Choctaw Nation Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma en-us 40 Joy Culbreath appointed to the Kiamichi Technology Centers Board of Education <p><img src="" alt='Joy Culbreath KTC' /><br> <em>Joy Culbreath taking the Oath of Office administered by Bobbie Wilson, KTC Board Clerk.</em></p> <h3>Kiamichi Technology Centers Appoints New Board Member<br></h3> <p><em>By Kiamichi Technology Center</em><br></p> <p>The Kiamichi Technology Centers’ Board of Education has selected Joy Culbreath to fill the unexpired term of Zone 5.<Br> </p> <p>Mrs. Culbreath has dedicated her entire career to education. She spent twenty-seven years at Southeastern Oklahoma State University working in TRIO programs and teaching in the Business Department. After retiring from Southeastern in 1993, she began working for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma where she has spent the last twenty-two years. She recently retired from her position as Executive Director of Education for the Choctaw Nation.<br></p> <p>During her time with the Choctaw Nation, Mrs. Culbreath was very instrumental in creating a number of new programs and scholarships that helped Choctaw tribal members reach their educational goals. “It’s taken total dedication,” Culbreath said about the growth. “I’m a visionary. I’ve always tried to plan and look for what we can do to help children a generation from now.”<br></p> <p>Shelley Free, Superintendent is pleased with the Board’s selection stating, “She is a welcome addition. With Joy’s extensive experience in education, her positive impact on students and her overall passion for people, she will be an asset to Kiamichi Technology Centers.”<br></p> <p><!-- AddThis Button BEGIN --></p> <div class="addthis_toolbox addthis_default_style "> <a class="addthis_button_facebook_like" fb:like:layout="button_count"></a> <a class="addthis_button_tweet"></a> <a class="addthis_button_pinterest_pinit"></a> <a class="addthis_counter addthis_pill_style"></a> </div> <script type="text/javascript" src="//"></script> <p><!-- AddThis Button END --></p> Fri, 27 Feb 2015 16:43:41 GMT 46th Annual Talihina Festival Pow Wow <h4>Gateway to Talimena National Scenic Byway<br></h4> <p><strong>Talihina, Oklahoma</strong><br> April 11, 2015<br> Talihina School Gym located on HWY 1 &amp; 271<br></p> <p><strong>Head Staff</strong><br> MC - Vernon Tehauno, Comanche - Shawnee, OK<br> Head Singer - Al Santos, Ottertrail Drum - Apache, OK<br> Head Man Dancer - Thorpe Sine, Ho Chunk - Glenpool, OK<br> Head Lady Dancer - Leslie Realrider, Cheyenne/Caddo - Norman, OK<br> Head Gourd Dancer - Don Stroud, Cherokee - Tahlequah, OK<br> Arena Director - Bill Takes Horse, Crow - Colbert, OK<br> Honor Guard - Choctaw Nation Color Guard<br> Club Princess - Haylee Brooke Himes<br> Little Miss Club Princess - Cheyenne Kylnn Bearstops<br></p> <hr/> <p><strong>Program</strong> 2PM - Gourd Dance<br> 5PM - Supper<br> 6PM - Gourd Dance<br> 7PM - 10PM - Grand Entry &amp; Inter-Tribal Dances<br> Tiny Tot Contest 6 &amp; Under<br></p> <hr/> <p>Arts &amp; Crafts<br> 50/50<br> Raffles<br> Cake Walk<br> Door Prizes<br> <em>Food concessions provided by local group</em><br></p> <p><strong>Public welcome - No admission fee - Bring Pow Wow chairs</strong><br> <strong>All princess clubs and drums welcome</strong><br></p> <hr/> <blockquote> <p>A&amp;C Booth Contact - Mary Himes (918) 917-3246<br> Laura Durant (918) 917-7363<br> or Carol James (918) 567 2539<br></p> </blockquote> <p>$30 booth space plus item donation - Tables/chairs not provided<br></p> <p><em>Not responsible for thefts/accidents - No firearms, alcohol or drugs</em><br></p> <p><em>This event is sponsored by the Talihina Indian Club with assistance of the Oklahoma Arts Council and the National Endowment of the Arts</em><br></p> <p><!-- AddThis Button BEGIN --></p> <div class="addthis_toolbox addthis_default_style "> <a class="addthis_button_facebook_like" fb:like:layout="button_count"></a> <a class="addthis_button_tweet"></a> <a class="addthis_button_pinterest_pinit"></a> <a class="addthis_counter addthis_pill_style"></a> </div> <script type="text/javascript" src="//"></script> <p><!-- AddThis Button END --></p> Wed, 25 Feb 2015 17:36:21 GMT Ralph Williston-A Choctaw with stories to tell <h3>A Choctaw with stories to tell</h3> <p>by Lisa Reed <img src="" alt='ralph_williston' /><br> Music man …teacher… author … educator … ’teller Ralph Williston of Dearborn, Missouri, is spending his “retirement years” continuing a legacy handed down by his father. One of his favorite stories is of his father. </p> <p>“My father, Henry S. Williston, was known as the ‘music man’ in high school because he could play any instrument,” Ralph said. “My twin brother and I were born when he was teaching music at Chilocco Indian Boarding School near Ponca City, Oklahoma. As children and teenagers, our home was always filled with music.” Like his father, Ralph is known as the “music man” at his church and, also, like his father, Ralph is a teacher and ’teller.