Protecting what is Choctaw
Delton Cox beginning sixth year in seat of Tribal Council Speaker
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.”