

    Text messaging is of heightened concern because it combines three types of distraction – visual, manual and cognitive. In other words, texting involves taking your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, and your mind off the task of driving.

    To tackle this ever-increasing problem, NHTSA is focusing on ways to change the behavior of drivers through legislation, enforcement, public awareness and education—the same tactics that have curbed drinking and driving and increased seat belt use.

    “Decades of experience with drunk driving and getting people to buckle up has taught us it takes a consistent combination of public education, effective enforcement, a committed judiciary, and the collective efforts of local, state, and national advocates to put a dent in the problem,” said LaHood.

    NHTSA’s message is simple – “One Text or Call Could Wreck it All.” With supporters ranging from President Obama to Oprah and legislation being passed across the nation to discourage distracted driving, we hope drivers get the message loud and clear.

    So the next time you are pressed for time, and it seems like multitasking in the car is the best decision, remember those 3,092 lives that were taken because someone decided they could do two things at once. A text or call is not worth your life, or anyone else’s.

    Article submitted by Cassandra Herring Choctaw Nation Injury Prevention, originally published on’s website.

  • Choctaw University receives prestigious award

    Jack Hedrick, Choctaw University Program Manager; Dr. Aaron Adair, Dean of Adult and Distance Education at Southeastern Oklahoma State University; and Tana Sanders, Director of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Learning & Development Department accept the award on behalf of Choctaw University in Manhattan, Kansas.

    Choctaw University receives prestigious award

    Choctaw University, in partnership with Southeastern Oklahoma State University, has won the Distinguished Program-Credit Category Award for the Great Plains Region from the Association of Continuing Higher Education (ACHE), Inc. The ACHE Great Plains Region includes: Iowa, Kansas, Manitoba, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Saskatchewan, South Dakota, and Western Ontario.

    Established in 2012, Choctaw University’s mission is to empower associates who are committed to personal and professional growth in their career. It provides educational and leadership-building opportunities. At the conclusion of Choctaw University’s first year, 73 associates completed the Leadership series and over 100 associates completed the Continuing Education series.

    “Choctaw University has well exceeded our expectations,” said Chief Gregory E. Pyle. “It has been embraced by our associates on several levels and thanks to Southeastern, students are also earning college credits.”

    The Award was presented during the 2013 ACHE Great Plains Spring Conference on the campus of Kansas State University on March 7, 2013. Choctaw University is now eligible for recognition at the National Level. The National Award will be presented at the Annual ACHE Conference and Meeting in Lexington, KY in November 2013.

    Dr. Aaron Adair, Dean of Adult and Distance Learning from Southeastern Oklahoma State University, commented, “We’re now the ‘Award-Winning’ Choctaw University Executive Leadership Program!”

    The Association for Continuing Higher Education, Inc. (ACHE) is an institution-based organization of colleges, universities, and individuals dedicated to the promotion of lifelong learning and excellence in continuing higher education. ACHE encourages professional networks, research, and exchange of information for its members and advocates continuing higher education as a means of enhancing and improving society.

  • Chief Gregory E. Pyle inducted into the Durant Area Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame

    Chief Pyle addresses the audience as he accepts his award.

    Chief Gregory E. Pyle inducted into the Durant Area Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame

    Choctaw Nation Chief Gregory E. Pyle was inducted into the Durant Area Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame on Friday, March 15, during the chamber’s annual banquet.

    Chief Pyle was recognized for his outstanding efforts in bringing prosperity to the Durant and Bryan County area. “No one deserve this more than you do for leadership in this area,” stated 2013 Executive Committee President James Dunegan.

    Also inducted were notable Durant area leaders, Leon Sherrer, owner of Sherrer’s Diner, and Rev. Ross Kirven. The 2013 inductees mark the third year the chamber has honored area leaders with the Hall of Fame awards, with Chief Pyle being the sixth to earn such an honor.

    Janet Reed, executive director for the chamber, held all three inductees in high regard stating, “They have given tremendously of themselves and their businesses.”

    Read more about the night’s events and awards from the Durant Daily Democrat.

  • Choctaw University students visit the Oklahoma State Capitol


    Choctaw University students visit the Oklahoma State Capitol

    Students of the award-winning Choctaw University were invited to Oklahoma City on Tuesday, March 26, to tour the Oklahoma State Capitol and visit with members of the Senate and House of Representatives. Five Choctaw University students, Christina Black, Nick Cody, Audrey Jacob, Darenda Joseph, and Melissa Stevens, traveled to the State Capitol, along with Choctaw U faculty members, Judy Morgan and Becky Parker.

    The trip was donated by The Sullivan Agency of Ardmore in conjunction with Ardmore Main Street Authority. The Choctaw Nation associates were greeted at the State Capitol campus by the Executive Director of Ardmore Main Street Authority, Julie Patterson, and then introduced to legislators representing Southeastern Oklahoma. The group was taken on a guided tour and treated to lunch, where they had the opportunity to visit with Senator Josh Brecheen and Representative Dustin Roberts.

    Choctaw University’s mission is to empower associates who are committed to personal and professional growth in their career. It provides educational and leadership-building opportunities. Choctaw University Program Manager Jack Hedrick emphasized this point stating, “Leadership opportunities like this are a great example of the holistic approach to learning envisioned by Choctaw University.”

  • AT&T to offer discount to tribal members

    Please visit the information page to see if your family will be able to benefit from this discount from AT&T.
    At&T Discount for tribal members

  • Districts schedule 2013 Princess Pageants


    Districts schedule 2013 Princess Pageants

    The District Princess Pageants are scheduled! Young ladies will be chosen in three age groups to represent their district for the next year. The winners in each district will then vie for the titles of Little Miss, Junior Miss and Miss Choctaw Nation during the Labor Day Pageant Aug. 29 at Tvshka Homma.

    Judging for the District Junior and Senior Miss Princesses will be based on four events – beauty and personality, traditional talent, goals as a princess, and traditional Choctaw dress (fabric type excluded).

    Contestants for District Little Miss Princess will be judged on two categories – beauty and personality, and traditional Choctaw dress (fabric type excluded).

    Following are a list of the pageants and requirements to run in each category.

    District 1
    May 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in Idabel. Deadline for applications is May 6. For more information, please call 580-286-6116.

    District 2
    May 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the Investment Center in Broken Bow. Applications may be picked up at the McCurtain County Boys and Girls Club or Bethel field office. Deadline for applications is noon on May 1. For more information, please call 580-584-3636.

    District 3
    May 14 at 6 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in Talihina. Deadline for applications is May 7. For more information, please call 918-567-2106.

    District 4
    May 25 at 2 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in Poteau. Deadline for applications is May 3. For more information, please call 918-647-9324.

    District 5
    May 8 at 1 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in Stigler. Deadline for applications is April 24. For more information, please call 918-967-2398.

    District 6
    May 11 at 4 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in Wilburton. Deadline for applications is May 3. For more information, please call 918-465-2389.

    District 7
    May 26 at 3 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in Antlers. Deadline for applications is 3 p.m. on May 17. For more information, please call 580-298-3856 or 580-981-7011.

    District 8
    May 30 at 6 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in Hugo. Deadline for applications is May 17. For more information, please call 580-326-3528.

    District 9
    May 31 at 5:30 p.m. at the Event Center in Durant, held in conjunction with the annual Magnolia Festival. Deadline for applications is April 30. For more information, please call 580-775-1774.

    District 10
    May 2 at 7 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in Atoka. Deadline for applications is April 19. For more information, please call 580-889-6147.

    District 11
    May 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in McAlester. Deadline for applications is April 19. For more information, please call 918-423-1016.

    District 12
    May 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in Crowder. Deadline for applications is May 3. For more information, please call 918-334-5344.

    Requirements to run in each category:
    Little Miss

    – Resident of District competing in
    – Between ages of 8-12 by Labor Day
    – 1/16 degree Oklahoma Choctaw or higher
    – Be willing to attend Choctaw History and Culture classes
    – Not held title of Little Miss Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    Junior Miss
    – Resident of District competing in
    – Single, never married or living with significant, no dependents
    – Between ages of 13-17 by Labor Day
    – 1/16 degree Oklahoma Choctaw or higher
    – Be willing to attend Choctaw History and Culture classes
    – Not held title of Junior Miss Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    Senior Miss
    – Resident of District competing in
    – Single, never married or living with significant, no dependents
    – Between ages of 18-23 by Labor Day Pageant
    – 1/16 degree Oklahoma Choctaw or higher
    – Be willing to attend Choctaw History and Culture classes
    – Not held title of Miss Choctaw Nation

    All entries must include the following information:

    1. Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB)
    2. Letter from school official stating contestant’s scholastic achievements and talents
    3. List of special recognitions
    4. Photograph of contestant in traditional Choctaw dress
    5. Miss District Choctaw Princess – Essay of 200 words or less on “What goals I hope to achieve as Miss Choctaw Nation”
    6. District Choctaw Junior Princess – Essay of 200 words or less on “What goals I hope to achieve as Junior Miss Choctaw Nation”
    7. Completed W-9 in contestant’s name
  • Doing her part to better the community


    Connie Zalenski drops off bags of recyclable material from her home in the recycling bin at the tribal complex in Durant.

    Doing her part to better the community

    Purchasing employee Connie Zalenski recycles at her home, no longer pays trash bill

    By CHRISSY SHEPARD Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma continually promotes its “going green” efforts, and one tribal employee is not only bettering her community through her recycling habit at home, but is saving money in the process.

    For the past two years, purchasing department employee Connie Zalenski has recycled all of her household trash using the recycling bin located at the Tribal Headquarters building where she works, which has saved her an average of over $200 a year. She brings a load of materials (2-4 bags) weekly, or every other week at times.

    “I save an average of $20 a month,” she said, because she no longer has to pay her trash bill.

    Connie said she initially became aware of the importance of recycling when the tribe made the big push to go green. “I’ll try this,” she recalled.

    Choctaw Nation Director of Project Management Tracy Horst complimented Connie on her efforts. “I have gotten to know Connie over that last couple of years, and I think what she is doing is great,” she said.

    Not only does recycling save Connie money each month, it saves her time and work. “I live out in the country, so naturally, sometimes when you leave your trash out, animals get into it,” she explained. “I no longer have to clean up a big mess outside when that happens, and I no longer have to worry about putting the trash out.”

    Recycling has made her home and yard look cleaner and neater without the trash in the driveway, she added.

    Connie is happy she no longer has to deal with the occasional problem of the town’s trash pickup. “You know when they don’t come pick up your trash and you have to call them to come get it? I no longer have that inconvenience,” she said.

    Tracy provided some advice for recycling at home. “The best way to start at home is to designate an area of your home for recyclable material collection, much like you have a location for trash collection,” she explained. “You can purchase inexpensive trash cans and label them with names of the items you are planning to collect, so it makes it easy for everyone in the home, or visitors, to use.”

    Connie’s three children and nephew visit her home often, all being out of high school, except for her nephew, who is 16. She has most company in the summertime.

    “At first, my whole family went into shock,” Connie said, laughing, recalling how she gathers up materials after family meals she knows are recyclable. “But now, it’s funny after two years to see family automatically go rinse their stuff off and put it into the recycling bins in the laundry room.”

    Connie said her daughter, who is currently working on getting her master’s degree, will bring her items to recycle from her apartment. “My son will come home from college, and anything he’s bought along the drive that he might throw away, he’ll now bring into the house to recycle it,” she said. “He’ll bring his stuff in and pat me on the back.”

    Connie’s oldest son, Waddell Hearn, is also an employee of the Choctaw Nation and thinks highly of his mother. “I think it’s just awesome what she is doing,” he said. “My mom has always been an inspiration in my life in that she works hard and does her very best as what she puts her mind to, and we are seeing that in her effort towards recycling.”

    Not only is Connie serving as an example for her family, her recycling efforts have been noticed by her fellow community members. “When I first started, people at my church would bring me their materials to be recycled,” she said.

    Now, Connie is proud to say her church members take their materials to the Travel Plaza recycling bin location. “I thought that was pretty cool,” she said.

    Waddell said there is no doubt in his mind that his mother is inspiring others around her to recycle as well. “I think that she most certainly inspires others to recycle; she’s so passionate about recycling,” he said. “It just takes one person to lead, and actions speak louder than words, and her actions are definitely being seen.”

    Connie is well organized in her recycling process at her home. She said she keeps three separate containers in her laundry room, for plastic, cans and paper, which store her items she’s collected and separated. “I have really enjoyed doing it,” she said.

    Along with recycling the materials she can at her home, Connie said she no longer uses paper plates and doesn’t see a problem with washing all her dishes.

    “She has made a lot of progress over the past two years,” said Waddell. “And with the mindset she has, she will just keep progressing with recycling.”

    The most common material Connie recycles, she said, is plastic bottles from juice, milk, Gatorade, etc., as well as egg cartons and toilet paper rolls.

    “We can recycle all junk mail, catalogs, magazines, envelopes and all,” said Tracy. “Just about anything you have that is not food waste can be recycled.”

    An important step one must keep in mind when recycling is to rinse off and out your materials, Connie said. “Some people don’t clean their stuff up as they recycle it, and those people at the recycling center work hard,” she explained. “You need to be courteous and clean your items.”

    From having an influence on her children and her surrounding community, Connie has brought her positive attitude towards recycling to the workplace.

    “We recycle as much as we can in the office,” she said. “We recycle old folders and paper, especially when we’re cleaning out our areas. There’s so much stuff you can recycle, it’s unreal.”

    Connie respects the Choctaw Nation’s ongoing efforts in going green and preserving the environment. “I look at it this way,” she explained, “if it’s important to Chief Pyle and he asks us to do it, then we should do it.”

    Tracy encourages everyone to begin recycling. “Recycling is really pretty easy, it just takes some practice,” she said. “If you have any questions, call us at the recycling center and we will be happy to try and help you out.”

    Connie plans to continue her hobby and habit of recycling at home and encourages others to do the same. “When you see all the trash on the highway, it’s just sad,” she said. “We only have one Earth. We’re supposed to make it a better place.

    “We all have grandkids, and sooner or later, they will have to live in the mess we leave them,” she added.

    “My mom genuinely enjoys bettering our environment so that we can continue to enjoy what God has created,” said Waddell.

    If you have a question about recycling and would like to talk to a recycling center employee, please call 580-920-0488. The Choctaw Nation Recycling Center is located at 3408 Wes Watkins Blvd. in Durant.

  • Art in the Southwest Air

    Art in the Southwest Air
    Choctaw Artists exhibit work during Amarillo and Albuquerque cultural gatherings

    By BRET MOSS Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma


    Choctaw Nation visited Amarillo Texas on April 5, 2013, bringing with it, culture and news on current tribal issues. Several artists exhibited their work during the event, including Stephen McCullough, Kimbra Simmons and Charlene Dodson.

    Stephen McCullough
    Stephen McCullough is an Amarillo resident with galleries in Santa Fe, N.M., Scottsdale, Ariz., and Sedona, Ariz. He has been an artist for 25 years following in the footsteps of his twin brother Michael, who has been an artist for 35 years. He had been involved in other careers and decided it was time for a change. “I started in and never looked back,” Stephen proclaimed.

    Stephen specializes in image art of the Southwest – painting images that reflect the heritages and cultures of Native Americans in that area. He also paints with non-Southwestern themes, putting trees and other objects to canvas. He displays his work at three of the country’s biggest Native American markets – The Santa Fe Indian Market, the Heard Museum Native Market and Red Earth Market.

    He explains his interest in Native American art stems from it being a constant art form. “It is here today, was here yesterday, and will be here tomorrow.” He went on to assert that in today’s art scene, “it’s cool to be native,” but takes pride in the fact that he was displaying his heritage from the start. Stephen was a registered native on the day of his birth and proudly exclaims that he is “an artist who happens to be Native American,” and not just following the trends.

    See more about Stephen’s art in the video:

    Kimbra Simmons
    Lubbock, Texas, resident Kimbra Simmons is a Choctaw artist who specializes in many types of crafts including dream catchers, jewelry, beading and leather work. She received her Choctaw connection from her mother as well as her beginnings in art. Since learning the basics years ago, she has been improving her art form with practice and online learning.

    Over her time as an artist, Simmons has developed unique ways to construct her dream catchers, weaving them tight on the outside and gradually allowing the weave to become more loose towards the middle, whereas most simply have loose weaves throughout. Larger holes are left amidst the tight portion to “let good dreams pass through,” explains Simmons.

    She very much enjoys creating artwork that promotes native culture. “I am very driven to carry on my heritage,” she exclaimed. Not only does she create native artwork, but takes language classes offered by the Choctaw Nation. Simmons’ desire is that the culture of the Choctaw Nation and other native people never fades, but remains strong, and she hopes to contribute to that preservation.

    Check out some of Kimbra’s work here:

    Charlene Dodson
    Artist Charlene Dodson was born in the heart of the Choctaw Nation, in Bokchito, but became a Texan at the age of three. She left the borders of the Choctaw Nation, but the Choctaw Nation remained strong with her as she carried on her love for her heritage through her artwork.

    Charlene works mainly in fabrics, printing and beading on quilts, leathers and more. She has enjoyed much success due to her ingenuity through artwork. She began a business called “Fabric Fotos,” where she worked mainly with quilts, which saw success.

    Eventually, from licensing fees she earned with her pioneering ways, she was able to open the American Indian Cultural Center. The center allowed representatives from many tribes to rent booths and display artwork from their respective cultures. Dodson served as the director for eight years until her retirement, when she says she “passed the torch” to the Kwahadi Heritage Center.

    Though she has retired, Charlene still sells art and art kits that allow individuals to create their own artwork. For example, in her moccasin kit, one may chose a beaded design guide to be placed on the material and one may then learn bead their own design following the printed guide.

    Charlene says she has chosen to create native art because “It’s my heritage… I am proud to be Choctaw.” Through her work with the cultural center in Amarillo and the guided beading kits, she feels that she has done well to spread her culture. “I love passing on my heritage,” she declared.

    See some of Charlene’s creations here:


    Choctaw Nation then visited Albuquerque, N.M. the following day on April 6, 2013, sharing even more of age-old traditions. Artists who presented their creations included Kristin Gentry and David McElroy.

    Kristin Gentry
    Oklahoma State University graduate Kristin Gentry is a jewelry maker, photographer and much more who now resides in Albuquerque. “I grew up in an artistic family,” said Kristin as she explained her introduction to the life of an artist.

    She found she enjoyed art in high school and decided to study it more thoroughly in college. After graduating with a fine art degree, she continued her endeavors by doing gallery art, teaching at community centers. She has felt a connection to art through generations of her artistic family. Her grandfather was a wood carver and her father was an architectural draftsman.

    A large portion of Kristin’s work is with wood, creating many pieces of hand-painted jewelry on small sections of wood. “I like working with natural elements,” said Kristin, who also does relief printing. This requires her to carve her designs into wood and then use a hand-crank to press the designs. “It is a very manual art form.”

    In her creations, Kristin prefers to utilize tribal designs, mentioning that she mainly sticks with Choctaw designs, but does some Cherokee as well. She states that she chooses to work with wood, even though it is sometimes more difficult. She feels called to the medium because of her grandfather’s work with the material. Kristin is also a skilled painter and photographer.

    See the variety of items Kristin crafts here:

    David McElroy
    David McElroy, a lawyer by profession, is also a silversmith who works with sterling silver to create Native American jewelry. “I have always loved traditional Southwest silverwork,” David stated. “It is such a creative and lasting artform.”

    During his time as a lawyer, David spent eight years in the United Kingdom, where he began his silversmith training. He has since developed his skills and is now able to do repousse work, in which he uses a male and female die to press designs from the reverse side of the silver, forcing the shape to appear on the front facing side. He also incorporates semi-precious stones into his work to create a heightened unique quality.

    David is the grandson of two original enrollees of the Choctaw Nation, a fact of which he is exceptionally proud. Though silverwork is not traditionally a Choctaw art form and most of his designs are inspired by Navajo and other Southwestern tribes, David hopes to make his medium of choice more associated with the Choctaw Nation.

    In his studio located in Santa Fe, N.M., David also makes accessories such as candlesticks, boxes and dishes. He will be exhibiting his artwork in the Santa Fe Indian Market Aug. 16-18.

    Learn more about David’s art form here:

    To see more from the event, visit our Facebook page.

  • Thirty years of service


    Thirty years of service
    Doris Ross celebrates 30-year anniversary with Choctaw Nation

    By CHRISSY SHEPARD Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    DURANT, Okla. – Not many people that have worked in the same job for 30 years can love their job and be as happy as tribal employee Doris Ross, director of Choctaw Nation Housing Authority’s Rental Assistance Program.

    Unlike many employees at the Choctaw Nation, Doris hasn’t worked in various departments throughout her time as a tribal employee — she has proudly worked for Housing Authority all 30 years.

    Doris said her job keeps her interested, and she is never bored. “Every day is different,” she added. “You can talk to different people all over, and even across the United States, which is interesting. It never gets boring.”

    Her coworkers are one of her favorite parts about her job. “If I’m not talking to people who call me, I’m helping my coworkers,” Doris said. “The Housing Authority is like my family, we’re just one big happy family.”

    Doris’ job duties vary, including taking care of reports to return to her executives, the tribe and her staff as well as monitoring her staff, answering questions for people who need help and call for assistance.

    She said the main purpose of her department is to assist low-income families within the 10 ∏ counties with their rent.

    “Since I’m a tribal member, it satisfies me to work for my tribe,” she said. “It’s been very rewarding to do that in the position I am in.” Her ability to speak Choctaw fluently is helpful with her day-to-day interactions and makes her a valuable employee for the Nation. “I speak Choctaw, so that helps me to assist the elders of our communities,” she said. “We still have elders who come in that don’t speak English or who aren’t comfortable speaking English, so I’m kind of an interpreter.”

    Through her years working for Housing, Doris has been involved in helping a lot of people, and she said that it has been a rewarding experience. “Everybody has needs, and I can relate to all of their needs,” she said. “It’s nice to have someone you can go to and get those needs taken care of.” Doris said she is blessed to have great bosses as well. She worked with Assistant Chief Batton when he was an employee of Housing years ago, and she had nothing but good things to say about Chief Pyle. “I like both of them, they’re just wonderful,” she said, glancing at her 25-year anniversary photo with Chief and Assistant Chief hanging on her office wall. “They’re good people, and I like working for good people. I’ve always enjoyed those two guys.”

    Doris said her experience as a tribal employee has been fulfilling and a great part of her life for 30 years, especially when she knows she has helped someone.

    “Getting a thank you from someone we have worked really hard for, saying they’ve made it through their college years and telling us they don’t need our help anymore and thanking us for helping them, that makes us feel really good, when we’ve helped someone make a great accomplishment.” She said she is thankful for the relationships she’s formed through working for Housing.

    “All my days here are good days,” she said, smiling. “I’ve seen a lot of people coming through, and it seems like all of them were good employees. I think my department is a good department.”

    Doris’ hobbies outside of the office include playing Bingo, crocheting, pottery and basket weaving.

    She also has a large family with whom she loves spending time. “I have 13 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, so somebody always has a birthday,” she said, telling about how every month, her big family gets together for a birthday party. “It doesn’t matter how old that child is, we always have a party, we always have fun. I enjoy being with my family.”

    Doris said she would recommend any young person seeking employment to apply to work for the Choctaw Nation. “They have so many advantages for young people and chances for advancement,” she stated.

    “The benefits are so great, and I strongly push young people to seek tribal employment. Everybody is good to them, it doesn’t matter where down the line that person comes in at, everyone will welcome them, and it trickles on down.”

    Doris has been an essential employee all her 30 years working for the tribe, and the fact that she loves her job and enjoys every day at the office with her fellow employees she calls friends, makes her a special worker. “I love it and I enjoy it,” she said. “I guess that’s why I’ve been here for 30 years. I’m 70 years old, and I’m still not ready to go yet.”

  • Book-signing in Durant to highlight 'Choctaw: A Cultural Awakening'


    Book-signing in Durant to highlight ‘Choctaw: A Cultural Awakening’

    The many facets of the Choctaw Nation reflect paths traveled by thousands over hundreds of miles. The Choctaw people persevered through centuries of change and have emerged as one of the largest and progressive nations in the world. Choctaw history and culture have provided a strong foundation and more and more tribal members today are experiencing a revival of interest in their heritage. Capturing the essence of the nation is “Choctaw: A Cultural Awakening,” a striking 200-page collection of images, history and information. A book launch will be held 12:30-2 p.m. on April 30 at the Donald W. Reynolds Community Center and Library, 1515 W. Main St., Durant.

    Award-winning photographer David Fitzgerald spent nearly two years traveling and gathering images of Choctaws of all ages, historical artifacts, places of interest and activities. Included in the book is one of the last photographs of Choctaw original enrollee Georgia Mae Self. There are photographs of several familiar to the Durant area such as the late Ernest Hooser, and articles by the late Brenda Hampton on the Dawes commission and Bill Coleman on Choctaw Lighthorsemen. “Choctaw: A Cultural Awakening” features families whose lives are engrained with the rich heritage of the Choctaw Nation.

    Fitzgerald has received state and national acclaim for his photography. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame in 2005 and received the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book in 2010.

    Accompanying the pictorial collection are Choctaw history and cultural information contributed by Tribal Archeologist Dr. Ian Thompson and Public Relations Executive Judy Allen. The reader is quickly brought up-to-date with an overview of the Choctaw people’s course from DeSoto’s first contact until today.

    Thompson, as Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, archaeologist and coordinator for Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), works to protect sacred and historic sites, researches Choctaw history and is dedicated to revitalizing the traditional culture. He learned many of the Choctaw art forms in his youth and instructs others in making bows, arrows, flint knapping, pottery, basketry and more.

    Allen has worked with Thompson on many projects and has been committed to sharing the Choctaw culture throughout the world. She has been instrumental in the recognition of the Choctaw Code Talkers of World War I who were inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame last year. Allen was also named one of Oklahoma’s 50 Women Making a Difference in 2012.

    Exploring through photos and stories by spiritual and historical leaders such as Virginia Espinoza, Eleanor Caldwell and Bill Coleman, “Choctaw: A Cultural Awakening” shows that members of the third-largest Indian Nation are from all walks of life, performing diverse jobs, and come from an amazing heritage.

    Be awakened to the beauty of tribal art, the unique savor of Choctaw food and the excitement of learning about Tvshka Homma – Red Warriors! Fitzgerald, Thompson and Allen will be available to share their experiences with visitors at the book launch April April 30 in Durant.

    Copies of the “Choctaw: A Cultural Awakening” photo book are also available for purchase by logging onto or by calling 888.932.9199.

  • Choctaw Nation Outreach adds programs, helps more families

    Choctaw Nation Outreach employees Christi Hammons of Tribal PREP; Brandi Smallwood of Chahta Inchukka; Anglea Dancer, Better Beginnings Senior Director; and Barbara Moffitt of Chahta Vlla Apela.

    Choctaw Nation Outreach adds programs, helps more families
    Better Beginning now includes Tribal PREP and Chahta Vlla Apela programs

    The Choctaw Nation Outreach program has recently added two new programs to its Better Beginnings branch — the Tribal PREP (Personal Responsibility Educational Program for the Prevention of Teen Pregnancy) and Chahta Vlla Apela program were added to join the SPPT (Support for Pregnant and Parenting Teens) program and Chahta Inchukka (Tribal Maternal Early Childhood Program).

    The Better Beginnings program, which receives its grants from the Department of Health and Human Services, was added to Outreach about three years ago, said Senior Director of the program Angela Dancer. “All of our programs are providing evidence-based curriculums that have been proven to be effective, and we’re bringing those curriculums to Native American communities,” she explained.

    This is a significant achievement for the tribe, according to Angela. “There are no evidence-based curriculums that currently have been tested on Native Americans, so this is a new avenue,” she said. “Even though the curriculum has been proven, it hasn’t been proven with our target population, so we’re going to be one of the first programs out there that is providing an evidence-based curriculum to Native American communities.”

    Dancer has worked for the tribe for 19 years and the Outreach program for 10 years.

    “We have over 22 programs,” said Angela of Outreach, saying the programs focus on going out into the community and providing needed services to tribal members.

    The Outreach program houses over 118 employees, and Randy Hammons serves as executive director.

    With its two new programs, Better Beginnings has also added two new directors to its team: Christi Hammons for Tribal PREP and Barbara Moffitt for Chahta Vlla Apela.

    “Chahta Vlla Apela means ‘helping our Choctaw children,’” said Barbara about her program, which was approved in January of this year.

    Barbara’s program is similar to the existing Chahta Inchukka program, directed by Brandi Smallwood. “They’re serving people in at-risk situations,” said Angela, adding that ‘at-risk’ is a broad definition and encompasses many areas such as: mental health, substance abuse, child abuse, single parent or low income issue involved.

    Angela said Barbara and Brandi’s programs are from the same funding but two different grants, whereas, the SPPT grant, directed by Rebecca Morris, is strictly for the teen population. Teens must be under the age of 21, be expecting a child or have a child under the age of 1, and seeking an educational goal.

    These three programs include home-based services. “This means our workers go into the clients home to provide the curriculum; usually twice a month” said Angela.

    According to Angela, Chahta Vlla Apela, Chahta Inchukka, and SPPT are teaching a curriculum entitled ‘Parents As Teachers,’ which is a parent-child interaction plan that focuses on the child development stage and the social wellbeing of the entire family.

    Angela provided an example of how one of these home visits would take place: with the parent(s) observing, the Outreach worker would ask the young child to perform a basic activity, such as covering a toy with a towel and having the child look for and discover it. They would then ask the parent to perform the same activity, while observing the parent interacting with the child and completing the task.

    Following the activity, the worker would ask the parent why they believe this activity is helping the child grow and how it is benefiting that child at that age.

    “We’re really trying to get the parent to think about the cognitive growth, motor skills and communication skills,” Angela said. “It’s all about cognitively growing these children, to be on task and looking for red flags.”

    Every home visit will have a parent-child interaction to promote one-on-one play time. Each interaction is hand-picked by the worker to address a specific area of child development. All home visits also have a section related to family well-being. The worker and parent identify family needs and connect with other Choctaw Nation services and departments to fulfill those needs. “It encourages the parent to set goals for themselves and their child. Then the worker helps to locate resources and services to achieve those goals” said Angela.

    Chahta Inchukka and Vlla Apela workers also conduct home visits with the child’s future in mind. “The focus is, overall, child and family development, but school readiness as well,” said Angela. We’re looking at the kids prior to head start age, so hopefully we can find and address any red flags before school, so when they attend head start, they are ready and able to learn, she added.

    “Let’s say a child is not developing correctly,” said Angela, “we have assessments that verify that child is struggling or in trouble. There are multiple screenings to see that the child is on task with his or her development.”

    “I really enjoy the people,” said Barbara of her new job.

    With the Chahta Vlla Apela being relatively new to Outreach, the program is currently in the ‘planning phase,’ according to Barbara. “Right now, I’ve been conducting the needs assessment to identify exactly what areas or needs that community will have, and then we chose our evidence-base curriculum to fit those areas and needs,” she said.

    While the programs ran by Barbara, Brandi, and Rebecca involves home visits, Christi’s Tribal PREP program requires her to visit local schools.

    “I enjoy educating the kids,” Christi said, who works with students in grades 6 through 8 in four different schools.

    Christi visits middle schools in Boswell, Ft. Towson, Soper and Jones Academy twice a week.

    “We have a curriculum that we teach called ‘Draw the Line, Respect the Line,’” said Christi, which is an evidence-based curriculum with studies supporting it.

    According to Christi, Tribal PREP is intended to postpone the initiation of sex in adolescents, help prevent pregnancy, STDs and AIDS. “Hopefully we educate the students enough to help them make healthy choices,” she said.

    Christi said when thinking of the future of Tribal PREP, she hopes for expansion and growth. “I hope we can expand the program and visit more schools,” she said. “In the future, if funding is available, we would like to not only visit schools, but hold community programs instead of strictly school-based settings.”

    “I would love to see that program grow,” added Angela. She explained that while SPPT deals with teens that are pregnant or have a young child; Christi’s program focuses on preventing that pregnancy.

    “The Choctaw Nation has a higher teen pregnancy rate inside of the 10 ∏ counties than that of the national rate,” stated Angela. “The vision of Christi’s grant was, let’s do something proactive to prevent those teenage pregnancies.”

    Future plans for Better Beginnings include workers continuing providing for and helping families as much as possible, which Angela sees turning into a major accomplishment in the future. “If we keep funding long enough to do enough intervention services, then between the three home-based services, we can be serving at least 200 families in the next year,” she said. In addition, the PREP program and the healthy choices curriculum they bring, “We are positively influencing the next generation of children who will become the future leaders of our nation.”

    If you are interested in learning more about Outreach and the Better Beginnings program, call 580-326-8304.

  • The students of Jones Academy's 5th grade class experience an eventful year

    The students of Jones Academy’s 5th grade class experience an eventful year

    Contributed by JOE SIRMANS - Jones Academy

    First Field Trip - Eufaula Oklahoma


    May 2, 2013 Jones Academy 5th grade got to journey North to Eufaula Oklahoma to tour the Eufaula hydroelectric power plant. The students got to go down inside the dam and see how electricity is produced. It was amazing to see and have a better understanding of how water pressure can turn a turbine that turns a shaft at 100 RPM and then turns a generator that causes electrons to move on down the line. We often turn on electrical devices from lights to TVs without thinking about from where the power comes. Now, they 5th grade students have a better understanding of where the energy comes from after such a tremendous field trip to the Eufaula Dam. We were the first class to get to tour the dam since 9/11.

    After touring the dam, our Native American students got to view a wonderful arrowhead collection at the Eufaula Nature Center. The center had a variety of hands on activities that the students enjoyed. The working beehive was an attraction that had the students talking about honey. Some students enjoyed observing the mountain lion, buffalo, and other stuffed animals. Students looked threw binoculars and now better understand that these instruments can help enlarge organisms at far distances to help study their characteristics. LaRae_New_Holy_at_Nature_Center_WEB The ladies at the nature center were very knowledgeable and showed our students a variety of turtle species. The class also got to see our state reptile, the collard lizard. Some enjoyed looking at the cold-blooded organism called a copperhead snake, which our students can identify, by its copper color and markings. We all agree the copperhead is one not to step on in this part of the country.

    Over all I know we had a fantastic day because I heard many questions ask and answered. Lots of smiles on our student faces make for an unforgettable day in 5th grade. It was really heart warming to hear such great comments about our student’s behavior from the ones who gave the tours and showed our students many interesting exhibits.

    Second Field Trip - Elm Point Lake Eufaula

    May 10, 2013, the 5th grade students got to take a fishing field trip to Elm Point, which is part of Lake Eufaula. Prior to the trip students took part in the fishing clinic held in the 5th grade classroom at Jones Academy. The materials were provided by the Oklahoma State Department of Wildlife. students_learning_to_cast_WEB Students learned about tying knots, fish identification, casting instruction, outdoor ethics, water safety, water pollution, fishing equipment, fish cleaning and fish cooking.

    The students got their crappie fishing gear ready, which consisted of rods and reels, corks, hooks and minnows, then headed to the lake to catch fish. Kendra Wakolee caught the biggest crappie, which made a few boys wonder what was going on. Darius Sewell caught the second largest crappie, which put more fillets on the stringer.
    Students got to eat charcoaled hot dogs with chilly, cheese and onions for an outdoor lakeside luncheon. Some said the hot dogs were better than steaks on this day. Our students were generous to feed several elders at the lake that were fishing in the same fishing area. The students had a great time at the lake and picked up around the area to make it better than when they came.

    Later that day when returning to campus, the students got to watch first hand how to clean a fish and prepare it to eat. The kitchen staff was so kind as to get the cast iron skillet hot and ready for the fish after students battered the fillets. The fishing clinic did not teach how to eat the fish but the students did not seem to have any problem with that part. Learning life skills like fishing is something that 5th grade does not take lightly.

    The class also learned to make humming bird feeders out of baby food jars and painted them. They mixed one part granulated sugar with four parts sterile water to create the feed for the birds. For more information on the happenings occurring at Jones Academy visit Jones Academy’s website.

    Students display their newly created hummingbird feeders

  • Choctaw Champion

    Choctaw Champion

    Joe Standifer shines in AEFL

    Joe_Standifer Joe Standifer is a champion, an American Eight-Man Football League (AEFL) champion to be specific. The Sachse Stallions, the team where Joe assumed the roll of number 44 defensive linemen, recently clinched an undefeated season of 10-0 as they earned the title of champion in the AEFL Bowl XII.

    The Sachse Stallion boasted a 32-17 win over the Texas Takeover on April 28 to complete their perfect season, an accomplishment that Joe had been seeking since he joined the league. “It has been one big huge roller coaster ride,” he remarked.

    Last season, when Joe joined the Stallions, the group saw a mediocre inaugural season. They made it to the first round of the playoffs, but “that wasn’t enough,” remarked Joe. He and his team were hungry for success. “We knew the talent that we had and we knew what we were capable of,” he declared as he spoke of his team.

    Every Sunday, each season began, Joe and his teammate Keith Vines, who had introduced Joe to the AEFL, would drive to Sachse, Texas, for practices with Coach Pete Espinosa. Joe and his teammates would perform drills, exercises and scrimmages. These weekly practices would run from August through Superbowl Sunday, with the season beginning the following week.