</p> <p>“A full-blood Choctaw, my father was born in Indian Territory on an unknown date around 1906 or 1907 in a log cabin outside of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. His parents died when he was a child. His only memory of his father was hearing him playing the violin as he was coming home after playing for a dance. Dad ended up at Chilocco Boarding School where he turned to music to overcome the oppression of those days. One of the reasons that Choctaw was spoken ‘very little in our home’ was the result of his experience in boarding schools … as he said, ‘I would get my fingers hit hard with a ruler if I talked any Choctaw word so I had to learn and speak what was called English’.</p> <p><img src="" alt='henry_s_williston' /></p> <p>“Dad ran away from Chilocco with a friend, Harrison,” Ralph tells as he weaves a pattern in the fabric of his heritage. “Dad and his friend hopped trains until they got to Bacone Boarding School near Muskogee, Oklahoma, where he finished high school. My middle name is Harrison, named in honor of his good friend. ¬“Dad, as a high school student orphan, sold his land allotment on his home land because he was told that he had not paid his back taxes,” Ralph said. “He saved his money so that he could attend Northeastern Teachers College (now Northeastern University in Tahlequah) where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music education. He became one of the few Choctaw with a college degree and this was during the late 1930s, the depression years. Dad served in the National Guard in those days and remembered that he was part of a circle of guardsmen around a plane that had a strange name …Spirit of Saint Louis!</p> <p>“As a teacher Dad returned to the same boarding school (Chilocco) where he had so many memories and taught music to natives of all grades. He would spend 25 years teaching thousands of children, youth, band and vocal music in public schools in Wyandotte and Fairland where he fell in love with Mable, my Mom. Dad also taught in Quapaw, Commerce, and Webbers Falls, Oklahoma. He taught in Pamona, Kansas, where I graduated high school third in my class of 13. Dad went back to school in Mexico and then taught Spanish for another 10 years. He earned a master’s degree from Pittsburg State University Pittsburg, Kansas, where I would also earn my master’s in science education years later.” </p> <p>While growing up Ralph and his twin brother, Rolland, hiked and visited homes in the small Oklahoma communities where they lived. Ralph’s love of ’telling grew as they absorbed memories and stories handed down through the ages. Rolland eventually became the Native American Specialist for a World Church and invited Ralph to visit a number of native tribes. </p> <p>“I would sit all night and listen to the native storytellers,” Ralph remembers. “When I came home from these trips I would first tell some of these stories to our young children. I discovered that the magic of those old stories actually held their attention. Then I went to an elementary class, a library event, then a church and church camp…and watched the children as I shared some of these stories. They didn’t move! The rest is history &#8230; that started over 30 years ago.”</p> <p>After collecting several stories, his adult children encouraged him to put the “Great Spirit” stories into books. He began the “Little Eagle” series of books in 2000 and now has nine self-published books including seven large-format books for children – “Catch A Rabbit,” “Attacked by an Eagle,” “Follow the Trail,” “Fur From a Bear,” “Corn Seed Test,” “Lost,” “Swim the River” – and two chapter books, “Trapped on a Cliff” and “Snake Bit.” </p> <p>In them, a young boy, Little Eagle, is given challenges by his grandfather and often finds himself in trouble. He remembers that his grandfather always said, “Ask the Great Spirit for help.” He listens and follows the guidance and passes his tests toward becoming a village scout. Ralph has now collected 40 stories including those of a young girl, “White Dove,” and her native adventures which he hopes to get into books someday, he says.