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Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

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    Conser House
    Angela Conser-McKean rests in the kitchen of the Peter Conser Home after giving a family a tour of the location.

    Peter Conser Home Returns to Care of Conser family Line

    By Brandon Frye
    Choctaw Nation

    Heavner, Okla. - After growing up in Florida away from the stories and people of her ancestry, Angela Conser-McKean moved to Oklahoma to be near family and found herself working as a caretaker of a historical home built by the hands of her great-great grandfather.

    Her distant relative, Peter Conser, was a well-known Choctaw Lighthorseman born in 1852 who lived a life of great impact on a developing Oklahoma. His home, the Peter Conser Home, stands as one of the Oklahoma Historical Society’s (OHS) Historic Homes–historic sites which the organization claims tell the personal stories of the individuals who built the state of Oklahoma. Conser-McKean’s arrangement with OHS supplies a nearby modern home to her and her husband, with utilities and rent at no cost to the couple. In exchange, Conser-McKean keeps the grounds and interior of the location in pristine condition, plans and holds events filled with learning experiences, and gives tours teaching the history of Peter Conser to anyone interested in visiting.

    “Growing up in Florida I didn’t know anything about Oklahoma or Choctaw history, and it has been amazing learning about my culture,” Conser-McKean said. “I have enjoyed learning some of the stories about Peter, especially from my grandfather.” As Conser-McKean would tell you, the home was built in 1894, near the town now known as Heavener, when Peter Conser was married to his second wife, Martha.

    “The story is there was a tree near a creek which Peter liked to play on when he was a kid,” Conser-McKean said. “He loved that tree and creek, so when he decided he wanted to live somewhere he came back here.”

    Visitors can still spot a very large, old tree just behind the homestead to this day.

    Martha was pregnant with Peter’s 10th child, and the couple needed a bigger home to raise their family. Unfortunately, Martha died during childbirth about two months before the house was finished. But Peter did go on to raise his children in the home. Conser was well equipped for life on the frontier, according to Conser-McKean. Many experiences from his youth readied him for the hardships found in early-Oklahoma.

    Peter’s father was a Swiss immigrant. His Choctaw mother died when he was only 10.

    An old Choctaw named Ainetubby took a young Peter in, helped raise him, and taught him how to work.

    According to Conser-McKean, Peter wrote about an advancing group of Union soldiers who pushed the group of Choctaws Peter lived with into fleeing. Escaping this situation, Peter found himself taking refuge at Robert Jones’ plantation.

    Jones was a wealthy Choctaw with the confederate army. Peter was able to take refuge on his plantation and learn how to farm during his interactions with the slaves. When the war was over, Peter and a friend of his came back to the Heavener area as teens.

    Locals formed a small settlement including a general store and post office near the location where the Peter Conser Home sits. Peter played a large role in this community, offering a gristmill for everyone to grind their grains, a blacksmith shop for metalwork, and a sawmill, which made many coffins as a result of the 1918 flu pandemic.

    His great-great granddaughter, Conser-McKean, said she wants to help her community and open the Peter Conser Home just like he did.

    Taking care of other people and being there for the community was something that Peter and his family did,” Conser-McKean said. “If a child didn’t have a home, Peter opened his home to them. Maybe we can’t still open the Peter Conser Home to live in, but we can hold events for them to come learn and experience something.

    Conser-McKean said since Chief Batton became Chief, the Peter Conser Home has had more Choctaw activities. She listed a quit show, a pottery class, and plans to start holding stickball games on the property, she said because Peter used to host them in his day.

    Erin McDaniel, with Choctaw Nation Tourism, said her department has worked with the Peter Conser Home, advertised the recent 150th Anniversary event, promoted the site through social media, and submitted it to the website roadtrippers.com. She said the Tourism Department is actively finding ways to partner with the home.

    Kathy Dickson, Director of Museums and Historic Sites with the Oklahoma Historical Society, said the arrangement her organization worked out with the family is a way for the family to share their heritage with visitors.

    “It is Angela’s family history,” Dickson said. “It’s not just a job for her, it’s part of her family heritage. She is very committed to the property.”


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    Language Big Meeting Nicholas Speaking
    Nicholas Charleston and Virginia Espinoza lead the event. This was one of the biggest events of the year for the School of Choctaw Language.

    Ittafama Chito (big meeting) gathers young Choctaw linguists

    By Brandon Frye
    Choctaw Nation

    Durant, Oklahoma - Ittafama Chito, or the “big meeting,” gave Choctaw linguists in high school language classes the opportunity to gather and celebrate April 29 at the Choctaw Nation Event Center in Durant.

    The students normally study the Choctaw language during classes offered by the School of Choctaw Language, held over the Internet between instructors in Durant and classes across Choctaw Country. This event is one of only a handful of times the young speakers meet face-to-face, show off their Choctaw to other classmates in other schools, join in on social dancing, and receive recognition for their hard work.
    Language Big Meeting Student Steals Partner

    Chief Gary Batton attended alongside tribal council members and other dignitaries to congratulate students on their academic successes and show appreciation for their furthering the Choctaw Language. Batton also joined in on social dancing with the students, which at one point grew to include nearly every student in attendance.

    “If it wasn’t for you, we couldn’t keep this rich culture and history alive for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma,” Batton told the students. “I challenge you to not stop here, it’s our challenge to keep this beautiful language of our Choctaw Nation bright and strong.”


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    Jerry Fuller Main Photo
    Jerry Fully shows off many of his creations as a taxidermist

    Serving his country and his tribe

    By Ronni Pierce
    Choctaw Nation

    Porter, Okla. - For over 42 years Jerry Fuller has had his dream job–a taxidermist by trade and writer/poet by choice. Jerry held a variety of jobs before he found his calling. After leaving the Navy, he dabbled in construction, machine repair, and worked for the phone company. When an injury forced him into retirement, he took up his true passion of taxidermy.

    He loves the work, makes his repeat customers happy, and has the best stories. “I’ve been in this business 42 years in August. I love it and I get to meet the nicest people and hear some of the greatest stories.”

    That’s evident as he peppers his spirited conversation with some of the stories he’s heard over the years, as well as his own homespun wisdom and favorite common sense quotes, such as, “A good conscience makes a soft pillow.” According to Jerry, he started putting his thoughts and memories down on paper about 15 years ago. Reflections of the people who inspire him show up in his poems and stories.

    In fact, the one that inspired him the most is the memory of a child who lived next to his family in Stigler when he was young. The boy had polio and couldn’t walk, but his father made him a cart with two wheels that he hooked up to the family donkey. The boy made the trip to school every day on that cart, lying on his stomach, 2 1/2 miles to the small schoolhouse in the morning and 2 1/2 miles back home in the evening. “The fortitude that kid had,” Jerry explains. “You lay down on a cart on a bumpy road for 2 1/2 miles on your stomach, it’s not very comfortable. But he did it, twice a day. If he can do it, you can do it.”

    And that became the title for his first children’s book, “You Can Do It.” It tells the story of Little Spirit, an orphaned Choctaw child being raised by his grandfather. The little boy can’t walk at first, but with encouragement from his grandfather and his horse Spirit Wind he learns to be a great hunter and protector of his tribe.

    Originally his granddaughter illustrated the book, but when the book’s publisher discovered he had other grandchildren and great grandchildren with talent, she insisted they all contribute their artwork. So all his grandchildren and great grandchildren have at least one picture in the book including drawings of Little Spirit, Spirit Wind, and forest animals.

