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Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

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    STAR Frink
    Brenner Billy leads students and Choctaw Employee Dance Troupe members in the snake dance.

    Choctaw Dance Troupe shows traditional dances to Choctaw youth

    by Brandon Frye
    Choctaw Nation

    Durant, Okla. - The Choctaw Nation employee dance troupe introduced students from Frink Chambers and Krebs public schools to the Choctaw culture through interactive traditional dancing on Nov. 17.

    The cooperation of Jason Campbell, Director of the Success Through Academic Recognition (STAR) Program, and the schools made it possible to teach the Choctaw culture during Native American Heritage Month. The schools expressed interest in seeing traditional dances, and since Campbell is a member of the Choctaw Employee Dance Troupe, he organized the series of visits.
    STAR Frink Students

    “In the STAR program we work a lot with the public schools,” Campbell said. “Recently we were delivering gift cards to reward student’s grades and attendance, and while we were there, we taught them a couple of social dances. And they just loved that. That’s when the schools asked if the entire dance troupe could come back and dance.”

    Students in grades ranging from preschool to middle school, watched and participated in the Four Step War Dance, Raccoon Dance, Stealing Partners Dance, and Snake Dance.

    “I think the students need to see some of the culture, because some of these students have never experienced it,” Lagina Carano, Federal Programs Director at Frink Chambers, said.

    Campbell said the STAR Program and the tribe’s initiative to share our culture would not be possible without the support of Chief Batton, Assistant Chief Jack Austin, Jr., and the Tribal Council.


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    HUD Story
    HUD officials C. Wayne Sims, Rodger Boyd and Jemine Bryon pose with Durant Boys & Girls Club member Jonah Pollard.

    Promise Zone progress on display during HUD visit

    By ZACH MAXWELL
    Choctaw Nation

    Durant, Okla. - The Choctaw Nation hosted dignitaries from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for a progress report tour of areas in one of President Barack Obama’s Promise Zones.

    Jemine Bryon, Deputy Undersecretary and Acting Assistant Secretary for HUD, was joined by Rodger Boyd (Navajo Nation), Deputy Assistant Secretary for HUD Native Programs, and C. Wayne Sims, Administrator for HUD’s Southern Plains Office of Native American Programs.

    They were shown several shovel-ready projects around Durant by members of Choctaw Nation Office of Tribal Policy, including Promise Zone Coordinator Sara-Jane Smallwood.

    She took the group to the Durant Boys and Girls Club, currently occupying a portion of old Durant Middle School. Business partnerships and Promise Zone designation could help turn the tide for youths in “one of the poorest Census tracts in the Choctaw Nation,” Smallwood said.

    The group also visited residents at Chahta Tvmaha elder housing, where units were built using HUD funding.

    “It’s a life-saver for me,” said resident Van Lindsay. “It’s just me and my dog, so it is a comfortable place and I feel safe here.”


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    Jerry Tims

    Choctaw Member Enters the Music World

    By Zach Maxwell
    Choctaw Nation

    Durant, Okla. - Jerry Tims is “Movin’ On” through the music world – and a big part of that move comes from the talented voice of his daughter, Sierra.

    Under the name of Jerry Tims Music, Jerry (a Choctaw Nation member and employee of Choctaw Nation Social Services) has released his third studio album titled …Movin’ On.

    The 10-song album follows Chosen and Keep Pressing On and all three are influenced by Tims’ Southern gospel upbringing with a mix of popular music from the past three decades.

    “The feedback that I get is that it is contemporary, it has some mainstream country but we also have hymns in there,” Tims said. “It covers about four genres.”

    The versatility of Tims – and the sheer power of 17-year-old Sierra Tims’ voice – makes the father-daughter duo a potent mix in the growing world or Choctaw music.

    Sierra’s studio performance of “I Need You,” a thoughtful, contemporary inspirational song, garnered 500 views on YouTube on the first day of release.

    “It feels really cool that we are able to get our songs out there and minister to people, that’s what it is all about,” she said. “My dad has helped me a lot and encouraged me to never give up. It’s fun to travel and spend time with him.”

    She has gone to Nashville with her father several times to record professionally and take part in photo shoots for the albums. “I’m glad he took me,” she said. “It was once in a lifetime and something I will always cherish.”

    Sierra will graduate high school soon and plans to study physical therapy at University of Oklahoma. As for her musical talent, she says, “You never know what the future holds.”

    The Tims family, who live in McCurtain County, are in the process of joining the Choctaw Artists Registry. Jerry has been a regular fixture in the Sunday lineup at the Choctaw Nation Labor Day Festival. Daughter Sierra has joined him onstage in recent years.

    “Our goal is just to create good music,” Tims said. “It’s something to be proud of.”

    Tims is getting a boost from those in the contemporary gospel music family, recording a song on …Movin’ On with Weston Hinson. Tims often performs live at churches and other venues across Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas with band members Robert Nichols, Daniel Hines, Jarvis Watson and Ron Ferrier.

    His music is available here.


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    Choctaw tribal member achieves goal through Career Development program

    Choctaw tribal member Natasha Northcross, originally from Sherman Oakes, Calif., has recently earned her bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration from California State University Northridge. A participant in the Choctaw Nation’s Career Development Program, Northcross is now living her dream of giving back to her community and her tribe.

    As someone who has always volunteered her time to help others, Northcross worked for organizations like the JTP Films’ Jet Travolta Foundation and Passport Health (a public health franchise) during her time in school. Her work with JTP included reviewing grant applications for programs related to autism.

    “I found it very enlightening and rewarding to know that I was at the forefront of making a difference in communities,” she said. Northcross volunteered at events organized to improve the campus of the Motion Picture Television Fund; something that “gave me perspective on what it means to give back to those less fortunate.” She feels she gained “memorable experiences that helped shape her future.”