    The league hosted their games at Pennington Field in Euless, Texas. The games were not taken lightly, but were played with every bit of effort each team could rally. You had to give it 110 percent, because you knew the guy on the other side of the ball was. They weren’t just going to give it to you declared Joe as he explained the intensity of the action.

    Once the season commenced, every Sunday was a new game and a new time to shine for the Stallions. For Joe, a graduate of Tishomingo High School whose team went to the state championship in ‘98, every game was a way to demonstrate that those talents of the past had not faded.

    When Joe joined the AEFL three years prior to the championship title, playing for the Denton Dragons, he was 29 years old and had not played football in a considerable amount of time. He was anxious before his first practice, but, “After that first initial hit, it was like everything that was familiar about it came back,” mentioned Joe.

    The league served as a way for not only Joe, but also all the players to stay in shape, experience the bonds of a team and experience the fulfillment that accompanies such feats as winning championships.

    “Every Sunday you look forward to trying to knock somebody’s head off, but after the game, you shake hands and everybody is friends,” said Joe. “There was like a mutual respect throughout the league for each individual person and each team.”

    After a year with the Dragons, Keith got a call from Coach Espinosa asking him to play with the newly formed Stallions. Both Joe and Keith decided to join the new squad based in Sachse.

    During his time with in the league, it was not only Joe committing his efforts, his now 7-year-old son Adrian was happy to serve as water boy all while enjoying seeing his father in action.

    Joe has been pleased with Adrian’s support and commitment, stating that he was there with him through the good times and the bad, sporting a Stallion jersey. Sharing the championship with his son in a memory that both Joe and Adrian will hold dear for many years to come.

    Through his success with the AEFL, Joe hopes to be a role model to his son and other members of his family, stating that even though the road was long and rough, it was possible to earn the goal through perseverance.

    Adding to the complexity of his goal of being a champion, Joe not only was busy training, raising a son and working, but has also been enrolled at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. He is scheduled to graduate with a degree in math in May of 2014.

    This past season will be Joe’s last as a player. “It does take a toll on your body,” stated the now 32-year-old athlete. He continued by stating even though he could push himself for more seasons, it is worth more to him to preserve himself for an enjoyable future playing with his son.

    Joe will be leaving the league a champion, and “What better way to walk out than that?” he exclaimed. He does aspire to contribute to the Stallions in other ways such as coaching, stating that his attitude off the field will be the same as it was on the field, “Use me however you want, I just want to do my part.”

    If you would like to know more about the AEFL or the Stallions, visit the AEFL website or the Stallion’s website.

    The 2013 Stallions. Photos provided.

  • Choctaw Nation Donating to Tornado Recovery

    Beginning Friday, May 24, the Choctaw Nation will be donating seven days of its net profits in fuel sales to the Salvation Army for those affected by the devastating tornado damage in Oklahoma.

    Fuel Sales
    Donations Week
    May 24-May 30

    Choctaw Travel Plazas are located in Atoka, Broken Bow, Durant (East and West), Wilburton, Garvin, Heavener, Grant, Idabel, Stringtown, McAlester, Poteau, and Pocola.

    Donations will be accepted to support disaster relief beginning Friday at the Travel Plazas as well as in the lobby of the Tribal Headquarters in Durant and the Durant Smoke Shop.

    Our thoughts and prayers are with the people working to recover from this devastation.
    Chief Greg Pyle
    Assistant Chief Gary Batton
    Choctaw Tribal Council
    and the People of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma


  • The Art of Dylan Cavin

    Cavin displays his artwork, “Overalls and Bright Skies” and ”Gold Skies,” at the Choctaw Cultural event in Norman on May 23. “Gold Skies” was a cover of Oklahoma Today Magazine, and “Overalls and Bright Skies” took Best in Show at the 2012 Choctaw Nation Labor Day Art Show.

    The Art of Dylan Cavin

    J. Dylan Cavin, a comic book kid from Chickasha, has accomplished a goal many only contemplate. He has turned what he loves into his career, producing impressive results along the way.

    Cavin is a multi-talented artist, able not only to put paint to canvas, but pixel to screen, shape to mold, and even ink to skin. His work has been featured on everything from personal effects to commercial placement. His designs can be seen advertising Oklahoma City’s 2013 Red Earth Festival on billboards, benches, bus stops and T-shirts.

    Cavin and his talents will also be showcased at this year’s Choctaw Days at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., June 21 and 22.

    No stranger to event exhibits, Cavin has also been featured at Choctaw events such as Choctaw Day in Oklahoma City in 2012. His artwork also hangs among other notable pieces inside the tribal headquarters in Durant.

    Immersion in the universe of art came early for Cavin, winning his first contest in middle school and having his picture in the paper for this drawing of the Statue of Liberty. He was drawn further into the realm of art when he was introduced to comics at the age of 10. “I became completely swallowed up by them,” Cavin declared.

    Cavin reminisces of times when he and his buddy would make high contrast photocopies of comics and color them in with markers. These actions inevitably led to completely redrawing images and eventually art classes to hone his newly discovered skills.

    As he made his way through Noble School, Cavin was fortunate to have the support of his instructors. “I had a couple of really great art teachers in high school that saw something in me,” Cavin mentioned. “I certainly never felt like I was the most talented in the class but I was always attentive and a good student willing to learn,” he continued.

    When graduation neared, a decision was made to continue his exploration of art in college. He earned an Art Talent scholarship with his artistic abilities, which led him to the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2000. This would allow him to find a career in the field of graphic design.

    “I feel like I got a very well-rounded education,” stated Cavin as he spoke of his opportunity to experiment with many forms of art before deciding on graphic design as his major. “I had a really great core group of professors that helped along the way,” he continued.

    Cavin mentioned that his professors were focused on hands-on education, an aspect that Cavin believes is necessary for a student of art to flourish. Professor Kent Lamar, who taught figure drawing and sculpture, stands out as one of the most influential of his collegiate career. “His figure drawing classes really helped me develop a style that I felt was my own. His encouragement was what really got me through a lot of those higher level college courses, when I think a lot of students start to second guess their majors,” he declared.

    Upon graduating, Cavin began working for a company where he did full services design for products. He would draw the concept art, digitize and color it for the printer, and then do that packaging and catalog artwork for the final physical copy. Though he felt this was a rewarding job, he would have anywhere from five to ten of these projects occurring simultaneously, which became stressful.

    Becoming burnt out with his current occupation, Cavin decided to join the Army. He was honorably discharged shortly after enlistment due to fracturing his femur. After his discharge, he had some time to explore creative aspects past graphic design. “It was the first time in awhile where my time was really my own,” he mentioned.

    He began to take pictures, invested time in watercolor and even learned the art of tattooing. “I really love the looseness of watercolor and the expression you can achieve with just the right single brushstroke,” he noted. As he produced paintings, he began to receive recognition for his skill.

    Friends who own galleries took notice and invited him to display his work. The positive reception he received boosted his confidence and led him further into the mediums of watercolor and portraits. “I had never thought doing that would get me anywhere. I’m still amazed and honored when people purchase a work from me,” said Cavin.

    Currently, Cavin shows at a gallery in Norman called Tribes Gallery, where he feels fortunate to display his work along with artists with which he is proud to associate himself.

    Among his abundance of artistic creations, there is one he holds in high esteem. It is a portrait of C.A. Burris (aka Ahshawlatab). “I love it because, in my eyes, I nailed the style of my favorite comic book artist,” exclaimed Cavin.

    Along with this item, his portfolio also boasts an array of award-winning pieces. His accolades include the Heritage Award in 2010, Best in Show at the 2012 Annual Choctaw Art Show and First Place in the Graphics Category at the 2012 Red Earth Festival. His works have also been on the cover of the Oklahoma Today Magazine.

    To accredit his artistic talents further, additional honors consist of First Place in the Graphics Category at the 2012 SEASAM (Southeastern Art Show And Market), featured in the 2013 Native American Art Calendar, and participation in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian 2012 Art Market in New York.

    Cavin now spends much time in the studio, creating, learning and expanding his artistic prowess. When he is not in the studio, he is with his wife, Lindsay, or reading comic books, the medium that sparked his interest in art many years ago. He is an avid collector of comic books and comic art to this day. “I haven’t found a way yet, but if I could trade my art for comic books and comic art I would,” he jested.

    With plans to grow his capabilities, Cavin is grateful for the success he has seen thus far. His art reflects heavily on his native heritage, and he plans to dive deeper into that characteristic of art. “I always feel like I need to push myself harder, learn more not only about other techniques in art, but my culture in general to be a better steward for the [Choctaw] Nation,” Cavin explained.

    Cavin is one of many of the talented Choctaw members on the Choctaw Nation Artist Registry. “I am just a kid from Chickasha who worked hard at what he loved and got pretty lucky along the way,” Cavin concluded and he thought back over his journey though the world of art.

    You can view many of Cavin’s creations and keep up with his progress in the studio at .

    C. A. Burris (aka Ahshawlatab) Choctaw/Chickasaw” is a portrait that Cavin holds in high regard, mentioning, “I love it because, in my eyes, I nailed the style of my favorite comic book artist.”

    “Legacy” has been heavily used to advertise Oklahoma City’s 2013 Annual Red Earth Festival.

  • Chahta Foundation awards scholarships

    Chahta Foundation awards scholarships

    Accompanied by Assistant Chief Gary Batton, those who earned scholarships are recognized for their accomplishments.

    The Choctaw Nation Chahta Foundation has selected 14 outstanding applicants to receive scholarships totaling $136,000 for the 2013-2014 school year. The scholarships are valued from $2,000 up to $20,000 and range from graduating high school seniors to doctoral students.

    These Chahta scholars were acknowledged for this honor during a luncheon on May 15, 2013. Recipients were able to accept their awards and speak their thoughts to leaders of the Choctaw Nation, family and friends.

    Recipients for the Apela Ima award are Jace Caldwell, Caitlin Roebuck and Taylor Wright; bachelor’s recipients are Hilary Price and Alexandria “Bailey” Lafitte; master’s include Jennifer Russell and Rebeka Perkins-Ulm; and doctorate recipients are Nathan Sweeney, Carmen Jones, Madeline Anna, Amanda Janitz, Randi Hardin, Seth Boydstun and Chase Woodley.

    The Chahta Foundation was established in 1999 and has been dedicated to “Empowering Choctaw Life” in the state of Oklahoma and across the United States. Chahta Foundation Scholarship recipients are chosen not only for their scholarly achievements, but also for their ties to their heritage and commitment to broadening horizons of Choctaw people for generations to come. For more information, visit

  • Choctaw Days’ Return to the Smithsonian

    smithsonian_main_graphic_web Choctaw Days’ Return to the Smithsonian

    Choctaw Days 2013 Agenda

    Choctaw Days is returning to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., for its third straight year. The event, scheduled for June 21-22, will provide a Choctaw Nation cultural experience for thousands of visitors.

    “We find Choctaw Days to be just as rewarding for us as the people who come to the museum say it is for them,” said Chief Gregory E. Pyle. “We meet families vacationing from places like Switzerland, Italy and Africa. It is a great opportunity to share culture.”

    The Choctaw Nation princesses will have a world map set up and encourage everyone to place a pushpin in the general area of their home. The map from last year’s event was covered with the multi-colored circles, representing travelers from 23 countries. Miss Choctaw Nation Cheyenne Murray, Junior Miss Choctaw Nation Cheyenne Shomo and Little Miss Choctaw Nation Josephine Gilmore will also open each day with the “Lord’s Prayer” in sign language and participate in a “Four Directions Ceremony” in the afternoon.

    Approximately 1,000 tribal members live in the area and they look forward to reconnecting with their heritage as well.

    They will be able to hear the Choctaw language through conversations, songs and stories. Dancers will mimic the antics of the playful raccoon and the curving paths of the snake. The Choctaw is the only American Indian tribe who includes women in their war dances, recognizing the important role of women in their society. The dancers are scheduled to perform three times each day, demonstrating several dances including the Four-Step War, the Wedding and Stealing Partners.

    Pottery, basket weaving and Choctaw flute experts will demonstrate the creativity passed down through generations. The skill of today’s craftsmen reflects the versatility implemented centuries ago out of necessity combined with improved techniques made possible by modern materials and equipment.

    “One of my favorite things during the festival is watching people’s expressions as they walk from table to table,” said Assistant Chief Gary Batton. “They are fascinated with the process of shaping a bowl or water vessel out of clay. The Choctaw Nation has some of the best instructors in the country on historic preservation.”

    Choctaw Nation Cultural Services staff will be holding make-and-take sessions each day to teach how to make animal forms with glass beads that would be ideal to hang on a key chain or lanyard. The finished work will be a treasured keepsake of the time spent at Choctaw Days.

    Janis McKinney’s beaded jewelry adds sparkle to the eyes of girls from the age of 2 to 92. She and husband, Karl, will set up a booth covered with everything from simple bracelets and hair barrettes to intricate medallions and collars worn with cultural clothing. Visitors can watch as McKinney continuously works with her beads or sews a Choctaw dress for one of her daughters or granddaughters.

    Everyone who comes together to present Choctaw Days is multi-talented. Most of the artists can also dance, chant or sing. Storyteller Tim Tingle brings many elements to life in his tales. Surrounded by his audience, Tingle becomes a rabbit or a turtle. The author often includes sad laments or rhythmic beats of a drum with his stories, capturing and holding the attention of all who hear. He turns the sad thoughts of the Trail of Tears to happy sounds of laughter with a description of how the rabbit lost his tail, waving his hands above his head to imitate the long floppy ears of a cottontail. Tingle tells of Choctaw trials, travels and triumphs.

    There will be much to see, hear, and taste during Choctaw Days. The Choctaw Nation’s cultural awakening will be evident throughout the Potomac Atrium, films in the theatre and in the Mitsitam Native Foods Café with several Choctaw-inspired dishes on the menu.

    The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian is located at 4th St. and Independence Ave., SW, in Washington, D.C.

    There will also be a book-signing for the 200-page book, “Choctaw: A Cultural Awakening” from 12-1 p.m. Saturday, June 22, in the museum’s Roanoke Museum Store on the second level.


    Choctaw Days June 21-22

    10:30 a.m.
    Princesses – The Lord’s Prayer in sign language
    Social Dancing
    Flutist Presley Byington
    Historian Olin Williams – Stickball
    Dr. Ian Thompson – History of Choctaw Food

    1 p.m.
    Princesses – Four Directions Ceremony
    Social Dancing
    Flutist Presley Byington
    Storyteller Tim Tingle

    3 p.m.
    Lord’s Prayer
    Choctaw Social Dancing
    Storyteller Tim Tingle
    Soloist Brad Joe

  • Urban Inter-Tribal Center of Texas relocates to Dallas Medical District

    Urban Inter-Tribal Center of Texas relocates to Dallas Medical District

    Information provided by The Urban Inter-Tribal Center


    The Urban Inter-Tribal Center of Texas (UITCT) announced today its move to the Medical District of Dallas. The Center, a non-profit corporation, serves Native Americans throughout the Dallas-Ft.Worth metroplex. They provide primary medical and dental care, pharmacy, counseling, job training and education services to an often forgotten demographic of our first Americans. After 42 years in the Oak Cliff community Chief Executive Officer Dr. Rodney Stapp (Comanche) said it was the perfect time to move as they had outgrown their previous facility and suffered a partial roof collapse last August during a Texas sized downpour.

    “This gives us a great opportunity to better serve our Native community with a bigger, modern facility that is more centrally located to our expanding base of patients and clients,” Stapp said. The mission of the center is simple, “To improve the health and socio-economic status of the DFW American Indians,” said Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Jim Edmonson. “I think this move is another big step in the right direction.”

    UITCT has a long history of collaborating with the Parkland Health System and is excited about being neighbors. The center is also looking forward to forming partnerships with UTSW Medical Center. It will be very convenient having UTSW’s new hospital just a few blocks down the street on Record Crossing Road and Parkland’s new hospital just around the corner. Children’s Hospital is nearby as well so we feel fortunate to be surrounded by world class facilities.

    The center is primarily funded by federal, state and private grants and donations with their largest grantor being the Indian Health Services, a federal agency. Tribal partners such as the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Chickasaw Nation, Comanche Nation and Creek Nation contribute to the center’s cause as well. The American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Texas also helps with extracurricular sponsorships. All eligible patients and clients are seen regardless of their ability to pay or insurance status. “We strive to offer the best medical care possible on a shoestring budget because that’s what they deserve,” says Administrative Director Angela Young (Choctaw). In addition to their medical and dental services the center’s job training and education department headed by Director Kathy McDonald offers everything from GED preparation to college tuition assistance and job development training to help clients get back on their feet and into the job market, thus fulfilling their mission.

    For more information about the Urban Inter-Tribal Center of Texas or to make a donation please contact: Urban Inter-Tribal Center of Texas 1283 Record Crossing Rd. Dallas, TX 75235 Telephone: 214-941-1050 ext: 203 email:

    CEO Dr. Rodney Stapp says “This move is a catalyst for the future growth of our organization”

  • Choctaw Nation reveals Windows 8 application

    Pictured is the home screen of the Choctaw Nation app.

    Choctaw Nation reveals Windows 8 application

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is continually finding new ways to connect its tribal members, whether through social networking and the Internet or face-to-face with community meetings across the United States.

    Now, the Choctaw Nation has found its way into your mobile phones and tablets.

    With the help of Planet Technologies, a leading Microsoft consulting and services company, two Choctaw Nation Office of Technology (IT) department employees have developed and created a Choctaw Nation application.

    Software programmer David Coxsey and IT director Dustin Stark, along with web director Vonna Shults, Ryan Spring in Historical Preservation and J.T. Wallace in the Choctaw Language department, provided their input to Planet Technology in designing the app.

    The development of the app was made possible through a program from Microsoft called the Microsoft Application Acceleration Program (MAAP), which funded its creation.

    It took only about one month, from initial concept to the application store, for the final product to be available for download, said Coxsey.

    After just two weeks in the Windows Marketplace, the Choctaw Nation app has been downloaded 134 times.

    “This program was designed to help clients get started on building applications for Microsoft’s newest operating system, Windows 8,” explained Don Lionetti, Choctaw Nation’s account manager at Microsoft. “Microsoft is thrilled that Choctaw Nation is the first tribal Nation with a Windows 8 app live on the Microsoft Windows 8 Application Store.”

    According to Coxsey, the new app provides new ways to connect tribal members and employees. “The purpose of the application is to provide connections to the Choctaw Nation’s news, Twitter and Facebook feeds, YouTube channel, along with historical and cultural information,” he stated. “The intended audience for the application is tribal members and the public.”

    The Choctaw Nation is a leader among tribal governments in the use of technology, said Lionetti.

    “This latest example of a Windows 8 application for the citizens and the public to keep informed of the excellent work being done by various groups within the Choctaw Nation exemplifies staying on the leading edge of technology adoption,” he continued. “Moreover, this development of a Windows 8 application gives the Choctaw Nation yet one more medium for communicating the positive message of the Choctaw people and also provides a platform for disseminating tribal government news about its programs and people.”

    If you were to explore the app, you would be able to do such things as catch up on current news by reading articles from the Choctaw Nation, see the Nation’s live Twitter and Facebook feeds to see what is happening with the Nation at a moment’s basis, watch videos from the Nation’s YouTube channel to learn more about the departments and activities of the tribe, or even research Choctaw history and learn more about the tribe’s culture.

    Coxsey said currently the app is only available on devices such as desktop PCs, laptops or tablets running Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system, but the IT department is working to get the app added to the Apple and Android stores so it will be available on all Android tablets and phones, iPhones and iPads.

    “We look forward to helping the Choctaw Nation in continuing the use of technology for the betterment of the Nation and its citizens,” said Lionetti.

    If you have a device that utilizes Windows 8, you may download the application to your device by searching for “Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma” in the Windows 8 application store.

    If you would like to download the app, click here.

  • Choctaw Nation recognized as Clean Community

    Choctaw Nation recognized as Clean Community

    Award_presentation_web Department of Environmental Quality Deputy Executive Director Jimmy Givens presents the Oklahoma Clean Community to the Choctaw Nation – Assistant Chief Gary Batton and Director of Project Management Tracy Horst.

    A special ceremony was held June 19 at the Recycling Center in Durant to recognize the Choctaw Nation as an Oklahoma Clean Community.

    “Over the last couple of years. The Choctaw Nation has partnered with other communities to hold recycling events during which over 7,000 tires have been collected that would otherwise have ended up in dumps,” said Deputy Executive Director Jimmy Givens of the Department of Environmental Quality. “These events have provided residents and tribal members a safe and effective way to dispose of tires as well as other recyclables.”

    DEQ encourages entities to coordinate community-wide cleanups of used tires. DEQ’s Tire Indemnity Fund will pay to haul off old, unused, or abandoned tires. Tire piles can be an eyesore and attract unwelcome pests, such as mosquitoes and rodents. After a community has completed at least one cleanup event, it is then eligible to become an Oklahoma Clean Community.

    Givens was very impressed at the interest in the Choctaw Nation’s endeavors and what a broad section of the community has become involved. “We would also like to recognize those of you who are collaborating with the Choctaw Nation in making this a reality,” Givens continued from the podium, a mountain of recyclable material behind him. “We want to commend you for being a partner in resourcing efforts and to encourage you to encourage others to become involved.”

    The Choctaw Nation’s Green Team started recycling aluminum cans, printer cartridges and Christmas cards in late 2008. “It just exploded into a little bit of everything,” said Tracy Horst, director of Project Management and the Green Team. “The Chief, Assistant Chief and Tribal Council have been supportive and the employees have been very active. I can’t say enough about the Going Green team and recycling crew for all the hard work they do.”

    A Department of Energy grant kicked off the nation’s full-scale recycling initiative in October 2009 with four employees. The Durant facility opened in December 2010. During that month of December, the facility recycled 14,000 pounds.

    The number of staff has doubled and the center is now recycling more than 14 times the original 14,000 pounds each month. A second recycling facility opened in January in Poteau, partially funded by the Administration of Native Americans. Its two employees are already recycling over 20,000 pounds per month. Horst estimates the Choctaw Nation will reach a total of 5 million pounds of recycled materials by the end of this year.

    If you would like to keep up to date with the Choctaw Nation’s recycling efforts visit the Going Green Facebook page .

  • Durant Young Professionals First Annual Community Leaders Round Table Forum

    Durant Young Professionals First Annual Community Leaders Round Table Forum


    Durant Young Professionals is hosting the First Annual Community Leaders Round Table Forum on Tuesday, July 9. The event will take place at the REI Women’s Business Center, 2912 Enterprise Boulevard, Durant, OK from 5:30-7:00 p.m. The leaders who will present as part of the round table include Pat Dorris, CEO, Medical Center of Southeastern Oklahoma; Greg Massey, CEO, First United Bank; Dr. Larry Minks, President, Southeastern Oklahoma State University; and Gary Batton, Assistant Chief, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

    Durant Young Professionals members will have the opportunity to interact with some of Durant’s most prominent leaders through a panel discussion, as well as one-on-one interaction with the featured guests. Come prepared to ask questions about the successful careers and lives of the established panel. For more information visit DYP on Facebook or LinkedIn or contact the Durant Area Chamber of Commerce at (580) 924-0848.

    DYP is under the direction of the Durant Area Chamber of Commerce, and was formed in January 2013 to help connect the 20s, 30s, and young-at-heart in the Durant community. The Leaders Round Table is an example of “emerge” events hosted by DYP. Emerge events hone and develop leadership skills by learning from established professionals.

    “The mission of Durant Young Professionals is to provide opportunities to experience life with young professionals; opportunities to emerge and develop as leaders; and opportunities to engage the community through learning and service for the purpose of identifying, retaining and supporting the latest group of movers, shakers, and history makers of southern Oklahoma.”

  • Short Story Contest

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma & Five Civilized Tribes Museum Short Story Contest

    The Choctaw Nation is encouraging young authors to share their talents as writers and storytellers. Through a partnership with the Five Civilized Tribes Museum a story competition has been developed in conjunction with the annual Five Tribes Story Conference. The winners of the competition will be notified prior to the conference and announced with a special presentation at the event. The fictional short story must relate to the Choctaw Nation in a historical, cultural or family related way.

    • Middle School/High School • College

    Stories will be judged on style, content, grammar, and the originality with which the student approaches the topic. Judges will look for clear, concise writing that is entertaining, original, articulate, logically organized, and well-supported. The winning submission must demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, its history and culture.

    Winner in each category receives:
    • $100 prize
    • Cost of attendance, roundtrip travel to, 2-nights lodging during and meals during Five Tribes Story Conference Oct. 18-19 in Muskogee, Okla.
    • Choice of reading or selecting someone to read their work at the Five Tribes Story Conference.

    • Must be a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma residing in the United States.
    • Stories are to be fiction – 1,500-2,100 words or less, double-spaced.
    • E-mail submissions only – All stories must be emailed no later than Sept. 20, 2013.
    • Must include entrant’s name at the bottom of each page.
    • All submissions must be the original sole work of the entrant.
    • Submissions cannot have been published previously, though it could have been a class assignment.
    • Judges will award extra points for short stories using elements of the Choctaw language.
    • Winners will be notified by Oct. 1, 2013.

    Cover letter guidelines: All entries must be submitted with a cover letter that includes the following:
    • Date
    • Student’s name
    • Student’s address, email and telephone number
    • Student’s grade and school
    • Copy of CDIB and Tribal Membership

    Announcement will be made during the Five Tribes Story Conference, Oct. 18, and through media following the conference.

    For more information, please contact one of the following: Lisa Reed, Media Director, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma or 800-522-6170, ext. 2245

    Tim Tingle, Choctaw author and storyteller or 830-832-4288

  • “Achukma” pecan oil business, achukma hoke!

    Dan and Mark Hamilton
    Dan Hamilton (left) and Mark Hamilton (right) stand beside the machinery they use to produce the clean, cold pressed, unrefined “Achukma” pecan oil. Some of the machines used in the process had to be imported or fabricated to get even more oil out of the meats of the Oklahoma pecans. (PHOTO BY BRANDON FRYE)

    Choctaw businessman keeps it natural and healthy

    By Brandon Frye
    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    Coleman, Okla. - A year and a half after spearheading the development of a new product for his family business–wearing the hats of a researcher, business planner, production manager, and engineer along the way– Mark Hamilton, retired Oklahoma educator and coach, found himself in a room full of Choctaw Nation employees explaining the natural benefits of pecan oil.

    But the story of “Achukma,” 100% pure virgin pecan oil, does not start there in that room.

    It starts with Hamilton, a family man, a businessman, an Oklahoman, and a man often seen wearing a cap and a pair of work boots. He is a figure-it-out kind of guy, and had to be during the production of “Achukma“ pecan oil.

    “I was assigned the project with one directive: figure it out,” Hamilton said. The Hamilton family business, Tri-Agri Farm Center, lead by Mark’s father Dan Hamilton, had their hands in multiple products and services over the years, including animal feed and peanut handling. But, after the peanut growing business had moved out of Oklahoma and into Texas and other areas in 1999, the Hamiltons were left with equipment ready to be repurposed, a series of problems to be solved, and an opportunity.

    And so began the journey that has led to the Hamiltons operating one of the largest pecan cleaning and marketing operations in Oklahoma. In the spring of 2013, the Hamiltons found themselves faced with a new challenge and a new opportunity. An unstable economic environment surrounding the production and sale of pecans left some Oklahoma growers and harvesters with crops of little value. And the normal selection process left many smaller pecans, and pieces of pecans, with no value at all.

    But pecans are an important crop to Oklahoma, especially the native pecan. Oklahoma is very well suited for growing pecans, because the pecan tree is native to the area. Oklahoma produces, on average, 12 to 15 million pounds of pecans a year, according to Hamilton. Those pecans help generate money in cash crop value to the state of Oklahoma, and help provide jobs for people in the industry like harvesters and cleaners.
    Pecan Bucket

    So, the Hamiltons began looking into ways to stabilize the market, benefit the growers, use more Oklahoma pecans, and offer a pure and healthy product to consumers. “To create another market venue for Oklahoma pecans, we started looking at pecan oil,” Hamilton said. “We asked what areas could benefit from a pecan-based product. Most of the pecan usage in this country is over the holidays, but we wanted a product that would allow people to benefit from pecans year-round.”

    A few hurdles popped up along the way, the biggest of which was figuring out just how to get all of that healthy oil out of the pecan. “We developed a process that allows us to effectively extract the oil that is much more effective than the common process,” Hamilton said. They made adjustments to equipment, imported new and rare machines, and were left with a unique process.

    It all happens at the Hamilton family business, which is tucked away down a side road in Coleman. Without looking closely, it might perfectly blend in with the rest of the small Oklahoma town. From a distance, there appears to be only a gray building, but once the road hooks around, a view opens up to a line of trees surrounding holding bins, trailers, and birds playing on equipment once used to prepare peanuts.

    Walking into the room where “Achukma” pecan oil is made is like stepping through the gate of an old country road into a pristine laboratory. The walls are a shiny metallic, the ground is a smooth and spotless concrete, and the machines stand as simple bins, tubes, tanks, and machinery arranged to enact a streamlined experiment. During production, the pecans move through a series of procedures designed to keep the oil as fresh and pure as possible. Heat and chemicals, which would break down the oil, are never used. Instead, the pecans are spun and cold pressed as nearly all of the oil is extracted from the meat of the nut. In the end, pecan oil, pecan flour, and a form of pecan butter are left in a clean, whole, and pure state.

    With a fresh product, the Hamiltons started researching names. “I am Choctaw, my family moved to Boggy Depot, Indian territory, in 1872 and have been here ever since. We embrace our Choctaw heritage. I wanted to have our name represent our intent, to provide a natural, healthy product. My mother found the word achukma, which can mean good, beautiful, pure; and one of these days, I intend for achukma to be recognized world-wide.” Hamilton added that they are well on their way to that, with customer interest from as far away as Egypt and China.

    Almost two years later Hamilton found himself in what was later referred to as the Choctaw Nations’ version of the “Shark Tank” (a reality competition show where entrepreneurs make business presentations), the group had come together to explore in what ways the Hamilton family business could benefit from the programs the Choctaw Nation offers.

    In regards to “Achukma“ pecan oil, the product of Hamilton’s labors, he said the health benefits are tremendous. “We have learned so much. It is a great cooking oil, is good for your skin, and is even good for treating leather. I am really excited about the potential.” This got the ball rolling and piqued the interest of the group. Dale Jackson, Senior Business Analyst for the Choctaw Nation, said that he works to take tribal members and their companies and help them grow. “I see a unique opportunity here,” he said, adding that his family has enjoyed using the pecan oil before.
    Pecan Oil

    The product practically sells itself, said Hamilton’s Director of Marketing, Russell Washington. “If you let me talk to someone for two or three minutes, they’ll buy it,” he said during the meeting. “It’s not that you have to convince them to buy it, it’s just that most people have never heard of pecan oil and are not aware of its nutritional benefits.”

    Washington listed all of the perks and benefits of the oil to the group. It is gluten-free, so it is safe for people with gluten sensitivity or allergies. It is cold pressed and unrefined, so it stays as pure and healthy as the pecan itself. It contains antioxidants, which help prevent the oxidation and damage of cells. It contains healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids, which help with normal metabolism. It is never genetically modified, and so is a more natural and tasty product.

    According to Dr. Lloyd Sumner, microbiologist with Noble Foundation Research in Ardmore, “We (Drs. Zhentian Lei and myself) are collaborating with Native American Specialty Products to better assess the chemical nature of the nutritional components of the pecan oil; especially antioxidant phenolics and polyunsaturated fats.” This research could lead to the understanding of even more beneficial applications of the pecan products.

    And if the health benefits are not enough, Washington added, “My wife has tested it, and listen, guys, it makes the best chicken fried steak of your life.” Veree Shaw, Marketing Director for the Choctaw Nation, offered to help Hamilton and his pecan oil by looking into label printing and placing the items in Choctaw outlets like the welcome centers.

    The Hamiltons offer more than just pecan oil for culinary creations. They also supply a pecan flour as a pure and unrefined sidekick to the oil. And a blend of the oil is also packaged and sold as New Life Leather Treatment. Their products are currently available online at Achukma, or over the phone at (580) 937-4300, and will soon be available through health food stores, Choctaw Nation outlets, and the venues are still growing.

  • Choctaw Nation nominated for Beacon Award

    Choctaw Nation nominated for Beacon Award

    As Oklahoma businesses and nonprofits continue to reach out to the recent tornado victims, The Journal Record is planning its annual tribute to those lighting the way in the state by giving back to the communities that support them. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is among the nominees for its efforts with organizations such as Veterans Airlift Command and Wounded Warriors among others.

    The Journal Record will recognize 28 businesses and organizations for their contributions to the nonprofit community at its sixth annual Beacon Awards event on July 11 in downtown Oklahoma City.

    Overall winners will be selected from the group and announced at the event at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. Organizations will be recognized in large, medium and small divisions for their contributions to the nonprofit community in two categories – charitable influence and philanthropic impact. In addition, three nonprofits will receive special recognition at the event: Allied Arts, Homeless Alliance and the Masonic Charity Foundation.

    “The Oklahoma standard for giving is recognized worldwide and the business community drives that spirit,” said Mary Mélon, publisher of The Journal Record. “The Journal Record Beacon Awards allow us to honor the businesses and organizations who provide generous financial support and a culture of volunteerism and service. Both are critically important for our state’s nonprofits to continue providing valuable and much-needed services.”

    These nonprofits and the company finalists will be featured in the Beacon Awards magazine and recognized at the event in July. A reception begins at 6 p.m., with dinner following at 7 p.m. Each of the Beacon Award honorees will receive an award. The overall winners in each category will receive a donation for the nonprofit they support. The event is presented by First Fidelity Bank and sponsored by Delta Dental, McAfee & Taft, Sonic and the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits.

    “A strong nonprofit community is an integral part of a community, and that is especially true in times of need like we have faced recently in Oklahoma,” said Lee R. Symcox, First Fidelity president and CEO. “It is important to recognize those within the business community that provide vital backing and leadership for nonprofits. They give of their time and resources, and are an example for others, encouraging further support.”

    Individual and group tickets are available. Reservations can be made by contacting Ashley Fitzpatrick at (405) 278-2820 or online at

    Charitable influence finalists – Organizations in the charitable influence category demonstrate a company culture that encourages and supports volunteerism, charitable giving and community involvement by its members.

    Large business subcategory finalists include (500+ employees):
    • Chaparral Energy.
    • Groendyke Transport Inc.
    • Oklahoma Publishing Co.
    • Target.

    Medium business subcategory finalists include (51-499 employees):
    • CFS2.
    • Cyntergy.
    • Lakeside Women’s Hospital.
    • Republic Bank & Trust.

    Small business subcategory finalists include (50 or fewer employees):
    • Retirement Investment Advisors Inc.
    • Vann & Associates.

    Philanthropic impact finalists – Those recognized in the philanthropic impact categories have made a significant charitable contribution to a nonprofit organization working to meet specific needs in the community. Large business subcategory finalists include (500 plus employees): • BancFirst.
    • Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
    • Crescent Cos.
    • Dell Inc.
    • Farmers Insurance.
    • Halliburton.
    • Nordam.

    Medium business subcategory finalists include (51-499 employees):
    • A Good Egg Dining Group.
    • BP America.
    • Cotton Electric Cooperative Inc.
    • HSI Sensing.

    Small business subcategory finalists include (50 or fewer employees):
    • Ark Wrecking Co. of Oklahoma.
    • CRI Feeders of Guymon LLC.
    • Framed in the Village.
    • Insight Creative Group.

    See more at The Journal Record website.

  • Culture at the Capitol

    Debbie Damron explains about Choctaw baskets to a fascinated little visitor.

    Culture at the Capitol

    Choctaw Days’ third installment in Washington, D.C.

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) hosted its third installment of Choctaw Days, June 20 and 21, at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, D.C. The event is one of the CNO’s largest exhibitions of culture and tradition, aimed to educate and immerse patrons in what it truly means to be Choctaw.

    “We are always striving to keep our culture alive and strong. We love to share it near and we love to share it far, meeting new Choctaw faces all along the way,” stated Chief Gregory E. Pyle.

    During this time, members of CNO occupied the museum’s large atrium, the Potomac Room, and numerous staples of Choctaw culture were showcased. Aspects of the Choctaw way of life included stickball, social dances, storytelling, beadwork and ceremonies. Each day consisted of three presentations of time-honored traditions with time to meet cultural experts filling the moments between.

    “We are always glad to have the Choctaws in town,” said Kevin Gover, director of NMAI, as he addressed the audience. He went on to mention that Choctaw Days was one of the highlights of the museum during the year. Everyone in the booth is so engaging and happy, which creates a pleasant atmosphere and encourages guests to learn more, said Gover.

    “When we heard Choctaw Days was going on, we wanted to make sure we made it out,” stated Brad Rauh from Clemson, S.C., who was in town with his family for a visit. Patrons of the museum showed a pleasurable reception to the event, everyone enjoying the various exhibitions of Choctaw culture.


    Each morning the Choctaw princesses initiated the day’s activities by presenting the Lord’s Prayer in sign language, began the midday production with the Four- Directions ceremony, and concluded the day with a special presentation.

    Bead-working classes presented by CNO’s Office of Historic Preservation were offered throughout both days on the third floor of the building. Guests were taught to bead bracelets and turtles, which were chosen because of their significance to the tribe.

