Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation

Stories of Choctaw Success

This page is an opportunity for Choctaws who have made great strides toward accomplishing the vision of growing with pride, hope and success to tell of their accomplishments. If you would like to submit a success story, please email

  • Internships abroad make for a well-rounded education

    Internships abroad make for a well-rounded education

    James Kuykendall combines world-travels and education into an exciting career

    James Kuykendall writing on the “wall”,
    at Facebook HQ in London.

    “Higher education is a big financial commitment… The Scholarship Advisement Program (SAP) grants helped me to lessen that loan burden and helped give me the freedom to pursue study abroad programs,” stated Choctaw Nation SAP graduate James Kuykendall.

    Kuykendall’s story is one of travel and adventure – as a considerable portion of his education experience was earned overseas. Now a 28-year-old political officer in the United States Foreign Service, Kuykendall is currently working in the economic section of the U.S. Embassy in London England covering issues such as unemployment, labor and immigration.

    Before England, he was stationed at the U.S. Consulate General in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. The path toward his world-traversing career has earned him insight into what it means to use education for life-changing experiences and ultimately connect to desirable lifelong journeys.

    A native of Tulsa, Okla., Kuykendall graduated high school from Wright Christian Academy where became familiar with Choctaw Nation’s SAP and grant opportunities. Armed with a strong will to learn and the support of his tribe, he attended John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Ark.

    His determination inspired him to take summer classes and landed him the honors of a cum laude graduate a year earlier than planned with a major in Political Science and minor in French and International Relations. “I was, and remain, extremely grateful to the Choctaw Nation for the financial assistance it provided me during my undergraduate and graduate programs,” stated Kuykendall.

    During his sophomore year at John Brown, he studied abroad in Belfast, Northern Ireland, learning about the peace process and conflict resolution. During his time in Northern Ireland he met the Consul General at the U.S. Consulate in Belfast and discovered the U.S. Foreign Service. The Consul General informed Kuykendall of internship opportunities with the State Department.

    Upon returning from Belfast, Kuykendall researched positions and applied for the State Department’s internship program which earned him a position in the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, Canada, the following summer.

    “That internship experience was really invaluable to me. Hands down, I’d say it was the most important thing I did to prepare me for my career,” stated Kuykendall as he spoke about the action that introduced him to his future career. “Not only did I get practical experience in the field I had chosen, but I got to see that I actually liked the work – and that I thought I could be good at it.”

    Upon graduating from John Brown, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he attended American University and graduated with a Master’s in International Affairs. During his time with American, he studied in Brussels, Belgium and worked part-time for the U.S. Mission to the European Union. He was also employed in the Office of Western European Affairs at the State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C.

    Kuykendall at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris
    during his 2008 study abroad trip.

    “Those internships put me in a position to compete for a full-time position which I began even before I graduated,” stated Kuykendall. The position he accepted was in the Office of Policy and Global Issues for the European Affairs Bureau at the State Department as the Deputy Advisor for Congressional Relations.

    Following that endeavor, he joined United States Foreign Service in 2010 as a Political Officer. He began his first tour at the U.S. Consulate General in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico as a Political and Economic Officer doing research, analysis, and reporting on various aspects such as elections, cross-border trade, environmental cooperation, narcotics, health issues, immigration, and infrastructure. From there he was transferred to his current location in England.

    Looking back as he expanded his scope from central Oklahoma to a worldwide career, Kuykendall has developed three key points of advice for students looking to expand their lives on a similar scale.

    His first piece of advice is to use all the resources available. “Programs like SAP are a gigantic resource and advantage,” stated Kuykendall as he recalled the valuable services contained in SAP, such as the scholarship database, grants and internship connections.

    He also recommends making use of school guidance counselors and their connections. “Go meet with them! Let them help you work on your resume,” said Kuykendall.

    His second bit of guidance is to complete and internship. As illustrated by his path through education, internships have played a considerable part in his accomplishments. “I think this is the single best thing you can do early on in school. See if you really like the practical application of what you’re studying,” states Kuykendall.

    He continued by saying that partaking in the real-world aspect of a field of study is the best way to know if it is right for you. Doing this early in your education will either assure a student is on the correct path or spur them to make changes in their plans.

    Studying abroad is another aspect of education Kuykendall strongly endorses. Stating, “This may seem like it’s out of reach financially or that it doesn’t fit nicely into the university’s semester plan – make it work anyway.”

    “I made some amazing life-long friends and learned so much about the world and about myself,” Kuykendall stated. “Challenge yourself, get outside your comfort zone, meet people who are different from you, and I promise you won’t be disappointed!”

  • Erika Snead earns position in AIIP Summer Enrichment Program

    Erika Snead earns position in AIIP Summer Enrichment Program


    Erika Snead, member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and senior at Southeastern Oklahoma State University studying psychology, has earned a position in the American Indians Into Psychology (AIIP) Summer Enrichment Program at Oklahoma State University. During the six-week program, Snead will be able to experience the application of psychology through hands-on activities and immersion into the field.

