Choctaw Nation Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma en-us 40 Choctaw Nation building boom continues <p><img src="" alt='Atoka Chilis Groundbreaking' /><br> <em>Two ground-breaking events have been held in Choctaw Nation this month, for a Chili’s restaurant in Atoka and two new facilities in Smithville.</em><br></p> <h3>New projects for job creation and tribal services celebrated in Atoka and Smithville</h3> <p><em>By Zach Maxwell</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation</em><br></p> <p><strong>Smithville, Okla.</strong> - Expansion of Choctaw Nation facilities is continuing into the summer – even if Mother Nature is being less than cooperative.<br></p> <p>Recent heavy rainfall across Choctaw Country is filling lakes and tearing up roads, as well as dealing minor setbacks for various projects around the Choctaw Nation.<br></p> <p>But that’s not stopping the progress. Ground-breaking ceremonies this month have been held for a Chili’s restaurant in Atoka as well as elder housing and a wellness center in Smithville.<br></p> <p>It is all part of the Choctaw Nation’s 100-year vision to improve facilities, resources and job opportunities for its 173,000 members – 41,000 of whom live in rural southeastern Oklahoma.<br></p> <p>“We’re looking at creating 30 to 40 jobs here in Atoka. They are desperately needed,” said Gary Batton, Chief of the Choctaw Nation, at the Chili’s ground-breaking on May 8. “And we’re continuing to look for more ways to partner with the city of Atoka.”<br></p> <p>Atoka Mayor Bob Frederick called the new restaurant an “amazing” new asset for his city.<br></p> <p>“Choctaws see the potential here, look at this highway,” he said, pointing to a busy U.S. Highway 69/75 in front of the construction site. “All these people could be stopping here to eat. It’s just amazing that this is happening for Atoka.”<br></p> <p>A Chili’s restaurant is also planned for Poteau. Both cities straddle major highways but have been overlooked by national sit-down eateries until this partnership between Chili’s and the Choctaw Nation.<br></p> <p>Meanwhile, the tribe is investing $2.8 million in Smithville for an eight-unit independent housing complex for elders, as well as a 1,300-square-foot wellness center. The latter will include various forms of exercise equipment and will be attached to the existing District 3 Community Center. Councilman Kenny Bryant said these additions were all part of a vision started 20 years ago by previous tribal leaders. The leaders of today are following through on those promises, he said.<br><img src="" align="right" width="250" alt='Smithville Groundbreaking' /></p> <p>“The Chief and Council are getting these things, great things for Smithville,” Bryant said at the May 19 ground-breaking. “It’s a great day for Smithville.”<br></p> <p>The town of a few hundred souls is a half-hour drive from commercial centers of Broken Bow and Mena, Ark., nestled in a pocket among the thickly-wooded hills of northern McCurtain County. Opportunities are few and far between, and a public water system just went into service this year.<br></p> <p>Many Smithville area residents are full-blooded Choctaw elders who either have lived in the area all their lives or returned home after seeking jobs elsewhere. The eight housing units will be located adjacent to the community center, offering ease of access to it and the new wellness center.<br></p> <p>New facilities underway or set to open soon include a casino expansion and a larger clinic in Durant, independent senior housing and a Travel Plaza in Stigler, several service facilities in McAlester and a food distribution center in Broken Bow.<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> Thu, 21 May 2015 15:23:39 GMT Endangered Species Day <p><img src="" alt='buffalo' /><br></p> <h3>Endangered Species Day</h3> <p><em>By Zach Maxwell</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation</em><br></p> <p><strong>Tvshka Homma</strong> - Choctaw Nation recognizes Endangered Species Day (May 15) with a success story about the Yvnnvsh. This is the Chahta Anumpa word for bison, the animal most of us refer to as the “buffalo.”<br></p> <p>Pre-historic herds numbering some 30 million bison were reduced to fewer than 1,000 by the turn of the 20th century. The National Bison Association counts more than 400,000 of the animals today.<br></p> <p>Choctaw Nation maintains a herd of 65 animals on tribal property at Tvshka Homma, near the town of Yanush (a variant spelling of the Choctaw word for “bison.”) Shannon McDaniel, executive director of tribal management, said the animals are fed a mixture of winter hay, commercial feed and pasture grazing. A breeding program is also in place.