    The book ends with one of Jerry’s poems:

    An Indian Prayer
    May we break an arrow for peace.
    May we all build one fire.
    May we catch the flight of the wind.
    May we be true and faithful till the end!
    May we build our lodging on a hill,
    Sheltered from the cold north wind,
    Shaded from the sun,
    And soft earth to lay on when day is done.
    May we have an open view to the stars and moon.
    May we never have our hearts filled with gloom.
    May our teepee be filled with love.
    May the Great Spirit guide us from above.
    May from our brothers, there never be wrath.
    May there always be fish in the streams.
    May we always have happy dreams.

    Another one of Jerry’s favorite quotes, “If something is worth living for, it has to be worth dying for,” applies to his being drafted after he graduated from Bixby High School. “I kept calling the draft board in Stigler to see if my number was coming up,” he remembers. When he was called, his friends convinced him he should choose the Navy. It was a life changing experience for Jerry.

    During the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, he served on a submarine tender, a supply ship for submarines. He met a lot of nice people and heard a lot of their stories, “Some of them I’ve remembered and written down.”

    With his homeport in Charleston, South Carolina, his ship served 12 submarines in his squadron. He says the old ship never traveled very far, but he recalls being stuck in a bad storm on the outer edge of a hurricane near Key West with waves cresting over the top of the ship.
    Fuller_3

    “I got out before Vietnam got hot. Got two of my buddies on the Wall. Too many men were lost in that war,” he stops short and pauses. “But if I was called again, and could do it, I would.”

    “In Korea, I had a brother in the Marine Corps and another brother and brother-in-law in the Army. I was young. But the things I saw my mom and dad go through, the uncertainty,” he reflects a moment, “My sis would address three letters every day with tear stains on them.”

    He doesn’t really remember when he started recording his military memories or setting them to verse. But he takes great pride in the work and in reciting his prose for other members of the military. “I’ve sat on stages with generals, colonels, mayors, and they all have such big lumps in their throats they can’t talk.”

    During a recent trip to the Indian healthcare clinic in Claremore, a woman whose husband was going through diabetes treatment approached Jerry. She had bought his book for her husband and wanted to tell him how much it helped him get through his treatment. Her husband said if that little boy could make it, he could too. It motivated that man, and that makes Jerry both proud and humble, knowing that he can actually help people. “I’m just trying to get my ticket validated.”

    “I’m proud I’m an Indian,” he says. “It can’t get much better than that–a Navy veteran and an Indian.”

    One of his favorite poems follows:

    The American’s Creed
    I love this great country. Please show me that I am loved.
    I don’t know what the future may hold, but with faith, courage, determination, and guidance from above, I’ll help it unfold.
    Love, guidance and respect from you I ask, regardless of what I did in the past.
    I ask compassion and forgiveness when I do wrong.
    I pray my mistake will help me grow strong.
    Don’t judge me by the things which you have done.
    Because I know with your help the best is yet to come.
    Millions of veterans have fought to make this country great.
    For that, I say thanks.
    This is my prayer for all mankind:
    May war and my generation be left behind.
    Because what I’ve been taught, these things I vow.
    I’ll always practice the golden rule.
    Until I get my degree, I’ll stay in school.
    I’ll respect our flag, and a good example try to be.
    I’ll do my best to help us remain free.
    I’ll respect and uphold the laws of this land.
    Against wrong, I will take a stand.
    To others I’ll try never to offend.
    But freedom and justice I will always defend.
    I’ll never use the words, “I can’t.”
    Because I know where the future is concerned, I pray, common sense I never lack.
    And I’ll always remember impossibility is an opinion not a fact.
    May God bless America.

    Watch the Jerry Fuller interview here.


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  • 05/13/15--07:52: A Phoenix Rises
  • Rebuilding and Surviving After the Trail of Tears

    By Amadeus Finlay
    Choctaw Nation Contributing Writer

    Note from the author: due to the nature of The Trail of Tears and subsequent social reconstruction in Indian Territory existing as two sequential incidents in social memory, this piece largely concerns the experiences of the first generation of Choctaw in Oklahoma.

    Choctaw Nation - In the late fall of 1831, as the chill of winter began to creep across the southern Mississippi Valley, the first of the 15,000 Choctaw who would walk the Trail of Tears were torn from their homelands and plunged into a bleak unknown. Two thousand five hundred of them didn’t make it. Other groups left at different times after the first wave, making the several-month journey and experiencing varied hardships along the way.

    For the 12,500 individuals who survived, ahead lay a bleak future in a dry land of dust and predominantly flat prairie, a world entirely contradictory to that which they left behind. Their ancestors, the bones that tied them to the place of their birth, were now a distant memory, and the spirituality so intertwined to their homeland seemingly lost.

    It was a set of circumstances so wretched, so utterly distressing, that this writer would not even attempt to describe them. Yet, this was to be their future, and in this future there were only two choices – either submit to the overwhelming pressures of distress and lose whatever was left of the Choctaw, or rally as a community to rebuild a new home in a strange land. In one of the most inspiring stories of post-Columbian America, the Choctaw did not submit to Jacksonian subjugation, but recovered from the trauma of removal and established a society that was destined to flourish.

    Things did not get off to an easy start. In June 1832, the Arkansas River flooded its banks and washed away a number of significant farms owned by Choctaw families. Already highly vulnerable from their forced exodus and lacking any form of backup, the Choctaw people faced famine. It was an unstable and uncertain period, made all the worse by a succession of epidemics that tore through the communities.

    In time, however, the Choctaw recovered, and within two years had built a stable economy and constructed a comprehensive and sophisticated legal code upon which they based their commerce. In fact, so successful was the Choctaw economy that historian Angie Debo reports of small towns such as Skullyville flourishing with hotels, blacksmiths and stores that quickly became popular stopping points for travelers on their way to California and Texas.

    Arguably, one of the most impressive pieces to the reconstruction puzzle was the Choctaw Constitution of 1834. Not only was it one of the most groundbreaking legal documents of its time, but it possessed such versatility that in 1837 it was successfully modified to accommodate the Chickasaw Nation after they too had been removed from their homelands. Eager to extend their democratic system to their new neighbors, the Choctaw legislature went so far as to surrender one-quarter of their votes to Chickasaw representatives.

    There was more than just capital gain and legislative advances to the Choctaw success story. No sooner had the people arrived in Indian Territory, than they built churches throughout the newly formed communities and established an independent public school system for their children. By the mid-1830s, five schools were operating in the new lands, with 101 students enrolled across the board. In 1844, Spencer Academy was opened, with Armstrong Academy opening two years later.

    Over the next decade, affairs remained fairly stable, and in 1848, the first editions of Choctaw Telegraph were printed in Doaksville, with the Choctaw Intelligencer going into circulation two years later. Around this time, reports begin to surface of large cotton plantations along the Red River, while along the Arkansas and Canadian rivers, prosperous farms with orchards and cornfields, cattle, hogs and fowl were producing in abundance. Such was the relative prosperity of Choctaw land that corn, pecans and cotton were exported in exchange for manufactured goods.