    “It is very intricate,” stated Rebecca Gelfond who is from Maryland, but has family in the Choctaw Nation boundaries. Gelfond’s children, Max and Julia, accompanied her in learning beadwork and seemed to have a knack for the art. “Given Julia’s fascination and success, I suspect we will be [beading again],” she laughed.

    Social dances are an integral part to all Choctaw cultural gatherings and Choctaw Day was no different. Dancers energized the room with their quick steps and bright colors, pulling in members of the audience for impromptu appearances in the Raccoon, Stealing Partners and Snake Dances. “It’s a different, more organic rhythm,” stated Kandall Masada, a ballet dancer from Texas.

    Stickball was a favorite of the youth in the crowd. Students from various educational groups would overtake the floor following the presentation to try their hand at the ancient sport, which is responsible for today’s lacrosse. Billy Eagle Road III and Jared “Pinti” Tom would give demonstrations, sharing stories of their games with Tvshka Homma, CNO’s official tribal stickball team. “I was totally fascinated by stickball,” exclaimed Kelly McHugle.

    Special presentations also graced the floor of the Potomac, including the lively stories of Tim Tingle. An award-winning author, Tingle has the ability to get the crowd energized and active through his stories, which often include a combination of Choctaw lore and history. Tingle told guests of the NMAI the story of how rabbit lost his tail, as well as the saga of Bigfoot and the Choctaw princess.

    Miss Choctaw Nation Cheyenne Murray, beadwork artist and chanter Brad Joe, and Broadway actor Aaron Umsted lent the audience their voices for solo performances at various times during the event. Each performer owned their own sound, but each sang completely in the Choctaw language, creating a totally Choctaw experience.

    Videos of the event recorded by the Smithsonian will be posted soon, so keep an eye on our Choctaw Facebook.

    Lana Sleeper, MaiMouna Youseff and Cheyenne Murray are all smiles during the Snake Dance.

  • Eight Choctaw Ancestors Have Returned to Rest

    Eight Choctaw Ancestors Have Returned to Rest

    On May 16, 2013, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma repatriated a collection containing the remains of eight Choctaw ancestors and 520 funerary objects from the Natchez Trace Parkway. The same day that these ancestors and funerary objects were returned, Choctaw Nation Historic Preservation Department staff, assisted by representatives from the Parkway, respectfully reburied them on protected land at an undisclosed location. Now, these ancestors are back at rest.

    The remains and objects came from the Boyd Mounds archaeological site, located in what is now Madison County, Mississippi. This was a village site inhabited by ancestral Choctaw people from AD 300-700. Several centuries later, earth mounds were built on the old village site and used to bury the deceased. Choctaw people continued to visit this ancient, sacred area and as recently as the early 1800s buried a loved one in the mounds. However, in 1820, the Choctaw Tribe ceded 5 million acres, including the land on which the site sits, to the United States through the Treaty of Doaks Stand.

    In 1963 and 1964 in preparation for constructing an adjacent section of the Natchez Trace Parkway, the National Park Service employed archaeologists to excavate many of the burial mounds at the Boyd Site. Human remains and burial objects were taken from their graves, studied, written about, and then placed in long-term storage. In that day and age, federal agencies gave no thought to whether or not Native American people wanted their ancestors’ graves to be treated in such a way. The remains and funerary objects from the Boyd site sat in storage for decades, far from where their loved ones had originally buried them.

    The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) became law in 1991, making it possible for Tribes to repatriate ancestral human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and items of cultural patrimony held in federal collections. The repatriation and reburial conducted in May culminated 12 years of NAGPRA consultation between the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the Natchez Trace Parkway, and other Tribes. The Choctaw NAGPRA Advisory Board, made up of 10 Tribal leaders and traditional people guided Choctaw Nation’s role process. The reburial was conducted under the direct supervision of 2 Choctaw spiritual leaders, and with the financial assistance of a National Parks Service grant.

    The past cannot be undone, but in working together to see these ancestors returned to their rightful rest, Choctaw people and current Natchez Trace Parkway staff fostered a friendship and understanding that will influence each other’s thoughts and actions far into the future. According to Olin Williams,” After several repatriations, I can tell that the agency folks are starting to understand what we are trying to communicate. I think they are beginning to sense the proper repatriation spirit. The fulfillment of returning the remains is erasing the guilt and fear of accounting for mistakes of history.”

    The ancestors from Boyd Mounds site are again buried, as their loved ones long ago intended. When we of the present day and age pass on to the next life and meet the spirits of these ancient people, we should ask them forgiveness for our failure to protect the sanctity of their original graves. However, we can also find a measure of solace that in laying their remains back to rest, some service has been done for them.

  • Choctaw Youth receive honors at Jim Thorpe Native Games

    Choctaw Youth receive honors at Jim Thorpe Native Games

    The basketball team gathers for a photo

    By Shelley Garner
    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    Choctaw Youth basketball, golf and track and field athletes competed in the annual Jim Thorpe Native Games held at Remington Park in Oklahoma City on June 9. Twenty-eight athletes competed in five different divisions and brought home two medals. Teams competed against other Native athletes from Oklahoma, Florida, North Dakota and Arizona.

    Channah Cox of Norman and Matt Wood of Durant represented the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Monday at Lincoln Park Golf course. The two golfers finished their final round on Tuesday and Channah Cox brought home a silver metal, but Matt Wood fell just out of medal contention with a fifth-place finish.

    Thorpe_1Tuesday was a tough day of competition with both track and field events and basketball. Morgan Steve set the tone for the CNO teams by bringing home the gold in the shot put. The first day of pool play began for all basketball teams and Choctaw Nation swept the board with each team going undefeated in pool play. Wednesday’s pool play ended with all CNO teams winning and advancing into the tournament later that afternoon. Both 16 and up boys and girls lost in heartbreak rounds and were eliminated, girls by the SWO Outlaws from North Dakota, and boys by the Cheyenne Arapaho. The 19 and up team continued to dominate over the competition and won big advancing into the gold medal game on Thursday. The 19 and up boys team played a gold medal game against the Hostile Natives from the Shawnee tribe. They started off slow but made a huge second-half comeback sparked by Seth Youngblood and Markell Henderson to bring home the gold with an 8-point win.

    19 & Up Boys Basketball Team participants: Dallas Little, Cameron Collier, Dominic Davis, Seth Youngblood, Markell Henderson, Cade Clay, Bryce Martin, Chance Haislip

    16 & Up Boys Basketball Team participants: Chris Ortiz,, Alex Clay, Alex Steve, Cody Crase, Blake Crase, John Cox, Adonis Fox, Josh Hawkins

    16 & Up Girls Basketball Team participants: Sassy McCosar, Kelly Himes, Kaci Watts, Ashton Birchfield, Lauren Billie, Hailey Belvin, Abigail Simpson, Mallory Hawkins

    Golf participants : Channah Cox, Matt Wood

    Track and Field participants: Morgan Steve


  • Creative Oklahoma Presents the 2013 State of Creativity Forum

    Creative Oklahoma Presents the 2013 State of Creativity Forum

    Creative Oklahoma is proud to announce the 2013 State of Creativity Forum will take place Nov. 19 at the Civic Center Music Hall in Oklahoma City. The State of Creativity Forum is an annual event dedicated to promoting and influencing innovation in Oklahoma and around the world.

    Creative Oklahoma invites you to join innovators and entrepreneurs, educators and students, policy makers, business leaders, technology experts and trailblazers as they participate in this memorable event full of inspiration and collaboration.

    The Forum is projected to have over 1,200 attendees with many creative and innovative corporations, educational institutions, and civic organizations represented from around the world.

    The Creativity Forum attracts a diverse attendance population each year. Participants and speakers come from across the U.S. and the globe to take part in this event. Confirmed keynote speakers for this years’ Forum include Brad Moore, CEO of Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, Nancy Kanter, Senior VP of Disney Junior Worldwide, and Peter Sims, co-founder of FuseCorps and author of “Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries.” Many other speakers have been confirmed for workshop sessions and other presenting roles throughout the day.

    This Forum is an important and influential opportunity for entrepreneurs, university students, and business leaders to network and communicate with each other about the growing global creative economy.

    Creative Oklahoma is encouraging individuals to recognize their innate talents and creativity, bringing those gifts passionately into boardrooms, school rooms, parish halls, and city halls. Creative ideas will drive the economic and social change so critical to our survival. This Forum provides innovators and entrepreneurs a chance to communicate and share not only their ideas, but also their hopes and dreams for the growing creative economy.

    Our 21st century interconnected global economy is an economy built on ideas. The next new ideas will drive corporate profitability, entrepreneurial growth, and solutions to some of the most serious health, environmental, and social issues facing the human race. Yet, there is a disconnect between how educational systems are preparing young people for this fast-paced change and the needs of the workforce and society for creative thinkers, inventors, and entrepreneurs.

    In conjunction with the 2013 State of Creativity Forum, cSchool, a program of Creative Oklahoma to advance deeper creativity and innovation learning, will be presenting two half-day workshops on Nov. 18 as a pre-Forum offering. These workshops are focused on developing the “creative community” and attendees will have the option of taking both half-day sessions with lunch or each half-day session individually. The morning session will be co-presented by Oklahoma-based cSchool experts and the afternoon session will be taught by James Nave, utilizing his “Imaginative Storm” methodology in community development.

    The individual early-bird registration cost of the Forum is $195, and student tickets are $95 each. In order to keep the ticket price affordable, Creative Oklahoma seeks sponsorships to off-set the full cost of the event. Businesses, educational institutions, foundations, and individuals have the opportunity to become sponsors for the forum which includes recognition and amenities prior to and during the Forum. Information on sponsorship can be found by contacting

    About Creative Oklahoma: Established in 2006, Creative Oklahoma is a statewide nonprofit organization advancing Oklahoma’s creative economy through creativity and innovation. Our mission is to establish Oklahoma as a world-renowned center of creativity and innovation in education, commerce and culture. The organization transforms the State of Oklahoma through projects and collaborative ventures that help develop a more entrepreneurial and vibrant economy and an improved quality of life for its citizens. For more info, see

  • Bridge named in honor of fallen warrior

    Hitak_Bridge The bridge over Hickory Creek on Highway 77 near Overbrook was named in honor of the late Marine Lance Cpl. Hatak-Yuka-Keyu Martin Yearby, who was killed in action on May 14, 2006, in Iraq. A large gathering of friends and family were on hand to witness the unveiling of two new signs on July 24. Pictured are Love County Commissioner Herschel “Bub” Peery, Rep. Tommy Hardin, Choctaw Chief Gregory E. Pyle, Hatak’s mother, Mary Yearby of Overbrook, his wife, Lindsey Yearby of Durant, his father, Justin Yearby of Overbrook, Laquita Ladner of Burneyville, and Sen. Frank Simpson. Standing in back are fellow Marines and friends of Hatak’s, Staff Sgt. Rodrigo Roman of Chicago, Ill., Cpl. Will Torres of Hemet, Calif., and Lance Cpl. John Amador of San Diego, Calif.

    Bridge named in honor of fallen warrior

    By LARISSA COPELAND Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    The bridge over Hickory Creek on Highway 77 near Overbrook, Okla., was renamed on Wednesday, July 24, in honor of the late Marine Lance Cpl. Hatak-Yuka-Keyu Martin Yearby, who was killed in action on May 14, 2006, in Iraq.

    A reception to commemorate the newly named bridge was held at the Greenville Elementary School, the school Hatak attended as a child before going on to graduate from Marietta High School in 2003.

    Senator Frank Simpson, Representative Tommy Hardin, and Choctaw Chief Gregory E. Pyle all addressed the large gathering of family and friends, speaking on Hatak’s accomplishments and service to the nation and expressing their appreciation to his family.

    Chief Pyle spoke of the sacrifices of all who have served the country in the armed forces. “To all the veterans and their families, we appreciate so much all that you have done and all that you continue to do. To the Yearby family, this is especially true with Hatak having made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. I’m honored to be able to stand among you as we recognize him today.”

    Justin and Mary Yearby spoke about their son and expressed their gratitude for all in attendance, including three of Hatak’s friends and fellow Marines that he served with overseas, all who flew in for the occasion. His family presented Pendleton blankets to the three men, Staff Sgt. Rodrigo Roman of Chicago, Ill., Cpl. Will Torres of Hemet, Calif., and Lance Cpl. John Amador of San Diego, Calif. His father said as he introduced them, “These men were his friends, they were with him [in Iraq] and were close to him. They are now a part of us.”

    Love County also declared July 24 “Lance Corporal Hatak-Yuka-Keyu Martin Yearby Day.” The Choctaw Nation Color Guard also stood by at attention at the reception as the proclamation was read aloud by Love County Commissioner Herschel “Bub” Peery, which states:

    Whereas, Lance Corporal Hatak-Yuka-Keyu Martin Yearby had a concept of nation and thereafter aspired and struggled for the nation’s freedom, and

    Whereas, Lance Corporal Hatak-Yuka-Keyu Martin Yearby defined and contributed to a system of life of freedom and order for a nation, and

    Whereas, Lance Corporal Hatak-Yuka-Keyu Martin Yearby contributed to the quality of life and destiny of a nation by his faithful and loyal devotion to duties and made the ultimate sacrifice in service.

    Now therefore be it resolved by the Board of Commissioners of Love County, on behalf of all its citizens, as a show of deepest appreciation for everything Lance Corporal Hatak-Yuka-Keyu Martin Yearby did for Love County and the United States of America, does hereby declare July 24, 2013, “Lance Corporal Hatak-Yuka-Keyu Martin Yearby Day” throughout Love County.

    After a presentation to the family of a replica of the new bridge sign, everyone moved out in a large vehicle convoy, led by the Patriot Guard Riders, to Hickory Creek to witness the unveiling of the two new signs at each end of the bridge along Highway 77.

    “This is very special,” Justin said of the occasion. “It’s hard to express how thankful we are for all the support from the county, state and tribe for all that went into making this happen. It means a lot to our family.”

    He went on to describe his son and the path that lead him to a life of service. “Everyone who knew him would say he was fun, he was a prankster, a jokester, always having a good time,” he said.

    “But being in the service was something he always wanted to do,” he continued.

    Hatak, whose heritage included Choctaw, Creek and Seminole, was a pow wow dancer all his life. “He grew up in the pow wow arena and grew up seeing and knowing the respect our culture gives to our warriors. He witnessed this his whole life. And that was solidified when his older sister joined the Marines.

    “As his father, I had misgivings about him joining, of course. But he reminded me of something. He reminded me that I’ve always told him as he grew up that it takes a village, and no matter how big or small the gathering, wherever we are at any given time, that is our village. And he told me, ‘It’s my time to lead my own village,’ and I respected that. He had a warrior’s mentality.”

    When asked what he thought Hatak would think about the event, his father smiled and replied with what he said was Hatak’s favorite word – “Sweeeet!”

    Rep. Hardin sponsored the bill to name the bridge after Hatak after being contacted by Laquita Ladner of Burneyville, a former substitute teacher where Hatak attended school. Hardin began the process in the House, and Sen. Simpson ushered it through the State Senate.

    Section 2 of Oklahoma House Bill 1759, approved by Governor Mary Fallin on May 14, 2013, reads: “The bridge over Hickory Creek on U.S. Highway 77 between Oswalt Road and Campbell Road in Love County shall be designated the ‘LCpl Hatak-Yuka-Keyu Martin Yearby USMC Memorial Bridge.’ Pursuant to the provisions of Title 69 of the Oklahoma Statutes, the Department of Transportation shall cause suitable permanent markers to be placed upon the bridge bearing that name.”

  • Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid and How It Affects You

    Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid and How It Affects You


    There are more than 50 million Americans in the United States that do not have any form of insurance and tens of millions of Americans that are underinsured. Due to this dilemma, on March 2010 President Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act. It mandates that every American have health insurance coverage or face a new health tax penalty for not obtaining insurance beginning January 1, 2014.

    There are exemptions within the law that would allow some to be exempt from the mandatory insurance requirement/health tax penalty. The first exemptions include individuals that already have health insurance coverage such as: employer-sponsored coverage, Medicare and/or Medicaid, Veterans health benefits and/or TRICARE. The next types of exemptions are for individuals who cannot afford insurance coverage based on federally determined poverty level calculations; those incarcerated; or members of recognized religious sects. The last exemption is very important to know and understand for OUR tribal members; members of federally recognized Indian tribes. In order to be federally recognized, you and all members of your family MUST obtain a CBID card as well a tribal membership card prior to January 1, 2014. Some Native Americans (those without a federally recognized tribal membership and only possess a CDIB card) will have to request a hardship waiver as “proof” of Native American ancestry in order to be considered exempt from the mandatory insurance requirement and prevent future health tax penalties on future income tax returns.

    The Affordable Care Act will provide many services to include the following:
    • Creates the Health Insurance Marketplace, a new way for individuals, families, and small businesses to get health coverage,
    • Requires insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing health conditions,
    • Holds insurance companies accountable for rate increases,
    • Makes it illegal for health insurance companies to arbitrarily cancel your health insurance just because you get sick,
    • Protects your choice of doctors,
    • Covers young adults under 26,
    • Provides free preventive care,
    • Ends lifetime and yearly dollar limits on coverage of essential health benefits,
    • Guarantees your right to appeal.

    When you get health insurance coverage in the Marketplace, you may be able to get lower costs on monthly premiums. This depends on your income and family size. Enrollment will begin October 2013 and ends March 2014. The Marketplace Exchange can be very beneficial as it can give tribal members a safety net back-up plan for services Choctaw Nation Health Services are unable to provide to include certain surgeries or medications. The best part is that certain tribal members who purchase health insurance through the Marketplace Exchange do not have to pay co-pays or other cost-sharing if their income is under 300 percent of the federal poverty level, which is roughly $66,000 for a family of four (83,000 in Alaska). For those who choose not to enroll or provide membership of a federally recognized tribe will face tax penalties that in 2014 will be $95 per family member and by 2016 will be $695 per family member. Do not delay so you will not have to pay unnecessary tax penalties.

    Medicaid offers free insurance to those that qualify by age, blind and/or disabilities, pregnant women and children based on state income and resource guidelines. Often patients believe they might not qualify for this health care coverage and never apply. Each Choctaw Nation health facility has trained personnel that can assist with most types of enrollment and patients can know immediately see if they meet the requirements for this benefit. Patients should speak with a Benefit Coordinator and see if this free health insurance is available for them!

    Medicare open enrollments are just around the corner based on eligibility. To be eligible for Medicare one must be a US citizen that is 65 or older, under age 65 and disabled or any age with ESRD. There are four parts of Medicare: Part A covers hospitalization, skilled nursing facilities, home health and hospice. Part B covers physician services, ambulance, durable medical equipment/supplies and other services not paid under Part A. Part C replaces the traditional Part A/Part B Medicare and is ran by private insurance companies and finally Part D covers pharmacy prescription drugs. Penalties are charged to patients for not enrolling in Medicare coverage when they first become eligible, so do not delay and speak any of our Benefit Coordinators at your local Choctaw Nation Clinic or our Medicare or Medicaid Specialist with any questions or concerns you may have.

    Open enrollment for Medicare Part D begins October 15th-December 31st. Patients can sign up for Medicare Part C from October 5th- December 31st if they already have Medicare benefits and want to change from ‘traditional’ Medicare to a private insurance plan acting as Medicare. A second open enrollment runs January 1-February 14 which allows those on a Part C plan that want to make changes and/or go back to ‘traditional’ Medicare coverage. If you didn’t sign up for Part A and/or Part B when you were first eligible, you can sign up during the general enrollment period between January 1– March 31 each year.

    Many of the changes will not only affect our elders, but our younger working age and children tribal members. We need your help, by being informed of all the health care changes you can discuss and advise your family members and friends so that all of our tribal members can make informed important health care decisions in the upcoming months!

  • Choctaw Community Language Program Teachers and Locations

    Community Teacher Fall Class Starting Class Location
    Anderson, Rhoda
    Betty Thomas
    September 12th
    Thursday 6 - 8pm
    Choctaw Community Center
    1636 South George Nigh Expressway
    McAlester, OK
    Bailey, Robert September 14
    Saturday 10am - noon
    Friendship House
    56 Julian Avenue
    San Francisco, CA
    Battiest, Barbara August 5
    Monday 6 - 8pm
    Family Investment Center
    210 Chahta Road
    Broken Bow, OK
    Billy, Lou R. Children’s Class
    September 9
    Monday 4:30 - 5:30pm
    Choctaw Community Center
    400 SW Quest
    Antlers, OK
    Billy, Steven August 12
    Monday 6 - 8pm
    Old Community Center
    105 W. 10th Street
    Wright City, OK
    Boston, Helena Marenda August 15
    Thursday 5:30 - 7:30pm
    Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital
    500 N Highland Avenue
    Sherman, TX
    Carlile, Anna M
    Carol Roberts
    N/A Talihina Community Center
    100 Railroad
    Talihina, OK
    Carney, Paula Children & Teen Class
    September 9
    Monday 7 – 9pm
    Choctaw Community Center
    103 East California
    Coalgate, OK
    Cooper, Roy F September 9
    Monday 7 - 9pm
    Chickasaw Community Center
    401 E. Oklahoma
    Sulphur, OK
    Espinoza, Virginia October 3
    6 - 8pm
    Choctaw Archiving
    Hunter Road
    Boswell, OK
    Frazier, Abe W N/A Fife Indian Methodist Church
    1100 Eufaula
    Muskogee, OK
    Gibson, Berie September 9
    Monday 7 - 9pm
    Tulsa Creek Indian Community Center
    8611 S. Union Avenue
    Tulsa, OK
    Hancock, Ruth Okemah September 3
    Tuesday 6 - 8pm
    Christ Chapel Indian UMC
    317 South Davis
    Claremore, OK
    Hickman, Colina Children’s Class
    September 11
    Wednesday 6 - 7pm
    Choctaw Community Center
    2750 Big Lots Parkway
    Durant, OK
    Hicks, Elsie August 22
    Thursday 7 - 9pm
    Mitchell Memorial UMC
    221 West 7th Street
    Ada, OK
    Johnson, Margaret B August 13
    Tuesday 6 - 8pm
    Christ Chapel Indian UMC
    317 South Davis
    Claremore, OK
    Kaniatobe, Carol Ann September 10
    Tuesday 7 - 9pm
    Choctaw Community Center
    2750 Big Lots Parkway
    Durant, OK
    Lewis JR, Dixon September 3
    Tuesday 6 - 8pm
    Stigler Community Center
    2208 East Main
    Stigler, OK
    Murphy, Ruby R Children’s Class
    September 7
    Saturday 10am - noon
    Oklahoma Choctaw Alliance Center
    5320 S. Youngs Blvd
    Oklahoma City, OK
    Parish, Steven N/A Wilburton Community Center
    Riley, Josh August 14th
    Wednesday 6 - 8pm
    Choctaw Language Building
    3588 Tom Smith Road
    Durant, OK
    Samuels, Deloris August 12
    Monday 6 - 8pm
    Bethel Community Center
    144 County Road
    Bethel, OK
    Samuels, Norris September 10
    Tuesday 7 - 9pm
    Oklahoma Choctaw Alliance Center
    5320 S. Youngs Blvd
    Oklahoma City, OK
    Scott, Ronald C. August 20
    Tuesday 6 - 8pm
    Choctaw Community Center
    1410 South Gin Road
    Atoka, OK
    Scott, Ronald C. August 21
    Wednesday 2 - 4pm
    Choctaw Community Center
    1410 South Gin Road
    Atoka, OK
    Sealy JR, Leroy J September 3
    Tuesday 7 - 9pm
    First Indian Baptist Church
    2610 South Broadway
    Moore, OK
    Struwe, Theresa P September 7
    Saturday 10am - noon
    Southgate Church
    9817 California Road
    Southgate, CA
    Tobey, Juanita Ann August 15
    Thursday 6 - 8pm
    Edgewood United Methodist Church
    104 Wyandotte
    Hartshorne, OK
    Vaughn, Lillian D On-going class,
    Monday nights, 6-8pm
    Ardmore Public Library
    320 E. Street NW
    Ardmore, OK
    Wade, Catherine N September 3
    Tuesday 6:30 - 8:30pm
    Oklahoma Choctaw Alliance Center
    5320 S. Youngs Blvd
    Oklahoma City, OK
    Westbrook, Michelle September 9
    Monday 6 - 8pm
    Choctaw Community Center
    1636 South George Nigh Expressway
    McAlester, OK
    White, Anthony P August 13
    Tuesday 6 - 8pm
    Christ Chapel Indian UMC
    317 South Davis
    Claremore, OK
    Wickson, Dora August 12
    Monday 6 - 8pm
    Choctaw Community Center
    400 SW Quest
    Antlers, OK
    Wickson, Dora August 13
    Tuesday 6 - 8pm
    Choctaw Community Center
    408 North M Road
    Hugo, OK
    York, Billy Joe August 15
    Thursday 6:30 - 8:30pm
    Chickasaw Community Center
    Marlow, OK
  • Choctaw Nation hosts faith-based events

    Choctaw Nation hosts faith-based events

    Power_of_3web Wednesday, August 7, 2013, Choctaw Nation MSPI in collaboration with the Choctaw Nation Events Center will host a faith based suicide prevention event, “The Power of Three,” in the Choctaw Event Center at 6 p.m., at no cost.

    Featured speaker, Eric Weaver puts over 23 years of professional and personal experience into this dynamic and interactive presentation. He will provide a real-life, ‘no-nonsense’ faith-based approach to the issues of mental health, mental illness, warning signs and symptoms of stress and depression, stigmas, communication skills, recovery, suicide awareness and prevention.

    Christian artist, Jonny Diaz, will add to our encouraging and uplifting evening through his music. He is well known in Christian music for his songs “Scars”, “More Beautiful You”, and “Stand for You” – he will perform these hits and many more.

    T-Shirt or CD available for the first 250 in attendance. Call 918.302.0052 for more details.

    A second event will be hosted by Weaver titled, “Emotional Safety and Survival: Awareness and Prevention in Law Enforcement and Emergency Services.” Three sessions of this event will be available. Thursday, Aug. 8, from 9 a.m. to noon, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and Friday, Aug. 9, from 9 a.m. to noon. This event will be hosted in the Choctaw Nation Casino Ballroom in Durant and will be at no cost.

    In this powerful seminar, retired police sergeant Eric Weave discusses openly and honestly of how his life was riddled with personal struggles and trials, as well as severe battles with stress, depression, self destructive and suicidal behavior. Eric will also discuss how his recovery allowed him to develop and command the Rochester Police Department’s Emotionally Disturbed Persons Response Team (EDPRT), the first team of its kind in New York State, as well as train thousands of police officer and other law enforcement personnel on the issues of mental health. Eric puts over 23 years of professional and personal experience into this dynamic presentation, and provides a real-life, ‘no-nonsense’ approach to the issues of mental health, mental illness, symptoms of stress and depression, stigmas, communications skills, and suicide awareness and prevention among law enforcement officers and emergency services worker and their families.

    “This class has been accredited by the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training for three hours of mandatory continuing education credit. Regarding any law enforcement concepts, practices, methods, techniques, products or devices as might be taught, promoted or otherwise espoused in outside schools or seminars, there is no intent, expressed or implied that ‘accreditation’ indicates or in any way conveys ‘CLEET approval’ of such concepts, practices, methods, techniques, products or devices, unless such approval is explicitly stated by CLEET.”

    For more information and to pre-register, call: 918.302.0052 or email: law_enforcement_training_durant

  • Choctaw summer camps engage youth

    Choctaw summer camps engage youth

    Brenner Billy teaches the basics of passing and catching at the stickball camp in Tvshka Homma, one of 23 camps offered by the Choctaw Nation this summer.

    By Larissa Copeland
    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    Summer break is winding down and school will be starting back soon for most kids. For a lot of the area Choctaw youth, their summer break was spent attending the many sports and cultural camps offered by the Choctaw Nation.

    Twenty-three camps, which are organized and operated by the Choctaw Nation Cultural Services Department, were held in numerous locations across southeastern Oklahoma beginning early this summer.

    “We’ve been going since May 28 and just finished up our last camp on July 26, with different camps every week,” said Director of Summer Camps Kevin Gwin.

    The two-day camps included cultural enrichment, stickball, baseball, softball, football, basketball, and golf.

    “When it first started 18 years ago,” said Sue Folsom, Cultural Services executive director, “we had baseball only and it grew into what we do now.”

    The sports offered at the camps today were chosen by what is popular in this area, Gwin said.

    All the camps were day camps open to children between the ages of 8 and 18, except golf camp, which was open to those ages 10 to 18. Approximately 2,500 Choctaw youth turned out for at least one of the camps, though many of them attended several, all at no cost to the children or their families.

    “It’s good for the kids because I think some of them wouldn’t be able to afford to go to a camp otherwise,” said Gwin. “If you were to go to a basketball camp that charges to attend you might be looking at $45-50 or more per kid, but these [Choctaw] camps are free. They are with us all day and they all go home with sports gear too.

    “That’s the best thing, I think, that the kids get the benefit of a professionally ran camp for free and they also get something to take home, which is a benefit because they can use the items when they go back to school or when they’re playing in summer leagues.”

    The free giveaways for each attendee to take home included items such as a basketball and bag at the basketball camps, a set of golf clubs at the golf camp, a baseball glove, and a football at the football camps, and more.

    The camps are a great way to keep children engaged during the summer, Gwin says.

    “The kids get to come and learn, and get to interact with other kids,” he says. “This gives them something to do and look forward to.”

    According to Folsom, the camps align with the tribe’s vision of growing with pride, hope and success by giving Choctaw youth every opportunity to experience through the camps their identity of who they are as Choctaws.

    “The pride of their heritage, the hope of courage, the success to persevere, and to sustain their family values,” says Folsom. “This is what makes them Choctaw.”

    The focus differs for each camp, bringing exciting new learning experiences for the youth. The cultural enrichment camp provides an opportunity for the kids to learn more about the Choctaw heritage and culture, emphasizing archery, arts and crafts, storytelling and the Choctaw language.

    Leading high school and college-level coaches from the area were brought in to instruct the kids at the sports camps on basic fundamentals of the respective sporting activities, plus provide each camper the proper instruction to help improve their level of play and decrease his or her potential for injuries.

    Countless hours were required to put on these camps by not only the Cultural Services staff and the coaches, but also by volunteers, according to Gwin.

    “In addition to my staff, the Outreach Services department, Choctaw [Community Health Representatives] and counselors have been a huge part of the camps,” he says. “If it weren’t for them we couldn’t do it. They’ve really helped us, especially with the bussing schedules, being chaperones and helping out at the camps.”

    Gwin says the kids tell him they appreciate the opportunities the tribe provides by hosting the camps. “I think that the kids see that the tribe is doing this for them,” he says. “When they get older that’s when they’ll really understand what a benefit this was to them.”

    The camps were held in towns across the Choctaw Nation including Durant, Tvshka Homma, Canadian, Kingston, Idabel, Spiro, Rattan, Tushka, Coalgate, McAlester, Soper, Wilburton, and Poteau.

    “We’ve been welcomed everywhere we’ve held a camp,” he says.

    It’s a rewarding job, according to Gwin. “I enjoy working with the kids,” he says. “We have a lot of fun. It’s nice to get to know them all. We see a lot of kids return year to year so I feel like I get to see them grow up,” Gwin says.

  • The Flu and You

    The Flu and You

    Flu Clinics at Choctaw Nation Community Centers

    Additional dates will be added as soon flu vaccine becomes available.
    10/16/13 Spiro, Idabel, Coalgate and Crowder
    10/23/13 Broken Bow, Bethel

    What you need to know about the flu


    What is influenza (the flu)?

    The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness. At times, it can lead to death.

    Who should get a flu vaccine?

    Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine, especially if you are at high risk for complications, or if you live with or care for someone who is high risk for complications.

    Your family may be especially vulnerable to the flu.

    Influenza poses a greater risk to certain people, including pregnant women, children, and elders, who are all at high risk for flu-related complications. In fact, pneumonia and flu are a leading cause of death among Native elders. The flu also can cause certain health conditions, including diabetes, asthma, and heart and lung disease, to become worse. Pneumonia and bronchitis are examples of serious flu-related complications, which can result in hospitalization and sometimes even death.

    Signs and symptoms of the FLU

    People sick with influenza feel some or all of these symptoms:
    • Fever* or feeling feverish/ chills
    • Cough
    • Sore throat
    • Runny or stuffy nose
    • Muscle or body aches
    • Headaches
    • Fatigue (very tired)
    • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
    *Not everyone with the flu will have a fever. You can be sick and contagious without running a temperature.

    Help prevent the spread of flu

    • Get a flu vaccine each year.
    • Stop the spread of germs, including influenza viruses:
    ™™ - Cover your coughs and sneezes
    ™™ - Wash your hands often
    ™™ - If you’re sick, stay home
    • Take antiviral drugs if they are prescribed for you.

  • Choctaw Nation to hold its 66th annual Labor Day Festival

    Choctaw Nation to hold its 66th annual Labor Day Festival


    The Choctaw Nation is holding its 66th annual Labor Day Festival Aug. 29-Sept. 2 at its capitol grounds near Tuskahoma, Okla. Top entertainment, lots of fun and Choctaw cultural activities keep people coming back every year.

    “The Nation’s festival is a tradition,” Chief Greg Pyle says. “Some of the people have been coming since they were kids. We try to give everyone a chance to enjoy what they like best whether it’s the concerts, the culture, the sports or just the great food.

    “The surrounding communities prepare well in advance for the surge of visitors. We appreciate how everyone works with us,” Pyle continued. “Most of the Nation’s employees work the long weekend to provide a memorable holiday for others. We are grateful for all the hard work it takes to prepare and hold an event of this magnitude. It’s as much fun for us, though, as it is for all of our thousands of visitors.” Choctaw_Stickball Chief Pyle, Assistant Chief Gary Batton and the Tribal Council have agreed it is important to provide several cost-free activities at the festival such as the concerts and carnival rides because many are not able to afford the expense. All of the sports tournaments are also free to enter, which has increased participation, keeping the Red Warrior Sports Complex a hub of activity.

    “Giving is in the heart of the Choctaw,” Chief Pyle said. The Choctaw Nation welcomes the opportunity to bring everyone together, he continued.

    Thursday, Aug. 29, opens the five-day event with the tribe’s princess pageant at 7 p.m. Young ladies from the Choctaw Nation’s 12 districts vie for the titles of Little Miss, Junior Miss and Miss Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Each will have the opportunity to walk the amphitheater stage in their finest Choctaw traditional clothing, their beaded jewelry glowing under the lights. The junior and senior miss contestants also perform in a traditional talent competition. The three winners will become ambassadors for the Choctaw Nation, participating in the Friday night inter-tribal pow wow and other events during the festival. They will spend the next year traveling and representing the Choctaw Nation throughout Oklahoma and often in other states.

    Top country music entertainers are booked for Friday and Saturday. The ever-popular Neal McCoy will shake things up at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the amphitheater. McCoy, a two-time CMA Entertainer of the Year, is known for his hits, “No Doubt About It,” “Wink” and “The Shake.” He has performed at several of the Choctaw Nation’s Labor Day Festivals and is one of the crowd favorites.

    The headliner for Friday is Ronnie Dunn, on the road and sharing his powerful voice as a solo artist. Dunn, known for his successful days as half of the duo Brooks and Dunn, has one of the most recognizable sounds in country music today. His debut solo album reached the Top 10 with “Bleed Red” and the most recent single, “Kiss You There,” is rising in popularity.

    Taking the stage at 7:30 Saturday night will be the legendary “Gentle Giant,” Don Williams. Since the 1970s, Williams has shared his unique style around the world. “And So It Goes,” released June 19, proves Williams’ vocals are still right on target with the audience. Choctaw_Labor_Day_Pow_Wow Siblings Kimberly, Neil and Reid – better known to all as The Band Perry – are one of the hottest acts in recent history. And they are performing Saturday, Aug. 31, at Tvshka Homma. The Band Perry has earned several honors including ACM, CMA and CMT Music awards, as well as Grammy nominations. Their exciting performance will be highlighted with hits such as “Better Dig Two,” “Done” and “If I Die Young.”

    Among the specialty acts this year, Choctaw tribal member Robert “Tamaka” Bailey of San Francisco will be performing magic acts for everyone. Tamaka weaves his magic through his stories, speaking in English and Choctaw, and keeping kids of all ages enthralled. Storyteller Tim Tingle will be returning to the village area to share his tales of Choctaw culture. Tingle rivets the audience with his words, telling somber historical accounts or humorous legends about rabbits or Bigfoot.

    The Choctaw National Day of Prayer opens a day of fellowship, worship and song at 7 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 1, at the war memorial. The worship service is followed by another service in the church tent near the amphitheater and a whole afternoon and evening of gospel singing. The sounds of worship can be heard across the grounds as performers begin lifting their voices. Twenty-nine acts begin singing in 15-minute intervals leading into concerts by the southern gospel group Gold City and contemporary Christian musician Jeremy Camp. Camp has 25 No. 1 radio singles including the recent “Overcome” from his album “We Cry Out.”

    The culture of the Choctaw Nation is present throughout the five days. The sixth annual Art Show showcases a variety of fine art, all by Choctaw artists. Their work will be open to the public in the Choctaw Nation Museum located in the historic capitol building. A new exhibit on the Choctaw Code Talkers will also be ready by Labor Day weekend for all to enjoy. The cultural building on the other side of the grounds will have booth after booth of arts and crafts to purchase.