<br></p> <p>These animals are a popular part of the Labor Day Festival experience; more importantly, they provide a living link to the Native American heritage that helps define Choctaw and numerous other native nations.<br></p> <p>Here are the endangered and threatened species of the Choctaw Nation, listed by county. Information from <a href=""></a>.<br></p> <p>Atoka County: American Burying Beetle, Piping Plover.<br></p> <p>Bryan County: Interior Least Tern, American Burying Beetle, Piping Plover.<br></p> <p>Choctaw County: American Burying Beetle, Interior Least Tern, Scaleshell Mussel, Piping Plover.<br></p> <p>Coal County: American Burying Beetle.<Br></p> <p>Haskell County: American Burying Beetle, Interior Least Tern, Piping Plover.<br></p> <p>Hughes County: Interior Least Tern, Piping Plover, Arkansas River Shiner.<br></p> <p>Latimer County: American Burying Beetle, Piping Plover.<br></p> <p>LeFlore County: American Burying Beetle, Indiana Bat, Interior Least Tern, Ouachita Rock Pocketbook Mussel, Scaleshell Mussel, Piping Plover, Leopard Darter (fish).<br></p> <p>McCurtain County: Black-sided Darter, American Burying Beetle, Indiana Bat, Interior Least Tern, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Ouachita Rock Pocketbook, Winged Mapleleaf Mussel, Piping Plover, Leopard Darter.</p> <p>Pittsburg County: American Burying Beetle, Interior Least Tern, Piping Plover, Arkansas River Shiner.</p> <p>Pushmataha County: American Burying Beetle, Indiana Bat, Interior Least Tern, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Ouachita Rock Pocketbook, Scaleshell, Winged Mapleleaf, Piping Plover, Leopard Darter.</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> Sat, 16 May 2015 19:26:36 GMT A Phoenix Rises <h3>Rebuilding and Surviving After the Trail of Tears</h3> <p><em>By Amadeus Finlay</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation Contributing Writer</em><br></p> <p><em>Note from the author: due to the nature of The Trail of Tears and subsequent social reconstruction in Indian Territory existing as two sequential incidents in social memory, this piece largely concerns the experiences of the first generation of Choctaw in Oklahoma.</em><br> </p> <p><strong>Choctaw Nation</strong> - In the late fall of 1831, as the chill of winter began to creep across the southern Mississippi Valley, the first of the 15,000 Choctaw who would walk the Trail of Tears were torn from their homelands and plunged into a bleak unknown. Two thousand five hundred of them didn’t make it. Other groups left at different times after the first wave, making the several-month journey and experiencing varied hardships along the way.<br></p> <p>For the 12,500 individuals who survived, ahead lay a bleak future in a dry land of dust and predominantly flat prairie, a world entirely contradictory to that which they left behind. Their ancestors, the bones that tied them to the place of their birth, were now a distant memory, and the spirituality so intertwined to their homeland seemingly lost.<br></p> <p>It was a set of circumstances so wretched, so utterly distressing, that this writer would not even attempt to describe them. Yet, this was to be their future, and in this future there were only two choices – either submit to the overwhelming pressures of distress and lose whatever was left of the Choctaw, or rally as a community to rebuild a new home in a strange land. In one of the most inspiring stories of post-Columbian America, the Choctaw did not submit to Jacksonian subjugation, but recovered from the trauma of removal and established a society that was destined to flourish. <br></p> <p>Things did not get off to an easy start. In June 1832, the Arkansas River flooded its banks and washed away a number of significant farms owned by Choctaw families. Already highly vulnerable from their forced exodus and lacking any form of backup, the Choctaw people faced famine. It was an unstable and uncertain period, made all the worse by a succession of epidemics that tore through the communities.<br></p> <p>In time, however, the Choctaw recovered, and within two years had built a stable economy and constructed a comprehensive and sophisticated legal code upon which they based their commerce. In fact, so successful was the Choctaw economy that historian Angie Debo reports of small towns such as Skullyville flourishing with hotels, blacksmiths and stores that quickly became popular stopping points for travelers on their way to California and Texas.<br></p> <p>Arguably, one of the most impressive pieces to the reconstruction puzzle was the Choctaw Constitution of 1834. Not only was it one of the most groundbreaking legal documents of its time, but it possessed such versatility that in 1837 it was successfully modified to accommodate the Chickasaw Nation after they too had been removed from their homelands. Eager to extend their democratic system to their new neighbors, the Choctaw legislature went so far as to surrender one-quarter of their votes to Chickasaw representatives.