    “It’s a competitive program,” stated Dr. Charla Hall, professor of Psychology at Southeastern, as she mentioned that Snead was one of only six accepted to the program – the only student from Southeastern.

    Hosted in Stillwater, AIIP is meant to enrich the study of psychology through close work with faculty and graduate students in various aspects of the study. Students will also be able to shadow professionals in real-world scenarios as well as gain exposure to various Native cultures. During the program, Snead looks to get the edge she needs for graduate school. She mentioned that being able to see the application of the science from professionals and tips to applying for grad school will sharpen the skills needed to reach her goals.

    She looks forward to partnering with a faculty member, learning the research process and application.

    Snead is working toward becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) working in Marriage and Family Counseling. With her study targeted toward Native American populations, she will be in a prime position to assist her tribe. “It is going to be awesome to see and learn my culture,” stated Snead as she spoke of the Native aspects of AIIP.

    aiip Upon her return to Southeastern in the fall, Snead will be asked to present her work and findings during the program. As she demonstrates the impact of the program in her education, it will help build awareness of opportunities through AIIP among Southeastern students, according to Dr. Hall.

    Information presented by the Choctaw Nation Scholarship Advisement Program.

  • Master Sergeant Roberta Sykes is retiring from the Air Force after 22.5 years

    Roberta Sykes Retires

    Master Sergeant Roberta Sykes is retiring from the Air Force after 22.5 years

    Roberta is married to Major John Sykes, USAF; and they have three boys: Joshua, Christian and Andrew. Roberta is the daughter of June Williams of Eagletown and the late Johnny Shomo of Idabel. She is the granddaughter of Moses Williams and the late Helen Williams from Eagletown. She is also the granddaughter of the late J.D. and Nellie Shomo of Broken Bow, Oklahoma.

    Roberta enlisted into the Air Force in Nov., 1992. She has served all her years in the Health Services Management career field. She has been stationed at Hickam Airforce Base (AFB), Hawaii; Columbus AFB, Miss.; Tinker AFB; Warner Robins, Ga.; and Maxwell AFB-Gunter Annex, Ala. She has also served tours in Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, and Germany. Her retirement ceremony is set for 18 May 2015 at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Ala.

  • McKenzie Boswell named candidate in U.S. Presidential Scholars Program

    McKenzie Boswell named candidate in U.S. Presidential Scholars Program

    McKenzie_Boswell_web McKenzie Boswell, a graduating senior at the Oklahoma School of Science and Math, has been named one of more than 3,000 candidates in the 2014 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. The candidates were selected from nearly 3.4 million students expected to graduate from U.S. high schools in the year 2014.

    Inclusion in the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, now in its 50th year, is one of the highest honors bestowed upon graduating high school seniors. Scholars are selected on the basis of superior academic and artistic achievements, leadership qualities, strong character and involvement in community and school activities.

    Over 3,000 candidates were selected for their exceptional performance on either the College Board SATY or the ACT Assessment. In addition, each Chief State School Officer (CSSO) was invited to nominated three males and three female candidates, based on their outstanding scholarship, residing in the CSSO’s jurisdiction. Further consideration is based on students’ essays, self-assessments and descriptions of activities, school recommendations and school transcripts. A distinguished panel of educators will review these submissions and select 560 semifinalists in early April.

    The Commission on Presidential Scholars, a group of up to 32 eminent citizens appointed by the president will make final section of the scholars. They will select one young man and one young woman from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. students living abroad; 15 students at-large; and up to 20 students from the creative and performing arts. The U.S. Department of Education will announce the scholars in May.

    Scholars will be incited to Washington, D.C. for several days in June to receive the Presidential Scholars Medallion at a recognition ceremony and to participate in events and activities with their elected representatives, educators and other leading individuals in public life.

    McKenzie is the daughter of Ken and Robin Boswell.

    For more information about the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, parents and student can call the U.S. Presidential Scholars Office at 319.688.4345 or email For more general information, visit

  • O’Loughlin nominated to NAGPRA review committee

    O’Loughlin nominated to NAGPRA review committee

    O’Loughlin Shannon Keller O’Loughlin, an attorney and Chair of the Indian Nations Law and Policy Practice Group at the law firm Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard and Smith LLP in Washington DC, was nominated by the Choctaw Nation, the Seneca Nation and the Tonawanda Seneca Nation to the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) Review Committee. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell appointed Shannon to the Review Committee in September 2013.

    The NAGPRA Review Committee monitors the implementation of repatriation activities of museums and the federal government, hears disputes between museums and Indian Nations, and reports to Congress about repatriation matters pursuant to NAGPRA. Shannon was raised in southeastern Oklahoma and her family is from the area around Clear Lake, south of Idabel. Her grandmother Roseann Pitts (Willis) would take Shannon around the Choctaw Nation and show her old gravesites and other important historical areas. Shannon has been involved in repatriation as an attorney fighting against auction houses and other institutions for the return of ancestral remains and important cultural items. She also represents Indian Nations and Tribes in other legal matters.