    In addition to her volunteer work, Northcross worked in various other fields such as healthcare, travel, construction and education. Working part time and taking a full load at school meant very little time for much else, but she still managed to be involved in school clubs and community service. Northcross chose healthcare administration because she had “set her sights on being a leader in Native American communities and to make a difference in the current health system.”

    Upon graduation, Northcross knew she wanted to work for Indian Health Services and kept watching their website for the perfect position. A couple of attempts at jobs were unsuccessful, so she reached out to Career Development’s Employment Services for help. Stacy Hallmark who is located in the Hugo and Durant offices helped Natasha with a resume and interview skills. Northcross says, “I learned you really need to prepare for interviews and utilize your resources in order to be successful.”

    After two extensive phone interviews, Northcross was hired at Indian Health Services working in the Diabetes and Prevention Division in Washington, D.C and has already been promoted to Budget and Accounting Analyst. When asked what she likes best about her new job, Northcross states, “I’m doing exactly what I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve been given the opportunity to give back to my community in a BIG way by contributing to efforts to make American Indians and Alaska Natives healthier. My division hopes to turn the tide of the diabetes epidemic and I’m proud to be a part of a great team.” Her advice to others, “I believe that you need to get into your community and experience as much as possible. Find something you are passionate about and try to connect with organizations that meet your purpose. Once you have identified your dream, pursue a career that will help you achieve your goal. Utilize all your available resources, such as those through the Choctaw Nation.”

    Northcross would like to thank the Career Development program, “especially Bettye Bolen and Stacy Hallmark for encouraging me to achieve my dreams.” Bolen is the career counselor who works with tribal members outside Oklahoma and Texas. Northcross is also grateful to the Choctaw Nation for its support of programs helping to advance self-sustaining careers.

    Choctaw Nation Career Development provides a comprehensive array of career guidance services, workforce skills development, academic skills enhancement, and financial education that enables members of the Choctaw Nation to obtain recognized certifications in a variety of vocations. For more information, log on to choctawcareers.com.


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    10th Pow Wow

    10th Annual Choctaw Casino/Resort Pow Wow information

    Pow Wow will be held on Nov. 29 and 30, at the Event Center in Durant. Admission is free to the public. For questions, email kerry.steve@choctawcasinos.com or sharon.polk@choctawcasinos.com

    Over $80,000 in prize money to be won. See below for competition details.

    Head Staff
    Arena Directors: Michael Roberts, Clifton Goodwill and Marty Thurman
    Emcee: Rob Daugherty and Joaquin Hamilton
    Head Gourd Dancer: Ira Kaulay
    Head Gourd Singer: Robert Crowels

    Friday
    Vendor booth setup – 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.
    Dancer/Drum Registation – 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.

    Saturday
    Vendor booth setup – 7 a.m. - 9:30 p.m.
    Dancer/Drum Registation – 8 a.m. - 2 p.m.
    Gourd Dance - 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
    Grand Entry - 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.

    Sunday
    Grand Entry 1 p.m.
    Dance Contest begins after Grand Entry

    Princesses and royalty invited to participate in Grand Entry


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    Evangeline Robinson
    Evangeline Robinson presses designs into a new clay pottery project using a wooden stamp during the Meet the Artist event Nov. 15 in Colbert.

    Meet the Artist - Evangeline Robinson

    By Brandon Frye
    Choctaw Nation

    Durant, Okla. - Evangeline “Vangie” Robinson, Choctaw artist from Boswell, got her start in 2009 as a student attending classes offered by the Choctaw Nation and worked her way up to actively teaching her skills and selling her wares.

    “Pottery is my forte,” Robinson said. “I wanted to have something to do, get out of the house, and making pottery was appealing. It was a hobby, but it is getting to be a business.”

    Robinson said she enjoys the entire process of creating traditional pottery, from digging the clay out of the ground and collecting shells from the shores of local lakes, to the smell of the clay itself, which she says reminds her of fresh rain on the earth.

    With her work, alongside traditional design work, Robinson likes to use objects found around her–like drawer handles or wheels from old toy cars–to make unique designs for the pottery she forms.

    “Using the materials at hand is something our ancestors have always done. It’s just kind of Vangie’s way of adapting a very ancient art to the present time period,” Ian Thompson, Director of Historic Preservation for the Choctaw Nation, said.

    Thompson helped Vangie Robinson develop her appreciation for the art form. Thompson taught his first pottery class in Oklahoma in 2009, a class which Robinson attended and, according to Robinson, was when she first fell in love with the craft.

    “We demonstrated the techniques and got input from people on how to set up classes which would be beneficial to the Choctaw people,” Thompson said. “As the meetings went on, we started to teach the skills involved in the process of Choctaw pottery, with the hope that people would be interested and some would eventually want to become Choctaw teachers.”

    Thompson said the class would go out and dig clay from tribal trust land, bring it back, then clean it. They would go out to local lakes and collect freshwater mussel shells and burn them, crush them up, and mix them with the clay. Then they would shape traditional styles of Choctaw pottery by hand and fire them in an open wood fire. At the time, the class would also make trips to museums and learn from master potters.

    “Vangie was present for all of that. It’s five years later and we are still teaching classes, and she is still coming.” Thompson said.

    Vangie Robinson is also branching out to other traditional arts like beadwork, and even teaches pottery classes herself. “I want to teach others who want to learn. This is important to me, because it makes sure our culture is passed on,” she said.

    Robinson said pottery is very unique. It covers many forms, like storage, dishes, eating utensils, and music. “Over time, metal will rust, but with pottery, archaeologist can date it and know what tribes were in the area. Even if it breaks, or is thrown away, it will still be there if it is fired, it will stand the test of time,” she said.