<br></p> <p>There was more than just capital gain and legislative advances to the Choctaw success story. No sooner had the people arrived in Indian Territory, than they built churches throughout the newly formed communities and established an independent public school system for their children. By the mid-1830s, five schools were operating in the new lands, with 101 students enrolled across the board. In 1844, Spencer Academy was opened, with Armstrong Academy opening two years later.<br></p> <p>Over the next decade, affairs remained fairly stable, and in 1848, the first editions of Choctaw Telegraph were printed in Doaksville, with the Choctaw Intelligencer going into circulation two years later. Around this time, reports begin to surface of large cotton plantations along the Red River, while along the Arkansas and Canadian rivers, prosperous farms with orchards and cornfields, cattle, hogs and fowl were producing in abundance. Such was the relative prosperity of Choctaw land that corn, pecans and cotton were exported in exchange for manufactured goods.<br></p> <p>The legacy of that first generation of Oklahoma Choctaw still resonates today, with many of the older members of society having known someone with a direct connection to those who began life west of the Mississippi. Tribal storyteller and elder, Stella Long, is one such individual. Looking back from almost a century of experiences, Stella remembers meeting James Dyer Jr. the son of Reverend James Dyer. Born in or ¬near Eagletown in 1838, Dyer was a first generation Oklahoma Choctaw whose parents had come west on the Trail of Tears. <br></p> <p>Looking back from the 21st Century, it is patently apparent that these first Choctaws were blessed with a remarkable sense of courage and determination. Not only did they create a completely new existence out of an unfathomable unknown, but in doing so provided the foundation on which today&#8217;s Nation is built; a Nation that believes as much in faith and education as those brave few who made it west.<br></p> <p>Let us celebrate that achievement.<br></p> <p>History is closer than you think.<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, 13 May 2015 14:52:28 GMT Jerry Fuller serves tribe and country <p><img src="" alt='Jerry Fuller Main Photo' /><br> <em>Jerry Fully shows off many of his creations as a taxidermist</em></p> <h3>Serving his country and his tribe</h3> <p><em>By Ronni Pierce</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation</em><br></p> <p><strong>Porter, Okla.</strong> - For over 42 years Jerry Fuller has had his dream job&#8211;a taxidermist by trade and writer/poet by choice. Jerry held a variety of jobs before he found his calling. After leaving the Navy, he dabbled in construction, machine repair, and worked for the phone company. When an injury forced him into retirement, he took up his true passion of taxidermy.<br></p> <p>He loves the work, makes his repeat customers happy, and has the best stories. “I’ve been in this business 42 years in August. I love it and I get to meet the nicest people and hear some of the greatest stories.”<br></p> <p>That’s evident as he peppers his spirited conversation with some of the stories he’s heard over the years, as well as his own homespun wisdom and favorite common sense quotes, such as, “A good conscience makes a soft pillow.” According to Jerry, he started putting his thoughts and memories down on paper about 15 years ago. Reflections of the people who inspire him show up in his poems and stories.<br></p> <p>In fact, the one that inspired him the most is the memory of a child who lived next to his family in Stigler when he was young. The boy had polio and couldn’t walk, but his father made him a cart with two wheels that he hooked up to the family donkey. The boy made the trip to school every day on that cart, lying on his stomach, 2 1/2 miles to the small schoolhouse in the morning and 2 1/2 miles back home in the evening. “The fortitude that kid had,” Jerry explains. “You lay down on a cart on a bumpy road for 2 1/2 miles on your stomach, it’s not very comfortable. But he did it, twice a day. If he can do it, you can do it.”<br></p> <p>And that became the title for his first children’s book, “You Can Do It.” It tells the story of Little Spirit, an orphaned Choctaw child being raised by his grandfather. The little boy can’t walk at first, but with encouragement from his grandfather and his horse Spirit Wind he learns to be a great hunter and protector of his tribe.