    The legacy of that first generation of Oklahoma Choctaw still resonates today, with many of the older members of society having known someone with a direct connection to those who began life west of the Mississippi. Tribal storyteller and elder, Stella Long, is one such individual. Looking back from almost a century of experiences, Stella remembers meeting James Dyer Jr. the son of Reverend James Dyer. Born in or ¬near Eagletown in 1838, Dyer was a first generation Oklahoma Choctaw whose parents had come west on the Trail of Tears.

    Looking back from the 21st Century, it is patently apparent that these first Choctaws were blessed with a remarkable sense of courage and determination. Not only did they create a completely new existence out of an unfathomable unknown, but in doing so provided the foundation on which today’s Nation is built; a Nation that believes as much in faith and education as those brave few who made it west.

    Let us celebrate that achievement.

    History is closer than you think.


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  • 05/16/15--12:26: Endangered Species Day
  • buffalo

    Endangered Species Day

    By Zach Maxwell
    Choctaw Nation

    Tvshka Homma - Choctaw Nation recognizes Endangered Species Day (May 15) with a success story about the Yvnnvsh. This is the Chahta Anumpa word for bison, the animal most of us refer to as the “buffalo.”

    Pre-historic herds numbering some 30 million bison were reduced to fewer than 1,000 by the turn of the 20th century. The National Bison Association counts more than 400,000 of the animals today.

    Choctaw Nation maintains a herd of 65 animals on tribal property at Tvshka Homma, near the town of Yanush (a variant spelling of the Choctaw word for “bison.”) Shannon McDaniel, executive director of tribal management, said the animals are fed a mixture of winter hay, commercial feed and pasture grazing. A breeding program is also in place.

    These animals are a popular part of the Labor Day Festival experience; more importantly, they provide a living link to the Native American heritage that helps define Choctaw and numerous other native nations.

    Here are the endangered and threatened species of the Choctaw Nation, listed by county. Information from www.wildlifedepartment.com.

    Atoka County: American Burying Beetle, Piping Plover.

    Bryan County: Interior Least Tern, American Burying Beetle, Piping Plover.

    Choctaw County: American Burying Beetle, Interior Least Tern, Scaleshell Mussel, Piping Plover.

    Coal County: American Burying Beetle.

    Haskell County: American Burying Beetle, Interior Least Tern, Piping Plover.

    Hughes County: Interior Least Tern, Piping Plover, Arkansas River Shiner.

    Latimer County: American Burying Beetle, Piping Plover.

    LeFlore County: American Burying Beetle, Indiana Bat, Interior Least Tern, Ouachita Rock Pocketbook Mussel, Scaleshell Mussel, Piping Plover, Leopard Darter (fish).

    McCurtain County: Black-sided Darter, American Burying Beetle, Indiana Bat, Interior Least Tern, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Ouachita Rock Pocketbook, Winged Mapleleaf Mussel, Piping Plover, Leopard Darter.

    Pittsburg County: American Burying Beetle, Interior Least Tern, Piping Plover, Arkansas River Shiner.

    Pushmataha County: American Burying Beetle, Indiana Bat, Interior Least Tern, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Ouachita Rock Pocketbook, Scaleshell, Winged Mapleleaf, Piping Plover, Leopard Darter.


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    Atoka Chilis Groundbreaking
    Two ground-breaking events have been held in Choctaw Nation this month, for a Chili’s restaurant in Atoka and two new facilities in Smithville.

    New projects for job creation and tribal services celebrated in Atoka and Smithville

    By Zach Maxwell
    Choctaw Nation

    Smithville, Okla. - Expansion of Choctaw Nation facilities is continuing into the summer – even if Mother Nature is being less than cooperative.

    Recent heavy rainfall across Choctaw Country is filling lakes and tearing up roads, as well as dealing minor setbacks for various projects around the Choctaw Nation.

    But that’s not stopping the progress. Ground-breaking ceremonies this month have been held for a Chili’s restaurant in Atoka as well as elder housing and a wellness center in Smithville.

    It is all part of the Choctaw Nation’s 100-year vision to improve facilities, resources and job opportunities for its 173,000 members – 41,000 of whom live in rural southeastern Oklahoma.

    “We’re looking at creating 30 to 40 jobs here in Atoka. They are desperately needed,” said Gary Batton, Chief of the Choctaw Nation, at the Chili’s ground-breaking on May 8. “And we’re continuing to look for more ways to partner with the city of Atoka.”

    Atoka Mayor Bob Frederick called the new restaurant an “amazing” new asset for his city.

    “Choctaws see the potential here, look at this highway,” he said, pointing to a busy U.S. Highway 69/75 in front of the construction site. “All these people could be stopping here to eat. It’s just amazing that this is happening for Atoka.”

    A Chili’s restaurant is also planned for Poteau. Both cities straddle major highways but have been overlooked by national sit-down eateries until this partnership between Chili’s and the Choctaw Nation.

    Meanwhile, the tribe is investing $2.8 million in Smithville for an eight-unit independent housing complex for elders, as well as a 1,300-square-foot wellness center. The latter will include various forms of exercise equipment and will be attached to the existing District 3 Community Center. Councilman Kenny Bryant said these additions were all part of a vision started 20 years ago by previous tribal leaders. The leaders of today are following through on those promises, he said.
    Smithville Groundbreaking

    “The Chief and Council are getting these things, great things for Smithville,” Bryant said at the May 19 ground-breaking. “It’s a great day for Smithville.”

    The town of a few hundred souls is a half-hour drive from commercial centers of Broken Bow and Mena, Ark., nestled in a pocket among the thickly-wooded hills of northern McCurtain County. Opportunities are few and far between, and a public water system just went into service this year.

    Many Smithville area residents are full-blooded Choctaw elders who either have lived in the area all their lives or returned home after seeking jobs elsewhere. The eight housing units will be located adjacent to the community center, offering ease of access to it and the new wellness center.

    New facilities underway or set to open soon include a casino expansion and a larger clinic in Durant, independent senior housing and a Travel Plaza in Stigler, several service facilities in McAlester and a food distribution center in Broken Bow.


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    Safer Schools for America
    Sage Dyer Stafford and son Zachary Miller after presenting their three-step plan for locking down classrooms and protecting school children in the case of an active shooter emergency.

    By Brandon Frye
    Choctaw Nation

    Durant, Okla. - If gas stations and pawn shops deserve protection from ballistics and active shooters, then our schools and children deserve at least this much, according to Sage Dyer Stafford, a Choctaw working to act on this thought with her business Safer Schools for America (SSFA).

    Moments after making this point to a room full of Choctaw Nation officials, police, and security officers, Stafford’s point was punctuated as bullets struck—but did not penetrate—a demonstration door. A bulletproof door shield, designed by Stafford, successfully stopped rounds and shells from pistols, revolvers, and shotguns.

    “I put together the original prototype in my garage,” Stafford said. “We took it out, we shot it, and it worked. So we refined and developed it, and eventually wrapped it in dry erase laminate so it would also be functional for the classroom it protects.”

    With the momentum of having successfully produced a means for children’s safety, Stafford built up SSFA as founder and CEO. She did this with the help of her sons Justin and Zachary Miller.

    Her door shield is only one of many products offered by the company as part of a three-step plan, and Stafford amassed a team of experts to perfect this plan.

