Choctaw Nation Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma en-us 40 Running for Chiefs <p><img src="" alt='James Winchester' /><br> <em>Choctaw tribal member James Winchester on the field for the Kansas City Chiefs. He expects to see action this fall as a long snapper for the NFL team. (Photo courtesy Kansas City Chiefs)</em><br></p> <h3>Winchester takes Sooner success to the next level</h3> <p><em>By Zach Maxwell</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation</em><br></p> <p>James Winchester, of Washington, Okla., is the latest Choctaw to “go pro” in the world of sports.<br></p> <p>Winchester hails from a family known for its success in athletic efforts at the University of Oklahoma. Winchester, his father and both sisters have all made their marks on Sooner sports.<br></p> <p>He is taking it to the next level as a deep snapper for the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL. Winchester will be on the roster for training camp and likely well into the pre-season as he competes with another deep snapper for the only position on the squad.<br></p> <p>“There’s not a spot available every year, so it’s a ‘right place at the right time’ sort of thing,” he said. “It’s been my goal and dream to play in the NFL, so I’m thankful for this opportunity to go to work every day and make this dream a reality.”<br></p> <p>He was a punter at Washington High School, just like his father Michael was at OU for their 1985 national championship. But James also dabbled in the world of quarterbacks, giving him the foundation to be a long snapper at OU. He “won the job” for the first three games of his freshman year in Norman and remained with the team through the 2011 season as its deep snapper.<br></p> <p>He tried out for the NFL at the 2012 Kansas City rookie camp, but was told he needed to bulk up his 6-foot-4 frame. While working on this, he also tried his hand in the oil and gas fields of southern Oklahoma.<br></p> <p>And, he didn’t give up on his dream. He caught the attention of several NFL teams in 2013, signing with the Philadelphia Eagles but losing the coveted spot to a longtime veteran.<br></p> <p>Winchester found himself back in roughneck country in Oklahoma, but he kept working out at high school weight rooms or anywhere he could find in the remote oil and gas fields.<br></p> <p>“It’s tough to stay in shape when your career is taking you outside of football,” he said. He tried out for the Colts and Browns, and attended a free agent camp in Arizona.<br></p> <p>Finally, he signed with the Chiefs in March of this year and has been involved in a strength and condition program since April.<br></p> <p>Winchester’s involvement with Choctaw Nation included a role as part of a tribally-sponsored rowing team at Paddle for the Cure, a “dragon boat” race in Oklahoma City. He assisted friend Seth Fairchild, from the Chahta Foundation, as well as former OU teammate Jordan Eagle Road and his brother Billy in this effort to raise funds and awareness in the fight against breast cancer.<br></p> <p>His first NFL community service event was also special, he said. The “Punt, Pass &amp; Kick” event was held in Lawrence, Kansas in conjunction with the American Indian Center of the Great Plains recently.<br></p> <p>“I met a lot of Choctaw kids, so it was neat for it to be my first community service event,” Winchester said. His sister Rebecca was a walk-on for the OU rowing team and eventually earned scholarships in the sport, as did another sister, Carolyn, in Lady Sooners basketball.<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, 31 Jul 2015 17:37:53 GMT Language school prepares Choctaw community teachers <p><img src="" alt='Language Scrabble' /><br> <em>Guest speaker Linda Skinner shares examples of incorporating history and interactivity in learning the Choctaw language. She holds a custom, decorated Choctaw edition of the game Scrabble she made herself using a standard game set. (Photo by Brandon Frye)</em><br></p> <h3>Language school prepares Choctaw community teachers</h3> <p><em>By Brandon Frye</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation</em><br></p> <p><strong>Durant, Okla.</strong> - Roughly 50 Choctaw community language instructors strengthened their understanding of the language during this year’s Choctaw Language Community Teachers Workshop held at the School of Choctaw Language in Durant from May 18-19.<br></p> <p>The purpose of the event, now in its third year, was to bring community teachers together to provide tools, resources, and materials to enhance their teaching skills and further their understanding of the structure of the Choctaw language. The next step is for these community teachers to spread their knowledge and increase the speaking abilities of our language learners overall.