    Speaking on Robinson’s success with Choctaw art, Ian Thompson said, “It was ultimately her interest level. She had a lot of interest in learning how to do pottery. Over time she became very proficient at it. She’s also a personable individual, so she interacts well with the community and people who come to class. It was a natural progression for her to become a teacher.”

    “If I can do it, anybody can do it,” Robinson said. “I didn’t think I could ever do anything like this, especially at the beginning.”


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    Keep OK Beautiful Going Green Team
    Pictured left to right: Kelly Danner, KOB Board President; Vonna Shults, Jon Hotubbee, and Tracy Horst, Director of Environmental Sustainability Going Green Team.

    Sustainability Programs Recognized by Keep Oklahoma Beautiful

    Choctaw Nation Going Green Team was honored in November for its various sustainability programs with an award from Keep Oklahoma Beautiful (KOB).

    Choctaw Nation’s Director of Environmental Sustainability, Tracy Horst, is spearheading the Choctaw Nation Going Green Team that is working to advocate environmental practices and recycling. Most recently, the Choctaw Nation hosted its annual Labor Day Weekend Festival where the Going Green Team provided presentations on waste stream assessment and water conservation, and informational recycling displays.

    “Recycling was initially promoted by having three types of cans distributed throughout this annual event for trash, for aluminum, and for paper,” said Lynn Malley, OK State University Extension Educator - Solid Waste Management. “The waste stream sorting that took place this year was one step along the way to including the composting of food scraps during this annual event.”
    Luksi Keep OK Beautiful

    The Going Green Team’s project impact in clear in the materials collected and recycled at the 2014 event: 3,565 lbs of cardboard, 2,758 lbs of plastic, 1,126 lbs of aluminum, 45 lbs of tin, 86 lbs of paper totaling nearly 4 tons of materials. “We will continue to add each year. Next year we hope to add composting of excess food from vendors and cafeteria areas, while pushing recoiling still, placing even more recoiling containers and increasing awareness of where to recycle,” said Horst.

    Choctaw Nation Going Green Team was announced a winner of the Government Programs State/Tribal award at KOB’s 24th annual Environmental Excellence Awards Celebration on November 20, 2014 at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Over five hundred guests from across Oklahoma cheered on the evening’s winners who make up the best of Oklahoma’s environmental best.

    Keep Oklahoma Beautiful is a statewide nonprofit whose mission is to empower Oklahomans to keep the state clean, enhance its natural beauty and sustain a healthy environment.

    For more information on Choctaw Nation Going Green team, please contact thorst@choctawnation.com

    For more information regarding the awards celebration, please visit Keep Oklahoma Beautiful


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    Christmas in the Park Story

    Christmas in the Park

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma would like to invite all to attend “Christmas in the Park” at the Choctaw Nation Tribal & Capitol Grounds in Tvshka Homma, OK.
    Each Friday and Saturday evening from December 5 – 20 the park is alive with festive lights and holiday décor. Enjoy a scenic drive through the grounds, free hot chocolate, and a complimentary gift from the Choctaw Nation between 6 – 9 pm.
    This event is free and open to the public.
    For more information, please contact Shelley Garner, cultural Services Department, at 1-800-522-6170, Ext. 2377 or sgarner@choctawnation.com


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    Miss Choctaw Reunion Group
    Top row Left to Right: Nicole Billy 2003-04, Dayla Amos 2008-09, Barbara Moffitt 1978-79, Suzanne Heard 1957-58, Kristie McGuire 2010-11, Marsilla Dean Sampson Sadongei 1973-74
    Middle Row Left to Right: Anita Bohannon Baker 1984-85, Courtney Baker Welsey 2006-07, Stephanie Horn 2004-05, Khristy Wallace 1994-95, Kristy Willis 1992-93, Amber Tehauno 2011-12, Callie Cornutt 2013-14
    Bottom Row: Currently Reigning Choctaw Royalty… Little Miss Choctaw Nation Kyra Wilson 2014-15, Miss Choctaw Nation Nikki Amos 2014-15, Junior Miss Choctaw Nation Summer Moffitt 2014-15

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Holds First Miss Choctaw Nation Princess Reunion

    Durant, Okla. - On Saturday, November 29, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma hosted its first Miss Choctaw Nation Princess Reunion as part of the 10th Annual PowWow in Durant. Choctaw royalty holding the title of “Miss Choctaw Nation” from 1957 to present were honored with a reception, beading class, and dinner at the Choctaw RV Park.

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Princess Pageant is comprised of both district and tribal nation levels and requires each contestant to be a tribal member of the Choctaw Nation with at least 1/16th blood quantum, a resident of the tribal district she is competing in, a High School graduate, single, and between the ages of 18 to 23. Each contestant is judged on beauty, personality, traditional talent and knowledge, goals as a princess, and traditional Choctaw regalia. The winner of the “Miss Choctaw Nation” title becomes a goodwill ambassador for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and makes appearances on behalf of the Nation for one year. They work with youth, veterans, elders, dignitaries, and tribal members from across the United States.
    Miss Choctaw Reunion Award

    From the inception of the pageant, thirty-three former Miss Choctaw Nation’s were located and invited to the reunion. Sixteen Miss Choctaw Nations were present, along with family and friends as the group celebrated and reminisced about being tribal royalty and all of the adventures of their reigns. This was the first time in tribal history that former Miss Choctaw Nations were assembled together. Many were further recognized in the Grand Entry of the Choctaw Nation PowWow on Saturday evening.


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    Broken Bow Food Distribution Center
    Tribal officials break ground on new food distribution center in Broken Bow.