    According to Stafford, right now the three-step process can turn the classroom into a safe room. Step one is to lock down the classroom door, which is done with an instant remote lock system. Step two is to protect the door from being shot down, kicked down, or shattered, and is achieved with the universal door shield. Step three is to protect the glass of the classroom with security laminate. Once in place, the three-step plan leaves the classroom protected without changing the look of a normal classroom setting.

    Warren Pulley, certified international physical threat assessment expert working for SSFA, said the most important thing is to have some way to protect children when they are inside of our school buildings.

    “At the end of the day, once a gunman fires a round, you have to have some way to stop the round,” Pulley said. “The products I tested for Safer Schools for America do exactly that.”

    Currently, the Choctaw Nation and SSFA are working together to implement the three-step program in all Choctaw head starts and daycares. “With the changing environment and the availability of weapons and active shooter scenarios, I think it would be a disservice to our children to not do this,” Cecilia Armendariz, Director of Facilities Management for the Choctaw Nation, said. “And with this being a Choctaw company, what a great opportunity to live our mission statement.”

    The relationship between SSFA and the Choctaw Nation began with the Preferred Supplier Program, under the supervision of Boyd Miller. The Preferred Supplier Program aims to increase business opportunities for qualified Choctaw tribal member-owned business enterprises, a goal accomplished with SSFA.

    “The Preferred Supplier program is giving us a huge leg up,” Stafford said. “It is very hard to break into an industry with a new product. But the Preferred Supplier Program gives us that opportunity, because it lends credibility to my company when an organization as important as the Choctaw Nation is involved.”

    SSFA makes it easier for schools and parents to help protect their children in a number of ways. Fundraisers are possible through Parent-Teacher Associations (PTA), where parents, teachers, and children can sell items like shirts and hats to raise money. Additionally, 10 percent of every purchase, including purchases from businesses and organizations, is donated to schools unable to afford implementation of the system. Safer Schools for America can be found online, and Sage Dyer Stafford can be contacted at sage@saferschoolsforamerica.com. Also, Choctaw and minority business owners wishing to take advantage of the Preferred Supplier Program can contact Boyd Miller long distance at (800) 522-6170 or locally at (580) 924-8280 ext. 2889.


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    MOU Signed TELI
    Choctaw Nation Tribal Early Learning Initiative (TELI) members signed a memorandum of understanding on Friday, April 17, as part of an early childhood “systems of care” effort during National Autism Awareness Month. Rebecca Hawkins is signing the document surrounded by other Choctaw Nation early childhood leadership team members Barbara Moffitt, Patti Rosenthal, Kathy Pruitt, Monona Dill, Brandi Smallwood, Lisa Blackmon, B.J. Robinson-Ellison and Angela Dancer.

    Caregivers, teachers, parents, and supporters offer time and resources to better the lives of children and families impacted by autism

    By Brandon Frye and Zach Maxwell
    Choctaw Nation

    Durant, Okla. - It started with a symbolic bubble release and finished on a celebratory note with community gatherings across the Choctaw Nation.

    The hope is awareness and understanding of autism will take root in the rural communities within Choctaw Nation as a way to improve the lives of an often overlooked segment of our people: families and children living with autism.

    The Nation’s Tribal Early Learning Initiative (TELI) took autism head-on in April, which is known as Autism Awareness Month nationwide. Choctaw Nation utilized a federal TELI grant to kick off its autism awareness activities.

    “The Choctaw Nation is one of only four tribes who have received the TELI grant,” said Angela Dancer, Better Beginnings senior director. “We have the infrastructure needed with our child care programs, Head Starts, and the tribal maternal/infant early home visiting program. The directors of each program want to continue to build collaboration and develop a unified application and information system to share.” The centerpiece of the initiative was a training conference held on April 17 in Durant for around 200 educators and caregivers. Key players in tribal early childhood programs signed a symbolic memorandum of understanding to develop “systems of care” for those with autism spectrum disorder.

    Lisa Blackmon, Dallas regional director for the Administration for Children and Families, said the conference is helping meet the needs of providers with education and materials, empowering them to work with parents and children.

    “They have all focused their efforts on trying to identify and meet special needs,” Blackmon said. “The Choctaw Nation has taken a successful simple approach of learning what they have available within their own programs and from there working as a network and referral source for those families.”

    Under the umbrella of the “Autism Community C.A.R.E.S. Initiative,” Choctaw Nation held a bubble release at the Durant Head Start on April 2, in honor of World Autism Awareness Day.

    After words from TELI partners, children filled the playground of the head start and chased after countless bubbles. It was a reminder that all children need care and support to experience such joys as chasing soap bubbles.

    According to Kelli Ostman, Autism Advocate and speaker at the event, the group first intended to use balloons, but in an effort to help conserve the environment, they decided to release bubbles in honor of autism awareness, where every bubble represented hope and love for an individual.

    Ostman said she is herself a mother of a child with autism and knows first hand what these families are going through.

    “When my son was first diagnosed with autism at four years old, we got a pat on our backs and sent on our way,” Ostman said. “There seemed to be nowhere to go for help. Families are handed this diagnosis and they don’t know where to turn, where to go.”

    She said finding out your child has autism can be scary, but the Choctaw Nation Autism Community C.A.R.E.S. initiative and its website are offering help, and have been since the group’s beginning two months ago.

    “We are saying, contact us and we will help you find these resources,” Ostman said. “We want to let families know they are not alone, even if they feel alone. There will be good days and bad days, but it gets better, especially with the right support and network around you.”

    Choctaw Nation communities experienced a variety of autism awareness events during April. These included free autism screenings, resource fairs and community awareness gatherings. These efforts reached a wide audience and gained the attention of local media outlets, including KTEN News that lauded Choctaw Nation for “leading the way in autism awareness.”

    But the main message from organizers of this effort: Information, help and hope are out there. For autism information and resources, visit their new website at www.autismcommunitycares.com.


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    Heavener Honor Society
    The Oklahoma Indian Student Honor Society inducted the following Heavener High School students into their honor roll: (Front) Barbara Johnson, Bethany Cook, Makenzie Wilson, Makaylee Wilson, Lily Friedl, (Middle) Emaline Wiles, Sydney Crase, Shaylie Sanders, Faith Clark, Cheyanne Cranfield, Emily Yandell, (Back) Devon Mathews, Lakota Vickers, Malory Lynch, Gunner Sanders, Dawson Adrean.

    Many Choctaw high school students join ranks of honor society with help of MAD

    By Brandon Frye
    Choctaw Nation

    Durant, Okla. - The Making a Difference (MAD) program of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma helped raise the number of Native high school honor society students in the state by 115 for the 2014-2015 school year.

    The Oklahoma Council for Indian Education sponsors the Oklahoma Indian Student Honor Society, of which there are now many more Choctaw members. The organization advocates within Oklahoma for Native students and teaches effective educational strategies addressing the unique cultural and academic needs they possess.

    According to Lori Wells, Director of MAD, the program mailed out applications to all 9-12 grade Choctaw students, many found they qualified for the Oklahoma Indian Student Honor Society, and many mailed the application back.

    The number of awardees jumped from 73 to 188 Choctaw honors students in Oklahoma, and five to 30 within the 10.5 counties of the Choctaw Nation.

    These Choctaws and members of other tribes were invited to a banquet in Edmond at the University of Central Oklahoma, an event meant to acknowledge the success of the young Native students.