    Choctaw social dances and the third annual stickball tournament are among the events reflecting the rich Choctaw heritage. Artists will be creating pottery, weaving baskets, beading jewelry, and shaping arrowheads in the Choctaw village, a “world” away from the modern bustle.

    The festival’s finale on Labor Day morning features Chief Pyle’s State of the Nation address, an update on the progress of the Nation. Also on stage, will be the Choctaw Nation Color Guard posting the colors to open Monday’s official ceremonies, the princesses with The Lord’s Prayer in sign language, Choctaw storyteller Tim Tingle, and the swearing-in of six councilmen who begin new terms.

    It really is a place with something for everyone. For more information and a full schedule of events, please see our Labor Day page.

  • Program Making a Difference

    Program Making a Difference

    “The definition of ‘posse’ is a group of people who come together for a common goal,” explained Paula Harp, director of the Partnership of Summer School Education (POSSE) program and the Making a Difference program at the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    Harp smiled as she described just what the POSSE program does for the youth of Durant and the surrounding area. It is evident the name given to the program is an appropriate fit.

    “The main goal of the Partnership of Summer School Education program is to provide academic remediation to students in grades pre-k through second grade,” stated Harp. “It is the goal of the Choctaw Nation to provide a culturally enriched, safe and positive atmosphere for the students that participate in the summer school program.”

    POSSE is available for eligible children pre-k through second grade, who attend school Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. as well as the “Jump Start to Kindergarten” group of students, who attend class Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to noon. It is a seven-week-long program, held at Washington Irving Elementary School in Durant, which began June 3 and will end July 25.

    The selection of students to be accepted into POSSE is based on teacher recommendation and test scores; Choctaw tribal membership is not required. If the student is having trouble with reading or math during the school year, the teacher will suggest to Harp they need to be admitted into the summer school program.

    Harp continued illustrating the goals of POSSE by listing examples of how the staff and educators conduct themselves: they work to inspire and empower the students; build on the strengths of the community; applaud students’ achievements; expand resources; work with communities, schools and organizations in the geographic service area; and plan, implement, expand, coordinate and evaluate the program itself.

    According to Harp, the program has several objectives. The children will grow academically through remediation in reading and math; grow socially through cultural services provided; develop emotionally through the afternoon educational activities; feel safe and secure while being supervised by a competent and caring staff; and benefit in a positive manner as they are taught caring and cooperative attitudes.

    “We currently have 184 students enrolled in the summer school,” said Harp.

    Harp works closely with Durant School administration and staff to develop the curriculum for the summer school, in which she has an advantage because of her background. “Since I am a former teacher, it helps me a lot, because I know what the school day is like,” and since Harp was once a teacher from Durant ISD, the teachers she is now working with are some of her good friends. “We have a great working relationship; we just kind of know what the other is thinking and what we need to do.”

    The Choctaw Nation helps with funding POSSE, providing the school with half of the needed funds. While the Nation provides funding for teachers’ salaries and supplies throughout the seven weeks, Durant ISD provides all other expenses, such as bus drivers’ salaries, bus fuel, air conditioning in the building, summer lunch program, etc.

    Harp said Durant Public Schools usually accept around 300 children into kindergarten each year with about 100 of these students who have never gone to school. She described the program as being an exceptional program for children who have never experienced a school environment but are about to enter kindergarten. “Some kids, when they start kindergarten, have never been to school (pre-k) before,” she said, because it is not required. “They may or may not have been taught their alphabet, how to tie their shoes, etc.” During the seven-week period of Jump Start to Kindergarten, those areas are covered, she said. “We teach them quite a few things, so that when school starts, they are ready to go.”

    Locating these children throughout the Durant area for Jump Start to Kindergarten proved to be a daunting but rewarding task. “We visited all the Head Starts and the Durant schools and found names for all Choctaw children who fit the age group,” explained Harp.

    “The education department employees visited the homes of Choctaw children in the Durant school district and found Choctaw children who are going into kindergarten but have not been through pre-k,” said Harp. “We did it in one afternoon, each of us had a certain number of students to find, and we just went out and did it. It was a great group effort.”

    To find children who are not Choctaw members for the Jump Start to Kindergarten program, Harp’s department organized a city-wide mail out. “We were trying to get the word out, whatever it took, we did it,” she said.

    When it comes to the future of POSSE, promising plans are being made to expand the service area of the program. According to Harp, next year, the additional seven Bryan County schools will be added to the program: Achille, Caddo, Calera, Silo, Bennington, Colbert and Rock Creek Public Schools.

    By the end of August, the schools are to tell her where the site of the summer school is going to be and who will serve as administrator.

    “We’re not in the business of running schools, they’re the experts,” said Harp. “We are just helping to fund the extra expense.”

    Harp said the success of the program with the Bryan County schools next summer will determine whether or not expansion into the 10 ½ counties will occur in 2015.

    There are 85 schools that are either pre-k through eighth grade or pre-k through 12th grade in the 10 ½ county service area of the Choctaw Nation. “We’ve visited with every single one of them now, and they know what we’re going to do. They’ll have a choice,” said Harp. “Some schools may already have a summer school program,” she continued, “but the Choctaw Nation will help with funding if they choose to be a part of the program.”

    Harp said they have also spoken to other Native American tribes about starting a similar summer school program in their area. “We’re hoping the whole state will get on board, and then we can really see a change in education in southeast Oklahoma.”

    The curriculum chosen for the POSSE students seems to be making an impact by providing various activities to stimulate their minds. This year’s summer school theme is “The Great Outdoor Adventure,” said Harp.

    The first two weeks of summer school had a camping theme, the next two weeks an aerospace theme and the last three weeks a Native American theme, in which Choctaw storyteller Tim Tingle visited the students and provided each child with their own book.

    “Each grade level has a book,” said Harp. At the end of each theme period, the students were allowed to take their books home with them.

    Harp said the children take a field trip every week as well.

    “They really made an impression,” Harp said of the field trip the children attended at the Choctaw Nation Recycling Center. She laughed as she told how the parents were telling her their kids came home saying, “don’t waste water,” telling them how to recycle at home, turn the lights out and clean up the environment.

    While POSSE focuses on younger students, the Making a Difference program’s goal is to help Choctaw students, grades nine through 12, graduate high school and have a next step after graduation, whether that is college, a trade school, the military or going right into the workforce.

    “We go to the 63 high schools in the 10 ½ counties and visit with students who are Choctaw,” said Harp. “We are trying to make sure that they graduate high school, which is our first goal.”

    Once the student graduates high school, it is the Making a Difference program’s job to help them decide what is next. The program will be two years old in July, said Harp, and has the potential to reach 4,000 students.

    If a student is a participant in Making a Difference, they will have the opportunity to visit college campuses if they wish to do so. “We encourage them to attend college, but we don’t force them,” said Harp, who also encourages students to attend military academies or two-year schools.

    Harp said the program has come a long way the past two years in terms of research. “When we first started, this was all pencil and paper. By the time we visited the school, a student could have missed 10 days of school; since we didn’t even know, we could not help,” she explained.

    According to Harp, the students are the top priority for Making a Difference. “It is the most rewarding job I have ever had,” she said. “We may be the resource that helps that student. We hope the parents and students will call us to help answer their questions.”

    The program gets a multitude of calls, said Harp, whether it is a parent, grandparent, school counselor, superintendent or teacher.

    There is no deadline for joining Making a Difference. Harp said they accept applications every day, but believes it is more beneficial for the student to sign up as a freshman rather than a senior.

    From children in pre-k to graduating seniors in high school entering college or the workforce, the Choctaw Nation shows the priority it places on education of its tribal members and the community through POSSE and the Making a Difference Program.

    If you’d like to learn more about these programs, contact Paula Harp at 580-924-8280 ext. 2452, or visit their Facebook page.

  • Scholarship search, simplified


    Choctaw Nation provides extensive scholarship database to members at no cost

    Higher education is expensive. Whether students are seeking enrollment in four-year universities, junior colleges or vocational training, funding is a constant obstacle. What if all the tools needed to overcome these roadblocks were put at your feet, for free?

    Recognizing the substantial benefits a degree of any persuasion can bestow upon the life of a graduate, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) has provided a valuable tool with which to combat rising tuition costs often deferring potential students from their school of choice, or even the pursuit of higher education in general.

    Choctaw Nation’s Scholarship Advisement Program (SAP) has created a scholarship search engine that debuted in 2009. This unique database is an exclusive research database pioneered by SAP available to each member of the Choctaw Nation, completely free.

    Operating much like popular scholarship search engines, the Choctaw scholarship database will intake information about a user and tailor a list of scholarships applicable to their demographic information and desired field of study.

    What distinguishes this database from comparable mainstream services is it completely foregoes solicitation or ad-based funding. Once hopeful recipients create a username and complete a questionnaire allowing the program to customize the search results, all available funding is displayed and ready for the user to apply – no email ads, spam or selling of contact information to third-parties.

    A prime example of the database enabling a potential student to reach their goals is Jessie Kuykendall, a Tulsa native with a Master’s in Global Communication from George Washington University and Bachelor’s in International Studies from Baylor University. During her search for graduate programs at the 2009 Ivy League and Friends event hosted annually by SAP, Kuykendall learned of the newly created database.


    Jessie Kuykendall with her brother, James
    at her graduation from George Washington University.

    “I spent my Christmas break that year scouring through the database, which I found easy to use and helpful for locating opportunities,” Kuykendall stated. In her search, she discovered a Pickering Fellowship which would have otherwise gone unnoticed. “It is safe to say I would not have known about this incredible opportunity without the scholarship database.”

    The Pickering Fellowship granted Kuykendall considerable support in her graduate study. As a portion of the fellowship, she interned in Washington, D.C., in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and in the Political Section of the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She was also awarded $40,000 annually to cover tuition and various costs of her graduate degree.

    According to Kuykendall, the fellowship is a cooperative endeavor of U.S. Department of State and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation designed to help bring in diverse groups to the Foreign Service who have been historically underrepresented and have financial need. The Pickering Fellowship is an exceptional opportunity cataloged by the database – where size and term-length of opportunities vary.

    The database is not only for those applying to graduate school, as it boasts all types of funding applicable to higher education. Choctaw high school students are encouraged to get a head start on funding; those in college can benefit from discovering money for the next semester and high school students can begin looking for continual funding. Parents are welcome to be involved in the search, as they can save notable opportunities to which the student can later apply.

    Since the beginning of SAP, the staff has recognized funding as a high hurdle for many students. “The scholarship database was created to help students overcome that obstacle by increasing the awareness of the opportunities available,” stated SAP Director, Jo McDaniel.

    “It has significantly streamlined the guidance process for scholarship searches with students because the database tailors its results to each student and allows them to search on their own terms,” continued McDaniel. “This is truly one of our most effective aspects of our program when it comes to offsetting financial burden of the student.”

    Illustrating McDaniel’s statements are the features and ease of use contained in the database. Choctaw students are able to search approximately 30,000 undergraduate and 20,000 graduate-level portable scholarships, grants, merit awards, loan repayment programs, internships, residency programs and much more from one web page in just minutes.

    The database is so extensive that, in some cases, opportunities found through SAP are not found elsewhere. Those curating the information are highly trained in the search for higher education funding. Even the most obscure funding can be found because those searching know exactly for what they are looking.

    Once a target list is created via the original questions, the lists are constantly updated and editable. For example, if a student took part a new extracurricular activity, they would be able to add this information and get financial aid leads pertaining to the activity.

    Once a streamlined list is prepared, users are able to view a description and all information about the opportunity, and then apply from the same page. For those looking to quickly browse and apply later, the save feature will allow a user to save several high interest leads for later application. This function can be particularly helpful to parents looking to highlight certain front-running programs.

    Currently, Choctaw Nation is the only entity providing scholarship search assistance on this scale, and has been since 2009. Over the past four years, SAP has witnessed a growing number of stories similar to Kuykendall’s. It is the hope of SAP that each tribal member seeking higher education will take advantage of this tool, as it can open life-changing doors to students.

    If you are a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and wish to utilize the scholarship database, visit to connect with SAP. If you have had success with SAP, please notify the SAP offices, as to share triumphs and motivate fellow tribal members.

    Follow SAP on Facebook and Twitter, as many opportunities and information provided are applicable to members of any Native tribe.

  • Labor Day Stickball tournament in its third year

    Photo: Rainette Rowland
    Tvshka Homma’s Robert Baker, Ramsey Williston and Bobby Baker battle members of the Warrior team in the 2012 Labor Day Stickball Tournament.

    Labor Day Stickball tournament in its third year

    The Labor Day Festival Stickball Tournament will be held this year for the third time on the Choctaw Nation’s capitol grounds near Tuskahoma. New faces are coming in to practice and learn the sport as community involvement grows.

    “It’s good to see families learning stickball skills,” said Sue Folsom, Cultural Services executive director for the Choctaw Nation. “Most of them are even learning to make their own sticks and balls, too. Traditionally, if a person makes their own pair of sticks they fit the hands much better. There is a bonding between the hand and stick making them one and a part of their body.”

    The double-elimination men’s tournament begins at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30. The games continue on Saturday at 8 p.m. A children’s exhibition game begins at 7 p.m. Sunday followed by a women’s exhibition at 8 and the men’s championship at 9.

    The Cultural Services department is adding a new press box, score board and sound system for better coverage and if you are there on the final evening of the tournament, you will have the opportunity to win a prize.

    “One bit of history about stickball was how our ancestors used the game to solve conflict instead of going to war,” said Chief Gregory E. Pyle. “They would have warriors compete valiantly on the ball field to settle quarrels, earning stickball the nickname ‘Little Brother of War’.”

    Three smaller teams have developed in the Choctaw Nation and the players join the official Choctaw Nation team, Tvshka Homma, as they travel to larger tournaments and to the World Series in Mississippi. Southeast Thunder is based in the Broken Bow and Idabel area, Koi Chito in Talihina, and Sintullo Lakna includes players in the Durant and Atoka area. Another Oklahoma team, Okla Hannali, is comprised of players from Broken Bow, Ardmore, Oklahoma City and Stillwater. Both Tvshka Homma and Okla Hannali are entered in the Labor Day Festival tournament.

    Several practice fields are now available for organized practices or just a quick half-hour of running and shooting to hone skills. There are stickball fields at the capitol grounds, Broken Bow, Hugo, Idabel, Durant, Atoka, Antlers and Talihina where players meet.

    Walk-ons are allowed at the Labor Day stickball tournament. Each player must be at least 16 years old and must turn in a completed and signed waiver. Those under 18 are required to have a parent or guardian sign the waiver. A copy of the waiver can be printed from Waivers can be turned in to coaches beforehand or at a special meeting for coaches and players from 2 to 4:30 p.m. before Friday’s games at the festival. They may also be mailed to Billy Eagle Road III, Choctaw Nation Cultural Services, P.O. Box 1210, Durant, OK 74702.

    Stickball is the Choctaw national sport, known as “kapucha” or “ishtaboli.” Other tribes also play stickball and it is the precursor of lacrosse. The object of the game is to keep possession of the stickball or “towa,” only touching the ball with cupped sticks that are made to fit the left and right hands. The size of the field is comparable to the size of a football field. Each team has 30 players divided into 10 offense, 10 center and 10 defense positions. The team to score the most by hitting the opposition’s goal post with the ball wins. Play is broken up into four 15-minute quarters with players switching ends at halftime.

    There are very few rules in stickball. The ball can’t be touched by a player’s hands, can’t head butt, can’t intentionally hit another player with the sticks and can’t tackle below the knees.

    For more information or of you’re interested in joining practices, contact Eagle Road or Jared Tom at the Cultural Services office, 800-522-6170.

    The game of stickball is older than any written historical accounts and as it is taught to the youth today, its legacy will continue for thousands of years to come.

  • District 1 Councilman stays busy – and loves it

    District 1 Councilman stays busy – and loves it

    Thomas Williston follows values he learned during 25 years in law enforcement

    Thomas Though stating his job is busy, tiring and “like no other,” District 1 Choctaw Nation Councilman Thomas Williston says he hasn’t ever had a bad day in his position as councilman in the two years and 10 months he’s been elected and he can’t imagine doing anything else.

    Before being elected into the Choctaw Nation Council in 2010, Williston worked in law enforcement for 25 years at and around Idabel, the town where he grew up and still resides.

    “I loved law enforcement,” he said. “It was all I knew and all I wanted to do. I remember the first time I applied for a policeman position, I had long hair. When I was hired I didn’t tell anyone. I cut my hair and put on the police uniform going out for my first shift, which was the night shift. My father’s eyes got big as saucers and he asked where was my gun. I said I didn’t have one. I had to get my first pay check first then I would get one.

    “Being in law enforcement himself, my father got up and went to his room and brought out his old duty belt and gun – a ‘western style,’ hand-tooled leather with .38 pistol,” Williston remembered. “It was big but I was proud to have it and I could tell he was even more proud. I went through the police academy with it and I still have it.”

    Williston said during his years working in law enforcement, he had many memorable experiences that taught him values he applies to his position as a Choctaw Nation Councilman today. “I’ve brought a lot of what I’ve learned to this job,” he said. “Law enforcement was not only carrying a gun and badge; the biggest part was having compassion for your fellow man, having honesty and integrity.”

    He continued, discussing the differences between the rewards in law and serving as a councilman. “Early in my law enforcement career I found that rewards weren’t there, but every so often someone would say ‘thank you’ and that made it all worth while,” Williston said. “It was motivation for me. Quickly I learned the dramatic social differences of people, which lead me to learn different ways of approach and how to relate to a victim or suspect. That made me effective as an investigator, and is an attribute that I rely on as councilman.”

    However, he said being a councilman has been different in that aspect. “In this job, the thank yous are quite often, and I like that,” mentioning having an attitude with understanding and compassion is important in order to help people.

    “My rewards are unlike anyone else’s rewards. Knowing that I helped somebody through their hard times, helped them with their problems. It rewards me, that I feel like I’ve steered them in the right direction and they took my advice and utilized the programs the Nation has; that’s fulfilling to me,” he stated.

    Williston has always stayed busy with his daily work and career life. “For the last 25 years, I’ve kept two jobs, law enforcement and carpenter work,” he said. “I’ve always been busy, constantly, but I love it.”

    Since Williston enjoys a busy and sometimes demanding job, serving as a council member is perfect for him. He said it is common for his phone to begin ringing at 7 a.m. and not ceasing until maybe 10 p.m.

    “I can get anywhere from 20 to 30 calls a day. I carry two phones. At some times both are quiet then one rings and, by golly, the other one rings too,” he said. “A lot of times I am traveling to or from our program meetings and reception is sometimes non-existent due to the terrain but, I do my best to answer my calls or return them. Everyone has problems, and it’s pleasing to me to know that I may be able to help so they can focus more on their family than what’s got them down at that particular time.”

    It’s no doubt Williston possesses the right mind-set for the requirements of a Choctaw Nation Council member. “I get up every morning with a smile, knowing that hopefully I’ll do something good for somebody,” he said. “I knew this was going to be a demanding job, and I was up for it, and I still am.”

    Williston said some of his senior citizens at the center, who he loves to laugh, visit and joke with, have told him he needs to slow down. “This job is two, sometimes three, jobs rolled into one; it’s constant,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s a challenge, it’s fun to me. I like staying busy.”

    Williston said right after he was sworn in, the Christmas holiday was arriving, bringing with it the Choctaw community center’s Christmas programs and dinners, both for the youth and seniors. He credits the employees at the community center for helping him a lot that first year. “Thank goodness for them,” he said. “I had never organized that before, but with their guidance, it was easy.”

    He said he hasn’t been overwhelmed as councilman yet. “I have not come across a situation I couldn’t handle as of yet. With the help of the center staff and with what I’ve learned, I know what program I need to call or I know the contact person or particular person I need to contact to help people.”

    When it comes to helping people who come to him with problems, Williston said he relies on understanding. “I’d like to think that I have a good understanding of a lot of people, not only our Choctaw people, but people in general,” he explained, “because that was my job back in the day,” referring to law enforcement.

    He continued, saying some people would rather do without than to ask him for help, even if the needs were a great necessity, but he is familiar with the programs and funds the Choctaw Nation offers to its members, so he is able to help them as much as he can. “I ask them why, why do you need this assistance, what can I do to help?” Williston described.

    He said he has been able to help some of his district members find jobs throughout the county and state, saying he’s gotten them in contact with the Vo-Tech, enrolled in nursing classes or involved with whatever job training they may need. “I’ve gotten some of our guys jobs in the city through our programs,” he continued. “I’ve gone to businesses myself and asked if they would work with us to get them jobs; I’ve done that numerous times.”

    With every job comes frustrations, and Williston said sometimes people have reluctance to do their part. “I feel like it’s my job to get them motivated, one way or another, and it’s not always easy,” he said. “Not every adolescent or youth will follow the same path, but my duty is to help them not get too far off the path.”

    Williston said there are many things that are important to him as a council member, but one of the main things is assisting people with their needs and helping make them independent. “I like to cater to the youth and see that they grow up happy and be there for them when their needs change as they grow and show them the right path. I have seen so many of our youth addicted to drugs in jail, eventually end up in prison and that’s sad not only for our community but for their families.”

    Keeping our culture and traditions alive is utmost, too. “I often think of the Trail of Tears and imagine how our ancestors were forced to walk, what conditions were like, the pain and suffering they had to endure, and the loss of loved ones. At times I ask people to imagine what it was like. After all, it is because of them we are where we are now.

    “A lot of our people today still carry on some of the traditions of our culture but a lot has been lost. I strongly agree with the Choctaw Nation today reviving a lot of the culture, through our tribal events, reviving our Choctaw way of dance, traditional dress, language classes, stickball games, our foods – mmmmum our foods!,” he smiled big. “I still enjoy our foods like it was when I was growing up and a lot of Choctaw people still carry on the traditional foods especially at church gatherings and at home.

    “Choctaw hymns – there can’t be enough said about those,” Williston stressed. “I have always loved them, to listen, to sing along.

    We sing some hymns at our senior dinner and everyone enjoys them, too. It has been said that ‘Choctaw Hymn 116 Death Welcome’ was our Choctaw Warrior song, that our Choctaw boys in the World Wars sang it. I believe they possibly did, because in those days, it was common to see hundreds of Choctaws at church gatherings. I saw this as a youngster, and today the big church gatherings are not as big as they used to be.

    “Choctaw Hymn 112 is said to have been sung during the Trail of Tears,” he said, though he doesn’t know for sure but believes it is enlightening that it could have.

    One of his favorite activities as a councilman is integrating with the seniors, going around before community dinners and making an effort to speak to each one of them, and all visitors with whom he comes into contact. “I try not to meet a stranger,” he said.

    “I enjoy laughing with them and making them laugh with jokes and practical jokes. I really like it when I see they are happy.”

    With his position as a councilman, Williston was able to experience an act he will never forget, which took placed in Washington, D.C. “Probably one of the most memorable things I’ve done is the laying of the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” he stated. “We were there to represent our fallen Choctaw service men and women, then and now. We were there representing all Choctaw people and hopefully making them proud.”

    Assistant Chief Gary Batton laid the wreath with Williston in a small ceremony at the tomb. “That was a big honor for me and one of the most memorable and moving moments of this job.”

    He was also able to participate in a game of stickball on the lawn right in front of the United States Capitol building, another fun memory as a councilman.

    With his job, Williston said he has the opportunity to work with some great men. “I look at things two different ways,” he explained. “I was around when Idabel, District 1, only had an Indian clinic and we had a commodity truck. That’s all the Choctaw people had in terms of government assistance, in the ’60s and ’70s, just before the Choctaw Nation is what it is today.

    “Now, under Chief Pyle’s administration, even before I became a councilman, I could see the Choctaw Nation getting bigger, more programs coming in to help people, and I could see that was good.

    “Now that I’m in this position,” continued Williston, “I can basically see things from a different point of view. I can see where Chief [Pyle] comes from, and I agree with the vision that he has: sustainability for the Choctaw Nation.”

    Williston said the Choctaw Council, with the leadership of Chief Pyle and Assistant Chief Gary Batton, has one main goal: helping people. “Not everyone is going to see eye to eye, but the bottom line is what is going to benefit the Choctaw people, either right now or in the long run,” he said. “There’s always that vision of benefiting people, and that’s what I like.”

    Councilman Thomas Williston, left, and Assistant Chief Gary Batton place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during a ceremony June 21, 2012, at Arlington National Cemetery.

  • Choctaw Nation clinics Improving Patient Care

    Choctaw Nation clinics Improving Patient Care

    Have you called Choctaw Nation Health Services Authority (CNHSA) Family Practice and wondered why you were directed to choose a Ruby Team, Jasper Team, etc.? These teams are all a part of CNHSA’s IPC program. CNHSA started the Improving Patient Care (IPC) Program at the McAlester Clinic in 2011.

    The IPC program assigns patients to a care team. When a patient is assigned to a care team, every effort is made to get that patient in to “their” doctor at every visit whether it is a walk-in, same day, or routine appointment. This is an important part of why we have implemented these IPC concepts because CNHSA wants patients and providers to have that continuity of care and get our patients in to the provider that already knows them and their healthcare needs. CNHSA also wants the patient to get to know their provider/team and feel comfortable with them.

    The IPC Care teams consist of the following members: Medical Provider, LPN, RN, Pharmacist, and Receptionist. Each team member has a specific role and work together to meet the needs of their patients.

    • Being involved with IPC we have had the opportunity for our staff members to network with other facilities across the Oklahoma area and nationwide. Networking with others that are similar to our health system has allowed us a unique opportunity to gain valuable information to help with our improvements. We are able to learn what is working and also what is not working from other facilities as well as share our own accomplishments.

    • IPC also focuses on the quality of care we are providing and gives us tools to measure this. We have performance measures that coincide with the current standards of care across the nation. We look at these standards of care for each team and the patients assigned to these teams continuously and look for areas for improvement. With this emphasis on looking at data and striving for improvement we are becoming more accountable and ensuring that we are providing high quality health care to the patients we serve.

    • In 2012, the IPC Program was spread to all of the Choctaw Nation Health Care facilities.

  • Faith-based seminars to encourage healthy mental habits

    Faith-based seminars to encourage healthy mental habits

    Youth are excited to begin the event

    The desire to reach out to the community and show those in crisis there is hope and that the church cares led Durant area pastors and leaders to seek the assistance of the Choctaw Nation program, Methamphetamine and Suicide Prevention Initiative, or MSPI.

    The MSPI hosted multiple events for this cause through collaborations with the local pastors and leaders, as well as numerous Choctaw Nation departments, including Behavioral Health, Community Health Representatives, and the Event Center.

    According to Karen Hearod, director of Behavioral Health Services, several unfortunate events are why this area was chosen. “We targeted this area because we’ve had some tragedies in the last couple of months,” she said. “We wanted to do something for the community.”


    The Choctaw Nation hosted a three-day event Aug. 7-9 at the Choctaw Event Center in Durant that focused on suicide prevention and mental health awareness.

    “The Power of Three” opened the weekend and featured guest speaker Eric Weaver and Christian artist Jonny Diaz.

    Weaver, a retired New York police sergeant, incorporated his more than 23 years of professional and personal experience into his dynamic and interactive presentation. He provided a real-life, faith-based approach to mental health issues, mental illness, warning signs, suicide awareness and prevention.

    Diaz, who is known for his songs, “Scars,” “More Beautiful You” and “Stand For You,” contributed to the night with encouraging and uplifting music.

    “Eric Weaver spoke of offering hope to those who may have felt they were hopelessly dealing with mental illness or trying to support a friend or loved one that was affected by mental illness,” said Melanie Jones, program director of Choctaw Nation MSPI. “And everyone enjoyed the concert that followed, performed by Jonny Diaz.”

    MSPI, which is funded with a grant from Indian Health Service, hosted a similar event in McAlester in January and, according to Jones, “had a phenomenal response.” More than 1,000 people attended that event and numerous individuals reached out for help from counselors and pastors, who were on hand at both events to support those in need.

    Over the next two days, Weaver provided additional training on the warning signs and symptoms of mental illness called “Emotional Safety and Survival: Awareness and Prevention in Law Enforcement and Emergency Services.” Approximately 20 local police, fire, dispatch and sheriff’s department personnel were in attendance.

    In the powerful seminar, Weaver discussed openly of how his life was riddled with personal struggles, as well as battles with stress, depression, self-destruction and suicidal behaviors. He also discussed how his recovery allowed him to develop and command the Rochester Police Department’s Emotionally Disturbed Persons Response Team.

    The stressful occupation of the first responders often times makes them susceptible to these struggles. According to Hearod, “First responders have a lot of secondary trauma from what they see and don’t often recognize that and reach out for help.”

    Anyone in need of help because of suicidal thoughts or knows of someone who is in an emotional crisis can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Assistance and referrals are offered 24/7.

    If you would like to see other events hosted by the Choctaw Nation, visit our calendar.

  • Morgan Steven receives track scholarship, marks milestone

    Morgan Steven receives track scholarship, marks milestone

    Morgan Steve stops by the Choctaw Nation headquarters in Durant on her way to begin her freshman year at Bacone College. Pictured are Assistant Chief Gary Batton, Cultural Resources Executive Director Sue Folsom, Kerry Steve, Morgan Steve and Chief Gregory E. Pyle.

    Morgan Steve of Durant signed her letter of intent and became the first Native American female to receive a track scholarship to Bacone College in Muskogee. Steve, a 2013 graduate of Durant High School, caught the eye of Bacone officials during the recent Jim Thorpe Native American Games in Oklahoma City where she won gold in both the shot put and discus.

    While in high school, Steve lettered in softball three years, basketball four years and track and field four years. She is a two-time recipient of the Champions of Character award for basketball and was on the Principal’s Honor Roll. She finished seventh at the 5A state championship and was signed to Bacone’s newly created American Indian Athletes of Promise.
    Bacone Track and Field Head Coach Darrin Prince said Steve is not only great on the track but is an outstanding student in the classroom. “These are two key pieces in building a strong women’s track team both at the conference level and at the national level that is on par with the success of our men’s program,” he said.

    Steve is the daughter of Morris and Kerry Steve of Durant. She is the granddaughter of Willard and Sharon Polk of Bennington and Jimmy and Vesta Roberts of Boswell. She is the great-granddaughter of Red and Nora Johnico of Talihina.

    Her parents expressed their appreciation to the Choctaw Nation Cultural Resources department, the summer camp program and Chief Gregory E. Pyle for sponsoring athletes to competitive games such as Jim Thorpe. With this support Steve’s athletic ability was recognized and she has been given the opportunity of receiving a full scholarship to Bacone.

  • 2013 Labor Day Competition results

    2013 Labor Day Competition results championshipgroup_small_withinfo

    For full resolution pictures, see our Smugmug account or our Facebook page.


    Tvshka Homma
    Runner Up
    Third Place
    Okla Hannali


    Chris Valliere finished first among the men with a time of 19:56.
    Ana Hollan came in first among women with a time of 23:00.
    For full results, click here.

    Art Show

    1st Place: Karen Clarkson, “Last Gift”
    2nd Place: Dylan Cavin, “Summer Scissortail”
    3rd Place: John Compelube, “Stirring the Pot”
    HM: Gwen Coleman Lester, “Lighthorseman”

    1st Place: Paul King, “At Peace”
    2nd Place: Sandy Sliger , “Beaver’s Bend”
    3rd Place: Jane Semple Umstead, “The Snapping Turtle”
    HM: None in this category

    1st Place: Stephanie Rose, “The Little Chahta News Bird”
    2nd Place: Cecil Henderson, “Ruffed Grouse”
    3rd Place: Lyman Choate , “She Speaks to the Animals”
    HM: None in this category

    1st Place: Dan Bernier, “Old Bowl or New Home”
    2nd Place: Marsha Hedrick, “Frog Bottle”
    3rd Place: Edmond Perkins Jr., Quawpaw Warrior Effigy Vase”
    HM: Vangie Robinson, Choctaw Pony

    1st Place: Susan Locke Charlesworth, Native Weave by Native Hands
    2nd Place: Susan Locke Charlesworth, Continuous Weave Field Basket
    3rd Place: Lizabeth B. Mitchell, Frog Mouth Basket
    HM: none in this category

    1st Place: Michael Rose, “Ball Players Medicine”
    2nd Place: Laura B. Pickens, “Dogwood Arrow”
    3rd Place: Ryan spring,” Traditional Stickball, buckeye core”
    HM: None in this category

    1st Place: Theresa Renegar, “Corn Dreams”
    2nd Place: Bob Proctor, “Broken Promises”
    3rd Place: Bob Procotor, “The Dancer”
    HM: Chester Cowen, “Where is Tobias?”

    Heritage Awards
    Gwen Coleman Lester, “Alikchi”
    Stephanie Rose, “Kapucha , Towa”
    Kevin Hardin, “The Artist and Her Two Paintings”

    Best of Show:
    Karen Clarkson, “Ancient Symbols 1&2”

    People’s Choice:
    Sandy Sliger, “Tear Drop”


    Co-ed age 9-11
    1st place: Skillz - Shadie Crase, Lindsay Waits, Ryan Huett, Logan Maxey, Jaxon Dorsey

    Co-ed age 12-14
    1st place: Outsiders - Stormy Taylor, Chris Trusty, Ivan Baker, Shantel Smith, Nana Jo Smith
    2nd place: Albino Indians - Jeffery Morris, Jordan Morris, Jordan Terry, Ethan Billings, Braden Dorsey
    3rd place: Dem Brown Kids - Mahala Battiest, Loren Crosby, Kyle Passmore, Ashton Willis, C.J. Briley

    Co-ed age 15-18
    1st place: Like Mike - Bailey Scarberry, Oscar Rivera, Ryan Scales, Junior Griffin, Dorian Threadgill, Delvin Johnson
    2nd place: Silo Rebels- Lauren Billie, Tanner Clark, Shane Tisdale, Kendall Shives, Bryce Brister
    3rd place: Dallas Pressure- Natalie Buck, Kamery Walker, Darius Kelly, NaQuan Hopkins, Matthew Hilinski, Coach Jason Samuels

    Women’s All Star
    1st place: War Party - Sharon Forte, Natasha Rouse, Kayla Davis
    2nd place: Lucky #7’s- Mandy Holman, Tammye Gwin, Sara Willie, Kelli Shawn

    Men’s age 18-35
    1st place: Running Skins - Chris Valliere, Kirk Taylor, Randall Clay, Caleb Taylor, Karahjon Hurd
    2nd place: Twerk Team - Justin Richards, Darius “Melo” Peace, Kendell Willis, T.J. Broades
    3rd place: Dub C Finest - Kyle Baker (not pictured), Clint Baker, Colton Converse, Bobby Baker “Delicious”

    Men’s age 35 and over
    1st place: Jumbo - Naco Hopkins, Brent Shaw, Michael Clay, Derek
    2nd place: Show Birds - Kevin Gwin, Morris Steve, Nate Cox, Curtis Steve
    3rd place: Wheat Bread - Dewayne Hornbuckle, Rock Lebeau, Scott Greggory, Steve Battiest

    Free Throw age 6-9
    1st: Cale Clay
    2nd: Cason Taylor
    3rd: Ashia Jordan

    Free Throw age 10-12
    1st:Jocelyn Smith
    2nd: Logan Hewitt
    3rd: Calesa Murdock

    Free Throw age 13-15
    1st: Keeli Tsosie
    2nd: Daniel Boswell
    3rd: Jordan Scott

    Free Throw age 16-18
    1st: Alethia McKinney
    2nd: Derek Epperoy
    3rd: Tiffany Gantt

    Women’s Three-Point Contest
    1st: Dayna Dick
    2nd: Misty Madbull

    Men’s Three-Point Contest
    1st: Allen Clay
    2nd: Rock Johnson

    Board Games

    1st: Jasen Baker
    2nd: Johnny Parson

    1st: Sylvester Moore
    2nd: Roland Wade

    Bow Shoot

    5 and Under
    1st: Wyatt Kinslow
    2nd: Riggin Waugh
    3rd: Olivia Ellis

    Ages 6-8
    1st: Wil Helmsmoore
    2nd: Tristen Ross
    3rd: Trey Wilson

    Ages 9-13
    1st: Chase Zink
    2nd: Sarah Haven
    3rd: Madi McDonald.

    Ages 14-16
    1st: Sam Jacob
    2nd: Robert Breshears
    3rd: Chasey Bohanan

    Ages 17-19
    1st: Geffery Diaz

    Women’s 20 and over
    1st: Christina Waugh
    2nd: Rhonda Reiman
    3rd: Jennifer Dickson

    Men’s 20 and over
    1st: Lee Ellis
    2nd: Brad Hooker
    3rd: David Edwards


    1st: Gregg Moon, Cyrus Ben, Jon Lowder and Jason Grisham.
    2nd: Burt Perry, Kevin Davis, Mandy Jo and Brad Clay.
    3rd: Sherry Perry, Councilman Ron Perry, Gregg Robinson and not pictured, Councilman Tony Messenger

    Congratulations, Councilman Perry, on your hole-in-one!


    Youth Singles
    1st: Tyler Walker
    2nd: Tyler Leao
    3rd: Jaiden Smith

    Youth Ringer
    Tyler Walker

    Women’s Singles
    1st:Kisha Bohanan
    2nd:Stephanie Bohanan
    3rd:Sue Tait

    Women’s Double
    1st: Stephanie Bohanan and Tiffany Bohanan.
    2nd: Wanda Morris and Sue Tait.
    3rd: Ruby Long and Sherri Miller.