    Broken Bow Food Distribution Center coming in 2015

    by Brandon Frye
    Choctaw Nation

    Broken Bow, Okla. - Officials, dignitaries, and locals broke ground on the new Broken Bow Food Distribution Center, near the current community center in Broken Bow, marking the beginning of construction for the site on Nov. 20.

    Chief Gary Batton, Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr., and Council Member Tony Messenger lead the event, as well as the group of shovel-wielding officials who first moved earth at 210 S. Chahta Road.

    “This has been needed in the Broken Bow area for a long period of time, food is very essential to us,” Batton said. He added the council this year passed a budget to build the Broken Bow Food Distribution Center as well as one in McAlester.

    “This will be your new commodity warehouse, you can come and get what you want,” Council Member Tony Messenger said. “You don’t have to get it all at one time, you can make another trip to come down, and it is all going to be right here.”

    The new food distribution center, a food market, will allow eligible tribal members to shop in a store, choosing their own food rather than having it supplied in bulk without option. The new method will also allow members to spread visits out over time, rather than receiving it all at once each month.

    Speaking on the shopping experience at these food markets, Jerry Tonubbee, Director of Food Distribution, said, “it will be just like any grocery store. They can shop for their own food and go through the check out counter. The only difference is, it doesn’t ask for money.”

    Tonubbee said how much a household can receive depends on family size, or the number of people living in the household, and eligibility is based on the following requirements: a member of the household must have a CDIB from any federally recognized tribe, the household must be within the 10.5 counties, and the household must be within the USDA established guidelines for income (a household of one cannot have more than a net income of $1,128 per month, while a household of 8 could make as much as $3,562).

    “We have tribal members trying to make ends meet, elders in need of assistance, and many do not have the gas to travel long distances,” Tonubbee said. “So strategically placing these centers in areas of need will serve the Choctaw people.”

    The McAlester and Broken Bow food markets, or food distribution centers, are projected to be completed by July 2015.


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    Common Roots
    Micky and Kristen Lloyd lean on a pink Volkswagen Beetle, the decoration which sets Dottie’s Children’s Boutique apart.

    Choctaw-owned stores bring customers back to Common Roots

    by Brandon Frye
    Choctaw Nation

    McAlester, Okla. - Husband and wife Micky and Kristen Lloyd are at the front of the movement to shop locally in McAlester, and are the entrepreneurs of three successful businesses built up by their own hands and from their own ambition.

    The Lloyds have worked together for years. Their first downtown brick-and-mortar store, Studio 23 Photography, has served the McAlester area since 2000. When the two noticed a need for children’s clothes during photo shoots, the first business snowballed into a second business, Dottie’s Children’s Boutique. Now, the couple is helping revive local trade in downtown McAlester with a third business: Common Roots, an eclectic mercantile housing an assortment of local and unique gifts and treats.

    Being a Choctaw citizen, Micky says the new store in particular was their way of showing a “sense of being local, what ties us together, where we come from and where we go back.” He has deep roots to the local community and Choctaw people. His great-great grandfather Buck White founded the Oklahoma town of White Oak, Okla. And his uncle Rubin White is a former Speaker of the Choctaw Nation’s Tribal Council.

    “Common Roots has been open for two months now, and it’s been great,” Micky said. “I couldn’t have expected it to be any better than it has been.”

    Dottie’s Children’s Boutique and Common Roots now stand as side-by-side storefronts offering goods to interested customers, but in very different ways.
    Common Roots Jars

    The children’s boutique is a bright, light-filled space, colored joyfully and inviting children to play and interact. “We just wanted to do something different,” Kristen said. “If you look around you can see how fun and funky it is.”

    The children have many reasons to remember and revisit the boutique. The Lloyds took apart an old Volkswagen Beetle, cut it down the middle, painted it pink, and placed it as a unique decoration. The shop has toys and an area for children to make their own perfumes and lotions. And according to the Lloyds, the little ones also enjoy running back and forth through the broken down wall connecting the two businesses like a portal.

    Next door the aesthetics of Common Roots take on a more serious, natural element. The urban and industrial break through and give way to the rustic. Throughout the store, holes in plaster uncover arrowed designs and logos, the painted black tin roof reflects light shining from the yellow bulbs spelling out the store name just inside the entryway, and wooden shelves hold hand-made items and Oklahoma treats.

    “We built all of the tables, the shelving, displays, the bar. We did everything ourselves,” Micky said. It took plenty of time and remodeling, and Micky said he and his wife let the building tell them what it needed as they uncovered it.
    Common Roots Sign

    One of the more unique features of Common Roots is the bar with a countertop made entirely of pennies. They said it is where men tend to sit, drink, and eat chocolates as women shop around. Behind the bar, they keep 30 ice-cold beverages: root beers, cream sodas, and pops with pure cane sugar, all cold enough to develop ice crystals after leaving the ice box.

    Locals and travelers alike are welcome at Common Roots and Dottie’s Children’s Boutique, which can be found at 111 and 113 East Choctaw Avenue in McAlester, Oklahoma.

    The couple said McAlester is very important to them, and they want to support shopping local. “We thought we would do what we can to revitalize downtown, we just didn’t want to let it die. We do what we can to try to bring it back and inspire others to do the same,” Micky said.


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    Washington Monument Janway
    Kelsey Janway visits Washington D.C., as part of the inaugural class of White House Tribal Youth Ambassadors.

    Choctaw Nation Youth Ambassador meets with the President

    by Sara J. Smallwood
    Choctaw Nation

    Durant, Okla. - Kelsey Janway, a sophomore at Heavener High School, was chosen to be part of the inaugural class of White House Tribal Youth Ambassadors.