    “I got an envelope in the mail from Making a Difference and it came with three scholarships along with a form to fill out for the Indian Honor Society,” Malacha Austin, graduating senior at Talihina High School said. “I filled them all out and received one back saying congratulations and that I was inducted into the Oklahoma Indian Student Honor Society.”

    Austin said she received A’s and B’s throughout her high school career and finished with a GPA of 4.2, above the requirement of 3.9 for the honor society.

    Among the high schools within the Choctaw Nation, Heavener High School saw the most growth. Heavener had no awardees in the previous year, but after receiving letters from MAD rose to 15 honors students.

    Earning a spot on the honor society will help students with their future plans, according to Wells, because of how good the membership will look on college entrance applications and work resumes.


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    SOSU Native Graduation
    Southeastern Oklahoma State University students collect for a photo after attending the 10th Annual Native American Graduation event.

    Oklahoma Universities honor graduating Native students

    By Brandon Frye
    Choctaw Nation

    Native American students across Oklahoma walked across stages, shook hands, and received the degrees they have worked so hard for this month. Oklahoma Universities went above and beyond to recognize our Native students while celebrating alongside them as they move into the next phase of their lives.

    SOSU holds 10th annual Native American Graduation ceremony

    Southeastern Oklahoma State University (SOSU) hosted the 10th annual Native American Graduation recently in the Fine Arts Recital Hall. The 2014-2015 Southeastern graduating class consists of 227 Native American students from Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Comanche, Citizen Band of the Potawatomie, Creek Nation, Kiowa, Osage, Ponca, Seminole, and Miami tribes.

    Tribal representatives from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the Chickasaw Nation, along with University faculty and staff, were present for the event. Dr. Bryon Clark, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Graduate Dean, welcomed the guest speaker, James Parrish.

    Parrish, Executive Director of Education for the Choctaw Nation and a graduate of Southeastern, reminded graduating students of their unique purpose with three important words – “you are special.” Parrish acknowledged the important role of the supporting staff from tribal programs and the Native American Center for Student Success at Southeastern for their assistance in helping the students achieve their academic goals.

    The Choctaw Nation Higher Education Program attended the ceremony and gifted Choctaw students with their own book of Choctaw Hymns. Debbie Vietta, Scholarship Officer with CNHEP, said “as part of the Choctaw Nation Higher Education Program, we were happy to support tribal members at the Native American Graduation Ceremony.”

    The Native American Center for Student Success on campus at Southeastern supports students with scholarships, grants and tribal resources. The retention services contribute to Southeastern being ranked 6th nationally for graduating Native American students with bachelor degrees.

    “The ceremony and reception is most important for the graduates to feel celebrated for their academic success, ” said Chris Wesberry, director of the Native American Center for Student Success. “We are proud of their accomplishments and enjoy recognizing each student’s achievement.

    OU celebrates graduates with American Indian Academic Achievement event

    Oklahoma University (OU) hosted the American Indian Academic Achievement Celebration, an annual event aimed at recognizing the success of the university’s Native students, on May 8.

    The American Indian Student Life Office and the OU American Indian Advocacy Council planned and hosted the event, offering appreciation and community among all Native graduates of the college.

    Many American Indian students, including 13 Choctaw soon-to-be graduates, collected to share the experience of reaching this milestone.

    Among them was Heather Dalke, who carried the Choctaw tribal flag for the opening of the OU graduation commencement.

    “I am super excited to be graduating from the University of Oklahoma and honored to be carrying my tribe’s flag during commencement,” Dalke said. “I could of not have done this without the help from my tribe through scholarships and other services that are provided for its members.”

    Felicia Manning, a Choctaw who is also graduating from OU, said she attended the American Indian Academic Achievement Celebration because it was a good opportunity to represent her tribes and make her family proud.

    “American Indians have overcome many obstacles, so I think it is great and important for us to be receiving recognition for our success,” Manning said.

    OSU celebrates graduates with Native American Graduation Ceremony

    OSU Native Graduation
    The Native American Student Association at Oklahoma State University (OSU) hosted a Native American Graduation Ceremony on April 26.

    Graduates were honored with stoles provided by the OSU Native American Faculty and Staff Association and the OSU American Indian Alumni Society. There were 48 Choctaw students who graduated from OSU this spring with bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees.


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    Youth Language Fair Sign

    Choctaw linguists attend 13th annual Native youth language fair

    By Brandon Frye
    Choctaw Nation

    Norman, Okla. -Students and instructors of Native languages came together for the 13th Annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair at the Sam Noble Museum in Norman on April 6-7. The gathering aims to give recognition to young students, as well as give them an opportunity to use their tribal language skills publically. Many Choctaws did just this, as students from schools within and outside of the Choctaw Nation’s boundaries made trips to compete individually and on teams. Public school students attended, competitors from Jones Academy showed up, Choctaw speakers from community classes around the state demonstrated their skills. In addition to plainly speaking tribal languages, competitors recited poetry, performed songs, voiced chants alongside drums, took every chance to sharetheir language with a large audience.

    Sydney Anderson-Cullum
    Sydney Anderson-Cullum earned 1st place in the 6-8 grade individual spoken language competition. Sydney also won the poster art design contest for this year’s language fair, and her piece “One Voice, Many Voices” decorated the flyers and shirts for the event.

    April Osburne and Echo Merryman
    April Osburne and Echo Merryman, with Talihina Public Schools, perform in the 9-12 small group spoken language competition.

    Sarah Willison, Alisha Hardy and Loren Crosby
    Sarah Williston, Alisha Hardy, and Loren Crosby, with the Choctaw Language Class, performed Choctaw Hymn #53 during the Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair at the Sam Noble Museum.

    Micah and Alexis
    Micah and Alexis, with Talihina Public Schools, hold their award for placing first in the 6-8 grade small group spoken language contest.


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    Taking the pressure off your heart

    By Erin Adams
    Choctaw Nation

    Durant, Okla. - National High Blood Pressure Education Month is upon us this month of May. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) what we eat can either increase the risk of developing high blood pressure (hypertension) or decrease the risk. Research has shown that high blood pressure can be prevented as well has lowered by following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan.

    High blood pressure, according to the NHLBI, affects more than 65 million, or 1 out of every 3 American adults. Prehypertension, which increases the risk of developing high blood pressure, also is at an alarming rate of 59 million Americans diagnosed with this risk factor.

    • High blood pressure defined as blood pressure higher than 140/90 mmHg
    • Prehypertension defined as blood pressure between 120/80 and 140/89 mmHg

    The Dangers of High Blood Pressure

    • By making the heart work harder this:
    • Increases the hardening of the walls of the arteries
    • Can cause the brain to hemorrhage
    • Can cause the kidneys to have decreased function, which can progress to kidney failure
    • Can lead to heart and kidney disease
    • Can lead to stroke
    • Can lead to blindness

    The good news, high blood pressure can be avoided and lowered by taking a few steps:

    • Follow a healthy eating plan, such as DASH, that includes foods lower in salt and sodium.
    • Stay physically active for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
    • Get and maintain a healthy weight
    • Avoid tobacco and heavy alcohol use

    If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure and your doctor has prescribed medicine, take your medicine as directed in addition to the above steps.