    Women’s Ringer
    Wanda Morris

    Men’s Singles
    1st: Bunky Impson
    2nd: Danny Adams
    3rd: David Knox

    Men’s Doubles
    1st: David Davis and Phillip Morris
    2nd: Danny Adams and Bunky Impson
    3rd: Charles Hilton and Michael Bedford.

    Men’s Ringer
    Nicky Slabaugh


    Hand Stitch
    1st: Sandra Stevens
    2nd: Lois Thomas
    3rd: Jan West

    Machine Stitch
    1st: Rebecca Mizell
    2nd: Wanda Leet “Christian Cross”
    3rd: Wanda Leet “Fall Leaves”

    Hand/Machine Combo Stitch
    1st: Rose Harris
    2nd: Charlene Benge
    3rd: Ruth McCoy

    People’s Choice Award
    Lois Thomas “Giant Dahlia”


    Men’s First Place
    Kansas Indians

    Women’s First Place
    Chitto Harjo

    Terrapin Races

    Ages 3-7
    1st: Snoweagle Rasha
    2nd: James Wortham
    3rd: Jackson Pollard.

    Ages 8-12
    1st: Draven Postoak
    2nd: Jordan Nolin
    3rd: Braxton Lemmons Martin.

    Best Dressed
    McKenzee Petty


    This year’s Tough-Tough champion is Chris Hawk who finished the four-event course in 1:44. Joshua Hensley finished in second place with a time of 2:18. Jerry and Leslie Flanagan, parents of the late Chris Flanagan, were presented with the Fighting Heart Award. Flanagan, who was a regular participant in the Tough-Tough event, passed away last year.


    Diggers: Lori Hamilton, Devon Frazier, Joe Thomas, Sean Gentry, Josh Carney, Marrisa McIntosh and Mitzi Doster
    Runner Up
    The Crew: Mike Scott, Felicia Scott, Thomas Hardy, Sarah Trusty, Taloa Camp, Joe Anderson, Kelley Braudrick, Amber Anderson and Rayburn Baker.

  • Caring Van on the Road

    Caring Van on the Road

    Following an introduction to the community of Talihina in April of 2012, the fifth Caring Van began serving communities in Southeastern Oklahoma. Operated in partnership with Choctaw Nation Health Services, the van traveled across seven counties providing immunizations and additional preventive health services.

    After many years of providing Caring Van services in rural communities through day trips across the state, the Choctaw Nation van represents a new model whereby a partnering organization can operate the van each day of the week without relying on staffing from Oklahoma City and Tulsa. This arrangement has worked very well to date, with 46 clinics conducted in the fall of 2012 alone.

    Lead Choctaw Nation Caring Van nurse Kelly Adams commented, “The Caring Van is an incredible asset to Choctaw Nation Health Services nurses. We have increased the number of schools in which we offer immunizations. Because we work in such a rural area, the schools and parents appreciate the convenience of having this service provided. We like knowing that the risk of a child acquiring a vaccine preventable disease in the community lessens with every immunization administered. The Caring Van is a hit will all of the kids with its colorful and friendly design.”

    Serving primarily schools, the success of the van is evident, as more than 1,700 children received immunizations aboard the van between September and December. Other services were provided to an additional 1,750 individuals, including adult immunizations and lice checks for children.

    In addition to the services provided in 2012, the van has been on the road quite a bit in 2013, already providing immunizations to 189 children and 28 adults at seven clinics, in addition to 628 lice checks being performed.

  • Latimer Co. E-911 Dispatch thanks Choctaw Nation for donation

    Latimer Co. E-911 Dispatch thanks Choctaw Nation for donation

    Photo provided by Latimer County News-Tribune
    New E911 Supervisor Craig Johnson, (left) receives a check for $5,000 from Choctaw Nation Councilman Joe Coley. Former 911 Supervisor David Nix applied for the grant from the tribe. Following, is a letter written by Mr. Johnson to the Choctaw Nation.

    To the good people of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma,

    I am the supervisor for Latimer County E-911 dispatch center. On Friday, Aug. 16, 2013, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma District 6 Tribal Council member, Joe Coley, came to our dispatch office in Wilburton and presented us with a donation of $5000.00.

    On behalf of our Latimer County E-911, I want to thank Joe Coley and the entire Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma for their generous donation to our agency, and all you do for Latimer County.

    As Latimer County’s only public safety access point, we deal with Choctaw Tribal Police almost every day of the year. During my years of dispatching, I can truly say that every Tribal PD officer I have had contact with, including the Tribal PD dispatchers and the Choctaw Nation Indian Hospital security staff, have been very helpful and cooperative with our law enforcement coordination needs.

    Your contribution to our E-911 dispatch center comes at a time of great financial need. Currently, the E-911 fees for telephone landlines are greater than those same fees for cell phones. As more and more people switch from landlines to cell phones the fees that our agency receives go down. Plus, everything we use to run our agency keeps going up in cost. So, the donation from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma will help us a lot. Also, it was my first time to meet Joe Coley and I enjoyed visiting with him.

    Thank you again for all you do for Latimer County and for us here at the E-911 dispatch.

    Craig Johnson
    Latimer County E-911

  • Durant Casino and Resort breaks ground on expansion

    Durant Casino and Resort breaks ground on expansion

    Casino_Groundbreaking Leaders of the Choctaw Nation break ground on the upcoming expansion.

    Pyle_at_groundbreakingThe Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant, a AAA Four Diamond Resort, held a groundbreaking ceremony Sept. 12 for a major expansion that will make it a regional tourist destination.

    The expansion will create additional gaming, non-gaming and entertainment venues as well as more dining and lodging options. The south casino remodel, which begins in October, will include new dining options and a themed center bar. Additional expansion phases will feature an updated Oasis pool experience with an indoor/outdoor bar and grill. A four-venue food court and sports bar adjacent to a 24-lane bowling alley, arcade, two-story laser tag and cinema complex with five state-of-the-art theaters will be adjacent to the south casino which will also feature additional gaming machines.

    A new 22-story hotel tower with 500 rooms and VIP suites is planned. A full-service destination “sky” spa with 12 treatment rooms, a hair and nail salon, a fitness center and an outdoor pool will all be located on the top floor of the new hotel “spa” tower.

    A multi-purpose three level convention/entertainment venue on the second floor of the new hotel tower will seat over 3,000 guests with over 100,000 square feet of meeting and convention space. The new hotel tower will also feature 9,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor of the new hotel tower.

    The south center remodel is projected to be completed in December 2013, with the overall expansion scheduled to be completed in first quarter of 2015.

    See video coverage from KTEN, local news. - No One Gets You Closer

  • Girls' Day Out event encourages self defense

    Girls’ Day Out event encourages self defense

    Sergeant Robert Moore teaches escape techniques.

    Choctaw Nation Project SAFE, Voices 4 Survivors and the Oklahoma Federation of Indian Women hosted a “Girls Day Out” on Aug. 17, 2013, at the McAlester EXPO Center. The free daylong event open to girls ages 12-120, focused on the “My Body…My Life” program presented by keynote speaker Sergeant Robert Moore, MHR, BHRS, LPC of the Norman Police Department, who is the author and primary developer of the program. “One in 15 female students experience dating violence and one in four women are raped or sexually abused,” said Moore. “This class teaches young girls to protect themselves physically, mentally and socially.”

    Girls_Day_out_2 Opening for the day’s event, Choctaw Nation Tribal Councilman Bob Pate noted that violence comes in many shapes and forms, and affects both young and old. Sgt. Moore followed by presenting the “My Body…My Life” program, which focuses on “Empowering women through awareness, education, violence prevention and self-defense techniques.” “It is important to know your boundaries,” said Moore. “The most powerful word in any language is ‘no.’ No two people will say it the same. It defines your boundaries. It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it. In order to protect yourself, you must say no, walk away and report the situation.”

    Sexual violence is preventable, however a recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) showed that on average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical abuse or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States. Victimization often occurs for the first time before age 25 and is usually by someone known to the victim, primarily by a current or former intimate partner or acquaintance. Educational materials and techniques presented through Sgt. Moore’s “My Body…My Life” program aim to reduce rape and sexual violence by 70 to 90 percent.

    In addition to the “My Body…My Life” program, afternoon breakout sessions were held to allow participants the opportunity to focus on specific areas of interest. Sessions included:
    • “How Not to Act,” presented by Cherrah Giles of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Department of the Community and Human Services, and the Oklahoma Federation of Indian Women.
    • “The Language of Love,” presented by Mary Whiteshirt, MHR, LPC, of the Cherokee Nation Youth Shelter and the Oklahoma Federation of Indian Women.
    • “Self Respect,” presented by Sandy Hall of the Choctaw Nation Voices for Survivors.
    • “Ohoyo Pisa Achukma (Pretty Woman),” presented by LaDell Emmons of the OSU Extension Office and American Beauty Institute.
    • “Self- Defense,” presented by Sgt. Robert Moore and his daughter, Megan.

    The approximate 210 who attended “Girls Day Out” were also treated to lunch, goodie bags, and dancing, lead by District 11 Senior Choctaw Princess Cherish Wilkerson. All attending were entered into a drawing for several door prizes and given a shirt in exchange for evaluation forms.

    Yakoke to those whose hard work made this life changing event a success - Oklahoma Federation of Indian Women, Choctaw Nation Voices for Survivors, Choctaw Nation Project SAFE, Choctaw Senior Citizens of Pittsburg County, Choctaw Nation Youth Advisory Board and Youth Empowerment, Choctaw Nation Sexual Assault Response Team and Choctaw Nation Children and Family Services.

    Girls_Day_out_1 District 11 Senior Choctaw Princess Cherish Wilkerson leads girls in dancing.

  • Annual Superintendents’ Luncheon has educators looking to future

    Annual Superintendents’ Luncheon has educators looking to future

    Partnerships between Southeast Oklahoma schools and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma show promise for the future of education.

    Crabtree_web Educators from across Southeast Oklahoma gathered Tuesday for the Second Annual Superintendents’ Luncheon hosted by Choctaw Nation Department of Education at Eastern Oklahoma State College in Wilburton.

    The Sept. 17 meeting was focused on continuing and strengthening a cooperative effort between the 85 school districts represented within Choctaw Nation’s 10.5 counties and the Choctaw Nation Department of Education. Superintendents from almost all these schools were present for the gathering.

    Since the initial luncheon in 2012, a pilot program set in place between Durant Schools and Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) has seen considerable success. That program is the Partnership of Summer School Education (POSSE), and is charged with providing academic remediation to students in grades Pre-K through 2nd grade, according to Paula Harp, director of POSSE.

    “It was a wonderful program and a great partnership,” said Valerie Crabtree, principal of the Durant summer school program as she took the podium to discuss methods utilized and results discovered upon completion of the pilot.

    According to Crabtree, POSSE’s inaugural summer was well received by students, teachers and parents alike. Teachers were thrilled to be working in a more hands-on situation with smaller classes and more time to devote to each student, she said.

    Parents of the elementary students were pleased to see their kids reinforcing subjects key to a solid academic foundation, assuring that students were progressing at a steady pace. “Our phones were ringing off the hook with more parents wanting to enroll their kids in our summer school program,” Crabtree stated.

    The seven-week program hosted at Washington Irving Elementary saw 185 Kindergarten through 2nd grade students. Those enrolled in the pilot were by teacher recommendation. Classes were held Monday through Thursday, from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m., and spanned June 3 to July 25.

    STAR_web The summer’s agenda was set up with an overarching theme, “The Great Outdoor Adventure,” and contained smaller sub-themes to encourage a more immersive, interesting and therefore effective experience. Intense morning classes covered core subjects and afternoon activities reinforced lessons in a fun way.

    A total of 16 morning and seven afternoon teachers, combined with the help of Choctaw Nation summer youth workers, “created a different approach to learning. [We] traded in a traditional approach to a more hands-on and diverse learning,” according to Crabtree.

    The results of this technique speak to its success. According to a report submitted by the Choctaw Nation Department of Education,

    • Pre-K class average showed improvement of 19 percent in letter recognition and 30 percent in sound recognition.
    • Kindergarten – 83 percent learned all capital and lower case letters and 73 percent recognized all required sounds.
    • Young people who acted as tutors are now interested in teaching. Others have a better understanding of how to help their own children some day.

    In 2014, POSSE is planning to expand to all of Bryan County utilizing Rock Creek and Calera facilities along with Durant as centers for all schools. During the program, CNO pays for all salaries, snacks, supplies, and arts and crafts materials, while the schools are responsible for providing teachers, transportation, software and meals, according to the report.

    Another hot-topic at the gathering was the Choctaw Making A Difference (MAD) program, which is geared toward high school students. This initiative’s first priority is to make sure Choctaw students graduate.

    MAD has helped in several differing facets of education. From providing the means for students to retake the End of Instruction (EOI) tests when needed, to providing extra tutoring and/or counseling, MAD has already made a considerable difference in the lives of Choctaw students.

    To increase that influence, Choctaw Nation’s Education Department has encouraged all superintendents to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) allowing certain portions of their student information databases to be shared with CNO.

    This sharing of information will allow CNO to identify Choctaw students, enabling them to enroll in the program and receive help they were previously ineligible to acquire. Forty-six MOUs were signed prior to the meeting, contributing to the growing influence of MAD.

    “Kids that might not have graduated, have graduated because of the Choctaw Nation,” stated Clayton School Superintendent Randall Erwin, as he spoke of the impact MAD has already made in his school.

    Cary Ammons, superintendent of Antlers Schools was also onboard with cooperating with CNO through MAD. By allowing the sharing of information, Ammons hopes to streamline services by identifying Choctaws in the school district, permitting more access to services afforded by CNO.

    Choctaw Nation has been so good to us by providing help, “it’s a no brainer for us,” said Ammons, who hopes to have the infrastructure in place by May.

    Also on the agenda, was an address to the educators from CNO Language Director Jim Parrish, STAR Program Director Jason Campbell, Chahta Foundation Director Stacy Shepherd and Tribal Councilman Thomas Williston.

    Parrish and Campbell shared updates on each of their programs, discussing the benefits already offered to students within the school districts, as well as future ways CNO hopes to strengthen education.

    Campbell mentioned that the STAR program currently has almost 16,000 students enrolled. “It all started with your help,” he said thanking the school leaders.

    Shepherd informed attendees of the all the initiatives afforded by the Chahta Foundation, a non-profit organization that works closely with CNO. Through the foundation, students are able to receive scholarships as well as preserve their heritage.

    Williston, who spoke on behalf the tribal council, sang praises to the efforts of both school districts and CNO programs alike. He and the Choctaw leadership were pleased at the cooperation each of the districts has displayed, allowing for the betterment of the youth.

  • Choctaw Bike Team Encourages Breast Cancer Awareness

    Choctaw Bike Team Encourages Breast Cancer Awareness

    breast-cancer-ribbon1 October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In the United States, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every 2.5 minutes, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, and breast cancer is the second leading cause of death in women.

    In honor of the 2.6 million survivors, the warriors that are fighting cancer, their friends, families, and those family members who lost the fight, the Choctaw Nation Bicycle Team (CBNT) will host its 3rd Annual Breast Cancer Awareness Day, Saturday, Oct. 19, in Talihina.

    They are raising money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF). BCRF remains one of the most fiscally responsible charities in the country and for the 10th time since 2002, it has earned four stars from Charity Navigator. Additionally, BCRF is the only cancer organization rated an “A”+ by Charity Watch with 91 cents of every dollar donated going to breast cancer research and awareness.

    The goal is to increase awareness by “Painting the town Pink.” The team asks that all businesses and store fronts place pink ribbons, balloons, shirts, or other pink objects in their store fronts or outside their stores. They will host “Ride To Survive” bicycle rides (5 and 10 miles), the “Pink Pajama Pancake Run,” (5K), and the 1-mile Warrior-Survivor “March On Main Street” walk. Walkers, riders, and runners are encouraged to raise donations with prizes given for the most donations collected. Wearing pink is always encouraged and appreciated. The rides start at 7 a.m., with the March on Main Street lining up at 8:30 and start at 8:45 a.m. The 5k run starts at 9 a.m.

    A $5.00 fundraiser pancake, bacon/sausage, biscuit/gravy, coffee, juice breakfast from 8-10 a.m., cooked by the ladies of St. Paul UMC, and a multiagency, informative Health and Wellness Fair on Saturday, from 9-12 noon. The Choctaw Senior Citizens and the Tiger Band Parents will also be on-site fundraising. Additional T-shirts, cowbells, “Think Pink” polo shirts, “Real Men Wear Pink” polo shirts, pink tie-dyed and pink camouflage T-shirts, “Man Enough to Wear Pink” camouflage caps, and other items, will be available for sale on site or from any CNBT member.

    We all have our own reasons for running, biking, or walking. Whether you are a survivor, a warrior, a family member or someone who just wants to help; each step, each stride, each pedal stroke brings us closer to ending breast cancer. We can turn the dream of a world without breast cancer into reality, one step at a time.

    For more information about the Breast Cancer Awareness: Bike-Run-Walk events in Talihina, as a participant, exhibitor or a volunteer, contact Nancy Jefferson,, 918-413-1581, Teresa Eagle Road at 918-567-7000 x6550, or any Choctaw Nation Bicycle Team member.

    Bike ride registration Walk registration 5k registration Online Credit Card Registration

  • From rotors to wings


    From rotors to wings

    Black Hawk pilot selected for Army fixed-wing program

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    DURANT, Okla. – For a man who grew up in Durant on what he calls, “the wrong side of both tracks that run through the town,” Michael Beck has made quite a life for himself and his family while serving in the military.

    Beck, a 32-year-old U.S. Army chief warrant officer stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, is a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot who has just been accepted to the Army’s fixed-wing flight program – a feat achieved by only 180 soldiers annually, according to the Fort Rucker Public Affairs Office at Fort Rucker, Ala., a very small selection compared to the nearly 4,000 soldiers the Aviation Training Brigade trains as helicopter pilots each year.

    Beck is excited and understands the odds were against him when he decided to apply for the program. “It was actually a huge surprise because not many pilots in the army get to do this,” he said. “I fly a Black Hawk right now and after this I’ll be dual-rated to fly both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft for the military.

    “Only a small percentage of people in the military are accepted to flight school in general,” Beck continues. “But then within the fixed wing community in Army aviation, it’s an even smaller number of personnel that are chosen. I was incredibly surprised and very blessed that they selected me.”

    Beck is scheduled to attend the three-month Fixed Wing Qualification Course at Fort Rucker next summer. At the school at the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence, Beck will be trained on a number of aircraft but will specialize in piloting the Beechcraft C-12 Huron, the military variant of the twin-engine turboprop aircraft commonly known outside the military as a Beechcraft King Air.

    “At the school, they put you through multiple airframes to teach you different maneuvers but then you specialize in one,” he explains. “My training will culminate with the C-12 qualification.”

    Before he goes to the school though, Beck is scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan, which he’ll leave for later this month. It will be his third combat deployment overseas.

    “I was in Iraq for the previous two [deployments],” he says. “I was there for the initial invasion into Iraq and then I went back again in 2006.

    Screen_shot_2013-09-20_at_10.46.18_AM “The first time I worked on Apache attack helicopters as a crew chief,” he says. “The second time I went out I was running a quality control office as a technical inspector at Camp Taji. Basically, we were the guys who inspected the work of the guys who work on the helicopters.”

    This deployment will be quite a bit different for him than his first two – it will be his first since training to be a helicopter pilot three years ago. As opposed to being one of the soldiers on the ground working on or inspecting the aircraft, he’ll be one of those flying the missions.

    “We will do a combination of air assault, which is putting troops into the battle space of the enemy, and ‘med chase’ missions, where we fly as the gun ship for the MEDEVAC helicopters, being their wingman.

    “We will probably also be doing a lot of moving of personnel and equipment to central locations since at the end of the day we’ll be shutting down [the U.S. presence in] Afghanistan,” he says. “It’s kind of weird because I was there for the initial invasion in Iraq and now I’ll be there when we close up [combat missions in] Afghanistan.”

    Beck says he is excited to be able to go back overseas, however, there is one major drawback – his family. “When it comes to deployments, I don’t mind going. The only thing that bothers me is having to leave my family behind.”

    Screen_shot_2013-09-20_at_10.47.32_AM Beck and his wife, Melanie, have three children, Gillian, 13, Grayson, 4, and Madelyn, 1-and-a-half.

    It was, in fact, his family that led him to choose a career in the military. While his family life and career are both great and exactly what he wants now, that wasn’t always the case for Beck. The life he leads now is one far removed from the life he had as a child growing up in Durant.

    “I grew up in a very poor family,” he explains. “My mother was 15 when she had me and she didn’t know who my father was. She was a drug addict and was in and out of prison my whole childhood. I bounced around a lot, ended up in a couple of foster homes, even lived in a junkyard on Ninth Street for a while. It was pretty bad.

    “When I was a kid living on the east side you could walk down the street and there was used drug needles, a lot of violent people and drug addicts around me when I was younger, and most of them were my family members,” he says. “When you grow up in an environment like that, it changes you and who you are. You know, if you don’t start to fit in, if you don’t start meshing with that group of individuals…well, they’re violent. They will beat you until you start beating back and once you start beating back you’ve basically become a similar individual. It’s unfortunate.”

    Attending school as a child early on was never a problem for Beck though. “I’ve always done really well at school but I never had anyone in my childhood tell me why it was important.”

    When it came to his education, food was often his incentive for attending. “Most of the time I went to school because they had food there. In the morning I would get breakfast and then I’d get lunch,” something he might not have received at home.

    “Just to give a background,” he elaborated, “there was a guy named Mr. Crawford who owned a pig farm in town when I was little and he would go around to the local grocery stores and pick up the produce or bread or whatever that was out of date or expired. Before he would go to his pig farm though, he would drive really slowly in front of my grandmother’s house and all the little kids would run out yelling ‘Mr. Crawford! Mr. Crawford!’ We’d all jump on the back of his truck and he’d act like he wasn’t going to stop but he always did. He’d let us get up there in the back and dig through the stuff and pick out any fruit or food that we wanted to eat. Food was always a big motivator for me. They had food in school so I went to school.”

    Beck attended Jones Academy for a short period of time during his fifth grade year. “I actually enrolled myself there because I thought it’d be a good place to live. They had food, entertainment, a place to live…but I didn’t stay there too long.”

    Beck went back to Durant Public School and attended from elementary until his sophomore year of high school.

    “Whenever I got into high school, well, I never really talk about this, but there were bullies in school, and for a long time I kept getting in fights. There would be people picking on other little kids and so I always got into fights when I was in middle school and in high school. When I was in 10th grade I decided I wasn’t going to let other people dictate what I did or didn’t do,” he says.

    “No one really hung out with me in high school,” he explains. “I came from a bad family. And to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have let my kids hang out with me either. That’s pretty bad!”

    When he was 12 years old, his life took a turn. His mother went back to prison and he ran away from home. The state also came and took away his sister and three brothers.

    “I think the thing that stood out between me and the rest of my family was that I never thought that the way they were doing things was right,” he explains. “I thought ‘why are people acting this way?’ The way I rebelled as a teenager was that I said I was never going to do drugs, drink alcohol, never going to smoke cigarettes, never going to do these behaviors that they were doing. I never liked it there and that’s why I ran away. Shortly after that, the state took the other kids away. Since I was gone I was never included in it or something, I don’t really know. ”

    It was during his early high school years that his life took another abrupt turn. “During my ninth grade year, I was about 14 years old, my mother was back and she talked me into moving back in with her. She’d met a guy and they were going to get married so we moved down to Victoria, Texas, close to Corpus Christi on the Gulf of Mexico.

    “So, I trusted her, I moved back in with her and we headed down to the beach. Within two days, he left her. We were stranded.

    “I had to get a job so for my first ninth grade year, because I missed so many days I had to repeat it, I worked at a Viking Inn motel that was being repaired. We lived out of our truck until I got the job at the motel and they let us stay in one of the rooms while I helped with the construction and my mom helped out in the restaurant.

    “I also worked on a shrimp boat out on the Gulf of Mexico until we earned enough money to come back to Durant.”

    Beck was supposed to graduate high school in 1999 but that didn’t happen.

    “I didn’t quit school though, I was kicked out,” he says, for causing trouble at the school. Looking back though, I understand why they did that.”

    He moved around a lot after getting kicked out of school, living with friends, one of his mother’s ex-boyfriends, family and eventually living in a rental property owned by the Rawls family, a family who “adopted” him.

    “I never lived with them but they helped me out a lot. Basically I helped take care of their rental property and they let me live in a trailer house of theirs. I maintained their property and helped with their businesses.”

    Charlotte Rawls is the one who prompted Beck to go to college.

    “I was literally sleeping on a piece of plywood in a garage when Charlotte came in. She knew my mom had recently gone back to prison and a bunch of my friends were in trouble and she said, ‘I know you’ve never thought about it but I’ve paid for you to take an ACT test.’ I didn’t even know what the ACT was at the time.”

    “She told me, ‘No pressure but I did some research and the Choctaw Nation will help you pay for your school while you go because you’re Choctaw. You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to this time.’ So I thought about it and thought sure, I’ll take it since she paid for it and then I took the test.”

    And he did well…very well.

    “Apparently, I’m really good at taking tests,” he says with a laugh. “I got into Southeastern [Oklahoma State University] without a GED because I scored pretty high. They accepted me based off of my ACT score. They said if I can score that high on the ACT then I’ll have no trouble with the GED. So they let me start college. I think I was in class for two weeks before I ever took the GED test.”

    It was there at Southeastern that he met his future wife, Melanie.

    “I went there for only a semester and that’s when we were blessed with a little baby, so I had to get a ‘real’ job,” he says. “That’s when I joined the military. I was determined that my kids wouldn’t have the same upbringing that I did.”

    He joined in January 2001 and has rapidly moved up the ranks, excelling at all the endeavors put in his path, earning numerous awards and commendations along the way.

    “I joined initially because I needed to get some stability, mature and to have a job for my kids.

    “It’s funny though because with all my trouble growing up, once you get to the military, they don’t know all that,” he says. “They judge you based on how well you do there. Since I’ve been in the military I’ve graduated at the top of every school that I’ve been in.”

    He says when he joined the military he told his family in Durant he was leaving and never coming back…and he didn’t for about five years.

    Now, he and his family make it back to visit several times a year. “Normally, whenever we go back to Durant, I’ll go over to that side of town and I’ll talk with the little kids. I’ll visit the school and tell them about the things that I’ve done. I’ll see kids in my old neighborhood out playing and we’ll walk up to the gas station; I’ll buy them drinks and just talk to them. I let them know that there’s more to life out there.

    “There are so many places and things I’ve seen since I’ve been in the military that I would have never got to see if I hadn’t joined. There are a lot of moments, just different places around the world where I see something new that I would have only read about or seen on TV. It just changes your perspective on the world as a whole.”

    As for his relationship with his mother, he says, “I’m older now so I try not to hold a lot of that against her. She was 15, basically a kid, I guess. But there are choices that people make in their lives and I don’t think she ever chose any that were to the benefit of her children. I had a problem with that for a long time.”

    Beck doesn’t dwell on this though; that dark past is now behind him, and his future continues to look bright.

    “I plan to slowly transition out of that full-throttle [rotary wing] mentality and spend extra time with my family,” he says, “while gaining a whole new extra skill set that will be more marketable when I get out of the military, so I think it’s a blessing. I think it’s going to be really, really great.”

  • Food Distribution Program policy updates

    Food Distribution Program policy updates

    New and exciting news from the Food Distribution Program has been released. Effective Sept. 26, 2013, the Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service will implement the following rule and regulation: 7 CFR Part 253 [FNS–2011–0036] RIN 0584–AE05 Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations Income Deductions and Resource Eligibility to our guidelines. What this means for the clients we serve and to potential clients in our service area is this:

      Overview of the Rule
    • 1. Eliminate the household resource eligibility criterion.
    • 2. Expand the current deductions for medical expenses.
    • 3.Establish a new deduction for shelter and utility expenses.
    • 4.Add household verification requirements relating to the proposed medical and shelter/utility expense deductions, and revise household reporting requirements

    This will increase the possibility of more clients becoming eligible for the program. Clients should call our offices for more information. As with every new fiscal year, the new income guidelines will also go into effect October 1st. However, we have not been given those amounts as of yet by USDA.

    For more information, call 580.924.7773.

  • Going Lean events in October

    Choctaw Nation Going Lean team has several events occurring throughout October.

    • October 5th- Big Foot 5K, Honobia, OK (PACE Race)
    • October 9th- Breast Cancer Awareness Luncheon, Talihina, OK
    • October 12th- Lumberjack 5K, Wright City, OK (PACE Race)
    • October 18th- Balloon Fest 5k (PACE Race)
    • October 19th- Colton’s Run, Durant, OK (PACE Race)
    • October 19th- Robbers Cave Run, Wilburton, OK
    • October 19th- Pink Panther Pancake Bike & Run, Talihina, OK
    • October 24th- Vike at Night, Poteau, OK
    • October 26th- Diabetes 5K Run, Talihina, OK

    For sign-up information on PACE Races, see the PACE Website.

    For more information on all the races, please call 800-349-7026 x-6958 or email

  • Twenty ways to enjoy more fruits and vegetables


  • Coalgate Choctaw Nation Day Care taps cultural roots

    Coalgate Choctaw Nation Day Care taps cultural roots

    Sensory_Table_web Choctaw Nation Day Care of Coalgate held a parent’s appreciation day on Friday, Sept. 27. The annual event took place early in the evening and held the theme of “Choctaw Proud.”

    “This year we wanted a cultural theme because we are grateful to be a part of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma,” said Dianne Oxley, director of the day care. This was a different direction from former themes, which consisted of luau, rodeo and carnival.

    The cultural emphasis was well received by students and parents alike. Brenda McCartney, a guest of the night, enjoyed watching tribal archaeologist Ian Thompson as he demonstrated traditional pottery for the community. “I always loved art, so I was very interested,” McCartney mentioned.

    Cultural activities such as pottery, basket weaving and traditional dance filled the main room of the facility, and a walkthrough mini-museum occupied the back room. Guests were able to witness the Four-Step War Dance and take part in the Snake Dance. The night was also complete with Indian tacos.

    The museum held several educational booths ready to educate student and parents on Choctaw roots. Language lessons, Choctaw Code Talker exhibits, a timeline of Choctaw chiefs, animal pelts, princess regalia, a sensory table and even a small model “chukka,” a Choctaw house, lined the path through the museum.

    The museum was made possible through a combined effort from the staff and parents, stated Oxley. Some items were donated to the day care from parents for the educational experience and the staff took great care in compiling all the information and displaying it in a fun way, she continued.

    Snake_Dance_web Guests enjoy witnessing and participating in the Snake Dance.

  • Safe Kids Tulsa Area, Choctaw Nation Injury Prevention offers car seat inspections

    Safe Kids Tulsa Area, Choctaw Nation Injury Prevention offers car seat inspections

    Safe Kids Tulsa Area urges parents and caregivers to make sure their child safety seats are properly installed in their vehicles. Choctaw Nation Injury Prevention Coordinator, Cassandra Herring will have certified child passenger safety technicians available to provide hands-on instruction on installing car seats and booster seats at Tribal Services Building in Hugo at 403 Chahta Circle, from 2-4 pm, Nov. 20, 2013.

    “It’s the responsibility of every parent and caregiver to make sure their children are safely restrained – every trip, every time and at every age,” said Beth Washington. “We are urging everyone to have their child checked to be sure they are using the right restraint—a car seat, booster seat or seat belt. When it comes to the safety of a child, there is no room for mistakes.”

    According to a 2008 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the use of child restraints declines as children get older. From birth to 12 months, 99 percent of children ride in a restraint. It drops to 92 percent for kids ages 1 to 3. For children ages 4 to 7, 89 percent are restrained. But only 85 percent of kids ages 8 to 12 ride in a restraint.

    “Parents need to set the rules and stay vigilant,” said Washington. “Booster seats and seat belts are just as important for older kids as car seats are for younger kids.”

    According to Washington, parents and caregivers should follow a few basic guidelines for determining which restraint system is best suited to protect their children in a vehicle:

    1. For the best possible protection keep infants in a back seat, in rear-facing child safety seats, as long as possible—up to the height or weight limit of the particular seat. Never turn a child forward-facing before age 1 and at least 20 pounds. Keeping kids rear-facing until age 2 is safer and preferred if the seat allows.
    2. When children outgrow their rear-facing seats they should ride in forward-facing child safety seats in a back seat until they reach the upper weight or height limit of the particular harnessed seat. Many newer seats exceed the old 40 pound weight limit.
    3. Once children outgrow their forward-facing seats, they should ride on booster seats in a back seat until the vehicle seat belts fit properly.
    4. Seat belts fit properly when the child can pass the Safety Belt Fit Test: the lap belt lays across the upper thighs, the shoulder belt rests on the shoulder or collar bone and the knees bend naturally at the seat’s edge (usually when the child is between 8 and 12 years old, approximately 4’9” tall and 80 to 100 pounds).
    5. After children fully outgrow their booster seats, they should use the adult seat belts in a back seat. The lap belt should lie across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt rests on the shoulder or collar bone.

    Safe Kids Tulsa Area works to prevent accidental childhood injury, the leading cause of death and disability for children ages 1 to 14. Safe Kids Tulsa Area is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing accidental injury. Safe Kids Tulsa Area was founded in 1993 and is led by The Children’s Hospital at Saint Francis.

  • Choctaw Casino Hotel Receives ABC’s 2013 Excellence in Construction Award

    Choctaw Casino Hotel Receives ABC’s 2013 Excellence in Construction Award

    Pocola_2 Choctaw Casino Hotel in Pocola, one of eight casinos operated by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and Tulsa-based Manhattan Construction Co. have received the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of Oklahoma’s 2013 Excellence in Construction Award.

    “We’re honored to receive the Excellence in Construction Award along with our partners at Manhattan Construction Company,” said Steven Loyd, corporate operations director for Choctaw Casinos. “This project was many years in the making, and we couldn’t have asked for a better partner to help us see it through to completion.”

    The award, which recognizes innovation, quality and vision by a building team, was given in the Renovation More Than $10 Million category for the recent Choctaw Casino Hotel project that included renovation of the existing casino, an additional 62,400 square feet of casino space, a 118-room hotel tower and a 600-space covered parking garage.

    The project also received an award in the Interiors category with Green Country Interiors, Inc. The awards were presented at ABC’s Excellence in Construction Awards Banquet on Sept. 19 at the Cox Business Center in Tulsa, Okla.

    Choctaw Casino Hotel in Pocola, Okla. neighbors historic Fort Smith, Ark. at 3400 Choctaw Road off of I-540.

    About Choctaw Casino Hotel in Pocola, Oklahoma

    Choctaw Casino Hotel in Pocola, Okla. is one of eight casinos operated by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. It offers over 2,100 slot machines, including progressives, high-stakes and penny slots, as well as table games including Craps, Blackjack, Three Card Poker, Ultimate Texas Hold’em and Roulette. Choctaw Casino Hotel also includes a 118 room hotel, a convenient, covered parking garage and on-site bars and restaurants. For more information on Choctaw Casino Hotel in Pocola, Okla. visit

    The entrance to the new and completed building.

  • Geriatric clinics opening in the Choctaw Nation

    Geriatric clinics opening in the Choctaw Nation

    Elders_2 The Choctaw Nation is pleased to announce the grand opening of its new Geriatric clinics in the McAlester, Idabel, Poteau, and Talihina facilities. A clinic will also open next to the Employee Health Clinic on Westside Blvd in Durant. The opening of the clinics is one piece of the Healthy Aging Initiative introduced in March by the Choctaw Nation Health Services.

    The Healthy Aging Initiative provides care management involved with wellness, social services and geriatric functional assessments by an RN case manager. These services are provided throughout the 10.5 counties of the Choctaw Nation. Four board certified or board eligible geriatricians have been hired by the Health Service and will be an integral part of the Healthy Aging Initiative. The ratio of geriatrician to patient population ranks the Choctaw Nation in the top 5 percent of this field of medicine.

    The Geriatric clinics will provide patient centered, team based care for clients 65 years and older. Our elders are a high care priority for the Choctaw Nation. The new clinics will provide evidenced based, best practices in geriatric care. The goal is to help elders maintain the most independent level of living possible. Geriatric patients have complex medical and/or social needs, such as memory problems, gait or balance issues, depression or anxiety, medication management as well as other problems associated with aging. The needs of the aging patient tend to be more complex and take more time to provide a thorough assessment and care.

    Elders The clinics provide consultative services through referrals from the patient’s primary care provider or self-referral. Patient must have CDIB card to receive services. Regardless of the referral source or reasons for the consultation, the clinic will maintain regular communication with the patient’s primary care provider regarding the team findings and recommendations. For more information, please contact the Choctaw Nation Health Services. To learn more about these services and referral to a clinic, please call 1-800-349-7026 ext. 33004.