<br></p> <p>Originally his granddaughter illustrated the book, but when the book’s publisher discovered he had other grandchildren and great grandchildren with talent, she insisted they all contribute their artwork. So all his grandchildren and great grandchildren have at least one picture in the book including drawings of Little Spirit, Spirit Wind, and forest animals.<br></p> <p>The book ends with one of Jerry&#8217;s poems:<br></p> <p>An Indian Prayer<br> May we break an arrow for peace.<br> May we all build one fire.<br> May we catch the flight of the wind.<br> May we be true and faithful till the end!<br> May we build our lodging on a hill,<br> Sheltered from the cold north wind,<br> Shaded from the sun,<br> And soft earth to lay on when day is done.<br> May we have an open view to the stars and moon.<br> May we never have our hearts filled with gloom.<br> May our teepee be filled with love.<br> May the Great Spirit guide us from above.<br> May from our brothers, there never be wrath.<br> May there always be fish in the streams.<br> May we always have happy dreams.<br></p> <p>Another one of Jerry&#8217;s favorite quotes, “If something is worth living for, it has to be worth dying for,” applies to his being drafted after he graduated from Bixby High School. “I kept calling the draft board in Stigler to see if my number was coming up,” he remembers. When he was called, his friends convinced him he should choose the Navy. It was a life changing experience for Jerry.<br></p> <p>During the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, he served on a submarine tender, a supply ship for submarines. He met a lot of nice people and heard a lot of their stories, “Some of them I’ve remembered and written down.”<br></p> <p>With his homeport in Charleston, South Carolina, his ship served 12 submarines in his squadron. He says the old ship never traveled very far, but he recalls being stuck in a bad storm on the outer edge of a hurricane near Key West with waves cresting over the top of the ship.<br><img src="" align="right" width="250" alt='Fuller_3' /></p> <p>“I got out before Vietnam got hot. Got two of my buddies on the Wall. Too many men were lost in that war,&#8221; he stops short and pauses. “But if I was called again, and could do it, I would.”<br></p> <p>“In Korea, I had a brother in the Marine Corps and another brother and brother-in-law in the Army. I was young. But the things I saw my mom and dad go through, the uncertainty,” he reflects a moment, “My sis would address three letters every day with tear stains on them.”<br></p> <p>He doesn’t really remember when he started recording his military memories or setting them to verse. But he takes great pride in the work and in reciting his prose for other members of the military. “I’ve sat on stages with generals, colonels, mayors, and they all have such big lumps in their throats they can’t talk.”<br></p> <p>During a recent trip to the Indian healthcare clinic in Claremore, a woman whose husband was going through diabetes treatment approached Jerry. She had bought his book for her husband and wanted to tell him how much it helped him get through his treatment. Her husband said if that little boy could make it, he could too. It motivated that man, and that makes Jerry both proud and humble, knowing that he can actually help people. “I’m just trying to get my ticket validated.”<br></p> <p>“I’m proud I’m an Indian,” he says. “It can’t get much better than that&#8211;a Navy veteran and an Indian.”<br></p> <p>One of his favorite poems follows:<br></p> <p>The American’s Creed<br> I love this great country. Please show me that I am loved.<br> I don’t know what the future may hold, but with faith, courage, determination, and guidance from above, I’ll help it unfold.<br> Love, guidance and respect from you I ask, regardless of what I did in the past.<br> I ask compassion and forgiveness when I do wrong.<br> I pray my mistake will help me grow strong.<br> Don’t judge me by the things which you have done.<br> Because I know with your help the best is yet to come.<br> Millions of veterans have fought to make this country great.<br> For that, I say thanks.<br> This is my prayer for all mankind:<br> May war and my generation be left behind.<br> Because what I’ve been taught, these things I vow.<br> I’ll always practice the golden rule.<br> Until I get my degree, I’ll stay in school.<br> I’ll respect our flag, and a good example try to be.<br> I’ll do my best to help us remain free.<br> I’ll respect and uphold the laws of this land.<br> Against wrong, I will take a stand.<br> To others I’ll try never to offend.<br> But freedom and justice I will always defend.<br> I’ll never use the words, “I can’t.”<br> Because I know where the future is concerned, I pray, common sense I never lack.<br> And I’ll always remember impossibility is an opinion not a fact.