Choctaw tribal members recognized as 2021 AARP Oklahoma Indian Elders Honorees

January 1, 2022

DURANT, Okla. – Four Choctaw Nation tribal members were virtually recognized as honorees at the 13th annual AARP Oklahoma Indian Elder Honors event. Pauline “Paula” Wilson-Carney, Gloria Sirmans, Olin Williams and Loyce Wright were among 47 Native American Elders selected for their notable contributions.

“Our Choctaw elders are vital to the continuation of our heritage. They have an important role in sharing their knowledge, language, traditions, and Choctaw culture,” said Chief Gary Batton. “I am excited to see these deserving Choctaw members be honored and am truly grateful for each of them and what they mean to me, their families, their tribe and community.”

Honorees were chosen based on their achievements, community service and impact. Since 2009, AARP Oklahoma has honored nearly 600 Native American elders from Oklahoma’s 39 tribal nations.

As a part of the honoree recognition, AARP Oklahoma sent each honoree a specially curated celebration box that arrived during November, which is Native American Heritage Month. Contents included the 2021 AARP Oklahoma Indian Elder Honors medallion, program featuring the honorees’ picture and biography, a gift card, sweetgrass braid, two tickets to the First Americans Museum and additional gifts from AARP Oklahoma.
AARP Oklahoma biography of each honoree, listing their accomplishments and why they deserve to be honored are as follows:

Pauline “Paula” Wilson-Carney

Paula was born in 1940 at her Coal County home. She received her education at Wheelock Academy Missionary School for Girls and Chilocco Indian School. Ms. Wilson-Carney later met and married Rev. Raymond Carney. Together, they ministered the gospel from Oklahoma to Florida. Rev. and Wilson-Carney parented six children, 52 foster children and multiple families. After Rev. Carney died in 1999, she continued caring for foster children while working for the Choctaw Nation Language Program and teaching children at the Coalgate Elementary School. Ms. Wilson-Carney currently teaches adult language and culture classes. Ms. Wilson-Carney has served as the Choctaw Nation District 12 Community Center president for 13 years. Her recognitions include an award from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services for her contribution to foster children’s programs and an Outstanding Elder Award from the Choctaw Nation.

Gloria Sirmans

Gloria enjoys caring for her family and is known for her excellent cooking and family gatherings. After graduating from Hartshorne High School, Mrs. Sirmans began working for the Choctaw Nation as the District 11 field office secretary. She helped many people access programs available to Choctaw members and other American Indian tribal members. Mrs. Sirmans began working for Feed the Need Foundation of Oklahoma in 2004. In this role, she served as an elder advocate, assisting elders with transportation to health services. In 2007, Mrs. Sirmans was recognized for these efforts and was named “Outstanding Outreach Worker” by the State of Oklahoma. After working 10 years as an outreach worker for Pittsburg County, Mrs. Sirmans returned to the Choctaw Nation field office, where she is currently employed in a senior clerk position.

Olin Williams

Olin was born in 1952 on the Conehatta Reservation in Newton County, Mississippi. A first language Choctaw speaker, Mr. Williams studied at Haskell Indian Nations University. Mr. Williams’ faith in God, life experiences, failures and successes have enabled him to elevate tribal members through ministering God’s word. He has served the Choctaw Nation for 23 years and is currently the Choctaw Nation employee chaplain. Williams has preached at many churches and shares God’s word in the Choctaw News publication. He has assisted countless people in need, visiting homes, hospitals, preaching and delivering hope without hesitation. Williams has dedicated his time studying and understanding the European invasion’s impact on Native American tribes. Mr. Williams actively uses his knowledge of language, history and culture to teach the historical ways of respect. He shares, “Freedom and sovereignty are our legacy. We must stand up emotionally, mentally and culturally.”

Loyce Wright

Loyce graduated from Pittsburg High School and subsequently pursued a career in nursing. To date, she has worked in the nursing industry for 55 years. Thirty-eight years of service have been dedicated to Indian Health Services and the Choctaw Nation, respectively. Ms. Wright has received many accolades for her work, including two Indian Health Services awards and an outstanding recognition award. Ms. Wright was instrumental in securing a full-time registered nurse position at the Choctaw Nation-Jones Academy boarding school. She also submitted a needs assessment to Indian Health Services’ Public Health nursing program in 2012 to help improve the health outcomes of Native Americans. Ms. Wright currently serves as a healthy aging case manager to support increased access to health and wellness services for Choctaw Nation tribal elders.