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Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

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    Mother Earth BIZ

    Michael Roberts, left, proprietor of MotherEarth Eco-Solutions, visits with Boyd Miller from the Choctaw Nation Preferred Supplier Program, after a presentation about Roberts’ product (shown in foreground).

    Environmentally Friendly Cleaner Draws from Family History

    Durant, Okla. - Imagine a product that combines common sense, chemistry and culture as a solution to a very out-of-sight, out-of-mind problem.

    Michael Roberts has done so, taking a gift from a biochemist and turning it into MotherEarth Eco-Remediations. The microbes gifted to Roberts are a unique and, according to the developers, much safer way to combat commercial kitchen grease clogging drain pipes.

    That’s the out-of-sight part. While MotherEarth does have more visible products such as a kitchen cleaner, the main attraction is a safe, non-abrasive liquid that eats up grease and clears expensive plumbing systems of potentially costly clogs.

    Cue the common sense: Roberts presented his product to the Choctaw Nation Preferred Supplier program in April. Choctaw Casinos, as well as others in the region, have been using MotherEarth for a few years since it is a native-owned company (Roberts and his business partner and wife, Rebecca, are both Native Americans).

    “There is a lot of stuff that goes down the drain” at commercial kitchens, Roberts said. “One problem kitchens will have is buildup and back-up from so much grease going down the lines.”

    The problem with popular brands is dependence upon caustic chemicals to break down grease. These chemicals create as many problems as they solve: They get into the wastewater chain (a gateway to the environment and downstream water supplies), and the toxic compounds can eat away at pipes.

    The contrast is easier illustrated like this: The warnings on a bottle of big-name pipe degreaser are numerous, and shocking. There are no such warnings on a bottle of MotherEarth. “If you were to drink it, it wouldn’t kill you,” Roberts said.

    Now, the chemistry: Roberts met a biochemist who had developed bacterial microbes that consume greasy build-ups, rather than chemically breaking them down with the help of enzymes. The enzyme process is so invasive that many places simply foot the bill for expensive pumping services. City and state regulators place limits on restaurants’ release of bio-oxygen demands and “total suspended solids” on either end of the process.

    “Our product actually takes care of those things,” Roberts said. “We’re trying to eliminate pump-outs. We’re trying to save the environment and save facilities a huge amount in fines and surcharges.”

    So how did Roberts come up with this bacteria-based solution? That’s where culture comes into play.

    Roberts lives in Ada and is a fancy-dancer - a 19-time world champion one at that. He is Choctaw and Chickasaw. His pastime is attending pow wows and festivals throughout the land to show off his moves and regalia. He has assisted in organizing the annual Choctaw Nation Pow Wow set for December this year.

    The MotherEarthEco.com website has a quote from Roberts’ father, Hiloha Okcheemali (Blue Thunder): “There was a time… I could drink water with the animals.” Roberts intends to do his part to restore that level of purity to the world.

    In his father’s youth, he was part of a traditional deer hunt with the Meskwaki (Sac & Fox) Nation in Iowa. He related to his son that they took a deer but “the blood stunk and the meat stunk. The (deer) were drinking polluted water,” he said.

    “That’s when we realized, something was going on with the environment, and something needs to be done,” he said.

    Fast-forward several years to one of Roberts’ fancy-dance competitions. At one of them, he met the biochemist, who revealed his Irish roots.

    “I said, ‘Have you ever heard the story about how the Choctaws helped during the Irish potato famine?’ After I told him the story, he wanted to do something to show his appreciation. He wanted to give back,” Roberts said.

    The microbial compound in Mother Earth was that gift. Roberts saw an opportunity to take action to help the environment. Since developing the product line, he has worked with several Oklahoma tribes as well as Fortune 500 companies like Frito-Lay.

    He hopes his example will inspire other big corporations to look at ways they can impact the world positively.

    “If they see Native Americans caring for the environment, maybe they too will change,” he said. “I’m not looking to be a multi-millionaire. I’m looking to change the environment.”

    One way, of course, is to use the safer microbial pipe cleanser that Roberts has developed. He says other formulas use a fractional amount of microbes, while his product claims a staggering 1 trillion per gallon. He also offers a hydronium-based product for eliminating rust, lime-scale and calcium build-up.

    The product is disseminated through a mechanical system attached beneath three-pot sinks in industrial kitchens. The components come from suppliers on the east and west coasts, while the product itself is crafted in Ada. Roberts has contractors who provide service calls to their growing list of clients.

    Roberts and his line of MotherEarth Eco-Remediation products were put through the “shark tank” process of the Preferred Supplier Program, including people from Franchising, Facilities Maintenance and Business Development at Choctaw Nation, as well as Chickasaw Nation Division of Commerce. Panel participants were impressed with the product, but they wanted Roberts to improve his marketing to expand the product’s reach.

    “This process is not just to create an Indian-owned business,” said Boyd Miller, director of the Preferred Supplier Program. “It’s to make sure that business can successfully take on its chosen project.”

    Through the various resources available to small businesses started by Choctaw Nation members, ideas like Roberts’ MotherEarth products can reach their full potential. In this case, the potential is not only in financial rewards—but rewarding for us all with a small step toward a better Earth.

    For more information about these products, visit www.mothereartheco.com.


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  • 09/09/15--07:02: Hitting the Road in Style
  • Elder Buses
    Choctaw Nation transportation officials shown with the new buses include (left to right) Jim Hogan, Ashley Robinson, Cole Osborn, Jeff Penz, Trish Singleton, Misty Hendricks, and Janie Dillard.

    Transportation for tribal members gets an upgrade

    By Zach Maxwell
    Choctaw Nation

    Durant, Okla. - The Choctaw Nation has invested in six new passenger buses that will take elders and tribal members on journeys throughout the U.S. in the coming years.

    “This new investment of six brand new VanHool buses to our fleet will definitely raise the bar for our transportation department,” said Janie Dillard, Director of Gaming for Choctaw Nation. “The Chief and Tribal Council made the decision to invest in the lives and well-being of our Choctaw Nation members.”

    The investment of nearly $3 million represents the commitment of Chief Gary Batton, Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr. and the Choctaw Nation Council in enhancing the lives of tribal members, especially elders, said Cole Osborn, senior manager of transportation at Choctaw Nation.

    “Moving down the road is quite a joy” in these new buses, Osborn said. The features of the 45-foot, 56-passenger buses are designed to make traveling comfortable, while improving fuel efficiency and cutting carbon waste.

    “It gets twice the mileage of conventional buses and the exhaust can be breathed directly by humans,” Osborn said. “It is that clean. This bus is eco-friendly.”

    Some of the hands-on features that tribal members will notice include a restroom, an ADA wheelchair lift, surround sound and video monitors, USB ports and power outlets for “all kinds of electronic devices.” Osborn said the technology capabilities on the new buses will allow for slide shows and other displays for training or entertaining while the bus is in motion.

    He also said the seats recline, but not onto the passengers behind each seat. These are just a few of more than 100 custom features listed by VanHool and its distributor, ABC Companies.

    Safety features include all-wheel disc brakes for quick stopping, and seat belts for all passengers. The refueling range is 1,200 miles.

    The new buses, technically called a VanHool CX 45-foot Premier Passenger Coach, will replace several units that had surpassed 500,000 miles of service.


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    Chilis Poteau

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Holds Ribbon Cutting for Grand Opening of Chili’s® Grill & Bar Franchise In Poteau Oklahoma

    By Sarah Oro
    Choctaw Nation

    Poteau, Okla. - Residents of Poteau can now enjoy a casual lunch or a night on the town at Chili’s® Grill & Bar. The restaurant held its soft opening on Friday,Sept. 11 and officially opened its doors to the public on Monday, Sept. 14. The restaurant is located at the junction of Highway 271 and Highway 112, adjacent to the existing Choctaw Nation Travel Plaza and Casino Too. The Poteau restaurant has provided 40 jobs to the surrounding area.

    “We are excited to bring a popular, nationally recognized restaurant brand of Chili’s caliber to Poteau. Even more importantly though, we are thrilled with the jobs created for the area’s residents,” said Choctaw Nation’s Chief Gary Batton.

    The Poteau Chili’s is a 4,500 square foot restaurant with seating for 156 people. The hours of operation will be 11:00AM to 10:00PM Sunday – Thursday and 11:00AM to 11:00PM Friday - Saturday. The Chili’s restaurant is the newest addition to the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma’s Franchise Division, with a second location set to open Dec. 2015 in Atoka. Okla.