    The DASH eating plan is rich in fruits, vegetables, fat-free or 1% milk and milk products, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, and nuts. All of which provide potassium, magnesium, and calcium, protein, and fiber. These nutrients have all been associated with lowering blood pressure. In turn the DASH eating plan recommends less intake of salt and sodium; sweets, added sugars, and sugar containing beverages; saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol ; and red meats. When following the DASH eating plan you will look at you age and level of daily activity. This will guide you on your daily calorie needs.

    Heart Pressure

    Now that you know how many calories you’re allowed each day, find the closest calorie level to yours in the chart called “Following the DASH Eating Plan” found at www.nhlbi.nih.gov. This shows roughly the number of servings from each food group that you can eat each day.

    To help get you started below is a recipe rich in potassium and protein. Serve this with broccoli and whole wheat orzo to add extra magnesium, calcium and fiber.


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    JohnsonStormCleanup_TheJohnsons_WEB
    Patricia and Richard Johnson wait outside of their home near Tushka while a crew with the Choctaw Nation cleans up debris from a recent storm. (PHOTO BY BRANDON FRYE)

    Choctaw Nation assists Memorial Day storm victims

    By Brandon Frye
    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    The tornado-producing storm, which followed U.S. Highway 69/75 northeast from Texas into Oklahoma on May 25, swept through the countryside near Tushka while Choctaws Patricia and Richard Johnson sought shelter in their storm cellar.

    “All I could hear was the sound of wind, and I could smell cedar,” Patricia said.

    The smell Mrs. Johnson recalled was a sign of the damage her land and house were enduring just outside the walls of her shelter. The towering cedar trees her father, original enrollee Fulsom Jacob, planted when he built a home on the land in 1969 were being ripped up, broken over, and falling to the ground.

    Patricia said it was around 3 pm when the couple entered their cellar, and approximately 45 minutes later the storm hit. A silence broke in the commotion so she and her husband thought about getting back above ground, but it picked up again.
    JohnsonStormCleanup_BiscuitOnShelter_WEB

    “We stayed in for a while, but when we came out everything was just gone,” Patricia said.

    “It was so pretty out here before,” Richard recollected, “the cedar trees came all the way down the driveway and wrapped around.”

    Their home had been moved a few feet, leaving the foundational cinder blocks leaning sideways. Their front patio appeared to have lost support and was toppling forward away from the home. A tree had fallen over onto the south end of the house, cracking the walls inside. The electricity lines were broken, with poles being knocked over. The water line to their home had been busted. The couple had no access to utilities after the storm.
    JohnsonStormCleanup_FrontOfHouse_WEB

    But they were thankful. Patricia expressed appreciation for the 30-minute-early warning before the storm hit. She also thanked the Choctaw Nation and Councilman Anthony Dillard for having recently installed her storm shelter.

    “I am glad they helped because we might not have survived if they hadn’t,” Patricia said.

    Two days after the storm, Richard and Patricia stood outside on their lawn as workers with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Office of Environmental Health (OEH) used heavy machinery, chainsaws, and their hands to clean up the debris.
    JohnsonStormCleanup_CrewDoingWork_WEB

    The OEH team, lead by Tim Noahubi, had arrived the day before to begin cleanup and had returned for a second day to help the Johnsons reclaim a safe and clear house and yard.

    Normally, OEH works with water, sanitation, and waste water. It is a program which aids CDIB holders within the 10 1/2 counties of the Choctaw Nation with problems involving wells, city water, rural water, septic tanks, and city sewers.

    Noahubi said his team has offered this new kind of help for the last few years, cleaning up after heavy storm emergencies. After the Tushka tornado, there was a focus on community assistance, he explained.

    “This is why our service is here, to help the Choctaw people,” Noahubi said. “We turn into a tree and debris removal crew for the tribe, and if it is needed it is what we do. When storms like this come through, hopefully we can be here for people who need emergency help.”
    JohnsonStormCleanup_DozerAndHouse_WEB

    Choctaws who are experiencing emergencies similar to what the Johnsons did are welcome to call the Choctaw Nation and see if assistance is available. An office has set been organized to handle relief for those affected by the recent storms and flooding. To inquire about assistance this storm season call: (800) 522-6170 ext. 2183 or 2496.


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    Carolyn Young HEADER
    Carolyn Bernard Young touches up one of her pieces during April’s Meet the Artist event at the Choctaw Welcome Center. Her Earth to Art studio is located in Weatherford , Texas.

    Meet the Artist - Carolyn Bernard Young

    By Ronni Pierce
    Choctaw Nation

    Weatherford, Texas - What lies underneath reveals itself through art and life.

    She works the clay into a small circular mass then slowly and suddenly, the shape of a bowl takes form. Strong, steady hands work to reveal something that wasn’t there before. And, like the bowl, a woman’s talent reveals itself over time.

    Carolyn Bernard Young was not a born a potter. She did not appear on earth throwing clay and carving animal figures and totems. Her life and her art were formed by her experiences.

    In 1993, Young was traveling in the Middle East while working for an aerospace company. She was spending most of her time on the road and had just lost her parents and an older brother. She began searching for a creative outlet to relieve her stress and took a pottery class at the recommendation of a friend. “When my hands touched the clay I was lost. I took as many classes as I could,” she said.

    She first learned by using a potter’s wheel. Then she took a workshop carving pots while studying petroglyphs and that’s how she began her unique process of carving into the clay revealing what was underneath.

    In the meantime, she reconnected with the person who would become her conduit into the most creative part of her life, her husband Sam. They had worked together at General Dynamics in 1978, became friends, and then, as friends sometimes do, drifted apart. In 2011 they found each other again and married that same year. With his support and encouragement, Young became a full-time potter and artist. He poured the concrete for her aptly named studio “Earth to Art” at their home in Weatherford, Texas, in January 2012 and she moved in. “That studio is my haven. I’m there by 8 a.m. I listen to my Native American flute music and tell myself how grateful I am to have my husband and my studio.”

    Early on, Young was inspired by their honeymoon travels in the Southwest where some of the pottery they purchased inspired her to create one of her early pieces, Shadow Mountains. First, she carved a cloud pattern and then out of the pattern, appeared Monument Valley, a scenic desert region populated with sandstone buttes located in the Navajo Nation. She says it wasn’t an intentional creation, it just appeared to her like a dream. “I think the process lends itself to working toward inspiration because first I have to throw the pot on the wheel and it’s just a piece of white clay that becomes a pot. Then it has to dry, then it gets trimmed, then I put black under-glaze on it.” After the piece dries, she starts trimming and decorating. “So during that process I have lots of time to think about what this little pot is going to be.”

    “I’m working on some sculpture ideas and wall pieces.” But for now, she works on the simple things—mugs, tea bowls, bowls—because those are what people love. “One of the things I really like to do is make a jar with a lid and put a sculpture on top of the lid,” she continued. “In fact, at the Choctaw Labor Day Art Show last year I entered a piece that had a beautiful little sculpture on top that depicted early Choctaw life by the river. It was a potter gathering clay at the river.” That piece is now part of the Choctaw museum’s permanent collection.

    Young said her knowledge of the familial connection to the Choctaw Nation developed over time. The “Bernard” in her name is what ties her to her native heritage. Her mother traced her roots to the Nation through her mother’s side of the family. Growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, Young said her mother never talked about being a Native American. When her mother died and she found documentation of her Choctaw heritage, she started to embrace her history. “I have a lot of Choctaw books and Native American books, both picture books and storybooks,” she explained. “I feel like I’m behind in my heritage and I’m a sponge trying to learn everything I can.”
    Carolyn Young pot

    “I want my work to speak well for the tribe and evoke those ancient emotions. I want my work to be different, yet honor those who came before.” She feels honored and humbled to be connected to the tribe now. “Whenever I get a call from the Choctaw Nation to do something or be somewhere I always say yes. Because if there is anything that I can do to make our tribe better or to get the word out about our tribe, I want to be that person. I want to help.”