  • Young Choctaw earns Jr. Teen Achieve title

    Submitted by Tony Wilkinson

    Ana_with_crown_web Anabelle Marie Wilkinson, 13, delegate, Miss No. California Jr. Teen Achieve, competed in the National Miss American Jr. Teen Achieve Pageant and was crowned Miss American Jr. Teen Achieve 2014 on Dec. 28, 2013.

    Anabelle won this title and crown based on her community service, achievements and involvement and a platform for fellow teens of having fun without taking drugs,”High on life, not on drugs.”

    Anabelle’s achievements and community service included Choctaw Star, Stone Valley Middle School Super-star, Job’s Daughters International, New Life Church - Jr Service Assistant, Bella Dance Academy dance team and Valley Cheer Rising Star team.

  • Gray reps Plainview in cross country

    Madie_Gray_web Madie Gray, daughter of Chris and Gwen, sister of Jessie Gray, placed second in the class 4A Cross Country State meet held in Edmond. Madie is a sophomore at Plainview High School in Ardmore. Plainview went on to earn the state championship for the 4A Cross Coutry meet. Madie is the granddaughter of Harry and Delores Marris of Overbrook, Phil Gray of Madill and Debbie Beason of Shreveport, La.

  • Wister barrel racer claims world title

    Wister barrel racer claims world title

    Published with permission from the Poteau Daily Sun
    By Kim Ross

    Patricia_Walden_web A young Wister girl clinched the top title last week during the 2013 Indian Nation Finals Rodeo, claiming the fastest time and winning the title of Junior Barrel Racer World Champion. Trisha Walden, 12, has only been competing in barrel racing for the past four years, but in that time she has claimed numerous title, trophies and cash.

    According to Walden’s mother, she began riding about seven years ago and quickly began participating in pole bending, flags and other”Play Days” events. At the age of 8, Walden realized she wanted to barrel race and entered her first competitive event – the “Crash and Burn,” held in Poteau at the Phil Gardenhire Rodeo Arena. For Walden, her first competition became her first win, taking $60 home in prize money. She participated in play days the following two years and was named reserve champion both times. Last year, Walden began participating the Oklahoma Youth Rodeo Association and the conclusion of the circuit she walked away as reserve champion in barrel racing at the finals rodeo held in McAlester.

    This year she joined the Indian Rodeo Association which is made up of 11 regions in the United States and Canada. Her region of competition was filled with youth from seven states. As she moved her way through the circuit she found herself in the No. 2 qualifying spot in her region for nationals.

    With the help of her family, they headed out to Las Vegas to watch Walden and her horse Dago give it their best. “My daughter and son-in-law, Misti and Chris Upton, made the trip to Las Vegas possible,” said Walden’s mother Linda. “They have helped us out a lot and drove us out there and brought Dago.”

    Entering the competition against 31 other racers, Walden and Dago would compete three runs. The first two were dust in the wind as the duo flew into first place to make the final run with nine other racers. With the title within reach, Walden charged the barrel with a finishing time of 14.975 to claim not only the World Championship, but a second title usually not won by the same person –the Average Winner title, and she said it was a great feeling of accomplishment.

    “The victory lap was my favorite part,” said Walden. “It made me feel proud, really good.”

    An honor roll student at Wister Walden finds time not only for riding, she plays basketball, is on the archery team and shows her calves.

    Her uncle, who owns Wister Food Market provided a TV at the store so that the community could gather to watch Walden’s win. Her mother said those who couldn’t attend found other ways to watch and the amount of support was a wonderful thing.

  • Jack Bryant Named Seventh President of Redlands Community College

    Jack Bryant Named Seventh President of Redlands Community College

    Submitted Carlee Jones

    Jack Bryant, the son of Jack and Romaette Bryant of Allen, Okla., and grandson of original enrollee Mary Elizabeth Cranford, was appointed as the seventh president of Redlands Community College by a unanimous vote of the Redlands Board of Regents during the December board meeting. Bryant has served as acting president of the college since June 27, 2013.

    Travis Ketter, Chairman of the Board of Regents stated, “President Bryant is a leader and shows the passion and transparency the college needs in this exciting time. I am very proud of the board and feel privileged to be the chairperson as we move forward. He stepped up when called upon as acting president and proved he is the right person for the job. I would like to thank the faculty and staff for your work in supporting President Bryant over the past 6 months and I hope the unanimous vote for our new president shows that Redlands stands united.”

    During his tenure as acting president, Bryant has led the college into fiscal accountability by eliminating Redlands outstanding debt by more than 90 percent. Regent Kent Carder said, “Bryant has done a great job of continuing to take care of the debt and other problems as they have come.”

