Chahta Spirit can't be blown away

Chris Jennings

Chief Gary Batton, center and Assistant Chief Jack Austin,Jr. talk with Patty Hyde and Kenzie Singleton about tornado damage that was sustained at Hyde’s house as a result of storms on April 30.

Photo by Chris Jennings

From the evening of Tuesday, April 30, through the morning of Thursday, May 2, multiple waves of severe weather tracked across all 12 districts of the Choctaw Nation. Considerable wind damage occurred in Atoka, Bryan, and Pittsburg counties, including an EF3 tornado in the area of Blue and Bokchito and an EF2 tornado near the town of Haileyville.

Chief Gary Batton said, “Our emergency management was there immediately after the tornado happened, and that’s a servant heart.”

Batton issued an emergency disaster proclamation based on reports from the field of the damage caused by the storms. 

By issuing the proclamation it ensures funds are available for things like clean-up supplies, hotels and heavy equipment to be used for immediate assistance. 

“The main focus is to get help to our tribal members in times of need as well as the community as a whole,” said Batton.

The tornado passed over Trish Singleton’s house. “We could feel our house, it was a pulse, it had a vibration, and then we heard this train sound that just got louder and louder. Within 60 seconds we were in the shelter. He barely got that door closed, and it was a pop and a bang,” said Singleton

A total of 241 tribal citizens have been assisted with everything from work gloves and rakes to debris removal and emergency housing. Counseling, replacing lost diabetes meds, and other medical needs have also been met. The response by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma was provided by 48 tribal employees from 20 different departments.

Batton praised those who helped, “That’s who we are as people. We’ve always given like we did to the people of Ireland, that’s just a part of our Chahta spirit. We’re family, we’re going to pull together and help one another.”

Singleton said it felt like half the nation showed up to help. “I’m so grateful for everything,” she said. 

As friends and family helped the Singletons clean debris around their property, an item was found that could force a smile in this sad situation. “My mother-in-law collected Barbie dolls, and she had all of these Wizard of Oz dolls. Yesterday we found Dorothy, still in her box, still perfect, by where the shop used to be,” said Singleton. 

In the words of the Wizard of Oz, “A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others.” The hearts of the Choctaw Nation and its tribal members have proven once again to be strong.

In cases of emergency, the Office of Emergency Management can be contacted via the hotline (844) 709-6301 or through email at

Biskinik June 2019