<br></p> <p>“The better equipped we are as language teachers, the better we are as teachers to ‘breakdown’ and ‘simplify’ the teaching of the language as we continue on the mission to perpetuate and revitalize the language for future generations,” said Teresa Billy, Assistant Director of the School of Choctaw Language.<br></p> <p>Topics like grammar, storytelling, lesson planning, and student engagement were discussed, and interacted with in small groups.<br></p> <p>Special guest speakers Linda Skinner, Barbara Routledge, and Freddie Bowles instructed the two-day event with insight, tips, and tricks they developed over their teaching careers. Combined, the three hold 75 years of teaching experience and wisdom.<br></p> <p>Skinner shared some personal stories, including her ongoing desire to learn more about the Choctaw culture, as well as showing off the Choctaw art and poetry some of her students crafted over the years. She also provided examples of how to incorporate history and culture into language lessons.<br></p> <p>Speaking to the room full of language instructors, Skinner said it was people like them who made it possible for her to get involved with the language and culture. “You made it possible for a little girl who grew up wanting it to get it,” she said.<br></p> <p>Though the lessons were aimed at community instructors, much of the knowledge would help anyone interested in learning more Choctaw. For example, the game Scrabble can be played using only Choctaw words to make learning fun, and creating poems and stories using Choctaw helps solidify an understanding of the language while keeping Choctaw art alive.<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, 31 Jul 2015 14:11:50 GMT Iti Fabvssa: The Battle of Massard Prairie <p><img src="" alt='Iti Fabvssa - The Battle of Massard Prairie1 ' /><br> <em>1st Regiment Choctaw Mounted Rifle re-enactors await the mock battle at Massard Prairie. Below, a re-created camp scene at the reenactment. (Photos by Nick Wallace)</em><br></p> <h3>The Battle of Massard Praire<br></h3> <p>For this month’s edition of Iti Fabvssa, we are going to go back in time to an important battle that involved a number of Choctaw soldiers during the later stages of the American Civil War. First, a bit of background.<br></p> <p>At the beginning of the American Civil War, federal military units had withdrawn from their outposts in Choctaw Nation. By doing so, the federal government broke a treaty agreement to protect the Choctaw people, and left the Choctaw Nation essentially surrounded by Confederate forces. The only choices left to tribal leadership were to be destroyed, to leave the area as war refugees, or to join the Confederacy. Many of the individuals who interacted with the Choctaw on behalf of the Confederacy were the same Southern men with whom the Choctaw had dealt as representatives of the United States government during the years before the war. With no more promising alternative, the Choctaw Nation signed a treaty with the Confederacy on July 12, 1861. Among its 64 articles were pledges that Confederate forces would protect the Choctaw Nation at all cost from a Union invasion if one were to occur, that Choctaw forces would not be conscripted to fight outside of Indian Territory, and that a Choctaw/Chickasaw delegate would be a part of the House of Representatives of the Confederate States of America. Ultimately, very few of these promises were kept.<br></p> <p>During the Civil War, Choctaw men were repeatedly asked to leave Choctaw Nation to fight federal forces in Missouri, Arkansas, and other areas of what is now Oklahoma. With the men’s absence, it was difficult for people back home to get full crops planted and harvested. As the war progressed, refugees from tribes farther to the north, including the Cherokee and Muscogee moved into Choctaw country, putting a heavier strain on already short food supplies. To make matters worse, in early 1864, a Union army under Maj. Gen Blunt invaded the western Choctaw Nation, pushing all the way to the Red River. As Choctaw homes and fields were destroyed in the army’s path, some non-Choctaw Confederate forces sat in safety on the south side of the river. Thereafter, many Choctaw citizens were destitute, hungry, and suffering continuing depredations from bandit gangs.<br></p> <p>This brings us to the Battle of Massard Prairie, an event that demonstrates something special about the Choctaw character. By this point in the war, Choctaws had been fighting for three years; promises made by the Confederacy to the Choctaw people had been broken; houses and crops had been destroyed, and Choctaw citizens were suffering considerably. Because these Choctaw soldiers received no pay and very little provisions from the Confederacy, they were probably hungry and frustrated and wanting to attend to their families at home. It might seem that they had no real reason to leave Choctaw Nation to risk their lives fighting for the Confederacy once again. Yet, they had something powerful within them; the sprit and determination of a Choctaw warrior.