    Bryant has a diverse career in higher education spanning more than 30 years. The majority of his career has been spent on community college campuses. He’s taught in the classroom; worked with special needs students; headed federal programs; and served as senior administration in student services, academic affairs and contract training.

    Bryant has worked for Redlands twice. His first term from 1990-94, included time as an instructor, grant writer and program coordinator. Bryant returned to Redlands 2001 as vice president for contracted, continuing and online education. Since that time Bryant has served as the vice president for workforce and economic development.

    Bryant’s ability to lead and advance change is a staple of his career. Cherry Rain, President of the Faculty Association said, “Faculty are very pleased to be moving forward and President Bryant has done an incredible job the last few months rebuilding a solid, transparent and inclusive college environment.”

    “I have respect for President Bryant and know that he is very passionate and dedicated in the vision of moving Redlands forward” expressed Regent Richard Ruhl. “I am honored to be chosen to lead this college. I would like to thank the Redlands Regents for naming me president,” said Bryant. “Together along with the faculty, staff, students and community, we are building a stronger Redlands Community College.”

    Bryant’s career spans numerous colleges, states and leadership positions, with the majority of them right here in Oklahoma. He has implemented changes in workforce development, distance education and higher education leadership. Throughout his career he has worked to improve educational standards and college access opportunities for all students and serves diligently on community leadership and workforce development committees across the state. Bryant is a proud member of the Choctaw Nation and a United States Navy veteran of the Vietnam War.

  • Shane Slack returns to the rodeo arena

    The following article is from a segment titled PSN Cowboy Gille with Tracy Renck
    published by The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and written by Tracy Renck.
    For more information, please see the PRCA website.

    Originally Published 10/25/13

    Shane_at_NFR_2013_web Shane Slack, 38, finished 11th in the tie-down roping PRCA World Standing with $69,664 to qualify for his first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo since his rookie year of 1996. Slack, a Choctaw who lives in Idabel, Okla., had a long road back to the WNFR while battling to overcome a drug problem he had suffered through for years. In 1996, when 17-time world champion Trevor Brazile was also a rookie, Slack was the Overall and Tie-down Roping PRCA Resistol Rookie of the Year.

    What does it mean to you to get back to the WNFR for the first time since 1996? It’s exciting. I’m still kind of shocked. It hasn’t sunk in real good yet. I’m sure it will hit me when I get to Las Vegas (for the Dec. 5-14 WNFR).

    How much have you learned from your struggles and daily recover from drugs? The main thing is I have a real close relationship with God now. There is just so much stuff that I’ve learned, that I can’t just pinpoint it to one certain thing. I know where there are tons and tons of things I’ve learned – like the things in life that matter. When you go through the day, things pop up you think are a big deal. But when you go through something like that (his battle with drugs) and you come through it, you realize a lot of things that pop up aren’t really that big of a deal. Like staying mad about something, or just small things that used to be big things, just aren’t anymore.

    Who has been the key person in your recovery support system? My daughter, Shaylee, who is 8 years old. When I look at that situation, I know I have to reach down a little further and become the person she can be proud of. I want to be that father figure that I need to be. For sure, that’s a nugget that helps me a lot.

    You missed the entire 2001, 2003 and 2005 PRCA season. What kept you from giving up the sport for good? It was one of the hardest things for me to stick out, with the mental stress of wanting to win and having trouble. One night (in 2010) I was in my bed reading and I just felt ready to start back. That’s what triggered it. Then, once I got involved, I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be. I guess it was just all God’s plan. I wanted to quit a million times, but I would not have felt comfortable with myself it I didn’t stick it out. I wanted to continue each day to live for God, and if I don’t finish one thing, I can’t go to the next thing.

    What was it like when you started competing full-time again in 2010? It had been so long. What I got mixed up in, it took a while to figure out who I was and kind of get myself back together. It had been so many years that I had been mixed up in that. Plus, when I came back, it seemed to me guys were tying calves a lot faster.

    Do you feel like you can be an inspiration to other people? I feel like with what I’ve been through and everything that I know, some things can help people because I have been through it and I lived it. I know what it’s like when someone wants out of the situation. I know I wanted help, but getting it done took a while. The things I had to do, I feel like I could help a lot of people and be an inspiration to someone.

    Have you ever done any motivational speaking? With what I came through, I was in depression because of it for a long time. I can speak more right now (about it) than I have ever been able to. Just by seeking God everyday and letting Him get me to this point, I’m more of a whole person and able to speak. I never spoke much at all about the situation (before) because I just didn’t want to. I avoided situations like that.

    How gratifying is it for you to be one of the world’s best tie-down ropers again? I thank God for it every day. It just feels great. I didn’t think I could do it (make it back to the WNFR). Sometimes we lose a little bit of faith along the way at times. I know it has happened (qualifying for the WNFR). It’s just hard for me to believe.

    What kind of expectation do you have for the upcoming WNFR? I don’t know what type of expectation I have. I just know I have to work harder than I have ever worked. The competition is so tough. I just want to give myself the best opportunity I can. That’s all I can do.