    Kelsey is President of the Choctaw Nation Youth Advisory Board. Due to her success in this leadership capacity, she was nominated by her tribe to represent Choctaw youth to the President’s annual gathering of tribal leaders from across the nation.
    Kelsey Janway Desk

    2014 was the first year to have a youth component to the White House Tribal Nations Conference, and Kelsey was one of only 35 youth selected from around the country. In her weeklong adventures in DC, Kelsey met President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary Jewell, Attorney General Holder, tribal leaders, and other top executives from the White House and federal agencies. Additionally, Kelsey was given a personal tour of the United States Capitol by Representative Mark Wayne Mullin, one of only 2 Natives currently serving in Congress.

    Kelsey was chosen to serve in this national role because of her leadership skills and dedication to serving her community. In addition to the Choctaw Youth Advisory Board, Kelsey is a member of 10 different organizations. Her commitment to her community and her tribe is evident in all she does. While in DC, she was a vocal advocate for Choctaw and other Native youth, and a wonderful representation of Oklahoma, and the Choctaw Nation. Kelsey and the other youth ambassadors will reconvene with the White House in summer 2015 to continue the momentum of youth leadership in Indian Country.


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    Chief Car Tag 2
    Chief Gary Batton announcing the Choctaw Nation car tags at the State of the Nation address during the Labor Day Festival.

    New tags will continue to benefit state-run services

    With the New Year comes a new way for Choctaw citizens to display their heritage.

    All Choctaw tribal members living in Oklahoma will be eligible to purchase the automobile tags starting Jan. 1, 2015.

    The agreement to sell the tags came after the Choctaw Nation negotiated an agreement, or in this case a car tag compact, with the state.

    All state programs will continue to be funded at the same rate as before per the negotiated compact. The compact will allow for revenue to go back into services for the state—services such as schools, roads, bridges, and law enforcement.

    The joint agreement aligns with Chief Gary Batton’s vision to promote Choctaw culture and to open paths of success for all Choctaws. “Doing what is best for Choctaws,” and to continue the Nation’s progress with a focus on jobs and heritage.

    “A Choctaw tag is much more than just saving money—it is a way to show our heritage,” said Chief Batton. “There is resurgence in interest of the culture within the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. The new license plates are a great way for our members to display their pride in tribal heritage.”

    Choctaws will be able to visit any tag agency and present their tribal membership card to purchase the tag. The fees and taxes will be the same as a non-Choctaw would pay. However, tribal citizens should expect to receive a 20 percent rebate for new tag licensing, registration, and payment of excise taxes.

    Tag Purchase for New Vehicle

    • Can purchase tags starting Jan. 1, 2015 at local tag agency
    • Must present a Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma tribal membership card at the time of purchase
    • Will pay regular fees and taxes at the time of purchase; the 20 percent rebate will be mailed to vehicle owner from the Choctaw Nation within 60 days
    • Do not have to live within the 10.5 counties of the Choctaw Nation but must live in Oklahoma

    Tag Renewal (non-commercial)

    • Must wait until current tag expires
    • Purchase Choctaw Nation tag at tag agency, not by mail
    • Must present a Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma tribal membership card at the time of purchase
    • Will pay regular fees and taxes at the time of purchase; the $20 rebate will be mailed to vehicle owner from the Choctaw Nation within 60 days

    There is no limit on the number of tags sold per household as long as the tribal member is listed on the vehicle title. Motorcycle and motor home tags will be available.

    Tags for the physically disabled will be available for currently registered vehicles if the driver already has a disabled placard from the Department of Public Safety. There is no separate charge for a disabled plate. However, there is a $10 charge for an optional front plate and a $25 charge for the “in lieu of” plates for vehicles modified because of the owner’s disability.

    Vanity plates will also be available through the new program. A $20 fee will be charged to the owner of any currently registered vehicle requesting a personalized tag.

    Registration forms for either the disabled or vanity plates can be found at any tag agency or online here. For more detailed information regarding the new tags, see Choctaw Nation.


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    Blow Tight
    Billy Hamilton, Icy Conn, Codi Conn, and Boyd Miller pose for a photograph in front of the Blow ‘Em Tight business trailer.

    “Blow ‘Em Tight” keeps ‘em warm

    by Brandon Frye
    Choctaw Nation

    Caddo, Okla. - In a meeting with representatives from Choctaw Nation departments aimed at helping businesses, Choctaw Codi Conn and his wife Icy Conn offered to help make homes more energy efficient and comfortable for the Nation and its people.

    Their business, Blow ‘Em Tight Insulating, based in Caddo, began in August of 2012. It grew from an interesting investment to being able to insulate barns, shops, houses, and everything in between with cutting edge equipment.

    Speaking of how the business started, Codi said “Icy’s father was a contractor for around 30 years. We got together and talked about the long haul.” He said he and his father-in-law decided the insulation business was a good field to get started.

    Icy said her husband Codi is an online trade enthusiast and likes doing swaps online. He was browsing Craigslist when he found the fiberglass and cellulose insulation machine he used to start Blow ‘Em Tight.

    But to get his business off the ground, Codi had to make a sacrifice. “We traded a toy for a business,” Icy said about Codi’s willingness to sell his four-wheeler to collect the funds to buy his first machine. She said she comforted him with the thought that, when the business takes off, it would pay for a new toy and more.

    With his new setup, Codi said, “I insulated a few houses and realized that the job market was moving toward spray foam. At the first of this year, we invested in a spray foam rig. Now we can do fiberglass, cellulose, and spray foam for houses, shops, and barns.”

    Mr. and Mrs. Conn explained the benefits of foam insulation as being practical and more energy efficient. In terms of application, the foam can be used to seal leaks and cracks in construction of buildings such as outside shops. It can be sprayed into enclosed spaces in the walls of houses and will expand to fit the area, and it is just not as messy as fiberglass or cellulose.