<br> May God bless America.<br></p> <p>Watch the Jerry Fuller interview <a href="">here</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> Thu, 07 May 2015 18:32:04 GMT Ittafama Chito (big meeting) gathers young Choctaw linguists <p><img src="" alt='Language Big Meeting Nicholas Speaking' /><br> <em>Nicholas Charleston and Virginia Espinoza lead the event. This was one of the biggest events of the year for the School of Choctaw Language.</em><br></p> <h3>Ittafama Chito (big meeting) gathers young Choctaw linguists</h3> <p><em>By Brandon Frye</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation</em><br></p> <p><strong>Durant, Oklahoma</strong> - Ittafama Chito, or the &#8220;big meeting,&#8221; gave Choctaw linguists in high school language classes the opportunity to gather and celebrate April 29 at the Choctaw Nation Event Center in Durant.<br></p> <p>The students normally study the Choctaw language during classes offered by the School of Choctaw Language, held over the Internet between instructors in Durant and classes across Choctaw Country. This event is one of only a handful of times the young speakers meet face-to-face, show off their Choctaw to other classmates in other schools, join in on social dancing, and receive recognition for their hard work.<br><img src="" align="right" width="250" alt='Language Big Meeting Student Steals Partner' /></p> <p>Chief Gary Batton attended alongside tribal council members and other dignitaries to congratulate students on their academic successes and show appreciation for their furthering the Choctaw Language. Batton also joined in on social dancing with the students, which at one point grew to include nearly every student in attendance.<br></p> <p>&#8220;If it wasn’t for you, we couldn’t keep this rich culture and history alive for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma,&#8221; Batton told the students. &#8220;I challenge you to not stop here, it’s our challenge to keep this beautiful language of our Choctaw Nation bright and strong.” <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, 01 May 2015 17:54:25 GMT Peter Conser Home Returns to Care of Conser family Line <p><img src="" alt='Conser House' /><br> <em>Angela Conser-McKean rests in the backyard of the Peter Conser Home after giving a family a tour of the location.</em></p> <h3>Peter Conser Home Returns to Care of Conser family Line</h3> <p><em>By Brandon Frye</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation</em><br></p> <p><strong>Heavener, Okla.</strong> - After growing up in Florida away from the stories and people of her ancestry, Angela Conser-McKean moved to Oklahoma to be near family and found herself working as a caretaker of a historical home built by the hands of her great-great grandfather.<br></p> <p>Her distant relative, Peter Conser, was a well-known Choctaw Lighthorseman born in 1852 who lived a life of great impact on a developing Oklahoma. His home, the Peter Conser Home, stands as one of the Oklahoma Historical Society’s (OHS) Historic Homes&#8211;historic sites which the organization claims tell the personal stories of the individuals who built the state of Oklahoma. Conser-McKean’s arrangement with OHS supplies a nearby modern home to her and her husband, with utilities and rent at no cost to the couple. In exchange, Conser-McKean keeps the grounds and interior of the location in pristine condition, plans and holds events filled with learning experiences, and gives tours teaching the history of Peter Conser to anyone interested in visiting.<br></p> <p>“Growing up in Florida I didn’t know anything about Oklahoma or Choctaw history, and it has been amazing learning about my culture,” Conser-McKean said. “I have enjoyed learning some of the stories about Peter, especially from my grandfather.” As Conser-McKean would tell you, the home was built in 1894, near the town now known as Heavener, when Peter Conser was married to his second wife, Martha.<br></p> <p>“The story is there was a tree near a creek which Peter liked to play on when he was a kid,” Conser-McKean said. “He loved that tree and creek, so when he decided he wanted to live somewhere he came back here.”<br></p> <p>Visitors can still spot a very large, old tree just behind the homestead to this day.<br></p> <p>Martha was pregnant with Peter’s 10th child, and the couple needed a bigger home to raise their family. Unfortunately, Martha died during childbirth about two months before the house was finished. But Peter did go on to raise his children in the home. Conser was well equipped for life on the frontier, according to Conser-McKean. Many experiences from his youth readied him for the hardships found in early-Oklahoma.