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    The District front

    The one-stop destination features various activities including laser tag, bowling, arcade games and movies

    Durant, Okla. - Choctaw Casino Resort - Durant, a AAA Four Diamond property located in Durant, Okla., is proud to announce the opening of The District. The entertainment complex will appeal to all ages and feature an array of family-friendly amenities including a two-story laser tag arena, spacious bowling alley, an arcade encompassing 41 games, and a movie theater complete with four main screens and a total of 633 seats.

    “We’re always looking for opportunities for growth, expansion and fun, so The District was a perfect fit for Choctaw Casino Resort,” said Wendy Carter, marketing director for Choctaw Casinos. “In addition to entertainment options, The District will also create new jobs in the area and provide an enjoyable and safe environment for our visitors. We’re excited about the new venues and would like to personally invite everyone to come out and experience them firsthand.” The District is open from 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

    The movie theater will be the ideal spot for all movie buffs. The facility will be home to four theaters and include a minimum of 114 seats in each room. In between catching their favorite blockbuster films, guests will be able to grab a refreshing snack from the venue’s concession stand located on the main floor.

    Bowling enthusiasts will also be in luck, as The District’s bowling facility will include 200 bowling balls and 300 pairs of house bowling shoes. Additionally, bowlers will be able to enjoy nights of “cyber bowling” on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.

    The District Laser TagThe District 2

    The arcade at The District spans 3,600 square feet, including the 3,350 square-foot laser tag arena. To learn more information about the exciting new offerings at The District or Choctaw Casino Resort - Durant, visit here.


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    CNO Flu MOU
    Chief Gary Batton and Oklahoma Commissioner of Health Terry Kline sign a Memorandum of Understanding to initiate a joint effort to protect the health of southeastern Oklahomans with free flu vaccinations.

    Tribe and State Cooperate to Supply Free Flu Vaccinations

    By Brandon Frye
    Choctaw Nation

    Durant, Okla. - The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) and the State of Oklahoma signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Aug. 20, marking the beginning of a joint effort to protect the health and welfare of all citizens within the 10.5 counties of the Choctaw Nation.

    Chief Gary Batton and Oklahoma Commissioner of Health Terry Kline sat down to sign the form, making official the arrangement between CNO and the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), wherein the CNO supplies influenza vaccinations and the state-run local health departments administer the vaccinations to citizens.

    The vaccinations will be available to any person, whether a tribal member or a non-tribal member, and without any cost to them.

    “I do have a strong belief in community health and public health,” Chief Batton said. “We can’t let one person be sick and everyone else be healthy. That one person will eventually affect everybody else.”

    The county health departments will distribute the vaccinations to schools, businesses, community centers, and other appropriate venues within the Choctaw Nation.

    Kline said, “When we look at vaccinations, you’d be hard pressed to find any healthcare intervention in a community that would offer more protection for its members.”

    The MOU article cited two circumstances which prompted the agreement, including a steady increase in influenza and influenza-like illnesses in recent years within southeastern Oklahoma; as well as the resulting economic burden on the area due to health care costs and reduced productivity. For the 2014-2015 flu season, OSDH reported 2,299 cumulative influenza-caused hospitalizations and/or deaths in Oklahoma. In the same time, they reported 109 hospitalizations and two deaths caused by influenza within the 10.5 counties of the Choctaw Nation.

    According to the MOU’s official arrangement, the tribe and the local county health departments believe the two parties can have a significant impact on reducing the incidence rate of influenza and influenza-like illnesses, not only within the Choctaw Nation, but throughout the entire state.

    “The Choctaw Nation will continue with their normal efforts as we administer flu vaccines, and the state will go out and get more individuals,” said Teresa Jackson, Senior Executive Officer over Health Services for CNO. “Our goal is to keep schools and businesses from closing, and to reduce the number of hospitalizations in Oklahoma due to the flu.”


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    Iti - Capitol
    The Choctaw Nation Capitol Building at Tvshka Homma.

    Iti Fabvssa - Tvshka Homma: Capitol of the Choctaw Nation

    By Historical Preservation Department
    Choctaw Nation

    Tvshka Homma, Okla. - Do you recognize this building? You might have seen it at the Choctaw Nation Labor Day Festival, at Christmas in the Park, or while attending a summer youth camp. This is the Choctaw Capitol Building, also known as the Old Council House. It is located at the center of the Tvshka Homma capitol grounds and has stood there since the 1880’s. Tvshka Homma wasn’t our first capitol location; in fact, there have been several other locations in the past. This month’s edition of Iti Fabvssa will explore the history of our Choctaw capitols.

    In 1834, just after the Trail of Tears, Choctaw leaders met together in Oklahoma to create a new constitution. This constitution not only reestablished our government in Indian Territory and set forth laws for our tribe, but also created a capitol for the Nation. They named the capitol Nvnih Waiya, after the sacred mound the Choctaw people had to leave behind in Mississippi. The capitol was located just 2 miles south of current day Tvshka Homma and built both a council house in 1838 and a house of representatives in 1843. Despite success at this location, our capitol was moved less than two decades later.

    Fort Towson was one destination for Choctaws along the Trail of Tears. Upon their arrival many Choctaws stayed in the Fort Towson area and as a result, a thriving population grew in the town of Doaksville. Trade along the military road to Fort Smith as well as trade from the Red River brought further growth to Doaksville. By 1850, Doaksville was the largest In Indian Territory. The 1850 Choctaw constitution moved the capitol to Doaksville, now the political and economic hub of the Choctaw Nation. In 1857, the Skullyville constitution changed the location of the capitol to Boggy Depot, over 60 miles to the east. This was highly controversial, however, and a new constitution was quickly written in 1860, moving the capitol back to Doaksville.

    In 1854, the U.S. Army abandoned Fort Towson. Doaksville began to steadily decline, possibly due to the lack of goods now traveling on the military road and lack of protection during the American Civil War. After years of uncertainty and decline, in 1863 the Choctaw Nation amended the 1860 Constitution and moved the capitol to Chahta Tamaha, near current day Bok Chito, Oklahoma. At Chahta Tamaha was the Armstrong Academy for Boys. Because of the war, academy was closed and the building was used as the Nation’s Council House till 1883 when the school was reopened.

    With the news of a railroad coming through the Kiamichi Valley, and the installation of several new steam powered saw mills, construction began on a new council house in 1879. Four years later, in 1883, what we now know as the Choctaw Capitol Building finished construction. The area was named Tvshka Homma, meaning Red Warrior, in honor of Chief Jack McCurtain. By 1885 over 100 families and businesses had moved to the area. However, the railroad was built 2 miles south and the town resettled at ‘New Tuskahoma’. Today, the Tvshka Homma capitol grounds is still used for many activities year round including cultural demonstrations, weddings, family reunions, tours, and gatherings. In the center of the grounds the capitol building still stands; representing the resilience, pride, and success of the Choctaw people.


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  • 09/24/15--07:35: New Housing for Elders Opens
  • Stigler Elder Homes Tracy
    Tracy Archey, Service Coordinator for the Choctaw Nation Housing Authority, gives Choctaw elder Mack Barker a tour inside one of the new homes.

    New Housing for Elders Opens

    By Charles Clark
    Choctaw Nation

    Stigler, Okla. - A new door opened for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma last month — 10 new doors, in fact. At a ribbon cutting ceremony Aug. 21 in Stigler, Chief Gary Batton declared the Choctaw Nation Independent Living Community open for inspection.

    The 10 units for senior tribal members is a first for Stigler. It is the 7th for the Choctaw Nation. Other independent living communities are located in Calera, Hartshorne, Hugo, Idabel, Poteau and Talihina. The Choctaw Nation also has a program that provides apartment living for qualified tribal elders.

    More than 50 people from the Choctaw Nation, City of Stigler and Stigler Chamber of Commerce were on hand as a morning of drizzling rain stopped long enough to hear comments from Chief Batton, Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr., District 6 Councilman Joe Coley, and District 4 Councilman Delton Cox.

    Also present was District 5 Junior Miss Choctaw Juanita Gonzalez, 15, wearing her beaded crown and traditional Choctaw attire.

    The housing addition is located in District 5. The councilman for that area, Ronald Perry, was introduced by Cox as “the man of the hour.” Councilman Perry said, that the housing shows “we intend to take care of our elders.”

    Those words and more kept the morning filled with cheer, as well as pride. Everyone present seemed to grasp that a notable accomplishment was being recognized.