<br></p> <p>On the 26th of July, 1864, Confederate Col. Douglas Cooper got word that Union troops were camped out in vulnerable positions around Fort Smith, Arkansas. He sent a force of about 600 men, comprised of Choctaw soldiers, Chickasaw soldiers, and soldiers from Texas, to attack one of these camps. Plans changed as the situation developed, but ultimately, this force, commanded by Brigadier General R. M Gano, attacked the camp of the 6th Kansas Cavalry (200 men) at dawn a few miles southwest of Fort Smith. The attack happened so swiftly, that the cavalry was unable to round up its horses, which had been grazing in the pasture. The Union troops were forced to fight on foot.<br></p> <p>After putting up initial resistance, the 6th Kansas Cavalry was routed and driven 2 and ½ miles across the prairie. More than 100 Union men were captured, along with 200 rifles and 400 pistols. The Confederate force lost seven men. After the quick attack, Gano’s men headed back to Oklahoma virtually unscathed. They hoped to ambush any pursuers along the way. Looking back, the Battle of Massard Prairie is significant in Choctaw history on multiple levels. In terms of the American Civil War, the top-of-the-line weapons that were captured from the 6th Kansas Cavalry helped the poorly supplied Choctaw units keep up armed resistance until the bitter end. In fact, it was within the Choctaw Nation that the last Confederate general surrendered, Stand Watie (a Cherokee) at Doaksville, June 23, 1865.<br><img src="" align="right" width="250" alt='iti Fabvssa - The Battle of Massard Prairie2 ' /></p> <p>In terms of personnel, several prominent Choctaw Nation leaders fought at Massard Prairie. Col. Simpson Folsom was noted for his bravery in pressing the attack on the Union camp. Col. Jack McCurtain “Tvshkahoma,” was waiting with a Choctaw force to ambush any Union forces that may have pursued Folsom and the others into Indian Territory. McCurtain would later become the Chief of the Choctaw Nation, and would lead the nation through Reconstruction; the Choctaw Council House and the town of Tuskahoma, are both named after him. William Cass, “Tiakhomma,” a signatory to the 1858 Choctaw constitution, served as the chaplain for the Choctaw troops at the Battle of Massard Prairie. He lost his life in this engagement, while leading an attack and is likely buried on the battlefield. “Red Pine,” the English translation of “Tiakhomma,” is a modern street in Fort Smith named after this man. <br></p> <p>As for its legacy, the Battle of Massard Prairie has been and continues to be seen as a testament to the resilience of Choctaw soldiers who faced incredible hardship during the American Civil War. To the best of the author’s knowledge, the Battle of Massard Prairie represents the last major victory attained by Choctaw units fighting with the Confederacy, and in broader terms, it also represents the last time in Choctaw history that a victory was attained by full Choctaw military units. Today, despite encroaching development, a portion of the battlefield is preserved in the Massard Prairie Battlefield Park, maintained by the town of Fort Smith. Each year, a reenactment is held, on-site, with Choctaw tribal members as regular participants.<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, 29 Jul 2015 13:38:00 GMT Batton Scholar Spotlight: Kendra Germany <p><img src="" alt='Batton Scholar Kendra Germany' /><br></p> <h3>Batton Scholar Spotlight: Kendra Germany</h3> <p><em>By Zach Maxwell</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation</em><br></p> <p><em>(Editor’s note: This is the second in a series about the six recipients of the Batton Family Scholarship, which has been offered since 2012 to Choctaw students who are close to graduating at Southeastern Oklahoma State University.)</em><br></p> <p><strong>Durant, Okla.</strong> - Kendra Germany has always wanted to be a writer.<br></p> <p>And her mother always urged her to seek out an education after graduating from Coleman High School. With those two goals in mind, she set her sights on a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Southeastern Oklahoma State University.<br></p> <p>She used a combination of OHLAP funds and Choctaw Nation Higher Education grants to get most of the way through the financial portion of a four-year degree. But she needed that extra push to pave the way for her senior year.<br></p> <p>In 2012, she was named one of the first recipients of the Gary &amp; Angie Batton Family Scholarship. In 2013, she graduated with her journalism degree.<br></p> <p>“It was an honor to be chosen. I was really thankful and proud that I was selected,” said Germany. “I’ve just always liked writing. I want to be somewhere in media, whether it be newspapers or magazines.”