<br></p> <p>Peter’s father was a Swiss immigrant. His Choctaw mother died when he was only 10. <br></p> <p>An old Choctaw named Ainetubby took a young Peter in, helped raise him, and taught him how to work.<br></p> <p>According to Conser-McKean, Peter wrote about an advancing group of Union soldiers who pushed the group of Choctaws Peter lived with into fleeing. Escaping this situation, Peter found himself taking refuge at Robert Jones’ plantation.<br></p> <p>Jones was a wealthy Choctaw with the confederate army. Peter was able to take refuge on his plantation and learn how to farm during his interactions with the slaves. When the war was over, Peter and a friend of his came back to the Heavener area as teens.<br></p> <p>Locals formed a small settlement including a general store and post office near the location where the Peter Conser Home sits. Peter played a large role in this community, offering a gristmill for everyone to grind their grains, a blacksmith shop for metalwork, and a sawmill, which made many coffins as a result of the 1918 flu pandemic.<br></p> <p>His great-great granddaughter, Conser-McKean, said she wants to help her community and open the Peter Conser Home just like he did.<br></p> <p>Taking care of other people and being there for the community was something that Peter and his family did,” Conser-McKean said. “If a child didn’t have a home, Peter opened his home to them. Maybe we can’t still open the Peter Conser Home to live in, but we can hold events for them to come learn and experience something.<br></p> <p>Conser-McKean said since Chief Batton became Chief, the Peter Conser Home has had more Choctaw activities. She listed a quilt show, a pottery class, and plans to start holding stickball games on the property, she said because Peter used to host them in his day.<br></p> <p>Erin McDaniel, with Choctaw Nation Tourism, said her department has worked with the Peter Conser Home, advertised the recent 150th Anniversary event, promoted the site through social media, and submitted it to the website <a href=""></a>. She said the Tourism Department is actively finding ways to partner with the home.<br></p> <p>Kathy Dickson, Director of Museums and Historic Sites with the Oklahoma Historical Society, said the arrangement her organization worked out with the family is a way for the family to share their heritage with visitors. <br></p> <p>“It is Angela’s family history,” Dickson said. “It’s not just a job for her, it’s part of her family heritage. She is very committed to the property.”<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, 22 Apr 2015 17:50:34 GMT Tvshka Homma Female Institute Highway Marker Unveiled <p><img src="" alt='Female Institute Highway Marker POSED' /><br> <em>Chief Gary Batton, Tribal Council Members, and descendents of the first institute superintendent unveil the highway marker.</em><br></p> <h3>Tvshka Homma Female Institute Highway Marker Unveiled</h3> <p><em>By Brandon Frye</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation</em><br></p> <p><strong>Tvshka Homma, Okla.</strong> - In 1892, near the Choctaw Capitol, the Tvshka Homma Female Institute (alternatively, the Choctaw Female Academy) opened its doors for up to 100 young Choctaw women to develop an education, and after burning down, being turned into a home, and purchased by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO), the site received a historical highway marker on April 15.<br></p> <p>Cooperation between CNO and the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS) lead to the placement of the highway marker as part of a statewide program, which started in the 1940’s and has grown to include more than 650 markers. <br></p> <p>According to Kathy Dickson, Director of Museums and Historic Sites for OHS, historical markers let travelers know when they are near a historical site, and inform them of what happened there. She said many times people travel and don’t know what is in the area or the historical importance, and the markers help.<br></p> <p>The Tvshka Homma Female Institute location earned one of these markers for being of historic importance for the Choctaw Nation and the state of Oklahoma.<br></p> <p>Peter Hudson was an original enrollee and the first superintendent for the institute. Three of his grandchildren&#8211;John Hooser, Suzanne Heard, and Betty Heard Watson (who were all educators themselves)&#8211;attended the unveiling of the highway marker to share their first and second-hand knowledge of the institute.<br><img src="" align="right" width="250" alt='Female Institute School' /></p> <p>“After the location burned [in 1925], the land and material were sold. Anna Lewis, she was a teacher, bought this place,” Hooser said. He explained the new owners salvaged material from the institute to build a home for retirement, a home Hooser eventually lived in during his youth.