    “It was his vision,” said Assistant Chief Austin as he brought Chief Batton to the podium.

    Chief Batton thanked the Choctaw Housing Authority and other programs and individuals that had a hand in bringing about the new construction.

    “The 10 units are just the beginning,” said Chief Batton, as he revealed a total of 32 more units are to be built at future sites. Each property also has its own safe room, he added, noting the importance to safety and sense of security the feature will bring to the new homeowners.

    With the snip of an oversized pair of scissors on the lawn of the housing office at the entrance to the addition, the site was officially opened for tours.

    Representatives of builders AIPe, were on hand to answer questions.

    The addition is located northeast of downtown, but still inside Stigler city limits. Municipal water, sewer and emergency services apply to the units. Each house is listed as being 750 square feet, has one bedroom and one bath, a laundry area, kitchen/dining area and living room. They are ADA compliant and feature Energy Star appliances.

    As tribal officials toured the homes in Stigler, they could be heard discussing plans for the next elder housing construction — in Smithville. For a complete list of resident application requirements and availability, contact Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Housing Authority, toll free at (800) 235-3087 or online at kduane@choctawhousing.com.


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    2015 LD Princesses
    (left-right) The 2015-16 royalty for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma are Little Miss Ariana Byington from District 11, Miss Choctaw Nation Neiatha Hardy from District 12, and Junior Miss Loren Crosby from District 7.
    Ronni Pierce
    Choctaw Nation

    Tvshka Homma, Okla. - Three new Choctaw royalty were crowned in the Amphitheater to kick off the Labor Day Festival on Sept. 3. The new princesses were crowned in front of an enthusiastice audience and, for the first time, the entire pageant was live streamed.

    Ariana Byington was awarded the title in the Little Miss Division. From District 11, she is the daughter of Twanna Byington of McAlester. She attends the 5th grade at Parker Elementary and is a member of the First Baptist Indian Church. She enjoys singing, movies, shopping, softball, basketball, and stickball. She is active with beading, arts and crafts, pow wow dancing, and Native pageants.

    In the Junior Miss Division, Loren Crosby from District 7 was crowned. She is the daughter of Kenneth and Elizabeth Crosby of Wright City. She attends 9th grade at Wright City High School. Loren participates in the STAR Program, Choctaw language competition, JOM math awards, Show Choir, and All State District Choir.

    And in the Senior Miss Division from District 12, Neiatha Hardy will serve as Miss Choctaw Nation. She is the daugher of Paula Carney of Coalgate. She is a recent graduate of Coalgate High School. Neiatha was on the Superintendant’s Honor Roll. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends, teaching Sunday school, and playing softall. She is an active member of FCA, FFA, and District 12 activities.

    The Native Praise Choir also performed during the pageant. Founded in 1999, the Choir sings in English, and three languages which represent the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma: Muscogee Creek and Seminole Nations, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations, and Cherokee.

    The outgoing royalty Kyra Wilson, Summer Moffitt, and Nikki Amos were also honored for their year-long reign in a special presentation.


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    Germany Chiropractic
    John Germany pictured with a replica of the human spinal cord, a piece of anatomy at the core of chiropractic knowledge and practice.

    Germany Chiropractic lifts off with help of Choctaw Nation

    By Brandon Frye
    Choctaw Nation

    Durant, Okla. - John Germany doesn’t need much to make someone’s life better, just a table and his hands.

    He is a trained Doctor of Chiropractic and holds a deep understanding of the human body’s skeletal, muscular, and nervous systems. With a little pressure in the right spots, Germany can help with many of the physical ills found in someone’s body.

    Germany, a 32-year-old Coleman native, spent more than seven years training and earning degrees to be able to open his independent Durant-based chiropractic business, Germany Chiropractic. It has been serving locals since the end of 2014.

    “My purpose here is to help people,” Germany said. “It’s a hands-on approach to health, and I also get to reach a person on a more personal level.” Germany said clients come to him, not only with the common ailments like back and neck pain, but also needing help to be able to brush their hair without a shoulder hurting. Sometimes they want to be able to pick up a grandchild again, or want to be able to play 18 holes of golf without feeling like they ran a marathon.

    “Pain impacts people in different ways,” he said, “weakness, soreness, heartburn, headaches, a whole host of different sensations.” And one of his goals is to help people get rid of such pain for good.

    “People realize if they come here first, they can get their problem under control, rather than suppress the symptoms, but do nothing for the root cause.”

    Fixing bodily problems once they make themselves known is important, according to Germany. But, he believes proactively keeping the body healthy is just as, if not more, important.

    This is why his service doesn’t end at the table, but extends to include teaching and coaching his clients about living healthfully and mindfully – staying active, drinking enough water, holding themselves well, and so on. It’s also why his business draws in athletes as clients, they aim to keep their bodies working at peak performance levels.

    While working with a client, he looks for subluxations within the spine and joints—a point of misalignment, interference within the nervous system, like a kink in a water hose. These kinks can be caused by daily life choices like bad posture, a sedentary job, or staring down at a phone too much. They can also be caused more noticeably by injuries and trauma.

    A subluxation expresses itself in apparent ways, like when clients come in with pain, weakness, and soreness. It can also express itself more subtly with a part of the body not functioning properly, like with a lessened range of motion.

    Nerves go through every organ of the body, and when a subluxation impedes a nerve, messages don’t travel through the body as well and pain can be sent back to the brain.

    Germany frees up these interferences and allows the body to heal itself. The body does all of the healing, he said, just like it does after getting a cut. Band-Aids and Neosporin do not heal wounds, they only help the body along. Germany’s chiropractic service similarly helps the body help itself.

    To get to where he is now, Germany took advantage of services offered by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO).

    He received financial support as an undergraduate and doctoral student. He received support again when pursuing his certified chiropractic sports physicians certificate, a specialization in treating athletes. He saved money using the Choctaw Asset Building (CAB) service, which returned two dollars for every one dollar he saved in the effort of building up his business. He also worked with CNO Small Business Development Services, which helped him plan his business.

    Billy Hamilton, manager of Small Business Development Services, said, “We provided one-on-one counseling, access to business training, marketing development, and access to networking opportunities.”

    Germany is still working with the Choctaw Nation to be able to better serve tribal employees, and accept their insurance. He said he is also looking for better ways to serve all Native Americans in need of chiropractic care, and is set up to offer a tribal member discount.

    Anyone interested in finding better health—or as Germany puts it, “Getting back in the game, no matter what that game might be,”—can call Germany Chiropractic at (580) 380-4960 or visit 116 S. 21st Ave. in Durant, OK 74701.


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  • 09/29/15--08:35: MBCI takes home top trophy
  • MBCI Stickball Labor Day 2015
    This year’s stickball champions, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

    Tvshka Homma shines in stickball tourney

    By Charles Clark
    Choctaw Nation

    Tvshka Homma, Okla. - Home field favorite Tvshka Homma made it all the way to the semi finals in the 2015 Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma’s Labor Day Festival Stickball Tournament. The End.

    By all accounts the Oklahoma team performed valiantly and boosted enthusiasm for the sport after a long, bruising weekend in the heat and games that lasted past midnight for the seven teams in the tourney bracket.

    On Sunday, Sept. 6, shortly after 10 p.m., warm-ups began as the grandstands and sidelines populated with fans for the championship game between two teams from Mississippi, MBCI and Beaver Dam.

    The field, big enough for a college football game, was brightened by moonlight and stadium lighting.

    War hoops and drumbeats from nearly 100 players on the field recalled an ancient time.

    “They are psyching themselves up,” said announcer Olin Williams. Williams was sharing the booth with Folsom White, who resides a half-mile from the playing field. “First place is on the line. In the next hour the championship will be decided for the world’s best stickball team.”

    At 10:35 p.m., the players slapped sticks and the contest was under way.

    Less than 10 minutes into the game and MBCI had three points on the scoreboard, thanks to Bill Farmer, Milton Robinson, and Chad Johnson. The top of a pole was smacked again, this time by MBCI’s Jimmy Fargo. Then, Trey Lilly, 5-0, MBCI.

    An injury brought a medic onto the field with three minutes remaining in the first quarter. Within seconds play resumed. Josh Thomas made it 6-0, MBCI’s favor as the players headed to the sides.

    The fast-paced first quarter ended at 10:54 p.m., a lop-sided score.

    “MBCI came to play,” said an announcer wryly.