    Additional information:

    Geriatrics Clinic

    • Who: Age 65 and older
    • How: By Referral from Primary care provider
    • Where: Durant, Idabel, Poteau, McAlester and Talihina
    • Appointment information:Initial Appointment 1 hour. Follow-up appointments 30 minutes

    Osteopathic Manipulation Clinic

    • Who: Any Patient, Any age
    • Physician: Physician: Dr. Larry Ellis
    • How: By Referral from Primary care provider
    • Where: McAlester on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
      Talihina on Thursday and Friday
    • Appointment information:Typical Appointments 45 minutes

    Additional information on Osteopathic manipulation provided by
    Osteopathic manipulation involves hands on care to diagnose, treat, and prevent illness or injury. Osteopathic physicians move muscles and joints using techniques including stretching, gentle pressure, and resistance. OMT can help people of all ages and backgrounds. The treatment can be used to ease pain, promote healing and increase overall mobility. OMT is often used to treat muscle pain. But it can also help patients with a number of other health problems such as:

    • asthma
    • sinus disorders
    • carpal tunnel syndrome
    • migraines
    • menstrual pain

    When appropriate, OMT can complement, and even replace, drugs or surgery. In this way, OMT brings an important dimension to standard medical care.

  • Choctaw Health improves with "Six Sigma" process

    Choctaw Health improves with “Six Sigma” process

    Choctaw Nation Health Services Authority (CNHSA) continues to serve their vision, “Excellence in Rural Healthcare.” An example of this servitude has been shown through CNHSA’s implementation of the six sigma process.

    Currently, CNHSA is educating their leaders in Six Sigma, a quality measure that eliminates chances of errors or defects. Eliminating defects for a healthcare system can mean preventing medical errors, decreasing mortality rates, reducing lengths of stay, improving patient care and improving quality.

    Other health care systems such as John Hopkins Hospital and Mercy Medical Center have implemented this system and have shown proven results in improving quality patient care. Currently, seven healthcare staff professionals have completed some type of certification.

    If you would like more information on CNHSA, please visit their website.

  • Assistant Chief Batton named a SE ‘Distinguished Alumni’

    Assistant Chief Batton named a SE ‘Distinguished Alumni’


    Southeastern president Larry Minks congratulates the 2013 recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award – Rob Wells, Dr. Jim Barnes, and Choctaw Nation Assistant Chief Gary Batton.

    Assistant Chief Gary Batton was named one of Southeastern Oklahoma State University’s Distinguished Alumni. The Alumni Association recognized Batton, as well as two other Distinguished Alumni, Dr. Jim Barnes and Mr. Robert “Rob’’ Wells, at the Distinguished Awards Banquet as a part of 2013 Homecoming festivities.

    Batton (Class of ’89) has served in a number of capacities with The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma since 1987. In 2007, he was named Assistant Chief under Chief Gregory Pyle.

    In his 26 years with the Choctaw Nation, Batton has continuously looked for ways to improve and expand services and has been an integral part of the Tribe’s growth and success. Numerous Choctaw Nation programs and services have been created and enhanced under his leadership, including the Diabetes Wellness Center, the Youth Advisory Board, Veterans’ Advocacy, and Choctaw University.

    He helps support Chief Pyle’s initiatives of health, education and jobs by expanding and increasing the profitability of current businesses and adding new businesses. Overall, businesses have shown a 69 percent increase in profitability since his appointment in 2007 and Tribal services continue to grow and evolve.

    In addition, Batton has represented the Choctaw Nation on numerous boards and committees, including the National Budget Committee for Indian Health Service, the National Health Service Corps National Advisory Council, and the Tribal Technical Advisory Committee for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. He currently serves on the Thunderbird Youth Academy Foundation Board, the Children’s Hospital Foundation Board of Advocates, the Choctaw Nation Chahta Foundation Board, and the Southeastern Oklahoma State University Foundation Board.

    He received his bachelor’s degree in management from Southeastern with minors in computer science and accounting.

  • Protecting what is Choctaw

    Protecting what is Choctaw

    Delton Cox beginning sixth year in seat of Tribal Council Speaker

    delton Delton Cox believes we only come through life once and we need to do some good while we are here. Elected in 2001 as Choctaw Nation Councilman for District 4, Cox is fervent about trying to help Choctaw people.

    “We also have to keep in mind what we are doing is building as our people have done in the past,” he said.

    “Choctaws today are standing on the shoulders of those Choctaw ancestors who went before us.”

    Cox was born in Summerfield, a small community in Oklahoma’s LeFlore County. He is one of 11 children, the youngest son of eight boys and three girls born to John Christopher Cox and Ora Ida White Cox. His mother was an original enrollee.

    Cox grew up listening to the old folks tell stories. His family has been involved in politics “forever it seems like.”

    In the 1870s his great-grandfather, Jerry White, was elected judge, sheriff, and also supposedly one of the leaders of the Snake Choctaws.

    “The Snake Choctaws were those people who wanted to continue our way of life, our government, and not take the allotments,” Cox explained.

    White was a child when he was brought across the Trail of Tears by his father.

    “Great-grandpa died in 1904 in Talihina according to the Antlers paper. He wrote a letter to his son (Cox’s maternal grandfather) telling him to beware of the people who would want to kill you for the land. Protect the land.”

    Cox grew up in Summerfield where there was once three stores, two churches and a school for students through the eighth grade. Cox had his first and only brush with the “law,” he says when he tried to start school at 5 years old.

    “The rule was that you had to be 5 years old on the first of November to start school. My birthday is Nov. 2 but I tried to start on the first. The teacher made me sit out on the steps.” Cox was back at the school in Summerfield the next school term to start the education he was wanting. Later, he moved to Spiro where he finished his elementary and junior high years.

    He graduated from LeFlore High School and continued studies at Eastern Oklahoma A&M College in Wilburton, Southeastern State College in Durant, Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pa.; Mississippi State University, Starkville, Miss.; Northeastern State University, Tahlequah; the University of Oklahoma at Norman; and Oklahoma State University’s Tulsa campus.

    He earned a bachelor’s in education, a master’s in educational administration, and a post-master’s educational specialist degree, as well as certification in several areas of education and general business.

    His obvious love of learning has continued through every turn his life has taken him.

    Cox dedicated 32 years to education – as a teacher, coach, counselor, program developer, education specialist, instruction specialist, and administrator in tribal and Bureau of Indian Affairs school systems and Oklahoma public schools, from elementary through junior college.

    Two of the years teaching for the BIA were spent in Mississippi.

    “I knew a little Choctaw when I went to Mississippi,” he said. “Everyone spoke Choctaw there, though. If you were Choctaw, you spoke Choctaw.” Cox learned more about the language and history of the Choctaw. He met his wife, Deloris (Thompson) Cox of the Tucker Community while in Philadelphia, Miss. He also spent six years as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

    The time finally came when Cox could work for and with his fellow Choctaws in Oklahoma. He began as the Nation’s treasurer in 1997 and three and a half years later took a big step toward the future he had always dreamed of – serving as a councilman. The tribal members of District 4 elected Cox and he was sworn in at the Labor Day Festival.

    “In this position I can help more people than I ever could in any other way,” Cox said. “The most important thing to me is trying to help our people.” Cox is beginning his fourth term representing the Choctaw people. He was chosen Council Speaker in 2007 by his fellow council members and has served in that capacity since. His peers chose him by acclamation again this year. The responsibilities of being a councilperson and holding the group’s highest position are priorities with Cox.

    He spends days on the road, often driving six hours roundtrip from his home in Pocola to Durant for meetings. He travels to the state and national capitols to work with other tribal leaders and government officials.

    He works with the members in his area, communicating their needs and problems to the appropriate people. As a council member, he is able to help people improve their quality of life through getting a good education, provide opportunities to improve their health, find jobs, housing, and help them get better roads and infrastructure in their communities.

    Cox enjoys spending time with the elders at the Poteau center and at the center in Spiro which he shares with Councilman Ron Perry. The fellowship with families gives him a chance to get to know them better and he is available to answer questions about Choctaw Nation activities and programs. Choctaw Day was held for the first time in Poteau this summer and a Choctaws Then and Now celebration was held Oct. 8.

    Being a part of the community gives Cox many ways to work with others and provide another perspective based on past experiences and education. He is a representative of the Choctaw people in northern LeFlore County and the whole Choctaw Nation. He serves on the LeFlore County Court Appointed Special Advocate Board, Kiamichi Technology Foundation Board, the LeFlore County Historical Society, and is a member of the Governing Board for the Choctaw Nation hospital and clinics.

    Delton and Deloris raised their children to know and understand Choctaw ways. They have two sons, Nate Cox of Durant and Daniel Cox of Poteau, and four grandchildren. Their oldest granddaughter, Kassie, lives in Carthage, Miss., and their youngest granddaughter, Isabelle Cox of Durant, represents District 9 as the 2013-14 Little Miss and won Little Miss Choctaw Nation in the Labor Day Princess Pageant. Their two grandsons, Miko and Koey, live in Poteau.

    “We should never forget what it means to be Choctaw,” Cox said, “and to always remember those Choctaws who have gone before you and the hardships they endured. We have the duty and responsibility of protecting what is Choctaw.”

  • Council elects 2013-14 officers

    Council elects 2013-14 officers

    The Choctaw Nation Tribal Council held its last regular session of the fiscal year on Sept. 14 at Tvshka Homma. Included in the agenda were election and appointment of positions for 2013-14.

    Delton Cox, Thomas Williston and Joe Coley were chosen by acclamation to continue their roles as speaker, secretary and chaplain, respectively.

    Speaker Cox reappointed Bob Rabon as parliamentarian, Sylvester Moore as sergeant-at-arms and Patty Hawkins as secretary of the Tribal Council.

    The 12-member council divides into two committees that regularly meet with Choctaw programs, services and businesses. Committee 1 is comprised of Ron Perry, Joe Coley, Jack Austin, Perry Thompson, Anthony Dillard and Bob Pate. Members of Committee 2 are Thomas Williston, Kenny Bryant, Tony Messenger, Delton Cox, Ted Dosh and James Frazier.

    Individual councilmembers also serve on other boards such as an ethics subcommittee and a land acquisition and property subcommittee, donations and gaming committees, and local community organizations.

    Twenty council bills were introduced during new business. Approved were:

    • the budget for FY 2012-13 Choctaw Nation VOCA Grant;
    • Fiscal Year 2014 budgets for the General Fund, Choctaw Nation VOCA Grant, Child Care Development Fund, estimated Grant Expenditures, estimated Consolidated Tribal Government Programs, Choctaw Nation Women’s, Infants and Children (WIC), WIC Farmer’s Market, and the Health Services Authority.
    • modifications for FY/2013 Choctaw Nation WIC and Choctaw Nation WIC Farmers Market budgets;
    • funds and budget for Food Distribution Program Nutrition Education;
    • funds and budget for the Support for Expectant and Parenting Teens, Women, Fathers and their Families program;
    • a 10-year Natural Resource Management Plan;
    • an Electric Transmission Line Easement with AEP Oklahoma Transmission Co. Inc.;
    • a revocable permit with Mike Scantlen;
    • creation of CNO Investments LLC.;
    • equity investment in IC Intelligence;
    • and investment in a gaming machine lease with Integrity Gaming Inc.

  • Cultural activities, ribbon cutting celebrate Grand Opening of Tourism Information Center

    Cultural activities, ribbon cutting celebrate Grand Opening of Tourism Information Center


    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is celebrating the newly renovated Tourism Information Center at Colbert with a ribbon cutting 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 25, and a day of cultural activities. The Nation assumed operations of the facility, one of Oklahoma’s busiest, on July 1 under a five-year contract with the state.

    “We are excited about the opportunity to share the Choctaw heritage with so many people,” said Chief Gregory E. Pyle. “There is an opportunity to educate thousands of people a day about Oklahoma and the Choctaw Nation.”

    Activities scheduled for the grand opening include Choctaw pottery and basket making demonstrations, traditional weaponry, flutes, clothing, music and social dancing. Visitors will also be able to sample Choctaw traditional food.

    One-of-a-kind art and cultural items made by Choctaw and members of other Native tribes will be displayed and available for purchase inside the center. Everything in the store will have either a Native American influence or be representative of the state of Oklahoma. Many local artists have submitted their work.

    The Nation has added two personnel to work with the original staff and manage the tourism store. Items for purchase at the center will also be available online at

    The tourism center will remain a rest stop for drivers crossing into Oklahoma on Hwy. 69/75. Located just north of the Red River Bridge, the facility remains a popular place to take a break, grab a cup of coffee and a snack. A cultural area is being added outdoors with a Choctaw chukka (house) and a brush arbor. Travelers will also be able to walk their pets in the new dog park. The center offers numerous maps, brochures and tourism information about Oklahoma and is open daily except for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

  • Choctaw Nation to Host Annual Ivy League & Friends Event

    Choctaw Nation to Host Annual Ivy League & Friends Event

    Article provided by

    IVy_Leage_2012 The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Scholarship Advisement Program will host the annual Ivy League & Friends recruitment event at the Choctaw Casino and Resort in Durant, Okla., Nov. 9, starting at 11 a.m.

    “I am very glad that I attended.”

    Choctaw tribal members will have the opportunity to speak one-on-one with recruiters from some of the most prestigious universities in the nation, including Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, MIT, Wesleyan, Berkeley, Duke and many more.

    Past attendees have said that the Ivy League & Friends event has made what they thought to be an impossible dream, attending an Ivy League university, an achievable goal.

    “[Ivy League & Friends] is different because you get to talk to [representatives] one-on-one, and they provide you with some extremely helpful information and it’s Ivy League Colleges,” said one student that previously attended the event. “I am very glad that I attended.”

    Choctaw high school students and prospective graduate students are encouraged to attend the event, which will include a full day of breakout sessions where university representatives will speak about their institution to students and parents, and a college and graduate fair in the evening.

    The event is for any tribal members interested in college, regardless of if they wish to attend one of the universities at the event.

    “Even students who weren’t planning to attend an Ivy League school found benefit in attending the event and took away valuable information and insight into the college process,” said Jo McDaniel, SAP director.

    Students can learn about additional resources for Native American students such as information about scholarships and fellowships, summer programs and internships from various organizations including the American Indian Graduate Center, College and Graduate Horizons, Washington Internship for Native Students and Phillips Academy Institute for Recruitment of Teachers.

    Ivy_2_copy Ivy League & Friends began in 2008 as a way for students to connect with representatives from Harvard and has quickly grown to include more than 30 universities, making this one of SAP’s most successful programs. The event is hosted every November and encourages tribal members to think big when it comes to their educational goals.

    “The rapid growth of Ivy League & Friends suggests that the program is an idea whose time has come, not just for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, but for any group aiming to help Native American students fully realize their educational goals,” McDaniel said.

    The Choctaw Nation SAP was established in 2006 and exists to help Choctaw tribal members fulfill their college goals with smart, comprehensive preparation and advisement, and graduate with strong prospects for the future. In addition to hosting one of the largest recruitment events hosted by a tribe, other services offered through SAP include campus visit programs, ACT/SAT test prep, graduate school prep and scholarship resources.

    For more information about the event or Choctaw Nation SAP, visit

  • National Native American Heritage Month 2013: A proclamation

    National Native American Heritage Month 2013
    A Proclamation from President Barack Obama

    From Alaskan mountain peaks to the Argentinian pampas to the rocky shores of Newfoundland, Native Americans were the first to carve out cities, domesticate crops, and establish great civilizations. When the Framers gathered to write the United States Constitution, they drew inspiration from the Iroquois Confederacy, and in the centuries since, American Indians and Alaska Natives from hundreds of tribes have shaped our national life. During Native American Heritage Month, we honor their vibrant cultures and strengthen the government-to-government relationship between the United States and each tribal nation.

    As we observe this month, we must not ignore the painful history Native Americans have endured – a history of violence, marginalization, broken promises, and upended justice. There was a time when native languages and religions were banned as part of a forced assimilation policy that attacked the political, social, and cultural identities of Native Americans in the United States. Through generations of struggle, American Indians and Alaska Natives held fast to their traditions, and eventually the United States Government repudiated its destructive policies and began to turn the page on a troubled past.

    My Administration remains committed to self-determination, the right of tribal governments to build and strengthen their own communities. Each year I host the White House Tribal Nations Conference, and our work together has translated into action. We have resolved longstanding legal disputes, prioritized placing land into trust on behalf of tribes, stepped up support for Tribal Colleges and Universities, made tribal health care more accessible, and streamlined leasing regulations to put more power in tribal hands. Earlier this year, an amendment to the Stafford Act gave tribes the option to directly request Federal emergency assistance when natural disasters strike their homelands. In March, I signed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, which recognizes tribal courts’ power to convict and sentence certain perpetrators of domestic violence, regardless of whether they are Indian or non-Indian. And this June, I moved to strengthen our nation-to-nation relationships by establishing the White House Tribal Council on Native American Affairs. The Council is responsible for promoting and sustaining prosperous and resilient Native American communities.

    As we observe Native American Heritage Month, we must build on this work. Let us shape a future worthy of a bright new generation, and together, let us ensure this country’s promise is fully realized for every Native American. NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2013 as National Native American Heritage Month. I call upon all Americans to commemorate this month with appropriate programs and activities, and to celebrate November 29, 2013, as Native American Heritage Day.

    IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.


  • 10th Annual Choctaw Casino/Resort Pow Wow

    10th Pow Wow

    10th Annual Choctaw Casino/Resort Pow Wow information

    Pow Wow will be held on Nov. 29 and 30, at the Event Center in Durant. Admission is free to the public. For questions, email or

    Over $80,000 in prize money to be won. See below for competition details.

    Head Staff
    Arena Directors: Michael Roberts, Clifton Goodwill and Marty Thurman
    Emcee: Rob Daugherty and Joaquin Hamilton
    Head Gourd Dancer: Ira Kaulay
    Head Gourd Singer: Robert Crowels

    Vendor booth setup – 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.
    Dancer/Drum Registation – 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.

    Vendor booth setup – 7 a.m. - 9:30 p.m.
    Dancer/Drum Registation – 8 a.m. - 2 p.m.
    Gourd Dance - 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
    Grand Entry - 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.

    Grand Entry 1 p.m.
    Dance Contest begins after Grand Entry

    Princesses and royalty invited to participate in Grand Entry

  • Native American Awareness EXPO to be held in Dallas

    Native American Awareness EXPO to be held in Dallas
    Information provided by Angela Young, Administrative Director – Choctaw of Oklahoma

    The largest Native American Awareness EXPO and Career Fair will be hosted in Dallas on Thurs., Dec. 5, 2013 from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the famous Gilley’s Dallas located at 1135 South Lamar St. Dallas, TX 75215. Admission is free to the EXPO and Career Fair. All are welcome to come and visit tribal leaders from Oklahoma and Texas, as well as employers, colleges, and arts/crafts vendors. There will be lots of fun entertainment on Center Stage throughout the day.

    EXPO_Post_Finalfinal_web In addition to the EXPO this year, a fundraising Benefit Dinner and Concert will be hosted. The “Indians and Cowboys Benefit Dinner and Concert” will be held from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. with Darryl Tonemah being the entertainment during the dinner, followed by a live auction. Then “The Indian Soul Men Band” will take the stage at 8:45 p.m. for a night of dancing and visiting new and old friends.

    Tickets for this event are $40.00 each or two tickets for $70.00. All proceeds will go to the Urban Inter-Tribal Center of Texas building campaign. A limited number of tickets will be available for purchase and they are expected to sell quickly.

    Order your tickets today and know you have a seat at this exciting dinner and concert 214-941-1050 ext. 203 or 214-876-4519.

    View the invitation
    View the registration

  • Heritage Monday yields exciting prize for Choctaw employee

    Heritage Monday yields exciting prize for Choctaw employee

    Assistant Chief Gary Batton presents Coker with a pair of stickball sticks

    Congrats to Dana Coker, the winner of the November Heritage Monday giveaway. As the winner, she was able to chose between a leather Choctaw briefcase and a pair of stickball sticks from Mississippi.

    Dana chose the stickball sticks, stating that her son will be excited to put them to use.

    The giveaway was in coordination with Heritage Monday, the first Monday of each month. It is a day where the employees of the Choctaw Nation are encouraged to demonstrate pride in their heritage. Wearing any form of Choctaw clothing earned employees a free drink at the cafeteria and an entrance into the drawing.

  • Building business: Choctaw Defense's defense against recession

    Building business:

    Choctaw Defense’s defense against recession

    Graphic provided by Choctaw Defense
    The Camel II water system

    Choctaw Defense, one of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma’s (CNO) leading business enterprises, earned a sizable contract on Sept. 27, 2013, through Army Contracting Command New Jersey, at the Picatinny Arsenal installation in New Jersey.

    The contract is for “the fabrication, testing, inspection, and delivery of the Platform Integration Kits (PIK) and/or spare parts to the U.S. Army,” according to V.P. of Public Relations Keith Briem of Choctaw Defense. These Platform Integration Kits are used to interface between the platform and the Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station (CROWS) weapon station components.

    Briem explained CROWS as a lightweight, remotely versatile and externally mounted weapon system that allows a gunner to remain inside a vehicle protected by armor, all while firing a variety of crew served weapons. The CROWS will provide protection for the gunner and offer enhanced target acquisition, identification and engagement capabilities.

    The contract, a five-year firm fixed price (FFP) Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract, was awarded to Choctaw Defense and one other competitor. With this type of contract, as orders are placed from the buyer, Choctaw Defense and their competitor place bids for who will fill the order.

    There is up to $42 million on the line over a five-year period. These contracts are set in place as a type of safety net for buyers, where-in if one provider was not able to complete the order, the other would be able to take over the remainder of the contract. There is also a minimum guarantee for $200,000 for each base contract award, meaning that if the buyer canceled the contract, Choctaw Defense would be guaranteed the $200,000.

    “This was a competitive bid among other small businesses. Successful completion of the PIK contract would open doors to other manufacturing opportunities associated with military armored vehicles, tanks and tank component manufacturing,” stated Briem.

    He went on to mention tactical wheeled vehicle manufacturing and maintenance is a core business in military manufacturing, making it a source of constant demand for services Choctaw Defense can provide. Not only the manufacture of new items, but the maintenance and upgrading of equipment already in use is a market in which Choctaw Defense has a strong interest.

    The award of this contract will insure continued work for Choctaw Defense employees assigned to the CROWS project. Everyone from machinists to welders and labors will have steady employment in the McAlester plant for the remainder of the contract.

    Though Choctaw Defense has secured business for the foreseeable future, it has not stopped honing its long-term vision. With eyes set on the continued involvement with the tactical wheeled vehicle arena, the administration is preparing for a more diversified business plan, assuring it will be an agile competitor in the market for years to come.

    “Choctaw Defense has continued to focus on growth and the creation of jobs by expanding its business base,” stated Briem. Over the past year Choctaw Defense has added two new companies to the Choctaw Defense group of businesses.

    Choctaw Defense has begun to focus on services in alignment with manufacturing. Businesses are now able to contract Choctaw Defense to undertake projects such as laying cable in structures and providing security within completed buildings. They will also provide logistics and crew training, technical support services and Information Technology support service.

    Also a new branch to Choctaw Defense is Architects in Partnership Enterprises (AIPe), which operates as a Limited Liability Company within Architects in Partnership (AIP) and is headquartered in Norman.

    AIPe specializes in the planning and design of government, commercial, and educational facilities, providing services that range from master planning to design and construction administration.

    AIPe will also allow Choctaw Defense to compete internally. When CNO plans to construct facilities, it is mandated they must bid out the contracts. AIPe’s presence allows CNO to essentially bid the work to itself, keeping the dollars from leaving the Nation.

    The U.S. Navy has also awarded Choctaw Defense a performance standard contract to design and manufacture the next generation field service body bed for the M915A3 20-ton truck. McAlester will be the home of this project along with the PIK contract.

    The recently awarded contracts along with current contracts will insure continued manufacturing opportunities for the next 2-3 years, according to Briem.

    With the acquisition of the new contracts and the addition of the two new ventures, Choctaw Defense is growing steadily and sustainably. Ongoing activities at Choctaw Defense manufacturing plants include the MTVR trailer contract for the U.S. Marine Corps. Choctaw Defense has produced 1,700 to date and is still rolling more off the lot.

    The CAMEL II water system, a storage unit that allows soldiers to have pure and cool drinking water in the field, is also a sizable current contract. Battle Damage Repair Kits and C17 scissor lifts are staples in Choctaw Defense’s business as well.

    For more information, visit

  • Choctaw Nation to offer shingles vaccine to seniors

    Choctaw Nation to offer shingles vaccine to seniors

    Choctaw Nation Health Services Authority (CNHSA) will now be offering the shingles vaccine to patients 60 years old or older. Anyone 60 years of age or older should get the shingles vaccine, regardless of whether the patient recalls having had the chickenpox or not. Studies show that no more than 99% of Americans ages 40 and older have had chickenpox, even if they do not remember getting the disease.

    You should NOT get the shingles vaccine if any of the following apply to you

    • Had a life-threatening or severe allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin, or any other component of shingles vaccine.
    • Have a weakened immune system because of HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system
    • Had treatment with drugs that affect the immune system, such as steroids
    • Had cancer treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy
    • Had cancer affecting the bone marrow or lymphatic system, such as leukemia or lymphoma
    • Are pregnant or might be pregnant

    Please contact your local Choctaw Nation Family Practice Clinic for the vaccine.

    For more information about Shingles, see the attached flier.

  • Putting people and praise first: Councilman Coley's passion for helping others and gospel singing

    Putting people and praise first
    Councilman Coley’s passion for helping others and gospel singing

    Joe helps lead a singing during a cultural event in Poteau.

    Choctaw Nation’s Tribal Council is a distinguished group of gentlemen, sense of humor only outmatched by their love for the Choctaw people. Within this lively squad, one will find Joe Coley who speaks quietly, but advocates strongly for his people and his faith.

    Coley is councilman for District 6 – Latimer County. He became councilman in 2004 and is now the group’s chaplain, opening each tribal council meeting with a prayer.

    Coley was born at his home on Cravens Road, south of Red Oak, to Ranes M. “Rufus” Coley and Lela (Yota) Coley, in the early 1950s. The seventh child of his parents’ eight children, Coley was the youngest boy.

    He spent his younger days learning to swim in Spring Creek Lake and attending school at Cravens, Ludi, Panola and eventually graduating from Red Oak High School. There was lots of fast pitch softball playing and fishing, Coley stated as he recalled his adolescence.

    As Coley grew into adulthood, two passions emerged in his life – his faith in Christ and serving people. The former is exemplified through his great amount of work in many churches throughout Southeast Oklahoma, with a particular emphasis in gospel singing. The latter is demonstrated in his decades of service working for the Community Health Representatives (CHR) and later as a councilman.

    Coley Though Coley speaks softly, he sings loud and proud as he travels to a multitude of churches for his favorite past time, gospel singing. “We have a good time,” Coley said with a smile as he began to speak about the singings.

    Coley has been to many different places and several states singing with a handful of quartets. He enjoys group singing at local churches, mentioning that sometimes there are more than 20 groups at a single singing and the event lasts late into the night, until midnight or 1 a.m. “We just have a good time praising God through song,” he stated.

    Currently, he attends Cedar Baptist where gospel singings are a regular occurrence. He is also a well-known face within other church groups, as he emcees singings and hosts revivals often. Coley attributes his interest in song to his father, Rufus, who taught him to read shape notes early in life.

    When he isn’t singing songs of praise with his church group, Coley is lending a helping hand. In the early ’80s he began his work for Choctaw Nation’s CHRs driving patients to appointments at various tribal facilities.

    During this time he was able to learn more about the needs of the Choctaw people. He was trained as a first responder and was able to assist patients in many ways other than just the transportation. “I really enjoyed that work,” said Coley.

    For a brief time in the mid-’80s, Coley worked for the hospital in Talihina, fulfilling similar duties. Once the Choctaw Nation gained sovereignty in the mid ’80s, he returned to his occupation with the CHRs.

    After decades of service in this field, he was encouraged by those close to him to run for his position as a tribal councilman. This idea was appealing to Coley in particular because he had spent ample amounts of time with tribal members, discovering their personal needs. Becoming a councilman offered Coley a chance to help in ways that he had previously been unable.

    “I had to really pray about it,” stated Coley as he spoke about his consideration for the position. He knew he had the support of family and many friends, but deliberated if the decision was right for him. As he considered his options, he recalled the needs of tribal members that he had encountered during his service with the CHRs and considered the extra influence he would have to work on their behalf.

    Upon being elected councilman in 2004, Coley made sure to keep the same goal he had while running for this position – to be a reliable avenue of assistance to those who needed him. Coley mentions that whenever he considers a council bill, he studies all the outcomes for tribal members, making sure it is in the best interest for Choctaws.

    Victories as a councilman stand out in Coley’s memory. Assisting the town of Quinton with the paving of their streets and gym parking lot was one of the many shining moments in Coley’s career.

    He is also proud to say he aided the town of Red Oak during a time when their water supply was in trouble. A pump had malfunctioned, stopping water from being delivered to residents. As a councilman, Coley was able to provide bottled water during the shortage, and later, made sure a replacement pump was installed quickly.

    He looks back on these successful moments, among others, with fondness. “I love my job and helping people. There is no better job that I know of,” he said modestly as he discussed his dedication.

    Coley also mentioned that he feels fortunate to be working with the other members of the council. “I couldn’t ask for a better group,” he stated as he talked about the camaraderie that has been built over the years.

    If one were to travel to Wilburton and attend a function hosted by Coley, they would most likely meet his wife, Mary, a cheerful and up-beat counterpart to Coley’s reserved demeanor.

    Joe met Mary in church as kids and the two were married in 1972. Together, they raised three children – Roger, Diana and Heather – all of whom they are exceptionally proud. “They were real good kids,” Joe said with a grin.

    Outside of the tribal council and the gospel circuit, Coley is involved in several organizations, including Ki Bois, Keddo and Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. He is also a Sunday school superintendent, song leader and trustee of his church, Cedar Baptist.

  • Tribes to receive Congressional Gold Medals in honor of Code Talkers

    Tribes to receive Congressional Gold Medals in honor of Code Talkers

    On Nov. 20, the Congress of the United States will present Congressional gold medals to 26 tribes in honor of their tribal members’ service in the U.S. military as Code Talkers in World War I and World War II. A private awards ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C. The tribe will receive the Congressional Gold Medal, and each one will be of a unique design befitting that tribe. The Code Talkers or a surviving family member will receive duplicate solid Silver medals. Bronze duplicate medals will be sold to be public from the United States Mint beginning soon afterward.

    During World War I and World War II, hundreds of American Indians from dozens of tribes joined the U.S. armed forces. Historically, they are among the first to volunteer and are recognized as having the highest record of service on average compared to other ethnic groups.

    One small group of Choctaw men helped turn the tide during World War I and was so successful their method of communications was repeated in World War II. They were the original Code Talkers who used words from their traditional tribal language as weapons. America’s enemies were never able to decipher or “break” the coded message they sent.

    “The Code Talker Recognition Act paved the way for Congressional medals to honor American Indian Code Talkers,” said Choctaw Nation Chief Gregory E. Pyle. “It has been a delayed and challenging path since the beginning of the crusade for acknowledgement. Many people worked tirelessly in an effort to educate others about the Code Talkers. They walked the halls of Congress to raise awareness and are now going to see the realization of their goal.”

    The first recorded use of Code Talkers was on Oct. 17, 1918. They exchanged messages with Choctaw phrases such as “corn grain three” and “little gun shoot fast” to describe “third battalion” and “machine gun.” As the group grew and developed a wider “vocabulary,” the success of the Allied missions continued and ended World War I. Many lives were saved.

    When the United States entered World War I, members of Indian tribes who enlisted in the Armed Forces were not considered U.S. citizens. They still chose to protect their home, maintaining their identity as American Indians as they enlisted and fought on behalf of the United States.

    The original Code Talkers were sworn to secrecy and many of them kept the secret of their participation until they died.

    In 2001, Congress and President George W. Bush honored Navajo Code Talkers for their contributions as radio operators during World War II.

    President Bush signed the Code Talkers Recognition Act on Oct. 15, 2008, which included Code Talkers from 33 other tribes and nations who were instrumental in World War I and II victories.

    The Code Talkers left a lasting legacy for their people and their country. They are beginning to receive the recognition and honor they greatly deserved during their lifetimes.

    Medals to be awarded on November 20, 2013

    1. Choctaw Nation (Oklahoma)

    2. Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (South Dakota)

    3. Cherokee Nation (Oklahoma)

    4. Comanche Nation (Oklahoma)

    5. Crow Creek Sioux Tribe (South Dakota)

    6. Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes (Montana)

    7. Ho-Chunk Nation (Wisconsin)

    8. Hopi Tribe (Arizona)

    9. Kiowa Tribe (Oklahoma)

    10. Meskwaki Nation (Iowa)

    11. Muscogee Creek Nation (Oklahoma)

    12. Oglala Sioux Tribe (South Dakota)

    13. Oneida Nation (Wisconsin)

    14. Osage Nation (Oklahoma)

    15. Pawnee Nation (Oklahoma)

    16. Ponca Tribe (Oklahoma)

    17. Pueblo of Acoma Tribe (New Mexico)

    18. Santee Sioux Nation (Nebraska)

    19. Seminole Nation (Oklahoma)

    20. Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate (Sioux) Tribe (South Dakota)

    21. Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (South Dakota)

    22. Tlingit Tribe (Alaska)

    23. Tonto Apache Tribe (Arizona)

    24. White Mountain Apache Tribe (Arizona)

    25. Yankton Sioux Tribe (South Dakota)

    26. Menominee Nation (design unveiled at the ceremony)

    Medals to be awarded at a later date

    1. Brule Sioux Tribe

    2. Cheyenne and Arapho Tribes

    3. Chippewa Tribe

    4. Crow Tribe

    5. Laguna Pueblo Tribe

    6. Rosebud Tribe

    7. Mohawk Tribe

  • VA to increase aid to tribal veterans' assistance

    VA to increase aid to tribal veterans’ assistance

    The Choctaw Nation and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have come to an agreement for the VA to reimburse the Choctaw Nation for services provided for Native American Veterans. This will not only help the Choctaw Nation provide more services for Tribal Members and Tribal Veterans, but also provide more access to health care facilities.

    Tribal Veterans need to be enrolled in VA health benefits for the reimbursement to take place, so if you are a Veteran and are not, or do not know, if you are enrolled in VA health benefits here are some choices for you to get started.

    1. Go to and search and fill out a 10-10EZ (application for VA health benefits)
    2. Call 1-877-222-8387 and follow the prompts.
    3. Call CNHSA at 1-918-567-7000 ext. 6856

    Benefits of the agreement include more locations for tribal veterans to access health care, less travel time for the veteran and more services provided between CNHSA and the VA. There is NO COST to the veteran for most services and access to a Veterans Advocate for any help such as finding the correct forms, filling them out and applying for benefits is provided.

  • Farm and You event held to educate youth

    Farm and You event held to educate youth

    Farm_2 Choctaw Nation Health Services Going Lean Program held a Farm to You event on Nov. 5, 2013, with the OSU Extension Agency. Over 300 students from Whitesboro, Buffalo Valley and Talihina Public Schools attended the event. Forty volunteers lent their support as well.

    According to the OSU Extension office, the Farm to You is a 40-foot by 40-foot enclosed walk-through exhibit and has ten stations. Small groups of approximately ten students begin the educational, interactive experience at Farmer Pete’s Garden where they learn about fruits and vegetables. The second station is called Farmer Pete’s Chicken Coop, here the students learn about raising chickens and the important role protein plays in our diets. The third station is Farmer Pete’s Dairy Farm where they learn about raising dairy cows and the nutrients that dairy foods provide. The fourth station is Pete’s Acres, where students learn about the different types of grains in our diets. The remaining six stations take students through the digestive system where they learn how the foods on the farm are important for our bodies. At each station, community or school volunteers use a written script to provide students with a message and activity related to the specific station. To better address the Oklahoma State Department of Education Priority Academic Students Skills (PASS), the mouth, bone and muscle stations have different scripts for Grades K – 3rd and 4th – 6th.

    The Oklahoma Farm to You Nutrition Exhibit is designed to involve first through sixth grade students in learning the skills and choices for a healthy lifestyle. Children learn about the link between agriculture, nutrition, good hygiene practices, physical activity and health.


  • 2013 Going Green Used Toy Drive

    Annual Used Toy Drive

    Go_Green_Choctaw_Logo_web Choctaw Nation Going Green is hosting a used toy drive throughout the entire Choctaw Nation from Nov. 6 through Dec. 13.

    As you clean out children’s closets, please be “green” with gently used toys and give them to another child in need.

    Drop off locations are at ALL community center, the headquarters in Durant and the Hugo Housing office.

    For Questions Contact: Tracy Horst Director of Project Management Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (800) 522-6170

  • Leave a Legacy of Healthy Vision

    Leave a Legacy of Healthy Vision
    Set your sight on healthy vision if you have diabetes

    Information provided by National Eye Institute

    Diabetes affects nearly 26 million people in the United States. In addition, another 79 million people are estimated to have prediabetes, a condition that puts people at increased risk for diabetes. Many American Indians and Alaska Natives are included in these statistics. According to the Indian Health Service, diabetes among American Indians and Alaska Natives has increased from 8 percent to more than 13 percent in the last decade. While this may sound discouraging, the good news is that a lot can be done to prevent diabetes and the severity of its complications, such as those that lead to vision loss and blindness.

    Health Diabetic eye disease is a group of eye problems people with diabetes may face and includes cataract, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma. Diabetic retinopathy, the most common diabetic eye disease, is the leading cause of blindness in adults 20–74 years of age.