<b></p> <p>She is currently working as a receptionist at her brother Dr. John Germany’s chiropractic office in Durant. She also recently accepted an opportunity to be a contributing writer for her tribal newspaper, the Biskinik.<br></p> <p>The Germany siblings are the second generation of Choctaws in their family to attain college degrees. Their mother, Sheila, is a teacher at Coleman.<br></p> <p>“My mom is the reason I got an education,” Kendra said. “She made sure we put education first.”<br></p> <p>That guidance has helped steer the Germany siblings toward their goals and dreams.<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, 28 Jul 2015 18:40:28 GMT Mother, daughter team graduate nursing school <p><img src="" alt='Melinda Hobbs' /><br> <em>Kayla Hobbs Partridge and her mother, Melinda Hobbs, graduate Practical Nursing School.</em><br></p> <h3>Mother, daughter team graduate nursing school</h3> <p><em>By Lisa Reed</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation</em><br></p> <p>Melinda Hobbs started out as a health care provider approximately 26 years ago. At that time, she was a mother of triplets and felt it would be impossible for her to attend any type of training to further her education. However, she knew that she wanted to take care of people. Melinda had always dreamed of being a nurse, but as time passed, her level of confidence continued to drop. During the fall of 2013, she approached Choctaw Nation Career Development for direction and to inquire about funding for CNA training.<br> </p> <p>Once she became a CNA, she went through the Home Health Aid Training in the spring of 2014. During this time her daughter, Kayla Hobbs Partridge, decided she wanted to go through the Licensed Practical Nurse program at Kiamichi Technology Center. She encouraged her mother to go with her and apply.<br></p> <p>The two attended Career Development’s nurse prep workshops and applied at Idabel for the Licensed Practical Nurse program in the spring. They were accepted into the 11-month program which proved to be a very trying time for Melinda. It had been years since she had been in the classroom setting, and because of that, she utilized the tutoring that Career Development provided.<br></p> <p>Finally, this summer, she and her daughter graduated from the Practical Nursing School. This was the first mother and daughter team to attend Idabel KTC Practical Nursing. Melinda is a prime example that with hard work and determination, dreams do come true.<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> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 20:19:19 GMT Young actor Mayo’s career on the rise <p><img src="" alt='Cody Mayo' /><br> <em>Photo provided by Bjoern Kommerell.</em><br></p> <h3>Young actor Mayo’s career on the rise</h3> <p><em>By Brandon Frye</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation</em><br></p> <p><strong>Los Angeles, Cali.</strong> - Cody Mayo, a Choctaw Nation member, is living his life-long dream: to be an actor. After graduating from the University of Oklahoma and moving to Los Angeles, his career took off.<br> </p> <p>Most recently, Mayo acted as a guest star alongside veteran actors on TNT&#8217;s television series “Major Crimes,” a police show and spin off to “The Closer.” Mayo’s episode is slated to air on Monday, July 27, at 8 p.m. (C.S.T.).<br></p> <p>Mayo, who grew up in Saginaw, Texas, recalled the support he received as a child from both his parents. His Choctaw heritage came from Dale Mayo, his father, who had spent time with production work, building sets, and designing lights and sound for theatrical shows. His mother, Cathy Green, dabbled in country music performance. Mayo said both his parents supported his dream of becoming an actor and actively encouraged him.<br></p> <p>“My earliest memory would be with my dad who took me to the theater in Fort Worth called Casa Mañana,” Mayo said. “I saw a production there and was hooked immediately.”<br></p> <p>His drive for acting stuck with him through grade school and into high school, when Mayo said he started pursuing acting aggressively and winning awards.<br></p> <p>Mayo was the first in his family to attend university directly after high school. Getting into college was a foreign experience. He said all he knew was he wanted to act. He was drawn to OU for the arts program, the competitive acting school that accepts only 40 people from across the globe each year.<br></p> <p>After graduating, Mayo moved to L.A. He started auditioning right away for several popular television shows. He said they were all big roles.<br></p> <p>In December 2014, Mayo booked his first job, a character named Todd on MTV’s series “Faking It.” Then in 2015 he landed the role of Joe Walker on the NBC pilot “The Curse of the Fuentes Women.”