    As the second quarter launched, it was clear Team Beaver Dam knew it couldn’t hold back. For more than five minutes, Beaver Dam managed to keep control of the ball and had it flying by and bouncing off the post, but could not connect with the top three feet of sky blue paint.

    “They got their horn in the game now,” came over the speaker.

    At 11:11 p.m., the second quarter ended scoreless. The red jerseys of Beaver Dam players were soaked with sweat, as were the camo-shirts of MBCI. But, Beaver Dam knew its game was amped up, and they were clearly anxious for the second half. MBCI felt a chink in their armor.

    Shouts of “Keep it up” and “Stay hungry” came from pacing MBCI players.

    The teams switched ends and the third quarter began with a ball toss that went the length of the field. The clatter of sticks from a knot of at least 40 players sent the ball shooting straight up, where it was picked up by a player and sent to the other end of the field. The back-and-forth by runners at full-speed was on.

    Just over 10 minutes into the quarter, Beaver Dam’s Daniel Bell hit the top of the post, for what would be the team’s only point. Before the quarter was up, Bell was tossed from the game, a little too much enthusiasm shown on his part, for a flying tackle, sticks in hand.

    The rest of the game was all MBCI. Final score, 9-1.

    MBCI played it tough at both ends of the field, as they say.

    “It’s been a good night and a good tournament,” said an announcer.

    “This is the best stickball you’ll ever see,” said the other.

    And some of the best sportsmanship, you’ll ever see.

    Tvshka Homma presented the winning trophy. The hometown favorites mingled with the two finalists under the lights at mid-field as families and fans came out to congratulate all. Hugs, backslapping and handshakes, and plenty of laughter flowed with the sweat.

    Since it was not written down and never stated over the speakers, this sports writer had to ask, “What does MBCI stand for?”

    One player in a camo jersey said, with a tone that asked about my planet of origin, “Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.” He was kind enough not to add, “Duh.”

    But a teammate popped up behind him with, “Mostly Broke Choctaw Indians!”

    More laughs. That, and the giant trophy will help make the ride back to Mississippi seem a little shorter.


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    Native Business Owners
    Billy Hamilton (left) and Boyd Miller (right), both with the Choctaw Nation, stopped Oklahoma Secretary of State and Native American Affairs, Chris Benge (middle), to hold a quick meeting after his speech during this year’s The Gathering.

    Native Business Owners Meet at Second Annual The Gathering

    Brandon Frye
    Choctaw Nation

    Durant, Okla. - Choctaw entrepreneurs made their presence known at this year’s biggest Native American business summit in Oklahoma: The Gathering.

    The American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Oklahoma (AICCO) held its second business summit in Norman at the Riverwind Casino, beginning Aug. 9 and lasting three days.

    The Gathering gives Native American tribes and businesses the opportunity to come together and share innovative ideas, promoting and enhancing the success of all American Indian people—especially citizens with entrepreneurial intentions.

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) acted as silver sponsor for this year’s event, while representatives from CNO manned booths and lead sessions. Boyd Miller with the Choctaw Nation Preferred Supplier Program (PSP), and Vice President of AICCO, lead a number of sessions, as did Billy Hamilton with Choctaw Nation’s Small Business Development Services (SBDS). And Dale Jackson, Senior Business Analyst with CNO, spoke to attendees to teach them about securing grants.

    Miller’s sessions focused on what the PSP can do to help both growing and established Native and minority businesses.

    “We have valuable people out there we should be utilizing with the Choctaw Nation and other tribal nations,” Miller said.

    One of the purposes of the PSP is to help tribal nations contract Native businesses first when they need products or services. This is done with an official list of accredited PSP businesses, which tribal nations look to when they are contracting out, as well as a bid board allowing PSP businesses to bid on contracts.

    A number of Choctaw-owned businesses made an appearance during The Gathering.

    Shane Cessnun, owner of Country Medical Supply, tackled the need for better healthcare for Indian populations, especially for individuals with diabetes. He started his own medical equipment company four years ago, and has aimed it at helping citizens suffering from diabetes to stay healthy and avoid needing amputations due to preventable infections.

    Kevin McMillan with Red Sky Total Solutions and Sean Burns with Summit Solar were both also in attendance.

    Pam Mahar with Mahar Manufacturing runs two businesses. Creative Colors creates children’s furniture kept playful with bright hues—Mahar donated some of her furniture to the CNO after the business summit. Mahar also leads 4Legs4Pets, which specializes in cots for lounging dogs and cats.

    Mother and daughter Tami Adams and Sarah Adams-Cornell attended in representation of their family businesses Redland Sheet Metal. As the name implies, Redland Sheet Metal offers clean and simple sheet metal fabrication and installation for restaurants, as well as industrial, commercial, architectural, and residential needs. They are capable of working custom fabrication to fit the desires of their customers.

    “The opportunities are in front of us, and we know they will keep coming as we continue to grow,” Adams-Cornell said. “The networking opportunities at these events are spectacular. It takes a little bit of something to walk up to someone and stick your hand out, but the benefit of that is so worth it. It is what it takes to find success.”

    In addition to breakaway sessions, booths, and networking activities, The Gathering featured three key speakers.

    The speakers included: Rose Hill, who founded Bank2, a community bank which opened in 2002 and is owned by the Chickasaw Nation; Osage businesswoman Margo Gray, owner of Margo Gray and Associates and active advocate for Native businesses; and Oklahoma Secretary of State and Native American Affairs Chris Benge.

    Benge focused on building momentum between the State of Oklahoma, tribal nations, and Native American-owned businesses.

    “There is an increasing interest in the Native American culture and history, I think this can build momentum,” Benge said. “As we walk away from this place, when you move on to your businesses, I would like to leave that particular word with you: momentum, which can be developed with the state and tribal nations.”

    Looking forward, Native entrepreneurs can plan on attending The Gathering next year, which will be held in Tulsa at the Hard Rock.

    To learn more about the Choctaw-owned businesses mentioned in this article, visit, email, or call them at: Country Medical Supply, Shane Cessnun, shanecessnun@gmail.com, (903) 327-6515; Redland Sheet Metal, Sarah Adams-Cornell, sarah@redlandsheetmetal.com, (405) 673-7107; Mahar Manufacturing, Pam Mahar, pamla@mahar.net, (800) 224-8268.

    Boyd Miller is available to assist Native or minority business owners interested in associating with the Choctaw Nation PSP. He can be reached at bmiller@choctawnation.com or (800) 522 6170 extension 2889.

    Choctaw business owners looking to start or grow their business are welcome to contact Billy Hamilton with SBDS at bhamilton@choctawnation.com or (800) 522 6170 extension 2901.


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    Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell visits Chickasaw/Choctaw Nations

    Durant, Okla. - U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced the settlement of The Chickasaw Nation and The Choctaw Nation v. The Department of the Interior, a lawsuit filed by the nations regarding the U.S. government’s accounting and management of funds and natural resources that it holds in trust for these communities. The $186 million agreement resolves a long-standing dispute, with some of the claims dating back more than 100 years, and brings an end to protracted, vigorously contested and expensive litigation that has burdened both nations and the United States for a decade.

    Secretary Jewell, Interior’s Solicitor Hilary C. Tompkins, and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Lawrence S. Roberts joined Choctaw Nation Principal Chief Gary Batton, Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby, and other federal and tribal officials at a commemorative signing ceremony held at the Choctaw Nation headquarters in Durant.

    “Today’s agreement is the latest addition to a record number of long-standing settlements resolved under this Administration,” Secretary Jewell said. “This historic settlement is the start of a new chapter in our trust relationships with the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations, and underscores our commitment to fulfilling those responsibilities to Native communities across the country.”

    Under the settlement agreement, the United States will pay the Chickasaw Nation $46.5 million, and the Choctaw Nation $139.5 million. In return, the nations will dismiss their current lawsuit and forego further litigation regarding the United States’ historic management or accounting of the nations’ funds and natural resources held in the trust. The agreement is the fifth largest tribal trust settlement to date.

    As part of the settlement, the parties agree to undertake new information-sharing procedures that will lead to improved communication concerning the management of the nations’ trust funds and natural resources. The parties will also abide by alternative dispute resolution procedures to reduce the likelihood of future litigation.

    “This settlement represents a significant milestone in helping solidify and improve our relationship with the United States,” said Governor Anoatubby. “We respect the vital role Secretary Jewell has taken in helping make this historic settlement a reality. We are confident she will play an essential role in our efforts to continue strengthening the relationship between our governments, because we believe she has a unique appreciation for the mutual benefits of a positive government-to-government relationship.”