</p> <p>“Former Councilman, historian and storyteller Charley Jones was an inspiration,” Ralph said. “I remember when I shared my father’s story of ‘How the Great Spirit Created Man’ with Charley, his eyes just glowed. “I shared with Charley how Dad had told that story for 35 years to thousands of children and adults and how I now get to tell that story to another generation in his honor. When I sit down with the children, I sometimes wear the same necklace that he wore when he sat down with the children.”</p> <p>One story always leads to another and Ralph enjoys remembering Charley asking, “Did you hear how the Choctaw would get their plants to grow tall?” Part of that story became the basis for the “Corn Seed Test” book.</p> <p>Ralph believes every story has a “deeper meaning” and it is this “deeper meaning” that makes it a tradition.</p> <p>“The Choctaw of the past adopted the good around them and one was the importance of education and books,” Ralph said. “Now, the oral stories are coming alive again and can be remembered because of both the oral and written traditions. Children of all ages need these stories about how the natives taught their children.”</p> <p>So, like he has done for over 30 years, Ralph continues to sit down on a blanket, looking the children in the eye and telling these old and now new again stories to children and youth in schools, libraries and churches. If a child asks, “What is the Great Spirit?” Ralph tells them that is just one of the Native names for the Creator known as God.</p> <p>“Trapped On a Cliff” has been reprinted and the classic “Catch A Rabbit” is now out of print. Two favorite stories, “Fur from a Black Bear” and “Follow The Trail,” are stories that children want to hear again and again and have told Ralph that they now tell their children and they hope that they will tell their children’s children.” </p> <p>In his retirement, Ralph visits 15 to 20 schools annually. Along with his captive storytelling ability, he also teaches writing workshops, gives motivational presentations called “The Challenge” and “Super Science Goodies…making wise healthy choices” to all ages. The challenge presentations are aimed toward sharpening the listening and visual skills of middle- and high school-age youth. The multimedia presentation includes the “4 T’s” of writing short stories along with the “Ralph Williston Writing Contest.” All students are provided the beginning of a story and they compete by writing the best endings. The writing workshops are for third- through 12th-grade level and sometimes include as many as 300 students a day. </p> <p>Over the years, Choctaw Storyteller Tim Tingle and Councilman Ted Dosh have invited Ralph to share stories at the festivals and schools in their areas. “When this man speaks, the children listen,” said Councilman Dosh when he had introduced Ralph once at a council meeting. In February and March, Ralph will begin a tour of 15 schools in Texas, then Colorado, then Kansas, then … Now this is a Choctaw who has stories to tell.</p> Fri, 20 Feb 2015 23:50:49 GMT Choctaw Nation participates in Battle of New Orleans reenactment <p><img src="" alt='Raven Reenactment' /><br> <em>Raven Baker, in 1800&#8217;s style Choctaw dress, cuts sausage in preparation for the day&#8217;s meal. Behind are visitors of the park interacting with students involved in a cooking demonstration.</em><br></p> <h3>Choctaw Nation participates in Battle of New Orleans reenactment</h3> <p><em>By Ryan Spring</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation</em><br></p> <p>On Jan. 8, 1815, a group of Choctaw warriors helped Andrew Jackson save the United States from a massive British invasion at the end of the War of 1812. Two hundred years later to the day, Raven Baker and Caleb Sullivan, two youths from the Choctaw Nation traveled to New Orleans to participate in the celebration of the anniversary of this battle.<br></p> <p>Mentored by Ryan Spring of the Choctaw Nation Historic Preservation Department, Raven and Caleb were part of the National Park Service’s “Recognizing our Roots: Choctaw Youth Living History Program.”<br></p> <p>Each year, this program works with Choctaw students from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians, and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, to learn about the history of the battle and the War of 1812. At the end, students from each of the three Choctaw tribes are able to come together on the original battle site, Chalmette Battlefield, and participate in a reenactment where they portray the lifestyle of the Choctaw people who fought at that battle in 1815. In October 2014, these Choctaw youths traveled to Jena, Louisiana, to participate in the 2nd Annual Tribal EXPO hosted by the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians. At the EXPO the students were fitted into period clothing, learned history on the War of 1812 and the Battle of New Orleans, and instructed in military drills from the period. They were also able to see Choctaw basketry makers, potters, leather workers, finger weavers, and other artists.