<br></p> <p>His newest casting as a guest star on TNT’s popular series “Major Crimes” is a sign of good things to come.<br></p> <p>“I’m auditioning on a weekly basis for shows you see on TV or movies you see in theaters,” Mayo said. “It’s been a really great experience, and the exciting part is, it’s just the beginning.”<br></p> <p>Mayo says he owes a lot of gratitude to the Choctaw Nation for the support during college, with scholarships. He also expressed an appreciation of Lindy Waters, a Native mentor during his time at OU.<br></p> <p>“I owe a lot to my heritage and spirituality. It developed in me a foundation, the spirit of not giving up,” Mayo said. “I knew once I decided on this career it was going to be a very difficult road. You hear ‘no’ a lot. So I knew I would have to have the ability to rise from the ashes.”<br></p> <p>He said he wants his story to be a source of motivation for adolescents in the Choctaw Nation.<br> </p> <p>“It doesn’t matter where you come from, your circumstances. You can really achieve what you want,” Mayo said. “Don’t let yourself be held back. Discover how your heritage can empower you. Because, when you pursue dreams, you have to be able to rebound and not give up. A lot of this power comes from family and heritage.”<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, 23 Jul 2015 15:19:50 GMT Grand Opening of the Grand Theater <p><img src="" alt='Resort Ribbon Cutting' /><br></p> <h3>Celebs add glam to noteworthy event at Choctaw Casino Resort</h3> <p><em>By Charles Clark</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation</em><br></p> <p><strong>Durant, Okla.</strong> - It’s not unusual to find fun and excitement in the Choctaw Casino. But June 28 saw even more thrills and glitz, as the new Grand Theater was opened with a ribbon cutting at- tended by Chief Gary Batton, Choctaw Nation officials, and one of America’s most legendary rock’n’roll bands, Aerosmith.<br></p> <p>No fewer than 200 people—members of the Choctaw Nation, local dignitaries and the public—were on hand to witness the occasion.<br></p> <p>Chief Batton addressed the turnout noting it was an important and joyous milestone in the long and difficult trail of the Choctaw people. Amid the glee of the occasion, Batton’s comments brought gravitas and a sense of pride in this latest accomplishment of Choctaw enterprise. He also pointed out that the 400 construction workers and now 300 added staff members have brought 700 new employment opportunities to southeast Oklahoma.<br></p> <p>Executive Director of Choctaw Gaming Janie Dillard said, “It’s not over yet,” as she zestfully listed the new features of the facility, which opened along with the Grand Theater.<br><img src="" align="right" width="250" alt='Resort Aerosmith' /><br></p> <p>Vocalist Steven Tyler, guitarist Joe Perry and other members of Aerosmith were on hand to help those at the ribbon cutting ceremony “Dream On.” Attention shifted in all directions as rock stars, top leaders of the Choctaw Nation, flashing lights of the casino, and the bling of new spa hallways, competed for the eyes and ears of the crowd.<br></p> <p>The three suites and 3,000 seats of the Grand Theater had sold out days in advance for the concert by platinum-recording artists Aerosmith. Barely two weeks into its Blue Army 2015 Tour, Aerosmith wowed cheering head bangers in an energy-filled, 90-minute parade of hit songs that included “Cryin’,” “Rag Doll,” “Jaded,” “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion.”<br> Sounds from their 1970’s wild youth-style, through the MTV video star-years, to the perfecting of their rock classics in stadiums took fans on a journey of nostalgia while demonstrating the lexicon of their influence.<br> <iframe width="300" height="200" align="right" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe><br> Dillard said that acts are booked at the venue through December. Standing in the wings are Kenny Rogers and Wynonna, who are in concert Aug. 6; Three Dog Night and Nazareth, Aug. 8; Boston, Aug. 27; Nickelback, Sept. 4; BJ Thomas and The Righteous Brothers’ Bill Medley, Sept. 19; and the “Queen of Country” Loretta Lynn, Oct. 3. The Band Perry, Aretha Franklin and more are scheduled before New Year’s Eve arrives.<br></p> <p>The new Spa Tower offers a luxury experience for those needing a getaway. While staying in a choice of hundreds of rooms and suites, guests may enjoy a hair salon, barbershop, mani-pedi nail care, chemical peels, and state-of-the-art fitness center found in the 25,000-square-foot facility. Robes and sandals are provided for those who enter the co-ed mineral baths area. Water terraces over tiles, into the soaking mineral salts from Savoy, Hungary. And if that doesn’t get you relaxed enough, massages, facials and light refreshments can be ordered up. One example is the naturally refreshing cactus toning wrap and foot revitalizing treatment.