    Her work is now available at the Choctaw store in Colbert and online at the Choctaw store. She attended the Labor Day Festival last year for the first time and entered the art show. The piece she entered took home second place honors. She considered that a bit of a validation of her work and hopes it makes the tribe proud. “That was really good for me because it has only been three years since I really started doing this body of work and I want to keep doing this so it was important for me to know that my work is accepted by the tribe.”

    Her recent lessons with the Choctaw Nation to create pottery in the traditional way have been a real eye opener. Her pottery is considered contemporary, not traditional. She uses commercial clay, a potter’s electric wheel, and fires in an electric kiln. When creating pottery the Choctaw traditional way, one must find the clay from river banks, dig it out, process it, temper it, and then form it completely by hand and fire it in a pit. “It’s really incredible to think about how our ancestors came to do that, first out of necessity, then with their natural creativity, adorning the pots in a way that made them decorative as well as functional. Carving, after all, was what drew me into clay.”

    After showing her work at the Gathering of Nations and the Red Earth Festival, her next big project will be a series of carvings with Choctaw ponies and will be featured at the Southern Plains Museum in Anadarko from Aug. 22 through Oct. 17, 2015. The focus will be on wall hangings with representations of the pony’s preservation. Sam has been working closely with her during the project acting as a research assistant and sometimes reading to her about the ponies as she works. “I’m really excited about this work. It’s rewarding to see it evolve,” says Young.

    “My first step was to learn how to draw a horse. So I’ve been drawing horses, horses, horses.” She says they’re getting better and hopes to incorporate the design in a mural or a relief that has some movement to it. “Maybe the horses will be raised, or the mountains. I’m hoping to have that ready for the museum show in August. And then I also have an idea for some vertical wall pieces that will be like box tiles. They won’t be flat, they’ll have sides, and hang on the wall as independent pieces and be completely different and yet connected in some way and not necessarily with carving. There may be carving on some pieces and not on others. But it will be more of a tribal look without being as graphic as my pots are now. I haven’t figured out how to get them there yet, but I’m working on them.”

    The one thing she does know is how lucky she is to have found her calling, “I am very blessed to be able to devote my life every single day to my art. And to my tribe.” She is more than willing to give back to her tribe in any way she can because she feels that willingness is what causes things to happen for her. “It’s really been pretty cool, the last couple of years, pretty cool.”

    Years of throwing clay have taken their toll on Carolyn’s hands, but when she sits down to create she said she becomes lost to the clay. She’ll keep showing up at the studio and sitting down at the wheel as long as it continues to “sing to her and feed her soul.”



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    ChoctawDefense_BothStudentsSigning
    Stephen Benefield (middle) leads Colby Crosby (left) and Tanner Williams (right) through signing on as students and interns with Choctaw Defense and OSU Institute of Technology as their families look on.

    Students receive first Choctaw Defense and OSU college opportunity

    By Brandon Frye
    Choctaw Nation

    Students Tanner Williams and Colby Crosby signed on with Choctaw Defense as interns and scholarship recipients at the Choctaw Defense headquarters in McAlester on May 26.

    The two are the first ever to take part in the native-preference internship and scholarship program – a result of collaboration between the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO), Choctaw Defense, and Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology (OSU-IT). They will receive funding and internships during career-guided studies at OSU-IT, granting them stronger career opportunities after graduation.

    “In a couple of years, these two will be joining a class of graduating students who know, on that day of graduation, exactly where they will be going to work,” Bill Path, President of OSU-IT said during the signing event. “Just imagine, starting out their education they know every class they take will be custom designed for their careers.”
    ChoctawDefense_TannerWilliamsSigns

    Path said many young people graduate from college without the skill set necessary to find the best jobs, and owing student debt. Thanks to this opportunity, Williams and Crosby will be graduating with little to no debt and a guarantee of gainful employment, Path said.

    This is because the students signed an Employer Employment and Loan/Scholarship Repayment agreement with Choctaw Defense. While studying at OSU-IT, learning the skills and knowledge necessary to work in the manufacturing field, Williams and Crosby will receive scholarships and aid paying for their education.

    In return for this support, the students are promised an internship with hands-on learning at Choctaw Defense before graduating, as well as a job upon successful completion of their education. As a part of the agreement, the two will be required to remain employed with Choctaw Defense for a year, with the option of staying on-board after this period.
    ChoctawDefense_ColbyCrosbySigns

    It is an arrangement designed to benefit the students as well as Choctaw Defense, the nation’s leading Native American defense manufacturer.

    “We cannot grow without having qualified workers in the pipeline to fill these positions we have at Choctaw Defense,” Stephen Benefield, CEO/President of Choctaw Defense said. “We could easily double our business in the next five years here in southeast Oklahoma if we had qualified folks.”

    Tanner Williams, a Cherokee, graduated from Kiowa High School in 2014 where he played basketball. After graduation he attended Eastern Oklahoma State College, and will soon be transferring to OSU-IT.

    Colby Crosby, a Choctaw and Cherokee, is the oldest of three siblings, and enjoys playing baseball, basketball, and a number of musical instruments. He is a 2015 graduate of Wright City High School. He also attended classes at the Kiamichi Technology Center where his interest in manufacturing grew.

    “I became interested [in Choctaw Defense] when my dad and I went to an open house and they gave us a tour and I liked all the things they were working with,” Crosby said. “This opportunity is important because, it’s the first of its kind. They’re putting their time and money into two individuals that they hope will be a success for them in the future.”

    Crosby said he plans to do the best he can to better himself and the company. He added he is thankful for the opportunity and will do his best to make Choctaw Defense proud.


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    The Choctaw Nation Health Care Center, located in Talihina, OK is in the recovery phase from the flash flooding event of the night of May 19. The CNHCC Emergency Department is open for true emergency care but has very limited resources at this time. The Emergency Department has been relocated to the Family Practice Clinic, and does not have the same bed capacity during the construction/recovery phase. For this reason, the priority will be patients with true emergency needs. If you live in the Talihina area and your condition is not emergent, you are asked to seek care through the Family Practice Clinic. Non-eligible patients in the Talihina area can seek care at the Talihina Community Clinic. If you live in an area that has another Choctaw Nation Clinic, please feel free to seek care at that facility. As a reminder, if you live in a community with an Emergency Department and believe you have a true emergency, as always; please go to your nearest Emergency Department.

    For safety and security reasons during repairs, the main entrance for the entire CNHCC facility, including the Emergency Department, will be through the Clinic Entrance. The Clinic Entrance is located toward the right as you enter the main driveway and parking area. The CNHCC has and continues to follow all Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) requirements. Signs will direct patients to the temporary check-in location for the Emergency Department.