<br></p> <p>On Jan. 8, the day of the bicentennial had arrived and the students were excited to begin showing what they had learned as a battle reenactment took place. Men began to construct tents, build a Choctaw palmetto shelter, gather firewood, and carry buckets of water. Meanwhile the women began to build a fire and prepare the food that everyone would be eating that day. Soon, after the camp was set-up, hundreds of visitors began to arrive. The students now had to put their skills to the test to teach the eager visitors about Choctaw culture and history. In between musket firing drills and tending the camp, the students demonstrated stickball, teaching visitors fundamentals of the game. During downtime the youths were able to visit other camps such as blacksmiths, powder horn makers and the British camp.<br><img src="" align="right" width="250" alt='Caleb Reenactment' /></p> <p>If any parents or students are interested in participating in the “Recognizing our Roots: Choctaw Youth Living History Program” next year, please contact Ryan L. Spring with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Historic Preservation Dept. at (800) 522-6170 ext. 2137 or send an email to Students must be from the ages of 14 to 17 and must be a Tribal Member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. More details will be available this September.<br></p> <p><!-- AddThis Button BEGIN --></p> <div class="addthis_toolbox addthis_default_style "> <a class="addthis_button_facebook_like" fb:like:layout="button_count"></a> <a class="addthis_button_tweet"></a> <a class="addthis_button_pinterest_pinit"></a> <a class="addthis_counter addthis_pill_style"></a> </div> <script type="text/javascript" src="//"></script> <p><!-- AddThis Button END --></p> Tue, 17 Feb 2015 19:03:57 GMT Spotlight on Elders with Jerry and Shirley Lowman <p><img src="" alt='Lowmans Valentine Couple' /><br> <em>Jerry and Shirley Lowman as the Valentine Couple in the 2015 Choctaw Nation calendar. Photo by Pollaro Video</em><br></p> <h3>Spotlight on Elders with Jerry and Shirley Lowman</h3> <p><em>By Zach Maxwell</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation</em><br> <strong>Smithville, Okla.</strong> - Jerry and Shirley Lowman have dedicated much of their lives to Choctaw traditional music, dancing and artistry.<br></p> <p>Some of this happened by chance and some by design. Both were raised in isolated, woodland communities in northern McCurtain County, mostly after World War II. Both spoke only Choctaw until entering nearby grade schools.<br></p> <p>They met in high school, married soon thereafter and built a hardscrabble existence in the Smithville area. The isolation kept families – and long-standing traditional life ways – intact in the wooded hills near the Arkansas border.<br></p> <p>As young adults in the 1970s, they could see some of the activities that made a distinctive Choctaw culture were fading from the Oklahoma landscape. As other native nations enjoyed a cultural renaissance in the wake of “Wounded Knee ’73,” the Lowmans joined a determined group of Choctaws in keeping tribal music and dancing alive.<br></p> <p>Both also participate in various forms of native expression. For Shirley, it’s in the form of beadwork. And for Jerry, his work as a silversmith allows him to create rings and key chains in themes both ancient (such as stickball) and modern (such as the OKC Thunder logo).<br></p> <p>The Lowmans’ special contribution to Choctaw chanting and dancing goes back more than 40 years with some trips to learn from our Mississippi kin. These efforts earned them an invitation to lead tribal dances on the capitol grounds at Tvshka Homma this past Labor Day.<br></p> <p>“When (Choctaw language instructor Terri Billy) asked us to chant at Tvshka Homma, we felt so honored,” Shirley said. This honored couple was featured as February “Choctaw valentines” in the 2015 calendar, in a photo of them in full traditional attire from the same event.<br></p> <p>The Lowmans will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this June.<br></p> <p>Jerry grew up in the Watson and Buffalo areas, as well as several years in western Oklahoma before returning home at age 18 upon the passing of his grandmother. Shirley was born “at home” into the Ludlow family in the community of the same name. Both describe an upbringing of hard work, rural isolation and a struggle to adapt to English-speaking classmates and teachers. Shirley’s parents, including mother Minnie (Bonds) Ludlow from Bethel, had 11 children but no electricity until Shirley was grown.