    What are your plans after the WNFR? I really don’t know. I gave it all I had in roping, and I worked to get my body back in shape. I knew if things didn’t work out this year, because of my satisfaction with my relationship with God, if it was revealed to me that it was OK not to go any further, I wouldn’t have kept going. Now that it’s happened the way it has, I don’t know yet. I’m going to do some praying and seeking God about it, and it’s a choice I will have to make. I don’t know the answer right now.

  • Recruit named "Honorman"

    Joseph_Miller Choctaw Warrior, PFC Joseph Aaron Miller, of Greeley, CO, graduated with honors on Oct. 4, from the Marine Corp Recruitment Depot in San Diego. He was awarded his promotion to PFC meritoriously and was one of only six Platoon “Honormen” out of his graduating class of 506 recruits for being his Platoon’s “Guide.”

    PFC Miller achieved the unusual accomplishment of maintaining his Guide position for his entire 13-week basic training. He also received his platoon’s High Physical Fitness award, earned a perfect combat score, as well as the title of Rifle Expert. After a short leave, PFC Miller will be reporting to Camp Pendleton for additional advanced training.

    PFC Miller is descended from Annie Scott, a Trail of Tears survivor, and the Beard family of LeFlore County on his father’s side and Eva Brashears, a Trail of Tears survivor, and Supreme Judge Joel Everidge on his mother’s side. His parents are Matthew “Scott” Miller and Rebecca “Beckie” Sue Davis Miller.

  • Dr. Susan E. Keith named dean of ASU’s College of Graduate Studies

    Susan_KeithDr. Susan E. Keith, a member of Angelo State University’s kinesiology faculty since 1997, has been named dean of ASU’s College of Graduate Studies, effective Jan. 1. “Dr. Keith has served in various capacities across campus, including significant service in the College of Graduate Studies as well as the campus at large since her original appointment to the faculty. Her familiarity with and her commitment to ASU will help continue the college’s record growth,” stated Dr. Nancy G. Allen, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs.

    Keith, a professor of kinesiology, joined the ASU faculty in 1997 as an assistant professor and was subsequently promoted to the rank of associate professor in 2004 and to the rank of professor in 2011.

    During her 16-year ASU tenure, she has served as a member of the University Graduate Council, Graduate Advisory Committee in the Department of Agriculture, Physical Therapy Admissions Committee and Graduate Faculty Research Enhancement Program Grants Committee.

    Keith has a record of extensive involvement in department and university-wide leadership and service, having chaired or served on 36 committees, including several presidential task forces. She was instrumental in the developing and implementing the M.Ed. in coaching, sport, recreation and fitness administration, a highly successful program in the Department of Kinesiology.

    Keith holds a B.S. in office administration from Southwestern Oklahoma State University and a B.S. in physical education from the University of Central Oklahoma. She earned a M.S. in education from Baylor University with an emphasis in exercise physiology and a Ph.D. in health studies from Texas Woman’s University.

  • Ada Brown appointed as justice of the 5th Court of Appeals

    Gov. Rick Perry has appointed Ada Brown of Plano as justice of the 5th Court of Appeals for a term to expire at the next general election.

    Brown is a civil litigator at McKool Smith PC, a former Dallas County Criminal Court judge, former prosecutor with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office and former adjunct professor at the Southern Methodist University School of Law. She is a member of the National Bar Association, J.L. Turner Legal Association, the College of the State Bar of Texas, Scribes, and the Committee for a Qualified Judiciary. She is a past board member of the Texas Public Safety Commission and Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education, past chair of the Dallas Bar Association Criminal Justice Committee and a teacher for the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. She is also a member of Mensa and Connections United Methodist Church, and is a volunteer editorial columnist for the Dallas Morning News.

    Brown received a bachelor’s degree from Spelman College and a law degree from the Emory University School of Law.

    Read article on Gov. Perry’s Website.

  • Kopps on the Run

    By Tiffany Kirkes

    Kobbs_1 I (Tiffany Kirkes) began working for the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) program in September 2012. Kopps on the Run was the first business I began working with to establish a connection for On-the-Job Training (OJT) participants. Lena contacted our office with interest in learning about the programs we offer. Together we have successfully filled two positions at Kopps on the Run. I have had the privilege to get to know her and would love to share with you a little bit about Lena Kopp.

    So, who is Lena? “I am a tribal member, I have some college with a lot of training and certifications from NCCER which is the National Center for Construction Education and Research. I worked construction since I graduated High School. Started as a labor and worked my way up from an Ironworker to an Iron supervisor and a boilermaker to a boilermaker supervisor. I am also a welder and have recently moved up to a Q/C which is a Quality Control Manager. All of the these things were a great achievement for me because of being a woman in the construction field; working in power plants, steel mills, paper mills, and refineries.