    “More people are spending a little bit more money on spray foam insulation because it is more energy efficient with long term use,” Icy explained. She added that the foam performs better the more extreme the weather gets. It keeps cold in when it is simmering outside and heat in when it is frigid, thanks to the better, air-tight seal. In time, she said, the investment pays for itself in energy bill savings.

    “It’s a part time business now. But I have always wanted to see him have his own business, do his own thing, be his own boss,” Icy said in support of her husband’s business venture. “We just want to be able to live comfortably while Codi has his own business. We really try to stick to old fashioned business standards.”

    Billy Hamilton, Small Business Services Manager with the Choctaw Nation’s Business Development Department, made himself available to help the Conns with their goals for Blow ‘Em Tight.

    Hamilton’s position allows him to develop a mentoring or coaching relationship with Choctaw business owners, guide them to plan for growth and take action on it.

    “We’re working with Blow ‘Em Tight one on one now, as far as setting goals on where they want to be. You could tell Codi had big dreams in his eyes, now it’s a matter of putting them on paper,” Hamilton said. “But when it comes to business planning, it is also something you live and breath by, not just something you write down and put on the shelf. We can set some long term goals, then see how to grow capacity.”

    Boyd Miller, Preferred Supplier Program Manager with the Nation, also offered aid to the Conns. “We want to promote all of our Choctaw businesses,” he said. Miller works to increase business opportunities for Choctaw tribal member-owned business enterprises.

    Miller, and the Preferred Supplier Program, help by registering businesses so that they will be shared and made available for selection when work needs to be done or products need to be bought.

    “Blow ‘Em Tight is enrolled and registered in the Preferred Supplier Program,” Miller said. He added as the program takes off, these business will be shared amongst other tribes, as well as any internal departments, and also Choctaw members, so they can access and be able to choose Blow ‘Em Tight for insulating services.


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    James Burnett
    SSgt. Burnett C. James (center, in uniform) with his family after the presentation of the French Legion of Honor in San Antonio this past November.

    Spotlight on Elders with Burnett C. James

    Durant, Okla. - Few people embody the definition of Tvshka–a Choctaw warrior–as fully as Burnett C. James. This decorated Army veteran of the pivotal World War II Battle of the Bulge was one of 19 veterans bestowed with the French Legion of Honor at a ceremony in Texas this past November.

    The ceremony, where James was presented the medal by the Consul General of France, highlights the story of a man whose accolades were seldom told outside of the family circle.

    James, who goes by “Charlie,” attended Jones Academy as a youth. It was here that he received his draft papers in 1944. The Garvin native returned home to visit his mother before heading off to various military training camps and, eventually, England and France on the front lines of some of the biggest battles in history.

    “You’re just there and you do what you have to do,” James said of being drafted into the war. “I came up out in the country so I didn’t know much about what was going on in the world.”

    During basic training, he exhibited mastery as a machine gunner, so military officials assigned him to the task. It was a rocky relationship initially: Twice he lost the gun, once after losing his ammo while fleeing German tanks and another when a member of his crew fell asleep. The big gun was recovered both times.

    But it was this very task – spraying bullets at the German front line – which earned him a Silver Star for gallantry in action. His version of the incident is recounted in “Stalwart and Strong,” an unpublished history of his military service compiled by daughter-in-law Dorris Soule James.

    “We were marching through the woods on ‘Company Front,’ all moving forward at the same time. We came to a barbed wire entanglement, four or five feet high. We had to stop. We were pinned down,” James said. “I just happened to see a hole in the barbed wire where a shell had hit it. I had my machine gun on my hip and a belt of ammo over my shoulder. I thought I could make it through the hole….and I did. I was firing as I went through the hole, forcing the Germans to take cover. I was going on the old theory that ‘fire superiority rules.’ Two or three riflemen followed me. They weren’t firing, but were in position to do so. I started spraying the area in front of me from side to side.” Soon, the German unit surrendered – but not before James spotted a rifleman in a fox hole with his gun trained on the Choctaw. Turning to face him would force the German to shoot, so he played it cool for a minute until the final gunman surrendered as well.

    James also saw some of the Nazi concentration camps before his return to the U.S. He served another year in the Army after the war, finishing with the rank of Staff Sergeant.

    James settled in Arizona and his extended family includes two children, nine grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. He now lives north of Dallas near his son.

    At the French Legion of Honor ceremony this year, held at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, James was joined not only by his family, but one of his best “wartime” friends, PFC Eldon B. Gracy. They had not seen each other in 60 years.

    Heroism runs deep within the James family. Jesse A. James, Charlie’s father, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for an equally daring dead of “extraordinary heroism” in France during World War I, according to military records. Brother Sam James also was awarded a Silver Star, according to family.

    Also, James’s first cousin Owen Mambi was killed in the Battle of the Bulge around the same time that James was in action in the area in early 1945. Mambi’s name appears on the war memorial at Tvshka Homma.

    “I’m just proud to have been a part of it,” James said, adding that his father Jesse also received the French honor for his role in liberating that nation in World War I. “I’m proud of that, but I’ve never talked about it before. We were just trying to be patriotic like everyone else. It was just something that came along that you had to do.”