    “The longer a person has diabetes, the greater is his or her risk of developing diabetic eye disease,” said Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Eye Institute (NEI).“If you have diabetes, be sure to have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. Don’t wait until you notice an eye problem to have an exam, because vision that is lost often cannot be restored.”

    Diabetic eye disease often has no early warning signs, but it can be detected early and treated before vision loss occurs. If you have diabetes in your family, you can leave a legacy of healthy vision by taking steps to prevent vision loss—controlling diabetes and getting a comprehensive dilated eye exam every year.

    “In fact, with early detection, timely treatment, and appropriate follow-up care, people with diabetes can reduce their risk of severe vision loss by 95 percent,” adds Suber Huang, M.D., M.B.A., chair of the Diabetic Eye Disease Subcommittee for NEI’s National Eye Health Education Program.

    Research has shown that when people with diabetes maintain good control of blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol, they can slow the development and progression of diabetic eye disease. In addition to having a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year, people with diabetes should do the following to keep their health on TRACK:

    health_2 Take your medications.

    Reach and maintain a healthy weight.

    Add physical activity to your daily routine.

    Control your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol.

    Kick the smoking habit.

    If you have diabetes, set your sight on healthy vision. Schedule a comprehensive dilated eye exam. For more information on diabetic eye disease and tips on finding an eye care professional or financial assistance for eye care, visit a href=””> or call the NEI at 301–496–5248.

    The National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the National Institutes of Health, leads the federal government’s research on the visual system and eye diseases. NEI supports basic and clinical science programs that result in the development of sight-saving treatments. For more information, visit

    About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the Nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

  • Congressional Gold Medals awarded in honor of Code Talkers

    Congressional Gold Medals awarded in honor of Code Talkers

    Chief_with_Choctaw_medal_web The highest honor bestowed by Congress – the Congressional Gold Medal – was awarded to the Choctaw Nation, along with 32 other tribes on Wednesday, Nov. 20, in recognition of the bravery, honor and commitment of their Native American Code Talkers, who used their language as an unbreakable code for transmitting messages on the battlefield during World Wars I and II. Leaders of the U.S. House and Senate honored these Code Talkers in a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony held in Emancipation Hall of the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C.

    Leaders of each of the tribes or nations of the Code Talkers, all but one of whom have passed away, were presented the gold medals at the ceremony. Chief Gregory E. Pyle accepted the gold medal on behalf of the Choctaw Code Talkers.

    “It was an extremely humbling honor to accept the award on behalf of our brave Choctaw warriors,” said Chief Gregory E. Pyle. “Many people worked tirelessly to see our Code Talkers honored for their brave, gallant actions in battle. The Choctaw Code Talkers were the original group to use their native language as a weapon. That one small group of Choctaw men helped turn the tide during World War I and was so successful that their method of communications was repeated in World War II. I’m proud to see their courageous actions recognized.”

    Speakers at the ceremony include House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), as well as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral James “Sandy” Winnefeld Jr.

    In his opening statement, Speaker Boehner describes the Code Talkers as “the bravest of the brave.” He continued, “After they served with honor they did the honorable thing – they kept their service a secret, even to those that they loved.”

    He thanked the families of the Code Talkers, saying because of them and their perseverance, “the deeds that may have been relegated to legend will now live on in memory and now heroes who long went unrecognized will now be given our highest recognition.”

    He also thanked former Oklahoma Congressman Dan Boren, who was in attendance at the ceremony, calling him one of the original champions of the Code Talker legislation.

    Pelosi remarked during her speech, “The Code Talkers, using their language, carried forward the hopes of their people, committed to the cause of freedom. Their sense of duty was never shaken – nor was their resolve. Their patriotism never wavered – nor did their courage. Their bonds of brotherhood were never broken – nor was their code.

    “For their heroism and sacrifice, for the contributions that went unrecognized for too long, it is a privilege for Congress to award the Native American Code Talkers the highest honor we can bestow: the Congressional Gold Medal.”

    Family members representing the 23 Choctaw Code Talkers – 19 from World War I and four from World War II – were presented medals at a separate Silver Medals presentation ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

    One family member, Nuchi Nashoba, who is also the president of the Choctaw Code Talkers Association and granddaughter of Code Talker Ben Carterby, said, “It’s an exciting day for all of us because we waited so long for this to happen. I’m so thankful that we are able to experience this great, wonderful, historic event. As a descendent, it’s such an honor, such an honor, to be here.

    “There are so many that walked the halls of Congress to get support to have the Code Talkers Recognition bill passed. It’s taken many, many years. It’s great to have our own government recognize our Code Talkers.

    “As soldiers, they went to war; they didn’t brag, they didn’t boast about what they did,” she explained. “It was up to us to make this [recognition] happen and to brag on these people who went to war to keep us free. We’ve all become so close and so attached to this cause. It’s up to us to continue to tell their story. We do it in order to honor the men that went to war.

    “I’m thankful to the Choctaw Nation and for the display they’ve created in Tvshka Homma,” she continues. “It will allow Choctaws for many generations to learn of their legacy, read their story and see their medals.”

    Another family member, D.G. Smalling, great-grandson of Code Talker Calvin Wilson, said to finally have the medal was amazing. “We have a very unique situation with our family,” he said. “We’ve actually been to where they fought.

    “The Arragone Forest in northern France,” said his mother, Janet Smalling, grandson of Calvin Wilson.

    “It’s amazing to finally have this [medal] and to have the frame of reference of where they fought,” D.G. said.

    Many of the families have donated the silver medals to the Choctaw Nation to be displayed at the Code Talker exhibit at the Choctaw museum in Tvshka Homma.

    The Choctaw Code Talkers during World War I were Joseph Oklahombi, Calvin Wilson, Robert Taylor, Ben Carterby, Solomon Louis, Albert Billy, Pete Maytubby, James Edwards, Noel Johnson, Tobias Frazier, Joe Davenport, George Davenport, Mitchell Bobb, Ben Hampton, Walter Veach, Otis Leader, Ben Colbert, Jeff Nelson, and Victor Brown. Those from World War II were Schlicht Billy, Davis Pickens, Andrew Perry and Forreston T. Baker.

    Along with the Choctaw Nation, several Oklahoma tribes were also honored including the Comanche, Seminole, Cherokee, Pawnee and Muscogee Creek Nations, as well the Osage, Kiowa, Ponca, Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes.

    Also, tribes from Alaska, Arizona, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin were among those awarded medals including Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of Montana, Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin, Hopi Tribe, Oglala Sioux Tribe, Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin, Pueblo of Acoma Tribe, Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa/Meskwaki Nation, Santee Sioux Nation, Smalling_and_Oklahombi_web Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Tonto Apache Tribe, White Mountain Apache, Yankton Sioux Tribe, Crow Nation, Fond Du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Laguna Pueblo Tribe, Lower Brulé Sioux Tribe, Menominee Tribe, Mohawk Tribe, and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.

    Bronze duplicate medals are available for purchase from the United States Mint.

    Janet Smalling, granddaughter of Calvin Wilson, and Shirley Geller, granddaughter of Joseph Oklahombi, accept the silver medals at a ceremony at the National Museum of the American Indian.

    For more insight into the life of a code talkers, watch this video of Ruth McMillian talking about her father Tobias Frazier, an original code talker.

  • Partnership of Summer School Education planning for another year

    Partnership of Summer School Education planning for another year

    “The definition of ‘posse’ is a group of people who come together for a common goal,” explained Paula Harp, director of the Partnership of Summer School Education (POSSE) program and the Making a Difference program at the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    Harp smiled as she described just what the POSSE program does for the youth of Durant and the surrounding area. “The main goal of the Partnership of Summer School Education program is to provide academic remediation to students in grades pre-k through second grade,” stated Harp. “It is the goal of the Choctaw Nation to provide a culturally enriched, safe and positive atmosphere for the students that participate in the summer school program.”

    According to Valerie Crabtree, principal of the Durant summer school program, POSSE’s inaugural summer was well received by students, teachers and parents alike. Teachers were thrilled to be working in a more hands-on situation with smaller classes and more time to devote to each student.

    plane2 The future of POSSE was discussed at Second Annual Superintendents’ Luncheon on Sept. 17. After a presentation of the success at the Durant location, many educators were curious how they could include their school in the program. Promising plans were made to expand the service area of the program. According to Harp, next year, and additional seven Bryan County schools will be added to the program: Achille, Caddo, Calera, Silo, Bennington, Colbert and Rock Creek Public Schools.

    POSSE was available for eligible children pre-k through second grade, who attend school Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. as well as the “Jump Start to Kindergarten” group of students, who attend class Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to noon. It is a seven-week-long program, held at Washington Irving Elementary School in Durant, which began June 3, and concluded July 25.

    The selection of students to be accepted into POSSE is based on teacher recommendation and test scores; Choctaw tribal membership is not required. If the student is having trouble with reading or math during the school year, the teacher will suggest to Harp they need to be admitted into the summer school program.

    Harp continued illustrating the goals of POSSE by listing examples of how the staff and educators conduct themselves:

    • they work to inspire and empower the students
    • build on the strengths of the community
    • applaud students’ achievements
    • expand resources
    • work with communities, schools and organizations in the geographic service area
    • plan, implement, expand, coordinate and evaluate the program itself

    According to Harp, the program has several objectives.

    • The children will grow academically through remediation in reading and math
    • grow socially through cultural services provided
    • develop emotionally through the afternoon educational activities
    • feel safe and secure while being supervised by a competent and caring staff
    • benefit in a positive manner as they are taught caring and cooperative attitudes

    There were 184 students enrolled in the initial summer school program according to Harp, who worked closely with Durant School administration and staff to develop the curriculum for the summer school. “Since I am a former teacher, it helps me a lot, because I know what the school day is like,” and since Harp was once a teacher from Durant ISD, the teachers she is now working with are some of her good friends. “We have a great working relationship; we just kind of know what the other is thinking and what we need to do.”

    The Choctaw Nation helps with funding POSSE, providing the school with half of the needed funds. While the Nation provides funding for teachers’ salaries and supplies throughout the seven weeks, Durant ISD provides all other expenses, such as bus drivers’ salaries, bus fuel, air conditioning in the building, summer lunch program, etc.

    Harp said Durant Public Schools usually accept around 300 children into kindergarten each year with about 100 of these students who have never gone to school. She described the program as being an exceptional program for children who have never experienced a school environment but are about to enter kindergarten. “Some kids, when they start kindergarten, have never been to school (pre-k) before,” she said, because it is not required. “They may or may not have been taught their alphabet, how to tie their shoes, etc.” During the seven-week period of Jump Start to Kindergarten, those areas are covered, she said. “We teach them quite a few things, so that when school starts, they are ready to go.”

    Tim_Tingle Locating these children throughout the Durant area for Jump Start to Kindergarten proved to be a daunting but rewarding task. “We visited all the Head Starts and the Durant schools and found names for all Choctaw children who fit the age group,” explained Harp.

    “The education department employees visited the homes of Choctaw children in the Durant school district and found Choctaw children who are going into kindergarten but have not been through pre-k,” said Harp. “We did it in one afternoon, each of us had a certain number of students to find, and we just went out and did it. It was a great group effort.”

    “We’re not in the business of running schools, they’re the experts,” said Harp. “We are just helping to fund the extra expense.”

    The 2013 summer school theme was “The Great Outdoor Adventure.” The first two weeks of summer school had a camping theme, the next two weeks an aerospace theme and the last three weeks a Native American theme, in which Choctaw storyteller Tim Tingle visited the students and provided each child with their own book.

    A field trip was made each week. “They really made an impression,” Harp said of the outings. Students visited the Choctaw Nation Recycling Center spurring them to encourage parents by saying thing such as “don’t waste water,” and telling them how to recycle at home, turn the lights out and clean up the environment.

    If you’d like to learn more about this programs, contact Paula Harp at 580-924-8280 ext. 2452, or visit their Facebook page.


  • Choctaw Nation Education Department represented at George W. Bush Institute Summit

    Choctaw Nation Education Department represented at George W. Bush Institute Summit

    What makes an excellent workshop in a wonderful facility even better? For one Choctaw Nation employee, it was a visit from former president George W. Bush himself. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma was the only tribe to participate in the Early Warning Systems Early Adopters Learning and Sharing Summit on November 5 – 6 at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas.

    George-W_-Bush-Presidential-Center-at-SMU-in-Dallas_120800 The Choctaw Nation Making a Difference (MAD) program has been recognized among tribes as a forerunner in education. The MAD program is currently taking steps to begin tracking data and identifying problems in real time. Identification is the first step in addressing problems quickly in order to get students back on track before it is too late. Paula Harp, Director of the Making a Difference program and the Partnership of Summer Schools Education program, attended the summit and was pleased to see that the Choctaw Nation is already using much of what was discussed.

    The summit was attended by representatives from schools, colleges, state departments of education, researchers, civic groups, support groups and policy makers from across the United States.

    Participants were trained in the use of Early Warning Indicators (such as attendance, discipline, personal challenges and test scores) to predict student success. Discussion covered how to implement these systems and how to intervene once problems have been identified.

    Former President Bush paid a visit to the group to express the importance of Early Warning Indicators and how they are addressed. He and Mrs. Bush continue to be supporters of education in this country.

    Harp and the staff of the Making A Difference program realize that “early warning allows early intervention.” As the new program continues to build, technology is being put into place to greatly improve the speed and efficiency with which the needs of students can be identified.

    Click here to learn more about the Making a Difference program.

  • Heritage Monday a venue for Choctaw artists

    Heritage Monday a venue for Choctaw artists


    Monday, Dec. 2, Choctaw Nation will host its monthly heritage day in celebration of the rich, living Choctaw culture.

    Choctaw Nation employees are encouraged to wear a piece of traditional clothing on this day – t-shirts, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, etc. – and to greet guests in the Choctaw language.

    This Monday will also include a special event, an “Artist Bazaar,” in which Choctaw artists will bring original artwork to the headquarters and allow employees and guests to purchase items.

    This will be an opportunity to purchase unique and original Christmas gifts, as well as support Choctaw artists. Be sure to visit all floors in the main building of the complex from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

    A regular event at the heritage day celebrations is a special lunch of traditional foods, which will be served in the employee cafeteria from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., and traditional dance practice in the complex conference room at 2 p.m.

    The Choctaw Nation tribal complex is located at 529 N. 16th in Durant. Everyone is welcome to attend and celebrate the rich Choctaw history and culture.

  • Choctaw Nation hosts Artist Bazaar

    Choctaw Nation hosts Artist Bazaar

    BrowsingWEB Employees dressed in traditional attire browse the selection of art from Martha Dewitt.

    Culture flowed strong at the headquarters of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Dec. 2, as the staff and guests celebrated the monthly event, Heritage Monday.

    This event, hosted the first Monday of each month, serves as a beacon of the Choctaw history, essentially turning the tribal complex in Durant, into a cultural center for the day.

    December’s heritage day marked a new milestone for the event, introducing “Artist Bazaar.” In addition to the usual demonstration of culture, such as employees wearing traditional clothing, Choctaw dance lessons and craft lessons, Choctaw artist specializing in various mediums were invited to set up displays throughout the three-story complex.

    “I’m thrilled to be here,” stated Lauretta Newby-Coker, who displayed her stained glass creations.

    NewbyCokerWEB Newby-Coker was just one of over a dozen artists who filled the venue for Artist Bazaar. Talents varied from beadwork and pottery, to traditional dressmaking and painting. All the crafts were for sale; making the event a great opportunity for those seeking unique Christmas gifts reflecting native culture.

    Lana Sleeper, coordinator of Heritage Monday, spoke of the results of Artist Bazaar with great hope, mentioning that this is something that can give artists a chance to publicize their work and circulate their name in the community.

    The partnership between the Choctaw Nation and the artists is mutually beneficial, in that it promotes heritage and culture in a physical and appealing way, all while supporting those who keep the history alive through their skills.

    It is Sleeper’s hope that youth will recognized the financial viability of these trades as the artists of today market their work, and in turn, become motivated to continue nurturing cultural talents in the future. “It’s not just a hobby,” stated Sleeper.

    Jane_UmstedWEB Newby-Coker, an art teacher at Longfellow Middle School in Norman, shares a similar sentiment. It is her hope that her work will live on, inspiring others to become involved in the art forms of their heritage.

    Newby-Coker, with only a year of experience, has created a large number of stained glass pieces. However, she has been involved in painting, ink and coffee washes, and scrimshaw for many years, her interest in art sparking in high school.

    If you are a Choctaw artist and would like to be contacted for events such as Artist Bazaar or cultural gatherings, please become a part of the Artists’ Registry by calling 800-522-6170 ext. 2347, or visit our web sign-up page. To see work from Newby-Coker, visit

  • Choctaw Nation Food Distribution making strides in service

    Choctaw Nation Food Distribution making strides in service

    Choctaw Nation Food Distribution is rolling out several new features to its already effective program.

    Food Distribution has recently purchased a bobtail truck and frozen trailer to assist in transporting frozen meats and goods. During each month, employees travel to Idabel, Broken Bow, Smithville and Bethel to serve clients who live a considerable distance from the nearest distribution center.

    In the past, clients would be limited to non-frozen goods or forced to make a trek. Now, those who are only able to make it to the mobile distribution centers will be offered the full array of choices, and those who traveled to the permanent centers will have the option for a more convenient location.

    Trista Winnett, store manager for the Durant location, mentions that she is excited for the upgrades in the services and mentioned that she expects to see larger numbers during the mobile distributions. It is expected that this change will initially benefit an estimated 100 households.

    Winnett also mentioned that all clients are welcome to make multiple trips to any of the centers during business hours, and that a weekly trip – opposed to monthly – will use less storage space and allow clients to keep their supply fresh.

    Construction on the new Durant facility is also moving along nicely, according to Winnett. The new center will offer store-style distribution and a larger variety of services to better serve eligible Choctaws.

    Food Distribution currently has centers in Durant (580-924-7773), McAlester (918-420-5716), Poteau (918-649-0431) and Antlers (580-298-6443). If you would like to know more about the program, please call 580 -924-7773.

    Each participant receives approximately 80 food items totaling 85 pounds of food per person in the household. Rules for receiving food distribution benefits include:

    1. One resident per household (any age) is required to have a CDIB card.
    2. Social Security numbers and cards are required.
    3. Verification of income is required: copy of a payroll check, or if unemployed, a card from the Employment Office will be needed.
    4. Verification of residence is required; a utility bill containing name and address.
    5. Cannot be receiving food stamps.
    6. Must reside in the 10.5 counties o the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
  • Storm Shelter Information

    Storm Shelter and Safety Information

    Winter Storm

    The shelter in Antlers will be open until Friday, December 13..
    If you need to contact Emergency Services, call (800) 522-6170 Ext. 2110.

    If you find yourself in need of a shelter, please call to check if the local center is available.

    • Antlers – 402 SW “O”, 580-298-5501
    • Atoka – 1203 W. Liberty Rd., 580-889-6147
    • Bethel – Choctaw Road 144, 580-241-5637
    • Broken Bow – 210 S. Chahta Rd, 580-584-6372
    • Coalgate – 105 E. California, 580-927-3641
    • Crowder – 707 Bond St., 918-334-5344
    • Durant – 2750 Big Lots Parkway, 580-924-7810
    • Hugo – 408 N. Main St., 580-326-3528
    • Idabel – 2301 E. Lincoln Road, 580-286-6116
    • McAlester – 1636 S. George Nigh Expy., 918-423-1016
    • Poteau – 208 B. St., 918-647-9324
    • Smithville – 39618 N. US Hwy. 259, 580-244-3289
    • Spiro – 19400 AES Road, 918-962-3832
    • Stigler – 2208 E. Main St., 918-967-2398
    • Talihina – 201 Dallas St., 918-567-2106
    • Wilburton – 515 Center Point Rd., 918-465-2389
    • Wright City – 5718 Rodeo Grounds Rd. 580-981-7011

  • Jones Academy Students Preparing for the Future

    Jones Academy Students Preparing for the Future

    EOSC Mountaineer Mania

    Preparing for life after high school at Jones Academy takes an immense amount of effort. Making plans for the future requires putting forth thought, effort and energy. This fall, Jones Academy senior high school students have participated in several activities to prepare them for the post-secondary days ahead.

    On Oct. 22, 2013, 25 students attended the College Fair at Eastern Oklahoma State College in Wilburton. About 190 attendees from area high schools met with approximately 30 college representatives to discuss career interests and educational opportunities. A month later, on Nov. 20, 2013, the seniors returned to EOSC for Mountaineer Mania. Participants got an opportunity to preview the school which included a campus tour and an organizational fair to meet with faculty and staff from different departments. During this time, seniors looked at academic programs offered, housing and residential living, and financial aid. Students also got to mix at an outdoor picnic featuring delicious hot dogs and free T-shirts.


    Part of the students’ planning for “Life After Jones” has included tests training. This fall, students have been preparing for End-of-Instruction exams and ACT tests by practicing on the USA Test Prep program at school and home. On Oct. 26, upperclassmen benefitted from the Chad Cargill ACT Workshop, which was presented at the McAlester campus of Eastern Oklahoma State College. Cargill addressed techniques and strategies for optimizing performance on the college entry exam. The event was sponsored by the Choctaw Nation Talent Search Program.

    To date, Jones Academy students have also visited Southeastern State University, Bacone College and also the Choctaw Nation Scholarship Advisement Program’s annual Ivy League and Friends event in Durant, on Nov. 9, 2013. More college and vocational school visits are scheduled for the near future as well as planning strategies with students concerning their career goals. Jones Academy students have wonderful opportunities to maximize their learning at Jones and beyond.

    Jones Academy students Holly Andersen and Ethan Begay pick up materials from EOSC department representative.

  • Jones Academy eighth graders learn outside the classroom

    Jones Academy eighth graders learn outside the classroom

    Gear_up_2_web Eighth graders at Hartshorne Junior High have been active this fall with the GEAR UP program. The Hartshorne Junior High staff along with the GEAR UP sponsor, Racheal Ranallo, have taken the eighth graders on a couple of excursions outside the classroom.

    Field trips were made to the University of Oklahoma in Norman in October and the Battle of Honey Springs Battlefield Historic Site in November. The OU stop was hampered by rain; however, the students were able to go sightseeing, visiting the Barry Switzer Center and adjoining football facilities.

    Coach Marv Johnson gave the students a tour of the sports complex including the OU football players’ locker room, playback room and the football field. Students also made a stop at the Fred Jones, Jr. Fine Arts Museum located on the OU campus.

    The Battle of Honey Springs Battlefield Historic Site featured a civil war reenactment in Checotah the week of Nov. 9-10, 2013. The event was held to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the battle fought in 1863. Students were able to interact with civil war soldiers (reenactors,) tour the campsites, observe period pieces and relics and hear soldier fight music.

    The eighth graders saw shooting demonstrations as well as training on how to lead horses into battle. According to Ms. Ranallo, “The Battle of Honey Springs field trip was a success! Students were well-behaved and got to experience something new and different.”

    Hartshorne Eighth Graders visit the OU Gaylord Family Memorial Stadium

  • 2014 Community Center Health Fair Schedule

    2014 Community Center Health Fair Schedule


    Center: Smithville Councilman: Kenny Bryant Date: 1-15-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: 11:30

    Center: Durant Councilman: Ted Dosh Date: 1-22-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: 11:30

    Center: Stigler Councilman: Ronald Perry Date: 2-5-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: 11:30

    Center: Atoka Councilman: Anthony Dillard Date: 2-12-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: 11:30

    Center: Coalgate Councilman: James Frazier Date: 2-26-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: Noon

    Center: Hugo Councilman: Perry Thompson Date: 3-12-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: Noon

    Center: Wright City Councilman: Jack Austin Date: 3-26-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: Noon

    Center: Antlers Councilman: Jack Austin Date: 4-9-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: 11:30

    Center: Spiro Councilman: Delton Cox Date: 4-16-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: 11:30


    Center: Idabel Councilman: Thomas Williston Date: 5-14-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: Noon

    Center: Broken Bow Councilman: Tony Messenger Date: 6-4-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: Noon

    Center: Poteau Councilman: Delton Cox Date: 7-9-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: Noon

    Center: Talihina Councilman: Kenny Bryant Date: 7-16-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: 11:30

    Center: Wilburton Councilman: Joe Coley Date: 8-6-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: 11:30

    Center: McAlester Councilman: Bob Pate Date: 9-10-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: 11:30

    Center: Bethel Councilman: Tony Messenger Date: 9-24-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: 11:30

    Center: Crowder Councilman: James Frazier Date: 10-15-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: 11:30

  • Choctaw Nation responds to icy crisis

    Choctaw Nation responds to icy crisis

    Tribal Police Chainsaw Crew, Brant, Isaac and Randy, clean debris after the storm.

    Mother nature recently gave Choctaw Nation the cold shoulder in the form of a weeklong, multi-county ice storm beginning Dec. 6. Pushmataha, Choctaw, and northern McCurtain counties were hit hardest, with the rest of Southeastern Oklahoma experiencing difficulties as well.

    Power outages, icy roads and damage from falling tree limbs marred the week of the winter storm. According to reports from major electric providers – OGE, PSO, Choctaw Electric and Southeastern Electric – approximately 13,500 Oklahoma residents experienced loss of power for a period of time. Some even went without electricity for the duration of the storm and several days after.

    Daryl Holaday, director of Safety Management / Emergency Management, and Jeff Hansen, emergency manager for CNO, had been tracking the weather system as it moved closer to CNO’s 10.5 counties. Once certain the area was in for the winter chill, they began coordinating with other CNO departments to prepare for possible emergency response.

    The process of preparing for the worst began with securing large, trailer-pulled 100-120 kW generators and placing them at strategic locations based on where weather was forecast to be worst. CNO Tribal Police, Outreach workers and employees of Choctaw Housing Authority volunteered their time and were assigned to operate the Choctaw community centers, which were used as shelters.

    As the ice rolled into the area, so did calls of power outages. The Hugo and Antlers community centers opened their doors to provide shelter for those without power on Friday.

    Outreach_workers_web CNO Emergency Management then began coordinating with the local emergency managers in these areas, which were critical to CNO response efforts. The Red Cross also lent support in the form of cots and the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Cooking Crew began cooking, providing meals to those in need. The combined effort of these entities ensured that those who needed help got it.

    By Saturday, conditions had reached full force and many were unable to leave homes. Water supply was an issue for rural area residents who relied on well water, as many were still out of power and water pumps had frozen.

    In response to this fact, the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management supplied pallets of bottled water to town centers and CNO workers helped to distribute the supply.

    Meal delivery was coordinated to Boswell, Soper and Antlers. Pallets of water were also transported to Smithville, Bethel, Hugo and Antlers. By Sunday, all shelters were receiving food distribution.

    Food and water distribution continued into the next week with Antlers and Hugo seeing the majority of those needing assistance. As emergency workers were able to travel, smaller generators began to be delivered to those with immediate medical issues requiring electricity. Chainsaw crews also began removing debris from driveways, allowing residents to leave homes to obtain food and emergency vehicles to reach residents.

    “We want to make sure we can get emergency services to someone’s house,” Holaday said as he spoke about the importance of keeping driveways cleared of downed trees.

    As the week went on, conditions gradually improved and power was restored to some areas, creating less of a demand for assistance.

    Over the course of the event, the Antlers Choctaw community center housed anywhere from three to five people each night until Thursday, and provided almost 500 meals. The Hugo center housed from one to nine people a night and provided 423 meals, all while coordinating the pickup or delivery of 3,011 meals from the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Cooking Crew.

    During the ice storm, CNO proved that the time and effort invested in emergency management planning could make a substantial difference. “When an emergency occurs, we try to give it some level of organization,” said Hansen as he described the duties of his department.

    He went on to explain that in times such as this, there are usually many resources available, but without coordination, the utilization of said resources are not efficiently used and often duplicated when those involved don’t have specific instruction.

    Though material aid was essential, support from CNO employees and volunteers was equally necessary. Choctaw Housing Authority, Public Safety and Outreach Services employees, and many others were crucial in staffing shelters, distributing food and water, and securing items for special needs.

    Safety Specialist Shane Meshaya praised his team at the Antlers shelter for their dedication to the cause. He made note that the staff of the center had went above and beyond their job description. Meshaya feels that the staff “has been a resource for the community.” When folks needed a place to go, we were there, continued Meshaya.

    He was also quick to praise the efforts of other community entities such as the Antlers First Baptist Church, the Antlers Fire Department and Cowboy Church, all of which were a hub for those seeking aid in the wake of the storm.

    Community Health Representatives and nurses were on staff each day, some practically living at the center, ready and willing to help in any way they were able. Holaday, Hansen and Meshaya all praised the Antlers center for the degree to which it was prepared for such an event. Meshaya stated that the center had plenty of food ready and had “not had a shortage of anything.”

    “I’d love to see all our centers look like that one,” echoed Hansen.

    Angela_and_Oma_crop_web Not only well-equipped with supplies, Antlers also had dedicated employees such as Oma Clay and Angela James, Community Health Representatives from Rattan and Sobol. The two, along with other staff, ensured that there were always warm meals and clean facilities for people seeking refuge.

    “This is what our job is all about – helping people,” stated Clay.

    James, who had been without electricity since the initial frost, secured accommodations for her family, then sprang into action assisting Oma and delivering food. “I’m here to help the people,” she stated humbly.

    Among those assisted by the Antlers center is Howard Harty, who was referred the to the center by the Antlers hospital. Harty was in need of an oxygen supply due to complications with his lungs. Complete Care Medical provided access to a machine that generated oxygen and allowed him to reside at the center where he could access electricity.

    “They got me everything I needed,” said Harty as he praised the efforts of the CNO employees.

    Steve Bellairo, a resident of Moyers, was another grateful recipient of CNO aid. Bellairo’s house burned on Dec. 10, and a friend brought him to the center, where he found a place to stay and even assistance in finding a place to live after the shelter closed its doors. “They are helping a lot and I appreciate it,” said Bellairo as he exclaimed his appreciation.

    Holaday also reports of generator deliveries to those with urgent needs for electricity. McCurtain County Emergency Manager Greg Campbell made a special delivery to a paraplegic requiring power to operate essential medical equipment.

    Executive Director of Public Safety John Hobbs used CNO’s emergency response vehicle, the Bearcat, delivering a generator to a man with a heart condition who was also in need of power for his medical equipment. Nine other public safety employees joined Hobbs in delivering food and supplies and even acted as a chainsaw crew during the freeze. “We are just doing our part in serving and protecting,” Hobbs stated.

    Bearcat_web While using the Bearcat to make the trek from Durant to Hugo, Hobbs and his crew also pulled several vehicles out of ditches, which had slid off the road. Hobbs remarked that this feat would not have been possible with standard vehicles. “We could get places in [the Bearcat] that other people couldn’t.”

    The CNO Housing Authority was also instrumental in response efforts, coordinating resource allocation and assisting in emergency repairs. “We had a great response from a good number of our associates,” stated Housing Authority Executive Director Russell Sossamon.

    Many had their own problems with power outages, property damage or endangered livestock, but they stepped up to support our tribal members, Sossamon added. “I would like to commend our staff for their response.”

    As the ice thawed, the general sentiment of those responsible for the emergency effort was that procedures ran smoothly and efforts were efficient. “We know what it takes to make it through,” stated Holaday who cited other inclement weather conditions such as the Tushka tornado of 2011 and previous ice storms.

    A suggestion the Emergency Management team brought to light about preparing for future occurrences was better infrastructure – fortifying critical resources such as electricity by making sure trees are trimmed away from power lines.

    Holaday and Hansen both encourage strengthening the relationships between the Choctaw Nation, City and County governments, and local utilities to better prepare Choctaw communities in times of disaster. They also encourage tribal members to talk to their local utilities, and councilman if they see areas of vulnerability such as overgrown trees around power lines.

    The Emergency Management team also made mention that community centers should be the contacted first in area-wide cases of emergency. A list of community centers, the addresses and phone numbers can be found here.

  • ‘Iyyi Kowa’: A Choctaw Concept of Service

    ‘Iyyi Kowa’: A Choctaw Concept of Service

    A sketch of Iyyi Kowa by Ruby Bolding.

    With Christmas season and the coldest part of the year coming up, many are starting to turn their thoughts to helping people who are less fortunate. A willingness to help others in need, with no thought of getting something in return, is one of the more noble sentiments of the human heart. Serving others was very much a part of Choctaw traditional life. However, the original Choctaw way of serving was a little different from what we may see at Christmas time today, in that rather than being a special focus during a certain time of the year, this service was an innate part of the Choctaw lifestyle and culture, year round. This month’s edition of Iti Fabvssa presents a Choctaw concept of communal service, known as “Iyyi Kowa.”

    In the Choctaw language “Iyyi Kowa,” literally means “broken foot.” This may seem like a strange name, but this term refers to those people who are injured, sick, or otherwise incapable doing essential activities. The implication of Iyyi Kowa is that those with “broken feet” will receive the assistance they need. Yet, Iyyi Kowa has roots that go far below the surface meaning, and are in fact as deep as Choctaw culture itself.

    Up until around the turn of the 19th century, most Choctaw people lived in villages with family and friends, whom they saw nearly every day of their lives. Back in those times, there was no concept of land ownership or of wages or of financial debt, and there was no time clock to punch. Their mindset was such that rather than idealizing wealthy people, as we generally do today, they looked down on them as selfish individuals focused on themselves instead of the people around them. Such a person might be ridiculed as a “nan ihullo,” a “lover of things.” Choctaw insults don’t get much worse than that.

    Rather than working to amass wealth, Choctaw people of this time period worked at the task of living itself, providing the food and materials that their communities needed to live comfortably. They often made their tasks more pleasant by working in groups with laughing, joking, and the work itself building camaraderie. They worked in such teams to build houses for neighbors, to build defensive works around villages, to prepare agricultural fields, to plant, tend, and harvest crops, and probably other things too. With this manner of working, everyone was a part of the team, and given a way to contribute in line with his or her resources and abilities. With group work, community members who needed extra labor assistance could get it without being looked down on. Similarly, because sharing was viewed as better than possessing, community members in need of material items would likely receive them. All of this might seem like a lot of trouble, but in reality, when the needs of every family in the community had been met, our ancestors were still left with far more time for leisure, artwork, exercise, and fun than our “advanced” society allows us today. At the time, there may not have even been a specific name for this concept of communal work and service. It was probably just taken for granted as a normal behavior.

    When Europeans came, they brought the teachings of Christianity, but also brought and imposed their own concept of being separate from one’s neighbor. As early as the late 1700s, the U.S. agent to the Choctaws began to encourage Choctaw families to move out of the ancient villages and start setting up separate homesteads, as Europeans did. By the early 1900s, when Choctaw lands were broken up and allotted to individual people in dispersed areas, the Choctaw concept of community was dramatically changed to fit the European concept. Now, instead of seeing and working with neighbors every day, families had to be self-sufficient.

    Self sufficiency had its advantages, but also meant that an injury to a key family member during the wrong time of year might mean that family couldn’t plant or harvest the crops needed for its survival, or that it couldn’t butcher and preserve meat for the next year. Then of course, there was always the threat of an unexpected catastrophe, like a chimney fire that could literally leave a family out in the cold.

    When families of the early 1900s came into serious need, the Choctaw community would take a step back in time, to the original Choctaw concept of community service and organize an “Iyyi Kowa,” On an appointed day, the community would get together and bring the needed workforce and materials to help the family meet its needs. At Iyyi Kowa, everyone had a job, from doing the work itself, to cooking for the workers, to keeping the cooking fire going. It was a time of good spirit and friendship, where people worked hard, but also laughed and upheld the other people working with them. In the end, the work would be done; the family would have its need met, and the community bonds would be stronger. Through Iyyi Kowa, just as in the old Choctaw way, people did not look down on those who needed help, making them feel ashamed. Rather, they showed them that they were valued members of the community, and, by getting them back on their feet, empowered them to help others.

    Olin Williams, today a part of the Choctaw Nation Historic Preservation Department, grew up in the Tiak Hikia community in Mississippi, in the 1950s and 1960s, when Iyyi Kowa were still regularly hosted there. He participated in them on a monthly basis as a child and considered them one of his favorite things to do. The following interview with Mr. Williams presents some of his memories and thoughts:

    What was Iyyi Kowa like? To me, it was the only event that I looked forward to because it meant that folks were going to be generous, not just with things but in labor. You saw the best in people come out. Just Choctaws being Choctaws.

    What did you do at Iyyi Kowa? I did tasks that helped out the adults in what they were doing. If they needed fire, I got the wood. If they needed water, I’d get it from the well. Usually, the men worked outside. I’d help them and then get the stove wood for the ladies. In between the chores, we’d play a game of stickball or tag. If it was a hog killing, our job was to make sure the fire and the water were supplied. Hog killing was done on a cold day, so you had to be ready.

    How did it make you feel? I felt useful. I felt like part of a unit. I felt like I was contributing to my own reward. I felt like that was the highest form of Choctaw social life because it brought out the best in everyone.

    How could we go about bringing back the spirit of Iyyi Kowa today? I think first, we have to educate about what Iyyi Kowa means. Then, as cultural people, if we can do the service ourselves, we can recapture some of our cultural ideals. It would help bring pride back, along with a sense of community and family. Iyyi Kowa is vital in preserving our culture.