<br></p> <p>“If you look at the old pictures, you’ll find these rocks and bricks were all part of the original structure,” he said. Ownership of the location changed hands a number of times, and the spacious interior and rolling hills of the surrounding land offered home and shelter to each new family.<br></p> <p>In 2014, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma purchased ownership of the historic site, which rests in the middle of established Choctaw land being used for ranching.<br></p> <p>Hooser’s cousin, Suzanne Heard, said, “I’m so thrilled that our great Chief Gary Batton, Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr., and the Tribal Council consented to buy the property here. My mother was born here, and my grandfather was the first superintendent.”<br></p> <p>CNO’s departments of Historic Preservation and Tourism have not yet planned what is in store for the location, though contacts from both expressed a desire to work together.<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, 22 Apr 2015 17:33:22 GMT Choctaw Nation partners with City of Atoka to help finish sports complex <p><img src="" alt='atoka_ballpark' /><br> As part of the Community Development Initiative, Choctaw Nation partnered with the City of Atoka to help finish the new Atoka Sports Complex. Choctaw Nation provided a parking lot and walking path with lights around the park. A dedication ceremony was held April 21, 2015. &#8220;To see a facility like this, Atoka you should be extremely proud. As Chief, I’m proud to be a part of a community that’s progressing like the town of Atoka and to have such a beautiful facility like this,” says Chief Gary Batton. Pictured with Chief Batton are Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr., Atoka Mayor Bob Frederick, and Councilman Anthony Dillard. </p> Tue, 21 Apr 2015 21:37:25 GMT Assistant Jack Austin Jr. is ECU Distinguished Alumnus <p><img src="" alt='AC Jack Austin JR ECU Alumni' /><br> <em>Linda Massey presents Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr. with a Distinguished Alumni award from East Central University. Austin earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the university.</em><br></p> <h3>Assistant Jack Austin Jr. is ECU Distinguished Alumnus</h3> <p><em>By Brandon Frye</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation</em><br></p> <p><strong>Ada, Okla.</strong> - Assistant Chief Jack Austin, Jr., received a Distinguished Alumni Award from East Central University (ECU) in Ada on April 17.<br></p> <p>The Distinguished Alumni Award, granted by ECU’s Department of Human Services, recognizes alumni who attain distinctive success in his or her chosen field and perform outstanding service for their community. Service and contributions to the advancement of the university are also considered.<br></p> <p>Awardees must be graduates or former students of the university, and Assistant Chief studied extensively at ECU alongside his wife Philisha Austin. He earned an undergraduate degree in human resources, a master’s degree in education, and earned credit toward being a Licensed Professional Counselor at the university. <br></p> <p>Austin then went on to serve in the military, work in the healthcare system in the Material Management department, and spent time as program director for the Choctaw Nation Recovery Center, before being selected as Assistant Chief.<br></p> <p>Austin said he did not set out to earn titles. “What I set out to do was merely help people, the best I could,” he said. One of Austin’s mentors, Linda Massey, Professor at ECU and Coordinator of Clinical Rehabilitation and the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program, said she has known and respected Austin for years.<br></p> <p>“Jack really is such an inspiration, and such a blessing to his family, his friends, as well as the Choctaw community,” Massey said. “He has been with the Choctaw Nation for 24 years. He has been a youth pastor, a mentor, someone that all people can look up to with his humble heart. He leads by his faith and the love of his people.”<br></p> <p>Speaking of Assistant Chief, President of ECU John Hargrave said, “We are very proud of Jack Austin Jr., and his wife Philisha. Both are East Central University alumni. Everyone who knows Jack stresses what an outstanding man and leader he is. We are pleased to have him as this year’s Distinguished Alumni in Counseling.”