<br><img src="" align="right" width="250" alt='B&amp;W Lowmans' /></p> <p>Jerry’s mother was a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, but his vivid memories of childhood centered on his grandparents. “(Grandma) used to wear an apron all the time,” he said. “And she would go barefooted. She would never wear shows. Maybe when she went to church but when she went to town, she went barefooted.”<br></p> <p>Jerry worked at a pallet company, chicken processing plant and U.S. Mortar but settled on working the nearby “log woods” until 1998. Shirley and her family would travel to Texas to “pull cotton” or, closer to home they would find work “peeling poles.”<br></p> <p>This work involved stripping small trees of their bark with a draw knife so they could be made into fence posts. Jerry called it a “running thing” in the 1950s, with post yards all over the piney hills of far southeastern Oklahoma.<br></p> <p>“A machine does it now,” Shirley said of the post work. “Dad used to tell us, you better get an education because a machine will take this over in the future.”<br></p> <p>Wages were low and indeed, peeling poles became a thing of the past. Once the Lowman’s daughter reached schooling age, Shirley applied to work as a teacher’s aide in the Johnson O’Malley program. She retired a few years ago after 35 years as an aide and bus driver for Smithville schools.<br></p> <p>In the early 1970s, the Lowmans were part of a large group who joined Pastors Gene Wilson and John Bohanan on a journey to eastern Mississippi to visit the Choctaw Reservation at Pearl River.<br></p> <p>“Gene was in charge of Christian education and he wanted to do cultural things for the Choctaws here,” Shirley said. “He wrote a proposal and received a grant. For me, culture was something I never thought about: Who we were, where we came from.” They visited Nvnih Waiya, even as local Choctaws warned them not to go inside the cave. “They said, ‘Something is going to grab you,’” Jerry said.<br></p> <p>“I was kind of afraid but I followed the trail and made it to look at the real Nvnih Waiya,” he said. “You see the big mound out there and say, ‘How did people build something like that?’ It is something to see Nvnih Waiya out there.”<br></p> <p>They also experienced first-hand the racism of the Deep South in the wake of the Civil Rights era – something they said was absent from rural Oklahoma at the time. The Lowmans shared stories with Terri Billy about their Mississippi visit, where white business owners refused to let them do laundry and others denied them shelter at a church after their car broke down.<br></p> <p>And it took a few visits to the Mississippi Choctaw Indian Fair, but soon the Lowmans were in contact with people like Tony Bell and Prentiss and Amy Jackson – keepers of the time-honored dances and chants of the Choctaws.<br></p> <p>“If a person wants to learn, he’s going to have to be really dedicated to want to learn it,” Jerry said of the chanting. “My goal was to chant, to learn. We practiced just about every week and finally got it down the way it’s supposed to be done.”<br></p> <p>They speak of three dance styles: Social dancing, animal dances and the War Dance. Over the years, the Lowmans were at the head of a group that took the dances to fairs, festivals and parades across the Choctaw Nation.<br></p> <p>Jerry said the animal dances honor the contributions that various creatures made to the Choctaws. Dances honoring turtles, ducks and of course the rattlesnake are meant to show appreciation to these creatures for providing food or protecting crops from nuisances.<br></p> <p>Jerry also spoke of the rarely seen Ribbon Woman Dance that honors the four directions and offers a chance for a historian to tell the Choctaw story while a couple chants in very low tones. The Lowmans said their group employed this dance but they know of no pictures or videos of this particular dance.<br></p> <p>Like the language, there are subtle differences between Oklahoma Choctaw dancing and the Mississippi style. But both are flourishing in recent years thanks to a new generation of Choctaws on both sides of the river following in the footsteps of honored elders such as Jerry and Shirley Lowman.<br> Watch the interview <a href="">here</a>. <!