<br></p> <p>Business travelers can make use of a new Conference Center. The 14,000-square-foot Magnolia Grand Ballroom has its own kitchen, which can accommodate more than 800 diners. Versatile private suites and 16 fully equipped meeting rooms allow for the needs of any size gathering.<br></p> <p>From bridal parties, couples retreats and business seminars to the casino excitement of world poker tours and today’s favorite musical entertainment, the Choctaw Casino Resort is an oasis in southeast Oklahoma and the Grand Theater rocks.</p> <p>To go: The Choctaw Casino Resort and the Grand Theater are located at 4418 S. Hwy 69/75 in Durant. It is suggested that those interested in attending a particular concert not delay in making reservations. Several of the upcoming shows are nearly sold out. At this writing, for example, fewer than 50 seats remain for Boston. For Box Office information, call (800) 628- 1403 or visit online <a href=""></a>.<br></p> <p><img src="" alt='Resort Art' /><br></p> <h3>Choctaw artists create original décor<br></h3> <p>Hotels often display art. But it’s usually from mass printings, mundane in nature—just something to break up lengthy walls of taupe.<br></p> <p>Not so at the Choctaw Casino Resort’s new Spa Tower, where original creations by five contemporary Choctaw artists adorn the new expansion.<br></p> <p>A good starting point is always at the beginning. To view the nouveau art at Choctaw Casino Resort, guests need only to approach the registration desk. Five impressive works can be found directly behind check-in.<br></p> <p>Chief Gary Batton is quoted in a brochure on the project: “I am excited to see our Choctaw artists highlighted in the interior design of the Durant resort expansion&#8230; We invite you to visit the art displays and learn of the great heritage and culture of the Choctaw people.”<br></p> <p>More one-of-a-kind pieces can be observed when strolling the hallways from the lobby into the new 25,000-square-foot facility.<br></p> <p><strong>The Artists</strong><br></p> <p><em>DYLAN CAVIN</em> The Norman artist has said he prefers painting over graphic design: “For me, the artwork was and still is my main connection of my heritage&#8230; It forces me to go back and to read and to do research and to go through the history, and to me that connects me more with my past and it comes around that way.”<br></p> <p><em>NORMA HOWARD</em> As a child, the Stigler artist used to go home and draw the toys that her classmates had: “I live the Choctaw life, so I know it’s from within.”<br></p> <p><em>GWEN COLEMAN LESTER</em> Now calling Claremore home, the artist can’t remember a time when she didn’t draw: “I like to put Choctaw language in there whenever I can.”<br></p> <p><em>DG SMALLING</em> The Oklahoma City-based artist travelled the world as a child of missionaries: “Rather than something being an interior design project, the Nation now has for the first time in hundreds of years a definitive body of work to represent what Choctaw Nation is at this point in the 21st century. That’s the importance of this collection, the standard that it establishes for other artists.”<br></p> <p><em>JANIE UMSTED</em> Calling Durant her home, the artist came by it naturally, receiving art instruction from her mother since age 3: “&#8230;This has become a project that I think about all the time. It really has taken over my life in a very good way.”<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, 23 Jul 2015 13:14:12 GMT Timber trust lawsuit settled <p><img src="" alt='Timber Lawsuit Arial ' /><br> <em>An example of clear-cutting on former trust lands in the Choctaw Nation. [Photo Provided by Ackerman McQueen]</em><br></p> <h3>Timber trust lawsuit setttled</h3> <p><em>By Zach Maxwell</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation</em><br></p> <p><strong>Durant, Okla.</strong> - The Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations have settled a decade-old federal lawsuit regarding former tribal trust land, as announced by Chief Gary Batton. Terms of the early July settlement have not been released, pending official approval from both tribal governments.<br></p> <p>A partial settlement was reached in May on a portion of the suit. The settlement was approved by Choctaw Nation Tribal Council at its May meeting, but details were not available due to a non-disclosure clause.<Br></p> <p>At issue was an accounting of the tribal trust lands taken by the U.S. gov- ernment after Choctaw and Chickasaw governments were dissolved more than a century ago. The Nations filed suit against the U.S. government in 2005, seeking that long overdue accounting and an equitable restoration of the trust.