    Today, many of the services once provided by Iyyi Kowa are provided by programs offered by Choctaw Nation, to Tribal members as well as the community at large. This organized system does a great deal of good, however, we should never use that as an excuse to be complacent in helping people in need on a family to family basis. There are opportunities all around us not just in December but also throughout the year. In such communal service, we have the opportunity to uncover the core of Choctaw culture in a timeless way because the value of service is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

  • Meet the Artist - Evangeline Robinson

    Evangeline Robinson
    Evangeline Robinson presses designs into a new clay pottery project using a wooden stamp during the Meet the Artist event Nov. 15 in Colbert.

    Meet the Artist - Evangeline Robinson

    By Brandon Frye
    Choctaw Nation

    Durant, Okla. - Evangeline “Vangie” Robinson, Choctaw artist from Boswell, got her start in 2009 as a student attending classes offered by the Choctaw Nation and worked her way up to actively teaching her skills and selling her wares.

    “Pottery is my forte,” Robinson said. “I wanted to have something to do, get out of the house, and making pottery was appealing. It was a hobby, but it is getting to be a business.”

    Robinson said she enjoys the entire process of creating traditional pottery, from digging the clay out of the ground and collecting shells from the shores of local lakes, to the smell of the clay itself, which she says reminds her of fresh rain on the earth.

    With her work, alongside traditional design work, Robinson likes to use objects found around her–like drawer handles or wheels from old toy cars–to make unique designs for the pottery she forms.

    “Using the materials at hand is something our ancestors have always done. It’s just kind of Vangie’s way of adapting a very ancient art to the present time period,” Ian Thompson, Director of Historic Preservation for the Choctaw Nation, said.

    Thompson helped Vangie Robinson develop her appreciation for the art form. Thompson taught his first pottery class in Oklahoma in 2009, a class which Robinson attended and, according to Robinson, was when she first fell in love with the craft.

    “We demonstrated the techniques and got input from people on how to set up classes which would be beneficial to the Choctaw people,” Thompson said. “As the meetings went on, we started to teach the skills involved in the process of Choctaw pottery, with the hope that people would be interested and some would eventually want to become Choctaw teachers.”

    Thompson said the class would go out and dig clay from tribal trust land, bring it back, then clean it. They would go out to local lakes and collect freshwater mussel shells and burn them, crush them up, and mix them with the clay. Then they would shape traditional styles of Choctaw pottery by hand and fire them in an open wood fire. At the time, the class would also make trips to museums and learn from master potters.

    “Vangie was present for all of that. It’s five years later and we are still teaching classes, and she is still coming.” Thompson said.

    Vangie Robinson is also branching out to other traditional arts like beadwork, and even teaches pottery classes herself. “I want to teach others who want to learn. This is important to me, because it makes sure our culture is passed on,” she said.

    Robinson said pottery is very unique. It covers many forms, like storage, dishes, eating utensils, and music. “Over time, metal will rust, but with pottery, archaeologist can date it and know what tribes were in the area. Even if it breaks, or is thrown away, it will still be there if it is fired, it will stand the test of time,” she said.

    Speaking on Robinson’s success with Choctaw art, Ian Thompson said, “It was ultimately her interest level. She had a lot of interest in learning how to do pottery. Over time she became very proficient at it. She’s also a personable individual, so she interacts well with the community and people who come to class. It was a natural progression for her to become a teacher.”

    “If I can do it, anybody can do it,” Robinson said. “I didn’t think I could ever do anything like this, especially at the beginning.”

  • Spring 2014 Distance learning GED class information

    Spring 2014 Distance learning GED class information

    GED_classes_3x10_update_JAN_2013_ Distance Learning GED classes are now available at the below locations. An experienced GED teacher will instruct you, using the Distance Learning Technology. Distance Learning allows the student and teacher to see and hear each other on large monitors. You will be able to interact with the teacher as she prepares you to take the GED test. Classes meet three days each week for approximately nine weeks. Books, supplies and testing fees are provided. In addition, a $10.00 (per day) transportation stipend is paid to those who attend classes on a regular basis and attempt the GED test. If you have turned in an application with our Adult Education Program for GED classes and wish to attend the upcoming class, please contact our office. If you have not applied and wish to attend these or future classes, please contact Neal Hawkins or Kathy Springfield at the Durant office, call (800) 522-6170 or (580) 924-8280 Ext. 2319. Also, you may register the first day of class on Jan. 6.

    A Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB) is required. Please bring your CDIB card, social security card and state-issued ID to the first day of class.

    All classes will begin January 6, 2014, and will be held on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays

    Classes at the Bethel, Smithville, Wright City Choctaw Nation
    community centers take place from 9 a.m. to noon.

    Classes at Atoka, Coalgate, Talihina community centers
    occur from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

  • Choctaw Business Development Center to assist local young professionals group

    Choctaw Business Development Center to assist local young professionals group

    Durant_Young_Professionals_Flyer_2014_Kickoff The first Durant Young Professionals event of 2014 will occur on Tuesday, January 14, at 6:00 pm in the Yannish Room of the Choctaw Inn, 3735 Choctaw Road, Durant, OK. The Choctaw Business Development Center will sponsor the event, and food will be provided.

    This meeting will serve as an annual business meeting for Durant Young Professionals. Area professionals will have the opportunity to renew their membership dues for 2014. All members in good standing will then have the opportunity to run and vote in officer elections. Membership dues for the whole year are $20 for members of the Durant Area Chamber of Commerce, and $25 for nonmembers. Cash and checks will be accepted.

    In addition to officer elections, there will also be a business presentation from the Choctaw Business Development Center. DYP members will learn about business and entrepreneurial skills, as well as interact one-on-one with established entrepreneurs! Come prepared to ask questions about how you can successfully create your own start-up business!

    For more information on the January event, visit Durant Young Professionals on Facebook or contact the Durant Area Chamber of Commerce at (580) 924-0848, or email

    DYP is under the direction of the Durant Area Chamber of Commerce, and was formed in January 2013 to help connect the 20s, 30s, and young-at-heart in the Durant community. The DYP 2014 Kickoff is an example of “emerge” events hosted by DYP. Emerge events hone and develop leadership skills by learning from established professionals.

    The mission of Durant Young Professionals is to provide opportunities to experience life with young professionals; opportunities to emerge and develop as leaders; and opportunities to engage the community through learning and service for the purpose of identifying, retaining and supporting the latest group of movers, shakers, and history makers of southern Oklahoma.”

    Please contact Janet Reed, Durant Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, or Sara-Jane Smallwood, Durant Young Professionals President, for further information or to schedule an interview. Ms. Reed can be reached at and Ms. Smallwood can be reached at ssmallwood@choctawnation.

  • Choctaw Nation Assists with EAST@KTC Beyond the Bell Program

    Choctaw Nation Assists with EAST@KTC Beyond the Bell Program

    After numerous delays due to weather, the EAST@KTC program will begin their Beyond the Bell “Totally Teched Out” Camp this coming Monday, January 13 at the Kiamichi Technology Campus in Talihina. The EAST students are very excited to offer this camp to local 5th-8th grade students in their community and are ready to teach them about the technology used in GIS/GPS, Story Mapping, Videography and Digital Photography. Ryan Spring, former EAST student from Mena, Ark., and now GIS Specialist for the Choctaw Nation, will be conducting a short refresher course for the EAST students this week in GIS and how to utilize the GIS units to gather data and create maps that tell a story.

    The EAST@KTC program and their facilitator, Carrie Kirkes, would also like to thank the Choctaw Nation who recently awarded the program a donation, used to purchase items to assist in making the camp a success. There are still a few slots left in the camp; if you have a student in this age range, contact Mrs. Kirkes at 918-567-2264, ext. 122 to sign up. The camp runs Monday, Jan. 13, through Thursday, Jan. 16, from 4:00 – 8:00 p.m. each day. A light dinner will be served to campers each day.

  • Choctaw Nation Youth Work Program Now Taking Applications

    Choctaw Nation Youth Work Program Now Taking Applications

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Workforce Investment Act Program offers young adults an opportunity to establish a foundation for success in the workplace. The youth program is designed to introduce workers into the workforce and assist with the development of behaviors and attributes to become a successful employee. Employers are seeking individuals with good communication skills, honesty, work ethic, professionalism, positive attitude and are self-motivated.

    WIA students at the summit which kicks off the summer program

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has made revisions to the upcoming youth work program effective Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013. The constraints placed upon employers by Child Labor Laws have made development of these skills more challenging. This challenge initiated the upcoming changes to the Choctaw Nation Youth Work Program. Child Labor Laws prohibit teen workers under the age of 16 to participate in job activities which are potentially harmful. For this reason, revisions have been made to the youth work program. Please note the decision was made to grandfather all youth work program participants who successfully completed the youth work program in 2013.

    These changes will effect new applicants for the program. All new applicants must be 16 years or older on or before Monday June 9th to be apply for the 2014 Youth Work Program. Program guidelines still apply to all applicants for the program. Beginning January 2014, participants who successfully completed the youth work program will be permitted to work this year. Renewal applications will be accepted from participant’s ages 14 and 15 years of age who worked and successfully completed the youth work program in 2013. Renewal applications have been mailed out to all participants who worked last year.

    Applications are available at all Choctaw Nation Field offices, downloaded here or by contacting the WIA office. All applications must be in the Durant office, complete and approved by the deadline of April 1, 2014.

    Original applications is required for all new applicants. Application processing can take up to 10 days. If you have not been contacted via mail with the status of your application, call the WIA office at 1-800-522-6170. Please mail original application in a timely manner to meet the deadline of April 1, 2014.

    Renewals applications can be faxed or mailed.

    You may contact the WIA office at: 1-800-522-6170

  • Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma designated a ‘Promise Zone’

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma designated a ‘Promise Zone’

    DURANT, Okla. – President Barrack Obama announced the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma as one of five locations designated by his administration for its “Promise Zone” initiative, a new anti-poverty program meant to provide resources such as grants and tax incentives to help improve conditions in persistently high poverty communities.

    Choctaw Chief Gregory E. Pyle said, “I am very thankful that the Choctaw Nation and partners have been awarded the Promise Zone designation. We are blessed to work with many regional, county, municipal, school, and university partners who, along with the Choctaw Nation, believe that great things can occur to lift everyone in Southeastern Oklahoma when we work together.

    “This designation will assist ongoing efforts to emphasize small business development and bring economic opportunity to the high-need communities. I am confident that access to the technical assistance and resources offered by the Promise Zone designation will result in better lifestyles for people living and working within the Choctaw Nation.”

    The Choctaw Nation has shown tremendous improvement in the region in the past decades by making effective change with more than 5,000 education scholarships annually and creation of jobs through economic development throughout Choctaw Nation. Plans for the future include providing even more education and economic opportunities through this initiative. Projects on the radar have potential to develop tourism and small businesses in Southeast Oklahoma as well.

    The Choctaw Nation has been active in communities by building fire departments, donating to law enforcement agencies and schools and initiating programs like the summer school program. “The Tribal Council is excited to hear about the Promise Zone effort and anxious to implement even more revitalization efforts in their districts,” said Chief Pyle.

    The President first announced the Promise Zone Initiative during last year’s State of the Union Address, as a way to partner with local communities and businesses to create jobs, increase economic security, expand access to educational opportunities and quality, affordable housing and improve public safety. This announcement will be a critical step forward in delivering on this commitment, according to a White House release.

    The Promise Zone region is an important initiative; it identifies census tracts that experience high poverty and other challenging demographics. These areas are in several southeastern Oklahoma counties, including Atoka, Bryan, Coal, Choctaw, Haskell, Latimer, LeFlore, McCurtain, Pittsburg, and Pushmataha. Of the census tracts involved, nine have poverty rates over 30 percent, the highest of which is a staggering 52.8 percent.

    The goals of this initiative include attracting private investment, improving affordable housing availability, improving educational opportunities, reducing serious and violent crimes, and assisting local and tribal leaders in navigating federal programs and cutting through red tape.

    This designation provides benefits such as technical assistance, federal staff support, more extensive preference points and access to other federal grants programs, and may also provide the Promise Zones tax credit where private businesses would receive tax incentives for hiring and investing in Promise Zones, to create jobs and attract additional private investments.

    The initiative is sponsored by several federal agencies including the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Justice, Housing, and Education.

    The Choctaw Nation has worked to unite government officials, local leaders, and economic development groups across southeast Oklahoma to serve on a committee that will work together through the Promise Zones initiative to create a long-term vision and guidance plan that will best meet the needs of our communities.

    In addition to the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, San Antonio, Texas; Philadelphia; Los Angeles; and southeastern Kentucky were also included in the Promise Zone designation.

  • Choctaw Nation hosting E-Waste recycling event in Hugo

    Choctaw Nation hosting E-Waste recycling event in Hugo

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma will be hosting an electronic waste (e-waste) recycling event in an effort to reduce the amount of reusable raw materials placed in landfills.

    Recycle_Hugo_Web The event will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 11, at the Choctaw Tribal Services, 304 Chahta Circle in Hugo.

    Each collection will allow those seeking to dispose of electronic waste to do so in an environmentally safe fashion. E-Waste is the most rapidly growing segment of the municipal waste stream. It is produced when electronic products from homes, schools, and businesses become obsolete or no longer functional and need to be discarded.

    E-Waste contains many valuable, recoverable resources such as aluminum, copper, gold, silver, plastics and ferrous metals, all of which require considerable energy to process and manufacture. Recycling old, unwanted electronics conserves natural resources, helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, and saves energy and raw material resources. Recycling also prevents the toxic chemicals found in electronic components (mercury, lead, cadmium, beryllium and chromium) from leaching into our soil when land filled.

    In observance with these facts, the Choctaw Nation encourages everyone to take part in this environmentally conscious effort. “ We want to make a difference in the environment by diverting waste from the landfill and we hope with events like this that all citizens will get involved to make Oklahoma cleaner and greener,” said Tracy Horst.

    To put things in perspective, Choctaw Nation Recycling would like everyone to remember that, “Recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by 3,657 homes in the United States in a year. For every one million cell phones recycled 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 of silver, 75 of gold, and 33 of palladium can be recovered.”

    Acceptable items for recycling include:

    • Personal computers
    • Laptops & Notebooks
    • CRT Monitors
    • Flat screen monitors
    • Keyboards & mice
    • Printers & copiers
    • Toner & ink cartridges
    • Fax Machines
    • Peripherals & gadgets
    • Power supplies & chargers
    • UPS systems
    • Cables & wires
    • Networking equipment
    • Servers & racks
    • Hard drive wipe ($20 fee)
    • Small kitchen appliances
    • Refrigerators
    • Washers/dryers
    • Other appliances (all sizes)
    • Multi-media equipment
    • Gaming equipment
    • CD’s & video tapes
    • Digital cameras
    • Cell phones & PDAs
    • Small electronic devices
    • TV’s: tube and flat screens
    • Rechargeable batteries
    • Auto batteries
    • Fitness equipment
    • Medical equipment

  • Childhood cancer survivor works toward career in cancer research

    Childhood cancer survivor works toward career in cancer research

    Nathan Sweeney recipient of $20,000 Chahta Foundation doctorate scholarship

    “I hope my name becomes synonymous with cancer research,” says Nathan Sweeney, a 30-year-old graduate student studying for his Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz.

    Nathan Sweeney with his wife, Linnley,
    and their chocolate Labrador, Reese.

    One tool Sweeney is using to help realize that dream is a $20,000 doctoral scholarship awarded to him by the Chahta Foundation this past year. Sweeney was one of seven recipients of the scholarship, which was awarded for the first time in 2013.

    Sweeney’s path to choosing a career in cancer research was one that began for him when he was just a toddler. “I chose to pursue a degree in cancer biology because of my childhood,” he explains. “When I was 16 months [old] I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.”

    Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow and the most common type of childhood cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. After a year-and-a-half-long battle and treatments, doctors declared Sweeney cured of his leukemia.

    “My parents rejoiced!” he says, but the family’s time of celebration was short-lived. Sweeney’s leukemia returned just a brief six months later – only this time the cancer was a more aggressive form, taking its toll for a much longer period of time than his first bout.

    “I was a fortunate patient [though,]” says Sweeney, optimistically. “After I battled it for five years I went into remission and I’ve been in remission ever since. And I believe after you’ve been in remission for 10 years then you’re called a long-term survivor. I proudly say I’m a long-term survivor.”

    This fight during his childhood is what brought him to where he is today, pursuing his doctorate in cancer research so that he can, in his words, “get the last laugh” when it comes to cancer.

    “I want to make it so receiving the news of the diagnosis of cancer is not as difficult to take,” he says, “that people will know that there are treatments out there. I want to be a part of that.”

    After he graduates, which he expects to do in 2017, he plans to continue with his current work in a cancer prevention lab where he studies colon cancer. “I find it very exciting,” he says. “I enjoy it. There are good things happening and great things to come. It’s such an exciting field to be in, not just prevention but cancer research in general. There are a lot of remarkable people working in this field and it’s a good place to be. There are a lot of good things to come so stay tuned!”

    He says he’s incredibly grateful for the scholarship he received from the Chahta Foundation, which he considers a gift. “It’s something that’s precious to me; something that I cherish and I work hard every day to be worthy of this gift.”

    He applied for the scholarship a year ago after reading a notification on Facebook advertising the education opportunities available from the foundation. For the Fall 2013 semester, the Chahta Foundation offered the Chahta Doctorate Scholarship to a student who had been accepted into the doctorate program of their choice.

    “I knew it was going to be difficult because I knew there’d be a lot of qualified applicants,” he says, but he thought he’d give it a shot. A lot of qualified applicants indeed, according to Chahta Foundation Scholarship Specialist Scott Wesley.

    “We initially planned to give one scholarship but we received so many qualified, deserving applicants that we decided to award seven,” Wesley says. “Our board came together and quickly raised the money to fund the other six for a total of seven doctorate scholarships.”

    Sweeney says he was “deeply honored and overwhelmed with emotion” when he received the award. “It’s been a great blessing in my life and wife [Linnley’s] life, and my chocolate lab, Reese’s, life,” he says. “We have been so touched by it.

    “It’s made everything possible. It’s enabled me to pursue my dream of cancer research. I just hope that I’m able to be an example of the Choctaw people and the Chahta Foundation,” an example he says was set for him by his late grandfather, Rufus Sweeney.

    His grandfather was his hero. It is through him that he receives his Choctaw heritage and Sweeney says he tries to be like him every day. “He was an example of love, of kindness, of charity and hard work. He’s the kind of person who said when you do it, do it right and do it right the first time and have fun while you do it.”

    Sweeney relayed a story about his grandfather that was told by a cousin at their grandfather’s funeral. Sweeney’s cousin was serving in Iraq, feeling homesick, when he received a small care package from his grandfather. Inside was a single, carefully wrapped Symphony chocolate bar, his cousin’s favorite and one unavailable where he was currently serving.

    This simple gesture spoke volumes to his cousin and to Sweeney as well.

    “I think this tells you two things about my grandpa,” Sweeney says. “One, that he knows your favorite kind of chocolate bar, and two, that he knows when you’re homesick and when you need to feel that you’re loved.”

    He said his cousin went on to say that no matter the distance they were from their grandfather, his love was always felt.

    “And I don’t think my grandfather can be any farther away than he is now but I don’t think I’ve ever felt his love more strongly than I do now. I miss my grandpa and I strive every day to emulate the person that he was by the way that I live.”

    One way Sweeney does this is through his work.

    Sweeney says, “I hope when you hear my name again it’s tied to my discoveries or to my work that I’ve done and I hope to make the Choctaw people and the Choctaw Nation proud.”

    Chahta Foundation Director Stacy Shepherd added, “This is what it’s all about –helping a Choctaw student achieve his or her unique potential. There are many more stories like Nathan’s that need to be told. Chahta scholarships create a means for strengthening Choctaws and expanding their opportunities.”

    The Chahta Foundation is again offering the scholarships this year – the Chahta Masters Scholarship in the amount of $12,000, and the Chahta Doctorate Scholarship of $20,000. The application period is open from Jan. 15 to March 31. All applications and more information can be found at Anyone with questions can call the Chahta Foundation at 1-800-522-6170, ext. 2546.

  • A leader with a green thumb

    A leader with a green thumb

    Councilman Dillard utilizes his agriculture background to better his community

    A favorite part of being a Choctaw Nation Tribal Council member is looking ahead, trying to plan for the future and truly being able to help people when they are in need, according to District 10 Councilman Anthony Dillard.

    Anthony “If somebody comes to you and needs help for whatever circumstance, whether it’s health related or job related,” he explains, “and you’re able to help – that’s what keeps you coming in. It’s those success stories.” He says he’s glad to be able to assist tribal members in utilizing the numerous programs the Choctaw Nation has to offer. Dillard was born in Talihina to Glen and Christine Dillard. He was raised in Caney and attended school there, graduating from Caney High School in 1986.

    After graduation, he earned a Federal Junior Fellowship through the USDA to work at the OSU/USDA Wes Watkins Research and Extension Center in Lane. Dillard says that part of the fellowship was to go to college and take classes that would benefit his position at the research center.

    He attended school at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, then transferred to Oklahoma State University (OSU) in Stillwater where he graduated in 1991 with a bachelors degree in horticulture.

    It was during his time at Southeastern that he met his future wife, Janie. Dillard was employed at the Choctaw Nation Bingo Hall in Durant, where Janie also worked in management. He transferred to OSU and upon moving back home after graduation he began to date Janie. They married in July of 1995, and he became stepfather to Janie’s two sons, Toby and Brad. Today, he and Janie are also grandparents to four grandchildren.

    Also after graduation, he went back to work at the research center as a research technician. There, his work emphasized on several different disciplines of agriculture research, from genetics, plant pathology and molecular genetics. “I knew that I wanted to stay in this area and it was a good job for the area,” says Dillard about his job at the research center.

    He was employed there for a total of 20 years, working there following his senior year of high school, then his college fellowship, and his post college days, until he was elected councilman in 2005. He stayed on part-time for a year after he was elected. “Doing research has probably helped being on council considerably because of the problem solving that the position entails,” he says.

    The councilman position is a legislative arm of the tribal government for the Choctaw Nation with numerous responsibilities, such as approving annual budgets for over a hundred different programs. This position also consists of program oversight, approving laws that govern the tribe and providing leadership to help guide the tribe into the future.

    “You look at the council position and might think it to be just passing council bills and worrying about the finances,” Dillard explains, “but you also dive into a lot of social work when you start talking about different individuals, with their needs or what’s going on in their lives and what they need help with. So you end up doing a lot of social work as well.”

    Dillard’s service area includes Atoka, northern Bryan and southern Pittsburg counties and is currently serving his second term in office.

    Dillard helps prepare the meal
    at a community meeting

    Dillard serves on many community boards in the Atoka area, such as the Atoka County Tornado Organization for Recovery, or ACTOR, after an F3 tornado went through his district, Southeastern Electric Co-op Board of Directors, Atoka County Rural Water District #3 and Oklahoma Southeast Economic Development Board. He has also served on the Caney school board and Atoka County Fair Board, which he says helped prepare him for the office of councilman.

    He thinks that the agriculture department is very valuable and is an extremely positive activity for kids to be involved in during school. “If you’re not showing animals and just doing the leadership aspect of FFA, it is also very valuable as far as the speech contests, getting up in front of people and the ability to be able to do that will help you in the future. It can help your success as a young person and open a lot more doors for you.”

    Because of Dillard’s agriculture background, he was eager to tell about the community garden he helped start about four years ago. Since the Atoka Community Center didn’t have a place for a garden at its former location, Dillard asked the research center in Lane, a town approximately 11 miles to the east, if they would help with space for the garden. He would help supplement the garden and assist as needed. Dillard said it worked well until the research center closed.

    Upon building the community center at a new location though, the garden was also relocated. Dillard was pleased to say that the Atoka Community Center has been approved to build a greenhouse at the location. Along with the greenhouse, “it would be nice to able to do some stuff throughout the winter,” Dillard says, “but also where we can grow transplants for our seniors to plant for their own gardens and help supply them.”

    This year, with the help from several of the seniors and employee Kendra Sparks, they were able to can a lot of dill pickles, made from cucumbers from their community garden. Dillard’s aunt and uncle gave him a delicious recipe for the pickles. He says he has canned pickles in the past, but nothing like this recipe.

    The food out of the garden is shared amongst the seniors, Dillard says. “It’s good because we are promoting our culture,” he says. “[Choctaws] were a farming culture. There are so many things about our ancestors’ way of life that we really should be embracing, such as living off the land, and that’s what we try to do with our community garden.”

  • A helping hand at the holidays

    A helping hand at the holidays

    The Choctaw Nation Outreach Services reached out to Choctaw families and our communities during this Holiday season:

    • Distributed 3,009 Thanksgiving food vouchers
    • Distributed 3,526 Christmas food vouchers
    • Distributed 240 Elder Angels Christmas gifts
    • Distributed 150 pairs of donated shoes to youth in the Youth Outreach Program
    • Distributed 75 donated coats and hoodies to youth in the Youth Outreach Program
    • Delivered 140 donated presents to the Little Chahta Angels in the Youth Outreach Program
    • Home specialists assisted 43 families in making applications for the Choctaw Christmas for Needy Children
    • Assisted with the Choctaw Nation heating stations/shelters during ice storms at Hugo and Antlers Community Centers: Dec. 6-11 Winter Storm 2013 the Choctaw Nation assisted with the Red Cross, Southern Baptist Relief Team and Hugo/Antlers Choctaw Community Centers (Councilmen Perry Thompson and Jack Austin.)
    • A total of 918 meals served at the Antlers and Hugo warming centers which included breakfast, lunch, and dinner with 50 residents staying through Dec. 6-11.
    • Volunteer shift hours were broken up into four shifts with six hours per shift each day. Two to four workers, male and female at the Choctaw Community Center Warming Shelter in Hugo and two shifts of seven hours each day per shift and one 10 hour shift for the overnight hour, with two to three workers, male and female, at the Antlers Choctaw Nation Community Warming Shelter. Choctaw Nation volunteers included staff from Outreach Services, Casino Security Officers, Housing Authority, Tribal Police, Health Services, and the Safety Department.

  • Alaska Pacific University Fly-In Opportunity for Choctaw SAP Students

    Alaska Pacific University Fly-In Opportunity for Choctaw SAP Students

    alaska-pacific-university-logo SAP is partnering with Alaska Pacific University to sponsor select Choctaw students who are high school juniors to visit their campus February 7-9 during their APU Experience program.

    Alaska Pacific University is a small, private, regional university in Anchorage, Alaska. They have a thriving Native American community and are actively recruiting Choctaw students. There are several faculty and staff from Oklahoma and they believe it’s a great fit for many of our students.

    The APU Experience (open house) events are designed to provide future students with a true glimpse of life at APU. From classroom engagement and campus activities, to Anchorage and the awe-inspiring natural environment in which we live, APU experience participants will experience higher education as it was meant to be.

    In order to be considered, Choctaw students must complete this application and return to Stephanie Gardner no later than January 20th.

  • Choctaw Nation announces Youth Stickball League

    Choctaw Nation announces Youth Stickball League

    The Choctaw Nation Youth Stickball league is now accepting applications for its inaugural 2014 season. Children ages 8 to 17 are invited to sign up.

    DSC_0614_web The league is made up of four teams in locations across the Choctaw Nation: Koi-Iskitini in Talihina, Hiloha Ossi (Little Thunder) in Broken Bow, Nashoba Homma in the Hugo/Antlers area, and Osi Heli (Flying Eagles) in Durant.

    Games will be played every other Saturday beginning Feb. 22 and will run through April 5.

    The league is open to both Native and non-Native players. All uniforms and gear will be provided with the exception of mouth pieces/guards.

    Registration closes on Jan. 31. For applications and more information, download the form here or call the head coach in your area:

    • Talihina area – Mikey Melton 918-318-0785
    • Broken Bow/McCurtain County area – Stanley Shomo 580-584-3636
    • Hugo/Antlers area – Jason James 580-743-3322
    • Durant area – Jared Tom 580-236-1920

  • Students tackle community projects with technology

    Students tackle community projects with technology

    Choctaw Nation GIS Specialist Ryan Spring gives the students a tutorial.

    The Talihina Kiamichi Technology Center auditorium filled with friends and family of students who took part in the Beyond the Bell: Totally Teched Out Camp on the evening of Jan. 21, for the showcase and celebration of the work completed during the camp.

    “We did a lot in four days,” stated Carrie Kirkes, a facilitator for the program, which experienced its inaugural run with considerable success and positive reception.

    During the camp, which ran each evening from Jan. 13-16, students in grades 6-8 were able to take their interest in technology and produce useful services for the community.

    Tuesday’s event, consisting of dinner and presentations, was a showcase of the in-depth work completed during the four-day span. The presentations included videos recorded and edited by the students using industry standard hardware and software; graphic work utilizing photos taken by students and Adobe Photoshop; and detailed maps created by Geographical Information Systems (GIS), a widely used technology used to map complicated areas.

    Students who were a part of the program were excited to show their work and inspired to investigate further into how technology can influence their future.

    Moreland describes how maps are made using GIS

    “I am definitely going to keep trying this,” exclaimed Preston Moreland, a seventh grade student at Talihina School. Moreland, who gave a quick explanation on how GIS mapping can benefit community projects, explained that he enjoyed being able to use the equipment to tell a story.

    The story told was that of the Choctaw Nation Capitol Grounds and Museum, located near Tuskahoma. This historical site, which receives a steady amount of visitation during the year, had little information describing what guests should expect prior to a visit. The students saw an opportunity to assist a landmark in the community, all while improving their knowledgebase.

    Over the course of the program, students divided into three groups: video, photography/graphics, and GIS. These groups were led by juniors and seniors of area schools who are members of the Environmental And Spatial Technology (EAST) Initiative, a program based on education through the use of technology.

    EAST is a project-based curriculum according to Kirkes. It serves as a half-day alternative to conventional education for upperclassmen in high school who are interested in the utilization of technology for real-world implementation. More information about EAST is available on their website at

    The group grabs a quick picture before
    gathering content for their project

    Justin McClellan, a senior at Talihina High School and EAST participant who assisted students with the GIS portion of the project, mentioned that even though he was teaching he still learned from the experience.

    As the teams connected their creations with newfound skill, the entire vision of the project came to fruition in the form of promotional materials for the Choctaw Capitol Museum. The students produced a hard copy brochure featuring a layout of the grounds and descriptions of the landmarks guests will find while they explore.

    An interactive digital map was also included in the finished product. Potential guests will now be able to access a virtual tour of the capitol grounds online before they visit.

    “This will be utilized worldwide,” stated Museum Director Regina Green as she expressed how impressed she was with the students’ creations.

    Totally Teched Out was funded by the EAST Beyond the Bell Grant made possible by the EAST Initiative and the Arkansas Department of Education, and was the first Beyond the Bell program to occur outside the state of Arkansas. The facilities of the Kiamichi Technology Center were utilized to facilitate this project.

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma also contributed to the effort, providing funds for meals and shirts. Kirkes stated that she was very thankful for the support provided by the tribe and looks forward to working together in the future.

    This is the printed version of the map created for the capitol grounds. Click the image to view the interactive digital version.

  • 2014 OK-INBRE Summer Program for Science Majors

    2014 OK-INBRE Summer Program for Science Majors

    OK-INBRE If you are a science major who will have completed at least four semesters of core science classes by summer 2014, and are interested in earning $5000 while gaining 9 weeks of biomedical research experience, you are eligible to apply for an OK-INBRE 2014 Summer Internship. In addition to contributing to scientific research, the program is designed to give you a chance to see if you might want to choose to pursue research or a biomedical PhD as part of your future career.

    If you are interested, please read the attached document for more information , and email or mail the application and required supporting information to the addresses indicated. Applications must be post-marked (preferably e-mailed) by THIS Friday (January 31, 2014). You should also ask the registrar’s office to mail a copy of your transcript to the indicated address, and ask two faculty members to send letter of reference.

  • Annual Career Expo set for McAlester

    Annual Career Expo set for McAlester

    “Winds of Change!” is the theme for the 7th Annual Career Expo. The event will be held at the Southeast Expo Center in McAlester, Oklahoma, on Wednesday February 26, 2014 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Career Expo creates an opportunity for job seekers and students to connect with employers and college or training facility representatives at more than 140 booth spaces. There will be something for everyone at the career expo!

    This year’s guest speaker is Mr. Brian Aspell, Vice President of Champion Cooler, Denison, TX. Brian will be presenting his inspiring story of overcoming obstacles and pursuing his dreams in “From the Hood to VIP”. Recently, Brian received the 2011-2012 Friend of Education Award from Denison ISD and 2012 Employer of the Year for the state of Texas, awarded by the Texas Workforce Commission. Brian is largely credited for implementing internships for high school students and recent graduates in which they are placed in technical positions within the Denison area.

    The focus of the Career Expo is to connect job seekers with employment and training opportunities available throughout the region. Hiring representatives will be onsite from such businesses as: Trinity Industries, Tyson, Tulsa Life Flight, State of Oklahoma, Kelworth Trucking, and Choctaw Casinos to name a few. There will also be representatives from colleges and training centers. Some of those attending include: Oklahoma City University, Kiamichi Technology Center, OU, OSU, and Grayson Truck Driving.

    Career_Expo_web The annual Career Expo is hosted by the Choctaw Nation Career Development Program. Career Development assists tribal members in obtaining high quality career and technology training which leads to industry recognized certifications and licensures. Currently, the program supports tribal members in training programs ranging from truck driving, welding, teaching, and heavy equipment operation, and wide variety of health fields.

    A new component of this year’s event is the Veteran’s Resource Center. All Veterans are invited to visit this center to learn how military experience translates to job skills. “Veteran Friendly” employers will be identified and eager to meet with those in attendance.

    The “must see” exhibits at this year’s expo include: Career Planning Exhibit, Dress for Success, FAFSA Information Center, Native American Business Showcase, OSUIT Career Spot, STEM, Robot Races.

    Transportation is available to Choctaw tribal members in Southeast Oklahoma who make reservations. Members can call Deidre Inselman at (580) 920-2260 to reserve seating. Deadline to sign up for transportation is Friday, February 14, 2013.

    The Career Expo is open to all persons interested in finding out more information about educational or employment opportunities. Admission is free.

    For more information or if you would like to participate in this February 26th event, contact Kelli Ostman or Rhonda Mize with Choctaw Nation Career Development at (866) 933-2260.

    Check out the “must sees” at this year’s event

    • Career Planning Exhibit: Begin Your Future Today
    Start planning your future today in our walk through Career Planning Exhibit. Begin with knowing your interests, then explore your options, followed by visiting your career choices and then on to experience career success.

    • Dress for Success: You Only Get One First Impression
    Do you think you are dressed appropriately for your big interview? Visit the Dress for Success exhibit to see how you can dress professionally for your career and on your budget.

    • FAFSA Information Center: Don’t Let College Loans Weigh You Down
    Think college loans are no big deal? Think again! Visit our FAFSA Information Center to learn how to go to college without carrying around a large amount of debt.

    • Native American Business Showcase: Find Your True Direction
    Have you ever dreamed of owning your own business? Visit our Business Showcase and talk with some of our successful business owners who are living their dream!

    • OSUIT Career Spot: How an Education Leads to a Career
    How does choosing the right training affect your future career? Visit the OSUIT Career Spot. Meet with representatives from each of their programs along with the employers who hire their graduates.

    • STEM in Action: Robot Races
    Does STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) race your heart? Come to the robotics booth and watch how all four categories work together. Cheer for your favorite robot in the Amazing Race.

    • STEM: The Future of Jobs
    Science + Technology + Engineering + Mathematics = higher paying jobs, better job opportunities, job security STEM field careers are some of the best paying jobs and have the greatest potential for job growth in the future. Come and visit the STEM Booth where you will be able to actively participate in STEM activities.

    • Veteran’s Resource Center
    You’ve served your country and we thank you! Visit the Veteran’s Resource Center to learn how your military experience translates to job skills and connect with military-hiring employers.

    • DRETS Lab
    The Oklahoma Department of Career and Technical Education (ODCTE) along with Kiamichi Technology Center (KTC) EMS Program have joined forces to develop and manage DRETS: A Disaster Response and EMS Training Simulator. This 48-foot mobile trailer brings unique training directly to community healthcare providers. Hospitals, EMS agencies, fire departments, educational facilities and other emergency medical organizations can request the use of the simulator across the state of Oklahoma.

  • Internship opportunity in D.C. offered by Oklahoma Congressman Mullin

    Internship Opportunity in D.C. offered by Oklahoma Congressman Mullin

    Mullin Mary Frances Rooney, the intern coordinator for Congressman Markwayne Mullin’s Washington, D.C., office has informed Choctaw Nation of an internship opportunity for an ambitious individual looking to begin their path in public service.

    According to Rooney, interns are responsible for assisting with general front-office duties including answering phones, conducting and scheduling tours of the capitol, logging and writing office correspondence, assisting in policy research and helping with other administrative and research tasks. Qualified candidates should have excellent organizational and communication skills, a positive attitude, a strong work ethic, and an interest in civic involvement.

    The internship is for the spring term and is an unpaid, full-time position with work from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. during session days, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during recess days, including an hour break for a lunch. The term of the internship goes from as soon as possible until May 9, with flexible dates. The congressman’s office can also provide college credit to accepting institutions.

    If you are interested in this opportunity, please contact the Choctaw Nation via email by clicking here.