    Contacts for Additional Media Information:

    Brandy Griffin, Media Relations Officer
    918-567-7131
    bdgriffin@cnhsa.com

    Janet Sharp, Public Information Officer
    918-567-7053
    jdsharp@cnhsa.com

    David Wharton, Assistant Public Information Officer
    580-286-4724
    dfwharton@cnhsa.com


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    WorldEnvironmentDay_DurantRecyclingTeam
    Members of the Choctaw Nation recycling team stand in front of a large pile of recyclable materials in the Durant recycling facility. From left to right, they are Jonathan Callaway, Jason Thomas, Tracy Horst, Beth Mitchell, Jeff Winnington, Garrett Langston, and Jason Lilley.

    Choctaw Nation recycling continues to keep environment green

    By Brandon Frye
    Choctaw Nation

    In the summer of 2009, CNO started their recycling program. Though there was no recycling plant nearby at the time, Choctaws and locals collected materials and the tribe moved them to the nearest recycling facility in Ada.

    CNO’s recycling capabilities have been growing ever since. In the winter of 2010, the Durant Choctaw Nation Recycling Center opened its doors, and later a similar center would open in Poteau.
    WorldEnvironmentDay_PlasticBags

    These openings marked the Nation taking a more hands-on approach to recycling. Instead of collecting material and relying on other facilities, the tribe could separate and process the material, then get it in the hands of manufacturers to reuse it all.

    Choctaws and Oklahomans living in Southeast Oklahoma could give their recyclable materials over to the tribe and know they were doing their part to lessen landfill refuse.

    For six years, CNO recycling centers have kept paper, metal, and plastic in circulation and out of garbage piles. Water bottles, milk jugs, cardboard boxes, magazines, phone books, newspapers, styrofoam cups, tin cans, soda cans, and more were accepted.

    Recently, plastic bags (like from grocery stores) and trash bags were added to the list of accepted materials, giving environmentally-minded citizens one more way to do their part in keeping things green.

    Today, the Nation collects materials from all 10 ½ counties of the Choctaw Nation, and there are hopes to open new recycling centers in the near future.


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    DOJvisitsJones_SmallwoodSpeaks
    Sara-Jane Smallwood, Promise Zone Coordinator, listens to a recommendation from Karol Mason, the Assistant Attorney General with the Office of Justice Programs, during a presentation at Jones Academy.

    Officials from D.C. meet with Choctaw Nation program representatives

    By Brandon Frye
    Choctaw Nation

    DOJvisitsJones_McGarryIntroduction Federal Government Officials from D.C. met with members of the Executive and Judicial Branches of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) at Jones Academy near Hartshorne on June 3 in an effort to further educate the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on how the CNO serves its Tribal members.

    Karol Mason, the Assistant Attorney General with the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), and Beth McGarry, the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, aimed to familiarize themselves with the Justice, Education, Public Safety, and Reintegration programs of the CNO–as well as programs within the Chickasaw and Muscogee (Creek) Nations.
    DOJvisitsJones_MasonFeedBack

    “Our goal is to be partners with you all to help you create safer, healthier communities,” Mason said.

    In this case, the DOJ and OJP offer such help, in part, by way of funding and grants, according to Pam Young, Director of Legal Operations and Judicial Liaison with CNO.

    “Two of the bureau heads that were in attendance are instrumental in authoring the grants which currently provide federal funding assistance to our Public Safety and the CNO Judicial Branch— a portion of these funds cover the operating expenses of the courts,” Young said. “We are consistently setting forth efforts to become stronger and more independent, however, we must continue to build upon our relations with these federal officials as we travel this journey. It was an honor to have Ms. Mason in Oklahoma Indian Country.”


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    Choctaw Tribal Members may be entitled to Cobell Money

    If you are on this list or are an heir to a deceased tribal member who is on this list, contact David Smith by phone at (866) 383-6554 or by email.
    Cobell List

    Over 1,500 Choctaw Tribal members or their heirs are entitled to more than $2.5 million dollars in unclaimed funds under the Cobell settlement. The Cobell lawsuit received final approval from the federal courts in November 2012. At that time, the Department of Interior provided to the attorneys for class members, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP, and the court approved Claims Administrator, the Garden City Group, the records for approximately 500,000 individuals who may be entitled to payment. However, there was no contact information for about 75% of those people. Often Interior provided a name and a Tribe, nothing more. Therefore, for the past three years, David Smith, an attorney with Kilpatrick Townsend, and Garden City, have been searching for individuals entitled to the funds. So far, over 90% of the funds have been disbursed, including over $16 million to more than 4,000 Choctaw tribal members. However, with the help of the Tribe we want to locate and get the money to the remaining 1,500.

    Those entitled to participate in the settlement are tribal members who were living on September 30, 2009, or who had passed away and their estates were in probate on that date and who had in interest in trust or restricted land on September 30, 2009, or had an Individual Indian Money (IIM) account with at least one transaction in it at any time between approximately 1985 and September 30, 2009.

    Below is a list of individuals identified by the Department of Interior as living or deceased members of the Choctaw Tribe who may be entitled to a payment. If you are on this list or are an heir to a deceased tribal member who is on this list, if you could please contact David Smith by phone at (866) 383-6554 or by Email.
    Cobell List


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    Talihina Resident Graduate
    Valerie Robinson, Chunwen Tang, and Deborah Hefner pose for a photograph May 15 during an event meant to honor their graduating out of the new residency program through the Choctaw Nation.

    First Students Graduate from Choctaw Nation Health Care Center Residency

    _By Brandon Frye
    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    DURANT, Okla.– The first students to graduate from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Health Service Authority (CNHSA) Talihina Residency Program were honored May 15 at the Choctaw Casino and Resort Conference Center.

    Deborah Hefner, Valerie Robinson, and Chunwen Tang, now officially graduated into being Doctors of Osteopathy, spent three years working at the Choctaw Nation HealthCare Center in Talihina caring for patients in family practice, intensive care, the emergency room, and attending lectures given by staff physicians.

    The residency program got its start three years ago thanks to a grant provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, particularly the Health Resources and Services Administration.

    To get the program started, it took 18 months of preparation, according to Dr. Jason Hill, Medical Director for CNHS and Residency Program Director. For the Choctaw Nation, this preparation resulted in the development of one of only a handful of Native hospitals to have an accredited residency program.

    “It started in conjunction with Oklahoma State University, and with our need to expand rural residencies here in the state,” Hill said. “We had been approached in the past to consider the Choctaw Nation as a training site for rural family physicians and internal medicine physicians. This seemed like a good opportunity to recruit local people to work in our system.”

    Teresa Jackson, Senior Executive Officer of Health Services for Choctaw Nation, said the residency program has helped with recruitment and retention for family practice doctors in southeast Oklahoma.

    One of the three residency graduates has signed on with CNHS and will be working in the Stigler clinic, and others have expressed interest in staying once their residency program ends, according to Jackson.

    One benefit for tribal members who have recently visited a CNHS location is they may already be familiar with these resident physicians, and as the residents become full-fledged doctors their patients will be able to continue to see them.

    Additionally, according to Hall, an important benefit of the program is it has invigorated CNHS medical staff, engaged the physicians on staff by tasking them with teaching the residents, which means better quality health care for tribal members who come into Choctaw Nation healthcare locations.

    “I also use it as a recruiting tool, because when a doctor hears we have a residency program, it is a mark of quality,” Hall said. “If you think of the best hospitals in the country, almost all of them are teaching hospitals. I think by adding the residency program, it increased our quality because it keeps our physicians current and draws in more physicians.”


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