<br></p> <p>“I’m very excited that the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations, Gov. Bill Anoa-tubby, along with myself, and the U.S. government have agreed to a settlement of the timber trust account case,” said Chief Gary Batton. “This settlement will begin the healing process for many of our tribal members. This is the first time that the federal government and tribal Nations have worked on a settlement of some of these dark pages of history.”<br> </p> <p>Batton said the settlement funds, whose sum remains undisclosed at this time, will be used to improve the lives of Choctaw and Chickasaw tribal members through economic development and social service programs. Many of these programs are new innovations aimed at improving the lives of low-income tribal members.<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, 23 Jul 2015 12:17:28 GMT Choctaw Nation receives Beacon Award <p><img src="" alt='Beacon Award 2015' /><br> <em>Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma’s Flight Operations pilots John Wesley, Al Cherry, and Quentin McLarry.</em><br></p> <h3>Choctaw Nation receives Beacon Award</h3> <p><em>By Lisa Reed</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation</em><br></p> <p><strong>Oklahoma City, Okla.</strong> - Eighty missions … more than 97,000 miles … the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma’s Flight Operations team has spent hundreds of flight hours on journeys to help wounded heroes. Four years ago, the Choctaw Nation joined Veterans Airlift Command (VAC), a nonprofit organization that provides free air transportation to wounded veterans and their families.<br></p> <p>The Choctaw Nation was recognized for its charitable influence on July 16 with a 2015 Beacon Award during a ceremony at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel in Oklahoma City. It was among five other category winners who were honored for continuing to embody the spirit of giving.<br></p> <p>“People and companies who give of their time and money to nonprofits don’t do it for the recognition. That’s why the Beacon Awards are so important; it’s an opportunity to salute companies who are making a significant difference, allowing and encouraging their employees to become involved in their communities,” said Joni Brooks, president and publisher of the Journal Record.<br></p> <p>“I am so proud of our pilots for showing their heart and compassion for our veterans by assisting them through the Veteran’s Airlift Command,” said Chief Gary Batton. “They go above and beyond the call of duty to help and I am so thankful that the Choctaw Nation and our pilots are able to help those who have served God and country.”<br></p> <p>It’s often nearly impossible for some veterans to travel on commercial airlines because of injuries, PTSD, or many other concerns. Veterans Airlift Command provides a free, low-stress environment for traveling to and from anywhere in the United States for medical and other compassionate services.<br></p> <p>“Giving back to the community is part of the heart and soul of the Choctaw Nation,” said Al Cherry, director of flight operations. “The concern and understanding of Chief Batton and the Tribal Council for the needs of veterans in these situations, and their generosity, are what make it possible for us to make the trips.” Cherry, Quentin McLarry and John Wesley are the Nation’s three flight operations pilots.<br></p> <p>Passengers assisted on the Choctaw Nation’s VAC flights have included an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) victim who lost both legs above the knee, one arm above the wrist, and severe damage to the other arm. The Choctaw Nation flew him and his wife home for the first time since the explosion. Cherry remembers a huge reception waiting for the veteran with Patriot riders, family, friends, and townspeople – a true hero&#8217;s reception. <br></p> <p>Another flight carried a group of six wounded warriors, most who had been injured in different attacks, back to meet their units when their units returned from deployment. They were there for their units, but the town turned out for them.<br></p> <p>The Choctaw Nation uses its business successes as a means to continue the missionary work of helping others. The Nation has participated in hurricane and tsunami relief, has an active Meals on Wheels program, has assisted many communities and churches with needs, and has several programs for boys and girls. Many tribal members and employees donate untold hours in helping build a sense of community.<br></p> <p>“The Choctaw Nation takes a long-term view of its mission. By assisting with these efforts, we are encouraging our young people to grow and become better partners within their communities,” Cherry said. “In turn, they will encourage the next generation to do the same. The end game is that we are better people.”