    But, my latest achievement was starting my own business which is something I have always wanted to do. Starting a drug and alcohol collection facility was my husband’s idea and a really good one. Since my last baby who is now 10 months old, we wanted to have something where I could stay home with our 6 kids instead of me traveling off. My next goal is opening a welding school here in Hugo, OK. I am currently working on this as well.”

    kobbs_2 I feel that Lena is a valuable asset to the Choctaw Nation WIA, OJT program. She has accepted two of our participants from the OJT program to complete their training at her business. Not only has she accepted them for employment and training, but she has taught them new skills and has encouraged them to further their education. She has provided them with opportunities to obtain certificates in Psychemedics Sample Collection, Hair Collection, Urine Drug Collector, and allowing them to attend the local Kiamichi Vocational Technology center to be certified in Phlebotomy. Along with this training and skills they have also gained employment at Kopps on the Run, upon completion of the program.

    Lena has took it a step further by informing many of the surrounding businesses and her colleagues with information regarding the services our office provides. In doing this it has led to multiple businesses contacting our office seeking participants to fill available positions and not always by going through the OJT program. I have also received e-mails and newspaper clippings providing me with leads to find employment opportunities for our participants still seeking employment. She also come up with the idea for me to create flyers to hang up in her office.

    I have nominated Lena for her positive attitude, creative ideas, and the amazing training she provides our participants. She has fulfilled all request given with quick responses and complete dedication. I feel that she has gone above and beyond the call of duty to assist our participants and myself. I am very appreciative and truly amazed by all that she has to offer.

  • Halliburton chosen to serve on 2013-14 National Collegiate Agriculture Ambassador team

    Jade Halliburton, from Crossett, Ark., has been selected to serve on the 2013-14 National Collegiate Agriculture Ambassador team by the National FFA Organization.

    Halliburton is a sophomore studying Agriculture Education and Mass Communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, Ark.

    Halliburton underwent specialized training Aug. 5-9 in Greensboro, N.C., to learn how to best advocate for agriculture and agricultural education throughout the nation. Each ambassador must complete a minimum of 30 hours of presentations to businesses, schools, community groups and more. They will also facilitate seminars and workshops to audiences of all ages interested in learning more about the agriculture industry.

    Together, this group of ambassadors help increase public understanding of the food, fiber and natural resources industry; promote awareness of the scientific, economical and mechanical resources needed to produce a safe and reliable food source; increase awareness of career opportunities in the agriculture industry for collegiate students and the general public and help provide growth opportunities in leadership, facilitation and the agricultural industry for the collegiate agriculture ambassador team.

    Those selected as ambassadors were chosen in early July after submitting an application to the program and participating in an interview process. Each ambassador will serve a year in their role and receive a $1,000 scholarship for their efforts that can be used toward tuition and other school expenses.

    The 2013-14 National Collegiate Ambassador program is sponsored by Syngenta, BASF and Cargill.

    The National FFA Organization provides leadership, personal growth and career success training through agricultural education to 557,318 student members in grades seven through 12 who belong to one of 7,498 local FFA chapters throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

    About National FFA Organization The National FFA Organization is a national youth organization of 557,318 student members as part of 7,498 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. The National FFA Organization operates under a federal charter granted by the 81st United States Congress and it is an integral part of public instruction in agriculture. The U.S. Department of Education provides leadership and helps set direction for FFA as a service to state and local agricultural education programs. For more, visit the National FFA Organization online at, on Facebook, Twitter and the official National FFA Organization blog.

  • Choctaw author Ty Burson wins award

    Ty_BursonTyrone Burson, Ed.D., author of “Let Sleeping Dragons Lie,” has won the New Writers Contest hosted by Deep Sea Publishing, LLC. The title also advanced through the first round selection of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

    Burson is Choctaw through his great-grandfather and is a former linguist for the U.S. Air Force. He is also a retiree from the Air National Guard and currently teaches middle school in Alexandria, Va.

  • Kiley Lockett tumbles to the top

    KileyKiley Lockett, daughter of Michael Lockett and Kathy Young of Oceanside, California, recently earned a place on the 2013-14 USA Gymnastics Trampoline and Tumbling Olympic Development National Team in Power Tumbling and Double Mini Trampoline.

    Kiley won the Level 10 National Championship in Power Tumbling in her age group this year at the 2013 National Trampoline and Tumbling Championships in Kansas City, Mo. (see the Southern California Trampoline and Tumbling website or the results at the USAG website.

    She was the 2013 Region 2 Champion in Power Tumbling, and is pictured with the Regional Team at the USAG website.

    Kiley’s coach is Mihail Yordanov, who was a member of the Bulgarian National Power Tumbling Team. Kiley trains at Flip Force gym in San Diego.

    Kiley is a scholar-athlete, who earned a 4.0 G.P.A. in school in the last two years at Lincoln Middle School in Oceanside. She is the grand-daughter of Betty (Suddath) Lockett and Jack Lockett (Jack played tight end and cornerback for the Sooners from 1949-1951 and was a member of the 1950 National Championship team). Kiley met Chief Pyle at the Choctaw meeting in San Diego last year.