    “It is a historic occasion to have the Secretary of the Interior visit the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations. I am appreciative of having a sovereign-to-sovereign relationship between the Choctaw Nation and the United States government. It is also historic that these three sovereigns have agreed to a settlement of the timber trust account case,” said Choctaw Chief Gary Batton. “We plan for the proceeds to be invested in our people – expanding education, creating jobs, promoting economic development and culture, as well as a portion to be invested in a sustainability fund for the future of our citizens.

    “This visit marks the start of a revitalized relationship with the United States. Secretary Jewell’s presence here, coming soon after President Obama’s recent visit, also serves to reaffirm that the foundation of this relationship is government-to-government,” Chief Batton said.

    The Choctaw Nation is the third largest Native American tribe in the United States, with approximately 176,000 enrolled members and 10,864 square miles of tribal lands in southeastern Oklahoma. The Chickasaw Nation has more than 60,000 enrolled members and includes 7,648 square miles of south-central Oklahoma, encompassing all or parts of 13 Oklahoma counties. Both tribes were relocated to Oklahoma in the 1830s after being removed from their ancestral homelands in the southeastern United States. The removals became known as the Trail of Tears.

    The Departments of Justice, Interior, and Treasury have been diligently engaged in settlement conversations with more than 100 litigating tribes. On April 11, 2012, the United States announced settlements with 41 tribes for at least $1 billion. Since that time, the federal government has focused considerable, dedicated effort on the remaining tribal trust accounting and trust mismanagement cases. Including the settlement with the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations, this Administration has resolved, since October 1, 2010, breach of trust claims with a total of 86 tribes and combined value of about $2.8 billion.

    In addition, the $3.4 billion Cobell settlement (which was approved in 2010) of individual American Indian trust mismanagement claims resolved the largest class action lawsuit in history.


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    Elder Spotlight John Hooser

    John Hooser laughs while walking the yard of the house he was born in, and in which he currently resides. He decided to come home to Clayton, Oklahoma in retirement after a long career as an educator and dedicate his time to serving his community and his tribe.

    By Brandon Frye
    Choctaw Nation

    Clayton, Okla. - John Archie Hooser grew up at a simpler time in the heart of Choctaw country, in Clayton near the Tvshka Homma capitol grounds. He is the youngest child of the late Newt Hooser and late Helen (Hudson) Hooser.

    He said, in his 90 years, he has lived a life where you would just had to have followed him around to fully understand. He would tell you about it anyway.

    Hooser was born on Aug. 22, 1924, in a house still important to him.

    “If you come down that road about a mile and a quarter,” Hooser said recently, pointing out from his seat at a local Clayton diner, “Make two 90-degree turns, and the white house up there on the left with the reddest roof you could ever imagine, that’s where I was born. That was my momma’s Indian-allotted land.”

    Hooser recalled his mother telling him he was born on the hottest day she had ever seen. His mother also explained a local, Dr. Huckabee, came out to the house in a buggy to perform the delivery when there wasn’t much road for the trip.

    Hooser said he grew up when bread was a dime and you rode horseback, because that’s all there was—there were automobiles, but they were for rich folks. He recalls the tree he used to secure his horse when coming into town, and remembers trips with his family by team-and-wagon.

    Speaking of his family growing up, Hooser said they grew a crop to supply feed for the cattle and horses. He had five siblings, three brothers and two sisters. He had spent some free time riding and roping.

    “I always had a dog by my side,” Hooser said. “Spike, a German police dog, was one of my dogs. I would take the dog with me to get the mail and let the dog put the mail in its mouth to carry home.”

    The Hooser family was a live-off-the-land sort of people. But his parents also saw education as a very important thing.

    “Even though my mother and father did not have a strong education,” he said, “they were of the mind that their children should better themselves by having an education.”

    Education had already played an important role in the Hooser family line, even before John was born. His grandfather, Peter Hudson, was at one point the superintendent of the Tvshka Homma Female Institute. Grandfather Hudson got an early start academically after being handpicked by the chief at the time to travel outside of Indian Territory to earn an education—a story John Hooser would gladly pass on.

    Speaking of his grandfather Hudson, Hooser said, “He got about a sixth-grade education, then the Choctaws decided they needed members of their tribe to be educated so they could help in the days to come. They selected about 10 people, and my grandfather Peter J. Hudson was one of them.” After a horseback ride from Eagletown, Oklahoma to Missouri, his grandfather found his education at an academy now called Drury University.

    Hooser would unintentionally mime the academic actions of his grandfather Hudson. After earning a high school diploma from the Tvshka Homma School, serving in the Navy, working in the lumber industry, then attending both Southeastern Oklahoma State University and Oklahoma State University, Hooser made an academic exodus to Missouri.

    “I went to Missouri, and it was only supposed to be for three years,” he said. “I was there 28 years. OSU offered me a job here teaching chemistry and botany, full fellowship. But the state of Missouri tripled my salary if I led their science education. So I went to Missouri.”

    Before the big move, however, Hooser met his wife, Lucille. The two had been near each other as strangers since high school. John attended Tvshka Homma and Lucille attended rival school Clayton. They met later while attending Eastern Oklahoma State College in Wilburton. The two moved to Missouri and dedicated their lives and careers to education.

    During his long stint as an educator, Hooser’s work was noticed and rewarded. He said he got involved in science education nationally and was elected president of the Council of State Science Supervisors. This position had him playing a key role in directing and improving school science programs. He travelled across the U.S. inspecting their science programs and working to make them better.

    John and Lucille had three children, each carrying on the torch of education started by their great-grandfather Hudson. Daughter Hoitema went to Missouri to study and become a nurse, taking similar steps to her father and great-grandfather. Son Paul is now a professional golfer. Son Philip is a professional actor, playwright, and director.

    In 1991, once John and Lucille Hooser reached the time of retirement, they wanted to come back home.

    “Our daughter didn’t see why we would come back at the time,” Hooser said, “but I told her, Hoitema, that’s home.”

    By home, he meant on his mother’s allotted land, at the white house up on the left with the reddest roof you could ever imagine—where he was born. Now, Hooser spends his time caring for his land, talking the ears off Clayton locals, and working to make his community and his tribe better.

    “I volunteered my time when I retired, I’m 90 years old,” Hooser said. “I told both chiefs [Pyle and Batton] I was going to give the rest of my life to my tribe. So whatever I can do, I’ll do.”

    Dedicating his time to serve others is a trait Hooser picked up from his parents, and it has been with him his entire life. He said he keeps a particular lesson his parents taught him close.

    “Both of my parents were honest, and they taught us to be helpful. My dad taught me the best lesson,” Hooser explained from the corner table of his hometown diner. “He never refused anyone in need. My father gave to people when he hardly had anything to give, but that’s the kind of fellow he was. And I live by that… Now, I’m going to have a piece of cake.”


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    DOI Sally Jewell
    Gathering in front of the historic Choctaw Nation administration building Oct. 6 are, front from left, Chief Gary Batton, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr. Choctaw Nation employees helped welcome the visitor from Washington, D.C.
    By Charles Clark
    Choctaw Nation

    Durant, Okla. - On Oct. 6, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell visited Choctaw Country to announce the $186 million agreement resolving a dispute with claims dating back more than 100 years. Staff of the Choctaw Nation, many wearing traditional tribal attire, lined the hallway to greet Jewell on her historic visit.

    The settlement is the result of a lawsuit brought by the Choctaw Nation and the Chickasaw Nation against the Department of the Interior. Not only has a monetary figure been reached, but it brings an end to, as the Interior Department explained, “protracted, vigorously contested and expensive litigation that has burdened both nations and the United States for a decade.”

    At issue was the accounting of management and disposition of more than a million acres of Chickasaw and Choctaw tribal lands that the U.S. government took control of on the eve of Oklahoma statehood. The U.S., as federal trustee, held those lands in trust for the benefit of the Nations. In December 2005 the Nations filed suit in U.S. District Court seeking a long overdue accounting of the federal trustee’s management of those resources and an equitable restoration of the value of that trust.

    After a decade of litigation, a $186 million settlement was reached. The settlement will be divided between the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations based on longstanding treaty agreements. According to those treaties, the Choctaw Nation will receive 75 percent of the funds, while the Chickasaw Nation will receive 25 percent. Based on the treaties, the Choctaw Nation will receive $139.5 million and the Chickasaw Nation will receive $46.5 million. When asked what the event meant to the ancestors of today’s Choctaw people, Chief Gary Batton said, “It means their sacrifices have not been in vain.”