-- AddThis Button BEGIN --></p> <div class="addthis_toolbox addthis_default_style "> <a class="addthis_button_facebook_like" fb:like:layout="button_count"></a> <a class="addthis_button_tweet"></a> <a class="addthis_button_pinterest_pinit"></a> <a class="addthis_counter addthis_pill_style"></a> </div> <script type="text/javascript" src="//"></script> <p><!-- AddThis Button END --></p> Tue, 17 Feb 2015 17:49:05 GMT Athlete-scholar takes success from football field to workforce <p><img src="" alt='Cordell in front of sign' /><br> <em>Cordell Zalenski credits a pair of Choctaw Nation internships, as well as success on the football field, for helping pave his path to academic success.</em></p> <h3>Athlete-scholar takes success from football field to workforce</h3> <p><em>By Zach Maxell</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation</em><br></p> <p><strong>Durant, Okla.</strong> - Cordell Zalenski is the embodiment of a successful college student.<br></p> <p>Zalenski is a 2012 graduate of Durant High School and is pursuing a degree in accounting at Harding University in Searcy, Ark. He is on an athletic scholarship for football, playing defensive positions for the Harding Bison.<br></p> <p>He has completed two summer internships within the Choctaw Nation and will be branching out in 2015 with an internship at WalMart corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas.<br></p> <p>For Zalenski, each experience has been a stepping stone toward greater successes, in the classroom, on the football field and in the real world. His summer internships at Choctaw Nation—with Chahta Foundation in 2013 and Health Services in 2014—were eye-opening experiences.<br></p> <p>“I really learned a lot those two summers, it was a blast,” Zalenski said on a recent holiday visit to Choctaw Nation headquarters in Durant. “It really helped me, working on those projects, to get real-world experience.”<br></p> <p>He also worked with the summer youth employment program, now called Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, while in high school. He credits that program, as well as Seth Fairchild at Chahta Foundation and Kellie Elliott at Health Services, for helping him achieve major milestones on his collegiate path.<br></p> <p>But, let’s be honest: This really starts on the gridiron.<br></p> <p>Zalenski was a stand-out defenseman for the Durant Lions, which earned him a spot on the Harding roster. The Bison have finished 9-2 for the past several seasons and once again reached the Division II playoff bracket this past December.<br></p> <p>Zalenski played in 11 games, racking up nearly two dozen tackles, three quarterback sacks and a forced fumble. “I did have a blocked kick, but it’s not on my stats,” he said. “I remember feeling it.”<br></p> <p>With a red-shirt season behind him, he has two seasons of eligibility remaining. Thoughts of a college transfer have given way to loyalty to his Bison teammates, and Zalenski says he plans to remain a Bison this coming fall.<br></p> <p>“We have really high aspirations and we know we can do better,” he said. “We have really good guys, a team full of leaders. It’s going to be a fun year.”<br></p> <p>But the off-season takes a lot of work. “You’re usually sore all the time,” he said of the winter and spring work-outs.<br></p> <p>“It’s every day training, a lot of working hard to get better. It sounds old-fashioned,” Zalenski said. “It’s just being able to run every play as fast as you can, waking up and eating a lot of protein shakes, training your body to take blows so you can last through the season.”<br></p> <p>Then of course there are accounting classes and the big internship awaiting him in the summer. “My mom’s more proud of the academic side, I think,” he said.<br><img src="" align="right" width="250" alt='Cordell in Action' /></p> <p>Connie Zalenski’s pride in her children goes way beyond academics or athletics.<br></p> <p>“I admire each and every one of them,” she said of her three children, two of whom also work at Choctaw Nation. On Cordell, she says: “I am proud of his faith in God. He takes it into the classroom and onto the field. He doesn’t just talk it, he lives it.”<br></p> <p>As a single parent, she received support from the Choctaw Nation as well as their local church in Lane while the kids were growing up. She said Cordell has been “a real positive role model” for his young nephew who has been adopted into the household.<br></p> <p>Zalenski said his mom is urging him to return to the Choctaw Nation, which he said he may do after “testing the waters” outside of the 10 ½ counties. His mother works in the tribal accounting office, while brother Waddell Hearn Jr. is in marketing and sister Amber Hearn is a therapist at WindHorse, a tribally run facility in McAlester.