<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, 21 Apr 2015 15:12:48 GMT We Never Lose Hope <p><img src="" alt='Isabelle's Garden 4/20/15' /><br></p> <h3>The Inspirational Message behind Isabelle&#8217;s Garden</h3> <p><em>By Amadeus Finlay</em><br> <em>Contributing Writer</em><br></p> <p>The world of cinema has long been the realm of immense budgets and computer generated animation, but in a small corner of southeastern Oklahoma a pair of native filmmakers have successfully challenged the status quo. Debuting to critical acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival, Isabelle&#8217;s Garden is a moving, eight-minute film detailing how one young Choctaw girl works through poverty to ensure that her society can benefit from the produce of her vegetable patch.<br> </p> <p>&#8220;My husband, Jeffrey, and I were inspired to make a film about uplifting stories in our communities,&#8221; explains the film&#8217;s producer, Lauren Palmer.<br> </p> <p>&#8220;Far too often do you see negative stories surrounding Indian Country. We wanted to overturn that perception by allowing a young girl to be the catalyst for change and lifting up her people from poverty and supporting the community.&#8221;<br></p> <p>The film opens with the familiar sounds of dawn, &#8220;weary voices of the crickets and the frogs&#8221; as Isabelle describes it, played over a moody summer morning bruised by an irritable tumult of rainclouds. Isabelle wakes up in a lonely house – we see no other people – her dirty feet poking out the end of her bedclothes, the austere surroundings of her bedroom in direct contrast to the abundance reflected in the vegetable patch outside her window.<br></p> <p>The house is dusty and untended, the cobwebbed corners sprinkled with dried garden mud. But nothing is by chance in Palmer&#8217;s statement piece; all the imagery is intentional, everything deliberately planned to submerge the audience in the reality of Isabelle&#8217;s world. Hers is an existence that is focused on the garden, and the few possessions she owns are singularly designed to help to nurture her plants. And it is here that we find the crux of the film, the basis upon which the allegory is formed. Isabelle, despite living in less than favorable circumstances in which she dreams of a world &#8220;where poverty doesn&#8217;t exist,” is committed to being a symbol of hope, advocating strong social values in a community that needs them most.<br></p> <p>She writes words of encouragement on scraps of brown paper, &#8220;ahni&#8221; (hope) na-yimmi (believe in something) hvpi kvnia kiyo (we will never lose) i-hullo (love), and attaches them to the baskets of vegetables she gives to her neighbors. They are &#8220;to lift people&#8217;s spirits,” she says, each note as much a cultural marker as a kind gesture.<br> </p> <p>The film concludes with Isabelle providing her neighbors with their gifts, commentating throughout on the value of community and the promise of cooperation. It is a simple, yet devastatingly effective use of the visual arts to convey a message relevant to so many. Isabelle is a refreshingly honest character, and in 14-year-old Isabelle Cox, the actress who plays the lead character, both film and reality have an icon in the making.<br></p> <p>Isabelle has an impressive resume. She has attended the Shakespearean Festival at Southeastern Oklahoma State University on several occasions, and recently served as Little Miss Choctaw Nation. But for all her star-struck experiences, Isabelle Cox is more affected by the stories and issues that have the greatest impact on her people.<br></p> <p>&#8220;The film is indicative of Native life in many tribes throughout the United States,&#8221; explains her father, Nate. &#8220;Poverty produces several unfortunate circumstances that Native people struggle with on a daily basis, and this includes accessibility to sufficient food resources.&#8221;<br></p> <p>&#8220;Isabelle loves representing the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma in any capacity she can, and when she was approached to star in the film, it seemed to be a perfect combination of two of the things closest to her heart.&#8221;<br></p> <p>Isabelle&#8217;s Garden is a marker upon which future social film projects can only be judged. Free from convoluted storylines or secondary distractions, here is a film with a clear message that can speak to the generations. This acclaim is a sentiment felt by many, yet the impact that it brought came as a surprise to some, not least of which was Lauren Palmers.<br> </p> <p>&#8220;We did not know how successful the film would be,&#8221; she explains, &#8220;Our idea from the beginning was to tell a story about poverty that transcended many audiences.”<br> </p> <p>She pauses for a moment, reflecting on the content of her masterpiece.<br></p> <p>&#8220;These,&#8221; she stresses, &#8220;these are the stories we need to hear today.&#8221;<br></p> <p>Isabelle’s Garden can be viewed in full at <a href="">here</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> Mon, 20 Apr 2015 13:58:04 GMT