    Chief Batton led the entourage showing the location where the Choctaw Cultural Center is to be built, the Nation’s print shop business, Career Development campus, Recycling Center, and School of Choctaw Language; also shown were the community partnership efforts—the Fire Department, Food Distribution Center and child development center.

    From there the group proceeded to the main event—the signing of the agreement.

    Bill Anoatubby, governor of the Chickasaw Nation, and council members from both tribes met Chief Batton and Secretary Jewell at the door and all moved inside together.

    Flags of all three nations lined the back of the stage. All 250 seats were filled in front. Two risers stacked with members of the press were behind the audience.

    Choctaw Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr. served as emcee introducing District 6 Councilman Joe Coley to open with a prayer. Next, Scott Wesley sang the Lord’s Prayer in the Choctaw language as Jr. Miss Choctaw Nation Loren Crosby and Little Miss Choctaw Nation Ariana Byington presented the hymn in sign language.

    Gov. Anoatubby spoke first.

    “This is a historic moment,” he began.

    Directing his remarks to Secretary Jewell, he said, “We appreciate all of your help with this matter and this administration’s help.”

    Reiterating an earlier press release, he said, “This settlement represents a significant milestone in helping solidify and improve our relationship with the United States. We respect the vital role Secretary Jewell has taken in helping make this historic settlement a reality. We are confident she will play an essential role in our efforts to continue strengthening the relationship between our governments, because we believe she has a unique appreciation for the mutual benefits of a positive government-to-government relationship.”

    Then it was Chief Batton’s turn.

    “The Choctaw Nation is very blessed,” he said.

    “It is a historic occasion to have the Secretary of the Interior visit the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations. I am appreciative of having a sovereign-to-sovereign relationship between the Choctaw Nation and the United States government. It is also historic that these three sovereigns have agreed to a settlement of the timber trust account case.”

    Touching on the July visit by another federal government notable, Chief Batton said, “This visit marks the start of a revitalized relationship with the United States. Secretary Jewell’s presence here, coming soon after President Obama’s recent visit, also serves to reaffirm that the foundation of this relationship is government-to-government.”

    “This is a time of healing,” he said.

    With an introduction that spoke to her empathy and support of American Indian issues and people, Secretary Jewell came to the podium. She met the crowd with the Choctaw greeting, “Halito!”

    “Today’s agreement is the latest addition to a record number of long-standing settlements resolved under this Administration,” Secretary Jewell said, noting that this was the 86th agreement reached, the fifth largest, under President Obama. There had been 100 facing the United States. “This president has settled more than any previous administration,” she said.

    Referring to the issue as “a black mark of our history,” she said today’s step shows “our commitment” to “the trust and treaty obligation.” “This historic settlement is the start of a new chapter in our trust relationships with the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations, and underscores our commitment to fulfilling those responsibilities to Native communities across the country.”

    To the members of the Nations present, she said, “You have moved beyond being victims, you are survivors.”

    As she stepped back from the podium, she turned and said, “ Governor, Chief, if you will join me, we have something to sign.”

    The three nation representatives then moved to sit side-by-side at a table on stage where they each signed the document.

    In return for the settlement, the nations will dismiss their current lawsuit and forego further litigation regarding the United States’ historic management or accounting of the nations’ funds and natural resources held in the trust. The parties will abide by alternative dispute resolution procedures to reduce the likelihood of future litigation. The parties also agree to undertake new information-sharing procedures that will lead to improved communication concerning the management of the nations’ trust funds and natural resources.

    “We plan for the proceeds to be invested in our people—expanding education, creating jobs, promoting economic development and culture as well as a portion to be invested in a sustainability fund for the future of our citizens,” Chief Batton said.



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    Choctaw Scholars
    The beauty of this work is that this is greater than any one of us. We each rely on one another to create a narrative. That is the essence of this work and this team. The team just before taking our priorities to the Hill.
    (Back Row Left to Right): Paula Warlick, Oklahoma grassroots manager for ACS CAN; Michelle Brown, Oklahoma state lead ambassador for ACS CAN from Dist. 2, Desarae Simmons, Dist. 3; Jamie Gross, Dist. 5; Ellen Tillery, Dist. 1; Dawn Watson, Oklahoma government relations director for ACS CAN.
    (Front Row Left to Right): Taylor Crawford, Dist. 2, Brittney Hodges, Dist. 4; Victoria Gleason, Dist. 2; Lon Kruger, OU men’s basketball coach; Barbara Miles, Kruger’s wife.

    Urge Federal Lawmakers to Make Cancer a Top Priority

    More than 750 cancer patients, survivors, volunteers and staff from all 50 states gathered in Washington, D.C. with a common goal as part of the annual American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) Leadership Summit and Lobby Day from September 27-30, 2015. Among this group was Taylor Crawford, a 21-year-old member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Through a partnership between the Gates Millennium Scholars Program and ACS CAN, Crawford served alongside a team of Oklahoma advocates lobbying on Capitol Hill on September 29. Their mission: To make the fight against cancer a national priority.

    “The reality of the situation is that we all live within one degree of cancer,” said Crawford. “We all know someone who has been affected by this disease—a coworker, family member, or friend. Those are the stories we bring.”

    The Oklahoma ACS CAN team along with the University of Oklahoma’s men’s basketball coach Lon Kruger and his wife, Barbara, took their One Degree stories to their meetings with members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation and their staff. In the meetings with Senator James Lankford, Congressman Markwayne Mullin and staff members from the offices of Senator Jim Inhofe and Congressman Jim Bridenstine, Crawford and fellow ACS CAN advocates discussed specific priorities necessary to reach their goals. These lifesaving policies include increasing medical research funding dollars for the National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute over the next two years, supporting legislation to improve patient quality of life, and cosponsoring legislation to make colorectal cancer screenings more affordable for seniors.

    “These priorities are crucial to decreasing the impact of cancer moving forward,” said Crawford. ”Cancer is a disease that still kills 1,600 people a day in this country. This is incredibly important for tribal members as cancer continues to have a major impact on our population as well.”

    Aside from a full day of advocating, Crawford also took part in a Lights of HOPE ceremony at the U.S. Capitol Reflecting Pool. The ceremony of reflection was a powerful presence—complete with more than 20,000 luminaries lit in honor of lives lost to cancer.


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    Indigenous Peoples Day Signing

    Billie Nowabbi, a retired member of the United Methodist clergy, looks on as Chief Gary Batton of the Choctaw Nation signs a proclamation naming the 2nd Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day.

    Chief Batton names 2nd Monday in October Indigenous Peoples Day

    DURANT, Okla. – Chief Gary Batton signs a proclamation declaring the second Monday of October as Indigenous People’s Day.

    The proclamation states: “The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has a responsibility to highlight its glorious history, rich culture, and promote who we are as Chahta people.”

    The signing took place at the Choctaw Nation headquarters in Durant, Oklahoma, on October 7, 2015, with Billie Nowabbi, a retired United Methodist clergy in attendance.

    PROCLAMATION

    WHEREAS, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma recognizes that the Indigenous Peoples of the lands that would later become known as the Americas have occupied these lands since time immemorial; and

    WHEREAS, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma recognizes that this community and surrounding communities were built upon the land owned by the Choctaw people; and

    WHEREAS, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma value the many contributions made to this community through Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge, labor, technology, science, philosophy, arts, faith and the deep cultural contribution that has shaped the character of this community; and

    WHEREAS, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has a responsibility to highlight its glorious history and rich culture and promote who we are as Chahta people; and

    WHEREAS, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma promotes the closing of the equity gap for Indigenous Peoples through policies and practices that reflect the experiences of Indigenous Peoples, ensure greater access and opportunity, and honor our nation’s indigenous roots, history, and contributions; and

    WHEREAS, Indigenous Peoples’ Day was first proposed in 1977 by a delegation of Native Nations to the United Nations sponsored International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas;

    NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that I, Gary Batton, Chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, do hereby proclaim the following:

    Section 1. Indigenous Peoples’ Day shall be an opportunity to celebrate the thriving cultures and positive values of the Indigenous Peoples of our region.

    Section 2. Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma schools and other educational institutions are encouraged to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

    Section 3. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma businesses, organizations, and other institutions are encouraged to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

    Section 4. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma shall promote the well-being and growth of the American Indian and Indigenous community of the greater Choctaw Nation.