<br></p> <p>But first, there is the matter of a 12-game football season starting this September: “Hopefully, I’ll be wearing some (championship) rings,” Zalenski said.<br></p> <p>It could be the latest in many successes ahead for this Choctaw athlete.<br></p> <p><!-- AddThis Button BEGIN --></p> <div class="addthis_toolbox addthis_default_style "> <a class="addthis_button_facebook_like" fb:like:layout="button_count"></a> <a class="addthis_button_tweet"></a> <a class="addthis_button_pinterest_pinit"></a> <a class="addthis_counter addthis_pill_style"></a> </div> <script type="text/javascript" src="//"></script> <p><!-- AddThis Button END --></p> Tue, 17 Feb 2015 17:35:11 GMT Native Studies master’s degree offered at SE <p><img src="" alt='Native Master's Degree' /><br> <em>Masters students Jennifer Kemp and Twahna Hamill (left to right) with professor and advice Chris Wesberrq on the front lawn of Southeastern Oklahoma State University as students play stickball behind them. Kemp and Hamill are both working to earn master&#8217;s degree in Native Studies.</em></p> <h3>Native Studies master’s degree offered at SE<br></h3> <p><em>by Zach Maxell</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation</em><br> The first participants in a new Native-themed master’s degree program at Southeastern Oklahoma State University have taken to (online) classrooms as of January.<br></p> <p>The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education approved the degree plan last fall. Its official name: The Master of Science in Native American Leadership, known in academic circles by its acronym, MSNAL.<br></p> <p>“Southeastern is recognized around the country as a leader in providing higher education opportunities and services to its Native American students,” said Southeastern President Sean Burrage, a Choctaw Nation tribal member. “This innovative master’s degree certainly enhances the programs we have in place at the university.”<br></p> <p>Co-directors of the new program are Dr. Bryon Clark, a dean at SE and an associate vice president for academic affairs at the university, as well as Chris Wesberry, director of the school’s Native American Center for Student Success.<br></p> <p>“The MSNAL is a result of university faculty and staff working with tribal partners to develop a degree that includes Native American topics and leadership concepts,” Wesberry said. “With this degree, students are able to take courses such as ‘Effective Communication Through Presentations’ while also taking ‘Geography and Treaties.’ The combination of historical and culturally relevant courses and courses focused on leadership skills is very unique.”<br></p> <p>The curriculum was two years in the making, Wesberry said, and includes a required 32 hours from a list of courses with titles such as “Developing the Native American Leader” and “Current Topics in Indian Country.” All classes are online, with students in five states currently enrolled, but live classes could be on the horizon.<br></p> <p>At an average price of $10,000, Wesberry said the Native master’s degree is very affordable compared to those offered at other universities. Coupled with tribal member and employee incentives at the Choctaw Nation, the value becomes evident. “It’s really catered to tribal employees who work 40-plus hours a week,” Wesberry said. “It’s not limited to them, but (tribal employees) were definitely our target. You have to have some leadership skills in all management positions.” Southeastern’s partnership with the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations was enhanced recently with the announcement of a $1.1 million, four-year grant from the U.S. department of Education Office of Indian Education. This Early Childhood Teacher Preparation Grant will assist native students pursuing degrees in early childhood and special education.<br></p> <p>There are currently 30 participants in the master’s program being taught by five instructors. Southeastern also offers an MBA (accounting) program with an emphasis on Native American Leadership. For more information on these new degree tracks, contact Wesberry at (580) 745-2376. Or visit: <a href="">Southeastern Oklahoma State University</a></p> <p><!-- AddThis Button BEGIN --></p> <div class="addthis_toolbox addthis_default_style "> <a class="addthis_button_facebook_like" fb:like:layout="button_count"></a> <a class="addthis_button_tweet"></a> <a class="addthis_button_pinterest_pinit"></a> <a class="addthis_counter addthis_pill_style"></a> </div> <script type="text/javascript" src="//"></script> <p><!