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    VACaward
    Choctaw Nation Flight Operations pilots Quentin McLarry, Al Cherry and John Wesley pose with the VAC Appreciation Award at the Choctaw Nation hangar at Eaker Field in Durant. (Photo by ZACH MAXWELL)

    Flights help wounded veterans; Choctaw pilots happy to serve

    by Zach Maxwell
    Choctaw Nation

    Durant, Okla.– The eagle has landed in the Choctaw Nation.
    Veterans Airlift Command, which links wounded servicemen and women with private air transportation, has honored the Choctaw Nation with an appreciation award. The actual award is a glass-carved eagle taking flight, symbolizing the flights provided by hundreds of entities for wounded veterans.
    Choctaw Nation ranks third out of that list of air service providers. Choctaw Nation Flight Operations pilots Al Cherry, Quentin McLarry and John Wesley are a big part of the tribe’s service to veterans across the U.S.A.
    “I’m just so proud of our pilots for what they are doing for our veterans, helping and assisting those who serve God and country,” said Chief Gary Batton. “It’s just one more way the Choctaw Nation is able to give back to our veterans, who served so that we can have our freedom. I am so proud for our pilots to lead this.”
    So far in 2014, Choctaw Nation has flown 15 missions, serving 22 veterans and 19 support people such as spouses and caregivers.
    “It’s a very emotional thing for us, but with a lot of satisfaction,” Cherry said, himself a military veteran. “These people not only served their country, they all have traumatic injuries which they will carry the rest of their lives. It’s a small thing we can do for those who sacrificed so much.”
    The award was one of a handful presented in appreciation to volunteer organizations such as Choctaw Nation, It was given by VAC in Nashville on Nov. 14.
    VAC with Chief
    Choctaw Nation pilots average around one VAC flight per month, ferrying wounded veterans to a variety of “humanitarian and compassionate” destinations such as medical rehabilitation, weddings and reunions.
    Amputees face unimaginable challenges when flying commercially, due to new travel restrictions meant to prevent the very terror which many wounded veterans fought against. One military wife, speaking for her husband, said this about the VAC program:
    “I cannot say enough good things about the Veterans Airlift Command and their pilots. They aren’t giving up their time because they have to, they want to. These pilots want to be there and that is a selfless act.”
    Cherry said one group was recently taken from San Antonio to their base in Tennessee to welcome their unit home after a lengthy tour of duty. He said the pilots also take groups to the annual Bataan Death March memorial walk, a 26.2-mile trek over the desert in White Sands, N.M., honoring US prisoners of war from World War II.
    The focus of the flights is on veterans injured in post-9/11 combat theaters such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Choctaw Nation has been involved in the flights for four years at no cost to the veterans or their families.
    For more information about the VAC, visit veteransairlift.org.


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    Promise Zone Ranch
    Left to Right: Gary O’Neill, USDA State Conservationist for Oklahoma; Butch Blazer, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment; Chief Gary Batton; Ryan McMullen, USDA State Director for Rural Development; and Assistant Chief Jack Austin, Jr.

    Choctaw Nation Promise Zone Visit from Deputy Under Secretary Blazer

    by Sara Jane Smallwood
    Choctaw Nation

    Choctaw Nation - USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment visited Choctaw Nation this fall. USDA is the lead department for the Choctaw Nation’s presidential Promise Zone designation, and this visit was an opportunity to connect further with the tribe’s federal partners.

    Under Secretary Blazer is a member of the Mescalero Apache Tribe, the former State Forester for the state of New Mexico, and former tribal council member of the Mescalero Apache Tribe. As one of the highest ranking American Indians serving in an appointed capacity at USDA, Under Secretary Blazer was eager to visit the first tribal Promise Zone.
    USFS Visit
    The Promise Zone designation plays into every goal and activity of the Choctaw Nation. Under Secretary Blazer’s duties at USDA include working with the US Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. During his time visiting Choctaw Nation he toured Winding Stair Ranch and the Ouachita National Forest to talk about past projects and goals for the future related to these two agencies and the Choctaw Nation.

    Visiting Winding Stair Ranch was a great opportunity to see how Choctaw Nation has worked with NRCS and how that continued partnership will strengthen the Nation’s land. Conversations with the Choctaw Nation’s agriculture staff included how this new ranch will serve as a hub for the Nation’s agricultural production. Under Secretary Blazer was able to see first-hand how intensive planning efforts are underway to devise comprehensive agricultural, wildlife, and environmental plans. NRCS will continue to play a role as fields are returning to native grasses, and management strategies are being implemented.

    The second day of Under Secretary Blazer’s visit included a visit to the Ouachita National Forest. He met with Choctaw Nation’s tourism staff to discuss tourists who visit the portion of the forest in the Choctaw Nation, especially during peak times in the spring and fall. This trip included a stop at a federal visitor center closed recently due to budget cuts, and how its closure impacts tourism in the Nation.

    The visit served as an opportunity to highlight areas of need, past achievements, and potential for collaboration between the Choctaw Nation and the USDA. We look forward to continued investment and partnership with USDA in the Choctaw Nation’s land and natural resources.


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    2015 Career EXPO

    8th Annual Career EXPO Brings the Game of Life to EXPO Center

    McAlester, Okla. - “Keeping It Real….Real Choices, Real Jobs, Real LIFE!” is the theme for the 8th Annual Career Expo. The event will be held at the Southeast Expo Center in McAlester, Oklahoma, on Wednesday February 25, 2015 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Career Expo creates an opportunity for job seekers and students to connect with employers and college or training facility representatives at more than 140 booth spaces. There will be something for everyone at the Career Expo!

    This year’s guest speaker is Mr. Bill Cordes. Since 1988, Mr. Cordes has keynoted programs for conventions, conferences, schools and universities nationwide. His programs have been featured in 49 states and Canada to well over 2.5 million participants. Bill combines humor and enthusiasm as he draws on his extensive life experiences as a former high school teacher, college instructor, television talk show host, life coach, and college transition specialist.

    The focus of the Career Expo is to connect job seekers with employment and training opportunities available throughout the region. Hiring representatives will be onsite from such businesses as: Trinity Industries, Tyson, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, State of Oklahoma, PGT Trucking, International Paper, and Choctaw Casinos to name a few. There will also be representatives from colleges and training centers. Some of those attending include: OSUIT, Kiamichi Technology Center, OU, OSU, and Grayson Truck Driving.