<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> Mon, 20 Jul 2015 17:01:49 GMT President Obama pledges to do better by our ‘first Americans’ <p><img src="" alt='President Visit' /><br> <em>President Obama pledges to do better by our ‘first Americans’ community center on March 4.</em></p> <h3>President visits Choctaw Nation to unveil new program and meet with Choctaw youth</h3> <p><em>By Ronni Pierce</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation</em><br></p> <p>Chief Gary Batton, the Choctaw Nation, and the city of Durant were host to a historic event on July 15. Tribal youth and elders were invited to join the Chief, Council, and community members to hear first-hand as President Barack Obama announced a new initiative that will ensure digital opportunities for all Americans. ConnectHome will expand high-speed broadband Internet services to families in the Choctaw Nation and 27 other communities across the country.<br></p> <p>After taking the stage and shouting out an enthusiastic “Halito!” to nearly 1,000 people gathered in the Durant High School, the president thanked Chief Batton and the other tribal leaders for their attendance. The president acknowledged the fact that some American communities “have been neglected and fallen behind. And as part of that, I said we’re going to do better by our first Americans.<br></p> <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <p>“Now, we can’t reverse centuries of history—broken treaties, broken promises. But I did believe that we could come together as partners and forge a new path based on trust and respect.”<br></p> <p>He spoke of naming the Choctaw Nation as one of America’s first Promise Zones a little over a year ago. The Promise Zone areas are where the federal government teams with local communities and businesses to create economic development and to jump-start job creation, expand educational opportunities, increase affordable housing, and improve public safety.<br></p> <p>The ConnectHome initiative will take the Promise Zone designation even further.ConnectHome will use partnerships to bring broadband, technical assistance, and digital literacy training to students living in public and assisted housing across America, according to the White House.<br></p> <p>Chief Batton said, “The ConnectHome initiative is about helping our people who are in poverty-stricken areas, to help them gain access to broadband Internet because so many of our tribal members do not have access to the world like everyone else does. And so in our low-income housing and in our elderly living sites that’s what this is going to be about—to help them get an education and to find employment. “The ConnectHome initiative will link our homes to a world beyond southeastern Oklahoma, and tie our lives to greater opportunities.”<br></p> <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <p>The president and HUD Secretary Julián Castro announced 27 cities and the Choctaw Nation will participate in ConnectHome.<br></p> <p>The communities were selected through a competitive process that took into account local commitment to expanding broadband opportunities.<br></p> <p>Prior to the event, President Obama and Chief Batton met with a group of Native youth and discussed the recent White House Tribal Youth Gathering and opportunities for young Native boys and girls. The president called out to 16-year-old Kelsey Janway in the audience. Janway is a member of the Choctaw Youth Council who represented the Choctaw Nation at the White House. President Obama made note that her family could only get phone reception at their home in Heavener if they stood on a certain rock. She laughingly agreed and many of the audience who were from rural areas were nodding their heads in understanding. The president emphasized that kids like Kelsey have big dreams, that we need to invest in those dreams through advancing technology in rural and low-income areas. He said, “When we make those commitments to all of our children, the great thing about it is the blessings are returned back to us—because you end up having a workforce that is better educated, which means suddenly companies want to locate, which means businesses start booming, which means businesses start hiring, which means everybody does better.”<br></p> <p>This is only the second Native American community President Obama has visited during his term in office. In June 2014 the president visited the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation in North Dakota. And this is only the second time a sitting president has visited this community. President Theodore Roosevelt passed through Durant during a whistle stop tour on his way to San Antonio in 1905. President Obama’s visit last week is the first time a current president has made an official visit to our tribal nation.<br> </p> <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <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, 17 Jul 2015 22:25:47 GMT