    Video of her tumbling at Nationals in Kansas City can be seen at links below: 8 skill pass ending in a double-back tuck: Kiley’s last pass in the finals where she sticks to win the National Championship:

  • Choctaw Tribal Member and Father Inducted into Missouri Music Hall of Fame

    Story courtesy of Wes James

    Rich_McCready On Saturday evening, Aug. 31, 2013, Choctaw Tribal Member Rich McCready and his dad, William ‘Doc’ McCready, made history in St. Joseph, Mo. They became the first father and son to be inducted into the Missouri Music Hall of Fame. At 43, Rich is also the youngest person to receive this prestigious honor. “Out of all my awards and accolades over the years, this [induction into the Missouri Music Hall of Fame] is the best one by far,” says Doc.

    Rich goes on to agree with his dad that, “This is a huge honor and I’m proud to have shared this stage with my dad.” Doc and Rich join such other notables as rock and roll legend, Chuck Berry, Tenor Saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, blues guitarist Teddy Paxton and radio host Bob Heater.

    Influenced by classic country music artists like Merle Haggard, Bob Wills, George Strait and his dad, Rich grew up with country music and began performing at an early age. In 1992 Rich moved to Nashville to begin his career and subsequently toured with artists such as Tracy Byrd, Toby Keith, Patty Loveless and Garth Brooks.

    In 1995 Rich signed with Magnatone Records and produced his first single, “Hangin On.” His video was voted one of the top CMT 100 videos of all times. Later, in 2004, McCready’s song was adopted by TNN as the theme song for their Championship Rodeo broadcast. During 1996 and 1997, McCready had three R&R Chart hit singles and two top-forty hits on the Billboard charts. Later he made history as the first artist to have songs he wrote and recorded make it to number one on Christian Country Music Association charts three years in a row.

    McCready has been nominated by the Country Music Association for Male Vocalist of the Year, Video of the Year, and Single of the Year. In addition, he has received numerous awards including the prestigious First American in the Arts Award for Musical Achievement.

    Rich left Nashville in 2005 and returned home to the Seneca, Mo., area. “I wanted my children to grow up in the same environment where I grew up and attend the same schools I attended,” Rich noted. “I wanted them to share the same great experience I had.”

    Rich now performs primarily in the Midwest to be close to his family, but still tours a few times during the year. He also makes regular trips to Nashville to continue co-writing songs with some of the biggest names in country music. Rich also spends a considerable amount time helping talented young artists polish their performance skills and giving them valuable advice and incite about the music business.

    Doc, who was born and raised in Sand Springs, graduated from Sand Springs High School in 1955. Then went on to get his degree in chemistry and biology from Northeastern State College in Talequah, Okla., in 1962. He then moved to Kansas City, Mo., to pursue a career in periodontics. Upon receiving his D.D.S in 1966, he went on to get his degree in periodontics in 1976. He and his wife Ramona then moved to Seneca to begin practicing in nearby Joplin. Music remained his beloved avocation through it all. For more than 50 years, singer/songwriter/musician and record producer Doc McCready has performed in the four-state, Missouri/Arkansas/Oklahoma/Kansas area and in the country music capitol, Nashville.

    Money was never his objective when it came to music. Paid or not paid, Doc performed for the love of performing. An outstanding singer and accomplished instrumentalist, Doc is also a member of two professional songwriter’s organizations: the Midwest Chapter - Nashville Songwriters Association and ASCAP. In 2007 one of the songs he co-wrote, “If God Wrote a Country Song,” went to number one on the Christian Country Music Association charts. His latest co-creation, “A Good Country Song,” is currently available on son Rich McCready’s latest album, “Ride On.” Doc also produced his son’s 2005 album Rich McCready.

    In addition to playing and singing with his own band, Doc has also joined sessions with some of the best, well-known musicians in country music. He has also shared the stage with his own singer/songwriter/recording artist son, Rich McCready and on TNN’s Wild Horse Saloon broadcasts.

    In 2004, Doc and Rich opened “McCready Recording Studio” just south of Seneca. Doc recently retired from his periodontal practice to spend more time in this state-of-the-art facility. The studio, located in a peaceful, rural setting is unique when compared to Nashville studios located in the hustle and bustle of a major city. Besides featuring the latest and best technology available, the studio also provides dormitory accommodations for singers and band members who are working on record projects. For more info about the Missouri Music Hall of Fame please visit their website.

  • Eagle Road receives white coat, begins medical school at OSU-CHS

    Nikki Eagle Road, of Talihina, recently received her white coat during a special ceremony for first-year medical students at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa.