    Section 5. Indigenous Peoples’ Day shall be used to reflect upon the ongoing struggles of Indigenous People, and to celebrate the thriving culture and value that Indigenous nations add to our community.

    Section 6. The second Monday in October shall be declared as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

    SIGNED AT THE CHOCTAW NATION HEADQUARTERS, DURANT OKLAHOMA, THIS 7TH DAY OF OCTOBER, 2015.


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  • 10/16/15--02:32: A Lineage Remembered
  • Beverly Corbett
    Ruth Adella (Foster) Downer, original enrollee, with her daughters Sue (left) and Beverly.

    A Lineage Remembered

    By Ron Querry
    Contributing Writer

    This week a parcel was delivered addressed to my late mother Beverly (Downer) Querry Corbett. My mother died September 24, 2011, of natural causes in Oklahoma City, a few days before her 89th birthday.

    Born October 4, 1922, in Norman to Ruth A. Downer, an original enrollee of the Choctaw Nation, and to Pierce A. Downer, my mother spent much of her early childhood on my grandmother’s allotted land near Newcastle. Our family always called it “Choctaw Place.”

    The parcel was accompanied by a letter from Chief Gary Batton. In it, Chief Batton honored my mother for her years of wisdom and her service with a beautiful wisdom blanket. I speak for her three children when I say our mother was always proud of her Choctaw heritage and would have been deeply moved by this tribute.

    It was, I suppose, in first or second grade when I was first required to commit to memory and to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, the Lord’s Prayer, and the names of the Five Civilized Tribes. Only later did it occur to me not every young scholar in the United States was so well versed in exactly which five tribes were deemed civilized, as were my classmates and I at Andrew Johnson Elementary in suburban Oklahoma City.

    I assumed that fresh young people all across America pledged and prayed and chanted “Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek, Seminole” just as proudly and as loudly as did I.

    I am very light-skinned. Over the past couple of decades I have spent a good deal of time and money having skin cancer and pre-cancerous lesions removed, mostly from my face. My hair color has transitioned from orange (when I was born, I’m told), to white-blond (as a kid reciting things in elementary school), to reddish-brown (high school and Marine Corps), to raccoon-like multi-colored, to gray. (A former Principal Chief of the Choctaw Nation told me once that I shouldn’t mind what my hair turned, just as long as it didn’t turn loose.) My eyes are blue.

    To see a photograph of my mother as a young girl you would not likely question her Indian-ness. The same applies with increasing certainty to my grandmother, to her father, to his father (the latter I understand to have sported braids and, when astride a horse and under the influence of strong drink which was not unusual, would frighten women and children—and while that story may not be entirely accurate, I hope that it is), and, I trust, on back to a Choctaw woman named Otemansha, peace be upon her.

    The Dawes Commission was organized in 1893 to establish a Roll of American Indians residing in Indian Territory between 1899 and 1907.

    My late grandmother Ruth Adella Foster is listed Number 15,137 as of March 26, 1904, on the Dawes Commission Rolls as an original enrollee of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, as are her father and her two older brothers. Her mother is enrolled as an “I.W.” or “Intermarried White.” My grandmother had a younger brother who was born after the rolls had closed and so, to his eternal dismay, was not considered an original enrollee.
    E.A. Foster, Jr., was his name—we knew him as Uncle Manny—and he researched exhaustively the Foster family lineage:
    My four-greats grandmother was referred to generally in documents I possess as, “the Choctaw woman, wife of William Foster” in Mississippi. In a couple of documents of court proceedings, she is called “O-Te-Man-Sha,” which I presume was a phonetic attempt to spell her Choctaw language name. Otemansha was of the Sixtown Tribe or Clan of Choctaw Indians. Oklahoma Historian Angie Debo says that “Sixtown Indians, Okla Hannali, spoke a distinctive dialect, tattooed blue marks around their mouths, and were shorter and heavier in build than the other Choctaws.” (Debo, The Rise and Fall of the Choctaw Republic, 1934, p.20).

    When Andrew Jackson determined that the southeastern tribes should be removed from their homelands to what is now Oklahoma, so as to better facilitate the white folks who wanted more land, it was the Choctaw tribe that was chosen to be among the first to go on what they called The Long Sad Walk. The Cherokee Trail of Tears came later. I understand that the Choctaws were chosen to be the first removed because they were deemed least likely to protest—they had already begun to assimilate and there were farmers and store-keepers and teachers among them.

    There were, to be sure, different levels of assimilation. I remember one of my uncles telling about how our Choctaw ancestor, Otemansha, had held an important position in the Sixtown Clan back in Mississippi—that she had been a bone picker. At the time I didn’t know what a bone picker was and I don’t recall if my uncle told me. Had he done so, I feel certain that as a young boy I would have remembered so gruesome were the duties of that high office in Choctaw culture. If Otemansha were a bone picker, she was, indeed, an honored person and would have performed important duties in the funerary practices of her community at the time.

    She would likely have had distinctive tattoos that identified her position and her thumb and index fingernails would have been long and thick. For when a Choctaw Indian died, he or she was wrapped securely in robes and placed upon a wooden scaffold near the house and left to rot for a number of months. When the appropriate time had passed the bone picker came and removed what flesh remained on the deceased person’s bones by using his or her fingernails. The bones were then placed in boxes and stored in a bone house until such time as there were enough bones from the community to bury in a mound.

    To be sure, I have no real evidence that I am descended from bone pickers—only a story told by a long deceased uncle. But I hope the story was true. I like thinking of this woman without whom I would/could never have been born—I like thinking about her place in her community.

    In preparation for Removal, in September of 1830, at a place near what is now Philadelphia, Mississippi, the making and signing of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek took place. The Choctaw tribe ceded almost eleven million acres and agreed to remove to Indian Territory in what is now Southeastern Oklahoma.

    Possibly owing to the fact that traditional Choctaw people, when they moved or relocated, were bound by tradition to take the bones of their ancestors with them, Otemansha refused ever to leave her Mississippi home, as did her son James, who is my three-greats grandfather. James died in Mississippi in 1833 at about the age of twenty-eight. Otemansha died some four years later and is buried near the Pearl River.

    The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, which was ratified by Congress February 25, 1831, promised, among other things, autonomy of “the Choctaw Nation of Red People and all their descendants,” to be secured from laws of U.S. states and territories forever.

    I like knowing that I am a direct descendant of a woman who may have used her fingernails to scrape clean the bones of dead people.


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  • 10/20/15--06:21: Cox Honored for Service
  • AARP Delton Cox
    Delton Cox smiles with AARP representatives after being presented his honorary medallion. Pictured are, from left, Associate State Director Mashell Sourjohn, Regional Vice President Nancy Stockbridge, Choctaw Tribal Council Member Delton Cox, and Oklahoma AARP State President Joe Ann Vermillion.

    Cox Honored for Service

    By Brandon Frye
    Choctaw Nation

    Oklahoma City, Okla. - Delton Cox, long time tribal council member and speaker of the tribal council, was among 50 honorees at the 7th Annual AARP Oklahoma Indian Elder Honors, held Oct. 6.

    One by one, as their names were called and a short summary of their accomplishments read, honorees stood to the applause of the assembled audience as an AARP official presented them with a medallion.

    “Of course, I appreciate the honor, it shows recognition for some things I have done over the years,” Cox said. “I am not done yet, though. It’s not a period at the end of the sentence. It’s just one event, and I have a lot more I’d like to get done before I cash in my chips.”

    During his time spent in service to the Choctaw people, Cox has been vital to many facets of the Choctaw Nation. Most notably, he has served district 4 as councilman for 14 year, a role he continues to fulfill. He also served as speaker for eight years.

    As speaker, his is voice reached out to attendees during most official Choctaw gatherings, introducing the council members and cracking jokes. He recently stepped down from this position during the Labor Day Festival of 2015. He said it was a great honor and privilege to serve as speaker, and it was time for another deserving councilman to have the experience.

    Cox previously served as tribal treasurer, worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and helped to make life better for hundreds of youth while serving as director of the Jones Academy School.

    Cox served on the Choctaw Constitutional Committee in 1983, was instrumental in preserving Wheelock Academy, and has been a strong advocate for the Choctaw language and historic preservation programs during his career with the Nation.

    He has worked with senior citizens in the North LeFlore County area to help raise money for cultural activities, classes, and language lessons. He is devoted to the healthy lifestyles of senior citizens.