    The annual Career Expo is hosted by the Choctaw Nation Career Development Program. Career Development assists tribal members in obtaining high quality career and technology training which leads to industry recognized certifications and licensures. Currently, the program supports tribal members in training programs ranging from truck driving, welding, teaching, and heavy equipment operation, and wide variety of health fields.

    A highlight of this year’s event is the Veteran’s Resource Center. All Veterans are invited to visit this center to learn how military experience translates to job skills. “Veteran Friendly” employers will be identified and eager to meet with those in attendance.

    This year, attendees will have the opportunity to play a life-size Game of Life. An over-sized game board and hands on activities will emphasize the importance of making good career choices. Students and job seekers can walk thru Reality Park, practice on the welding simulator, try their hand at racing a robot, visit the Manufacturing Education Training trailer, and much more! Experiences in a variety of career fields will be available. Participants will receive a free tshirt (while supplies last) as well as be entered to win a set of Beats headphones.

    Transportation is available to Choctaw tribal members in Southeast Oklahoma who make reservations. Members can call Deidre Inselman at (580) 920-2260 to reserve seating. Deadline to sign up for transportation is Friday, February 14, 2015.

    The Career Expo is open to all persons interested in finding out more information about educational or employment opportunities. Admission is free.

    For more information or if you would like to participate in this February 26th event, contact Kelli Ostman or Rhonda Mize with Choctaw Nation Career Development at (866) 933-2260.


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    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Conducting Beef Survey to Gauge Local Rancher Needs

    Hugo, Okla. - The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is currently engaged in an economic study to determine the feasibility of various actions the Nation and others might take to stimulate the beef industry in Southeastern Oklahoma.

    The purpose of the study is to gauge the potential for expanding the industry, making it more profitable and identifying the best ways to go forward. While the focus of the effort is economic development for Tribal Members of the Nation, it is anticipated whatever measures are eventually taken will involve and be open to other farmers and ranchers who may not be Tribal Members.

    There are a number of possible ways Southeastern Oklahoma beef producers could be assisted. “We’re not committed to any one course of action at this point,” said Dale Jackson a Senior Business Analyst for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, “there are many options, ranging from technical assistance, to building a slaughter facility to serve the region. That’s why we’re conducting an online survey to see what our local producers really need and want most. The survey is available here and we encourage everyone to complete it, which can be done anonymously if desired. We need this information, and quickly, because we hope to wrap up the project over the next month. To make it easier for those who may not have internet access, we are making hard copies available at our business development and agricultural facility locations or they can be requested by calling me at (580) 920-8280 Ext. 2738. There’s just one basic requirement: we need the surveys completed on-line or back to us by January 15.”

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has lands across 10 ½ counties in Southeastern Oklahoma including Atoka, Bryan. Choctaw, Coal, Haskell, Hughes, Le Flore, McCurtain, McIntosh, Pittsburg and Pushmataha Counties. The economic feasibility study is being funded with the assistance of a Rural Business Opportunity Grant from USDA.


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    Young Lorene
    Lorene, as a young school girl in southern Oklahoma.

    Lorene Blaine - Elder Spotlight

    By Ronnie Pierce
    Choctaw Nation

    Durant, Okla. - Born in a small frame house in Bennington, Lorene Blaine never thought she would live a life that would take her across the country, to Europe, and back home again. “It was a one room house that had been sectioned off, and I was born in the kitchen, so I guess that’s why I love to cook,” Lorene confesses.

    The youngest of six children and a full blood Choctaw, Lorene has accomplished much in her life.

    She attended a small rural school until the 8th grade, only 24 kids and the same teacher every year. She and her sister would walk the mile and a half to school and back home again past an old cemetery, the thought still sends shivers down her spine. “We would run as fast as we could and only look back to make sure we were far enough away to slow down.”

    She went on to Goodland to attend high school. “Only 12 kids in my graduating class, it was a big one,” she laughs. She still sees some of those friends when she visits Tvshka Homma for various functions.

    After high school she stayed close to home attending Southeastern and taking business courses.
    Lorene Blaine

    But marriage to a military man soon took her a long way from southern Oklahoma. After marrying Silas Blaine, she lived on bases on the west coast and Germany, where they were a bit of a novelty. “People there had never seen Native Americans before, so they were full of questions, friendly but curious.”

    After moving back home, she continued her business degree at a school in Denison. She then began her career with the Choctaw Nation, taking a job with the CDIB department, or voter registration.

    She helped kick start the cultural reawakening within the tribe by starting the Choctaw Intertribal Club in 1992 which held annual Native American arts and craft fairs and gospel singings. She said she wanted to not only get her fellow Choctaws involved but other tribes as well. They started holding small pow wows that were noticed by professors from Southeastern Oklahoma State University. They helped her organize the events and moved them onto the campus where they were held for several years.

    In 2008, she was chosen as the Outstanding Female Elder of the Choctaw Nation. And just this past year was honored by AARP Oklahoma as an Outstanding Indian Elder in recognition of her work for the U.S. Department of Justice voting rights as an observer in many tribal and state elections.
    Lorene Blaine Vet Day

    In addition to cooking, she does beadwork, makes shawls, and crochets. She also accompanies Choctaw Nation representatives on cultural visits outside of Oklahoma, including the Smithsonian. She’s seen a real evolution in young Choctaws’ interest in their culture including traditional dance and stickball. This pleases her. And she tries to pass on to them the best advice her parents ever gave her, “Stand up for yourself, be independent, and always respect your elders.”

    She also likes coaxing her fellow seniors into getting more involved at cultural gatherings. Sometimes, she says, they seem like they are too shy to join in.

    She encourages them to participate, to get involved by telling them, “You don’t know what you can do until you get out there.”

    Watch Lorene’s video interview here


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