    Eagle Road was one of 115 students in the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine honored during the annual White Coat Ceremony on Aug. 4. The ceremony emphasizes the importance of the doctor-patient relationship and focuses on the true meaning of the science of medicine. Student doctors also recited the Osteopathic Medicine Oath of Commitment, symbolizing their entrance into the profession.

    A 2006 graduate of Talihina High School, Eagle Road is the daughter of Billy and Teresa Eagle Road, of Talihina, and the granddaughter of Velma Angel, of Talihina, and Celestine Eagle Road, of Hugo. She received her undergraduate degree microbiology and Native American studies from the University of Oklahoma in 2012.

    OSU Center for Health Sciences educates and trains osteopathic physicians, research scientists and other health care professionals, with an emphasis on serving rural and under-served Oklahoma. OSU-CHS also offers graduate programs in biomedical sciences, forensic sciences and health care administration.

  • Kingston students awarded STAR program prizes


    Seated: L-R
    Clayton Davis, Carly Jackman, Spencer Peoples, Alexis Damron and Makenna Daniels.
    Back Row: L-R
    Emily Osteen, Harlee Bailey, Janson Rose, John Jackson, Jace Hayes, Macy Watts, Matthew Osteen, Joseph Jackson, Bethani Bishop and Jason White
    Graduates not pictured
    Zachary Aplin, Jared Hayes and Garrett Schulze

    The STAR program awards students in 2nd through 12th grade that are Choctaw CDIB and Choctaw Tribal Members. These students receive a Wal-Mart gift card for A”s, A’s and B’s (all B’s is also recognized under this award) and perfect attendance each semester. The student can be awarded for both a grade award and perfect attendance in the same semester.

  • Choctaw Nation staff receives Indian Health Service awards

    On July 18th, several members of the CNHSA staff was honored at the Area IHS Awards
    Peer Recognition
    • Gerrick Johnson, Talihina
    • Pat Nation, Stigler
    • Ame Layton, Atoka
    • Tammy Williams, McAlester
    • Kelly Adams, Broken Bow
    • Connie Lakey, Hugo
    • Sheila Rogers, Idabel
    • Lori Humphreys, Poteau
    Merit Award
    • Steve McGee
    Exceptional Performance Non-Clinical Award
    • Going Lean
    Exceptional Customer Service Award
    • Gala Hotubbee

  • Noel Garner's WIA success

    Noel Noel first came to the WIA department in November of 2012. He was a 54 year old male; unemployed, dropped out of school, recently lost his job, temporarily disabled, and had a bad background. He seemed to very down on his luck and unhappy with his situation. He was living in Ringold, OK and at this time it was very difficult to find employment.

    Choctaw Nation immediately began working on putting together a resume for him to take when applying for jobs along with a brochure informing the employer about our adult training programs. We visited websites such as and I also mentioned our Adult Education program that would assist him with obtaining his GED. We spoke to Emergency Assistance and LIHEAP to assist with rent and utilities. Discussed Career Development and the Career Readiness Certificate.

    On his next visit Noel had expressed that he would like to become a physical therapist or PT assistant. We went over the amount of schooling and programs he would need to go through to obtain this goal. Later he decided he wanted to work on computers and rebuild them. Noel’s aspirations seemed be endless now, he was feeling as if he could do anything! He had turned in the application to Adult Education and soon after began participating in the GED classes in Broken Bow. After his second visit I noticed a change in attitude, he wanted to increase his knowledge, gain skills he never thought he could, and completely change his life around.

    Mr. Gardner and I remained in contact with one another over the months. On May 7th, 2013, I received a call from him stating that he had completed the GED course, passed his test and was working the night shift at Tyson Foods, Inc. He attended his graduation in Wilburton, OK at East Central University on May 17.

    His next goal was to eventually move to Durant, OK to find employment and attend the Kiamichi Technology Center. He has moved to Boswell, OK and is living with his sister until he earns enough money to move into an apartment in Durant. He and his son had been visiting the office frequently working on job searches, researched training programs, and practiced typing lessons to enhance his skills.

    Due to Noel’s hard work and dedication I have recently been informed that he was hired on by the City of Durant, as a Flatbed Driver, and working full time. He also plans to attend evening classes at the Kiamichi Technology Center. He is determined to learn more every day.

    On June 07, 2013 he had came in the office to visit and expressed his most sincere gratitude for the program and assistance he received. Noel had stated that when he first came into our office he was very unhappy with his life and felt there was nothing left. His mother had passed in August and his circumstances were less than satisfactory.

    While in our office Noel would often joke and state that he wants an office job, in the air conditioning, and easy going. He wanted a job just like mine. But, on this day Noel stated that it had hit him last night that this job was not about sitting in the air conditioning, money, or ease of work. He understood that it was about caring for each individual situation and working hard to bring them out of that place of darkness. To help them see the light and guide them to a better life where they can stand on their own. He stated the best way for him to show is gratitude was to use the new attitude and outlook on life that he had gained and share it with others.

    I know that with this newborn attitude and self confidence, Noel will achieve many great things in his life.