-- AddThis Button END --></p> Tue, 17 Feb 2015 17:20:21 GMT 2015 Summer Camps Applications Available <p>Registration has begun for the 2015 summer camps. Complete your <a href="">Application</a> today. </p> Thu, 12 Feb 2015 22:08:46 GMT Town Hall Meetings scheduled to discuss Affordable Care Act <p>Please visit the Choctaw Nation Health Services Authority <a href="">website</a> regarding times, location, and information.</p> Fri, 06 Feb 2015 20:30:35 GMT Agriculture Secretary visits Choctaw Nation <h3>Agriculture Secretary visits Choctaw Nation</h3> <p><strong>Thomas Vilsack meets with tribal officials on 1-year Promise Zone anniversary</strong></p> <p><img src="" align="right" width="325" alt='VilsackTonubbeeFood_Web' /> U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack toured the Choctaw Nation Food Distribution Center in Durant on Thursday as part of an overall progress report on the one-year anniversary of the tribe’s designation as one of President Barack Obama’s Promise Zones. Secretary Vilsack said the facility, which opened in June of 2014, was one of many Choctaw Nation initiatives aimed at improving the well being of low-income families while creating jobs and business opportunities.</p> <p>“Whether a senior citizen on a fixed income or a family struggling, this is an opportunity for you to have access to nutritious food and sufficient quantity to take care of your family,” Vilsack said after a tour of the facility led by Jerry Tonubbee, Choctaw Nation Director of Food Distribution. “What’s nice about this particular facility is it gives people the opportunity to choose and feel like they are in a grocery store setting.”</p> <p>The Secretary also sampled some muffins made by Carmen Robertson, a tribal nutritionist and host of Cooking With Carmen, a Choctaw Nation-sponsored show that encourages healthy eating habits for food distribution program participants.</p> <p>But the tour and taste testing were just a small part of Secretary Vilsack’s visit to Durant on Thursday. He met with Chief Gary Batton and Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr., as well as several tribal leaders and regional leaders from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Choctaw Nation was the first tribal area to be designated under our Promise Zone Initiative,” Vilsack said. “I wanted to get a reading on how well we’ve done over the last year. $4.6 million has been invested by a variety of federal agencies. </p> <p>“I got a good sense today from leaders of the next steps in the process. Very, very great plans, hundreds of millions of dollars in potential investments that could take place, thousands of jobs that could be created – that’s the promise of Promise Zones.” Secretary Vilsack and Chief Gary Batton met and discussed several items of interest to the Choctaw Nation.</p> <p>“It was a great opportunity to visit with Secretary Vilsack on the progress of our Promise Zone initiatives,” said Batton. “We&#8217;ve been successful in creating more jobs and are looking forward to implementing plans to continue improving the economic future of Southeast Oklahoma.” Sara-Jane Smallwood, Director of the Choctaw Nation Promise Zone Initiative, said the tribe was able to show its progress during the first year of the 10-year designation.</p> <p>“The Secretary’s visit is a historic way to mark the one year anniversary of the Promise Zone,” she said. “We were able to demonstrate the steps we have accomplished so far. With the Secretary and Chief Batton providing leadership and guidance, it will make a tremendous impact on southeast Oklahoma over the remaining nine years of the Promise Zone.”</p> <p>USDA officials in attendance of this meeting included Director of Tribal Relations Leslie Wheelock, NRCS State Conservationist Gary O’Neill, and Rural Development State Director Ryan McMullen. Also present were Ouachita National Forest Supervisor Norm Wagner and Durant Mayor Jerry Tomlinson. Secretary Vilsack said it was up to local leaders such as these to work with Choctaw Nation to implement the plans outlined in the tribal Promise Zone Initiative.</p> <p>“There is a very aggressive plan here. The challenge now is to figure out: How do we make that vision a reality, how do we invest in infrastructure,” Secretary Vilsack said. “This is a Promise Zone that is really living up to its responsibilities of being bold and thinking big… This is all about figuring out how to extend paychecks, how to better prepare people for great jobs in the future and how to build those jobs here today. That’s the president’s vision, and after seeing what I saw here today, I’m pretty sure that’s the vision of the Choctaw Nation as well.”</p> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 18:40:14 GMT