Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

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Allen named among state’s Top 50 Women

By LARISSA COPELAND
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.