    But most of all, Cox said he is proud of the expansion and growth district 4 experienced during his service as councilman. “The whole idea I had was serving the people, doing what is best for the people,” Cox said.

    He added, in regards to the job growth he helped bring to LeFlore County, “It’s all about bringing jobs to people, they need a hand up, not a hand out, to take care of themselves and their family.”

    District 4 also experienced forward momentum with health, commerce, and education during Cox’s time as councilman. This can be seen with advances such as the development of a food distribution center, recycling center, clinic expansion, casino expansion, community center, travel plaza, and recent construction of a tribally owned Chili’s franchise.

    “We have come a long way,” Cox said. “We have been standing on the shoulders of the people who came before us. We got to where we are because of what they did. And we always have to remember who was in control, God almighty, creator of all.”

    Joe Ann Vermillion, AARP Oklahoma State President, said, “The common thread among these honorees is the wisdom and impact they have had on their tribes, family, and community.”

    “This night, in this place, as Oklahoma tribes and Nations join together in a spirit of harmony and peace, we reflect and give thanks for the lives they have lived and the innumerable ways they have passed on their legacies to future generations,” Vermillion added.

    The AARP Oklahoma Indian Elder Honors, which has recognized 350 elders from all 39-federally recognized tribes and Nations in Oklahoma since its inception in 2009, is the largest gathering of its kind in the state.

    “All Oklahomans are standing on the shoulders of people like tonight’s honorees,” she said. “Whether they are well known or exhibit the quiet devotion to family and community, collectively, this year’s AARP Oklahoma Indian Elder Honorees represent what is best about Native American people in Oklahoma: love of family, dedication to culture, and respect for all people.”

    Anyone interested in joining the AARP Oklahoma Inter-Tribal Community Group can send an email to: ok@aarp.org. For more information about AARP Oklahoma’s Native American outreach, visit the AARP Oklahoma Indian navigator website at: www.aarp.org/okindiannavigator.


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  • 10/22/15--07:17: Remember My Name
  • Domestic Violence 2015 Candle
    As the candle lighting proceeds around the circle of participants, each person shares a dedication and memory of abuse that had affected their family.

    Vigil a reminder of the dangers of domestic violence

    By Charles Clark
    Choctaw Nation

    Tvshka Homma, Okla. - Emotions ran high at the second Remember My Name Memorial/Vigil. Beginning just before dusk Oct. 2 at the Choctaw Nation Capitol grounds at Tvshka Homma, more than 35 women, men, and youth gathered in the cafeteria. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. At last year’s inaugural event Chief Gary Batton was the first chief in Choctaw history to sign a proclamation recognizing the focus of the month and the seriousness of physical violence within families.

    The Choctaw Nation Children & Family Services’ Family Violence Prevention Program sponsored the event. Representatives from several of the Nation’s programs that touch on domestic violence came together to share information. Help is available for members of the Choctaw Nation and some offices offer help to anyone in need. Jennifer Woods, Community Based Social Work director in Hugo, gave an opening prayer. District 10’s Little Miss Kylee Hampton and Junior Miss Maci Wagoner gave The Lord’s Prayer in sign language. Cherity Wallace, of Children & Family Services in Durant, gave a reading of the proclamation previously signed by Chief Batton.

    Sabrina Ralls, of Children & Family Services in Poteau, gave a reading of the poem “Remember My Name.”

    “My daughter Ashleigh was 20 years old and four months pregnant with my first grandchild when she was killed,” said Tara Woodlee.

    Woodlee was the keynote speaker of the evening. The Texas resident is the founder of Ashleigh’s Patience Project. Woodlee spoke about her own experience of being abused by a previous husband, and then detailed her daughter Ashleigh Marie Lindsey’s life, and eventual death, at the hands of an abuser.

    “I could not find a place to kiss my daughter’s face that was not covered in blood,” she spoke of her daughter’s final moments. “Then, I watched my grandchild die on a sonogram.”

    Woodlee and the other speakers stressed the importance of seeking professional help if involved in abusive situations and not waiting until it is too late.

    Woodlee’s presentation concluded as the sun was setting. At that time Marcia Hampton, Choctaw Nation Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Advocate based in Atoka, and primary organizer of the evening, guided everyone outdoors for the candle lighting ceremony.

    As each candle in the circle was lit, people offered dedications in memory of someone lost to domestic violence. In some cases, the dedication was for a person currently in a dangerous and painful situation.

    The thread of the event was to let people know that the Choctaw Nation stands firmly against domestic violence and that help is being provided. Another public event scheduled this month is the Glow Run, set for 6 p.m. Oct. 23 starting at the Choctaw Nation Community Center in Atoka. The evening 5K run will have tee-shirts for participants. In addition to the fun, the activity has the added purpose of spreading the word that “Domestic violence is not our tradition.” For information or to register, call marcia hampton at 580-889-1955 or Cherity Wallace, 580-924-8280 Ext. 2663.

    For more information

    Choctaw Nation Children and Family Services
    1-800-522-6170, Ext. 2482, 2402, 2497 or 2635.

    Choctaw Nation Project SAFE
    Durant, 580-924-8280
    Broken Bow, 580-584-3150
    Talihina, 918-567-4265

    Ashleigh’s Patience Project
    903-449-2335 or Ashleighspatienceprojec@gmail.com


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    T
    T’ata Roberts enjoys a University of Oklahoma football game with her family, all dressed for the occasion. Pictured (left to right) her mom Rebecca Roberts, T’Ata Roberts, father Michael Roberts, and below are siblings Morning Star Roberts and Paan Pai Roberts.

    OU Scholar Honored for Educational Excellence

    By Brandon Frye
    Choctaw Nation

    Norman, Okla. - T’ata Roberts’ long time dedication to the pursuit of knowledge and the advocacy for Native communities culminated with a unique honor for the young leader at the University of Oklahoma football stadium on Oct. 3.

    The university began featuring exemplary student scholars during their games. Roberts, 21-year-old senior, was at the top of the list for many of her mentors, peers, and professors.

    She received a minute of recognition on the big screens of the stadium at the OU vs West Virginia home game. A brief biography was read while various pictures of her highlights on an off campus were shown.

    Roberts was selected out of the entire student body at OU based on her past success in the areas of academics, leadership, community involvement, and for her accomplishments and awards.

    “This was by far a highlight of my life. Never have I ever imagined I would be honored in such a way,” Roberts said. “I not only see this as an accomplishment for myself, but an accomplishment for all Native people at OU. Recognition on a university-level for American Indians is rare.” Roberts is Choctaw, Chickasaw and Taos Pueblo. She was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico to Michael and Rebecca Roberts of Ada. She is the eldest of three daughters. Younger sisters are Paan Pai and Morning Star Roberts. She is the granddaughter of Wilson and Sharon Roberts of Ada, as well as Vincent and Judith Mondragon of Taos, New Mexico.

    In 2012, T’ata Roberts entered her college career at the University of Oklahoma named a “Featured Future Sooner” based on her high school grades and leadership skills.

    She quickly took on new experiences and leadership roles on campus, including an involvement with the American Indian Student Association (AISA). During freshman and sophomore years she was a member, became the cultural affairs chair as a junior, and today serves as President of AISA. As president of AISA, Roberts stressed unity and inclusiveness of the Native community as a whole. In 2014, she served AISA as Miss Indian OU, where she represented with the platform of special needs and special olympics. She volunteered at various events involving special olympics and helped to raise money to send students from a local school to the Special Olympic State Games.

    Last year, Roberts was inducted into Gamma Beta Phi Honor Society. She received various scholarships including: Gates Millennium Scholarship, AT&T American Indian Scholarship, McAlester Scottish Rite Scholarship, and the Stratford B. & Eleanor M. “Bobbie” Tolson Scholarship.She is an OU Presidential Leadership Class Alumni, a member of the Dean’s Honor Roll, and 2014/2015 Miss Indian OU.

    She is currently studying human relations with a minor in Native American studies. She enjoys spending time with my family, traveling to various powwows across the United States and Canada, playing basketball, singing in the car, going on road trips and exploring new places.

    Roberts plans to continue with her education by attending graduate school. As a Gates Millennium Scholar, she plans to use the scholarship to its fullest extent and spend as much time in school as she can.

    “To the students, never forget who you are and where you come from,” Roberts said. “Take your education as far as you can and use it, give back to the community and our people when you’ve made it to the top.”


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