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Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

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    Chief Gregory E. Pyle, Rattan’s JOM Coordinator Felicia Morse, Superintendent Shari Pillow, Vice Chairperson Roseanna Sorrells, Chairperson Kendra Taylor and Choctaw Nation Sr. Director of JOM Rebecca Hawkins display the award for exemplary school.

    Rattan school wins JOM exemplary school award

    By BRET MOSS Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    The Muscogee (Creek) Nation hosted the 2013 Johnson-O’Malley (JOM) Awards Banquet to honor the exemplary JOM programs from each of the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma. The meeting was held on March 5 at the Tulsa Renaissance Convention Center and featured an invocation by tribal princesses from all nations represented.

    Chief Gregory E. Pyle and a number of the Choctaw Tribal Council were in attendance to display their support for the JOM program and education of Native students. District 7 Councilman Jack Austin was especially proud of the Rattan JOM program from his area, which won this year’s exemplary JOM Program Award from the Choctaw Nation.

    “It is a testimony to what great services we provide to our Native American students,” said Rattan School Superintendent Shari Pillow. “It makes me very proud of our school,” she continued. Pillow was accompanied in accepting the award by Rattan’s JOM Coordinator Felicia Morse, Chairperson Kendra Taylor and Vice Chairperson Roseanna Sorrells.

    June Praytor, member of the Joint Tribes Planning Committee, presented Rattan’s JOM associates the award, making note of the longevity and consistency of the program’s uninterrupted service to Native students. She mentioned that though the down economy funding has caused difficulties in the realm of education, Rattan’s JOM program has done an exceptional job providing steady support for Native students.

    The evening served as a conclusion to a two-day JOM gathering and was complete with entertainment from flutist Rev. Nelson Harjo and musicians Julian B and Nokvs Haga. Tickets were drawn for door prizes as well as items raffled to raise money for educational programs.

    Muscogee (Creek) Principal Chief George Tiger addressed the audience, expressing his appreciation for all in attendance. “I feel like we have been invaded by Choctaws,” he jested as he acknowledged the strong Choctaw presence at the banquet. He continued by stating that the turnout was a testament to how much the Choctaw Nation cares about education.

    To find out more, visit JOM’s web page.

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    © Vonna Shults, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Biskinik

    Bacon. Bacon is everywhere. We see bacon on our breakfast plates, on our cheeseburger at lunch, wrapped around a filet mignon for dinner, and we may enjoy bacon-flavored ice cream for dessert. Folks love the flavor of bacon, have their preference for the wood used to smoke it, and have a favorite brand. Chahta people love to gather together with friends and family to socialize with each other and more often than not, food is shared. One of the most popular Choctaw foods can easily be described as “bacon on steroids” and we call it salt pork. My first experience with salt pork came many years ago in the heart of Jayhawk country in Lawrence, Kan. I had traveled there with a group of fellow Choctaw Nation employees to attend a community meeting with nearby Choctaw families. While we were there, a local Choctaw group invited us to eat a traditional meal at their church. I was so excited because I never had the pleasure of enjoying a traditional Choctaw dinner before. As I watched them prepare the food, I noticed one gentleman carefully watching over a Dutch oven and ever so often he would very carefully remove some sort of fried food. I was not close enough to tell exactly what he was preparing, so I assumed by the size of the portion and the hot grease that he was preparing fried catfish for all of us to enjoy. I love to eat catfish, as most Oklahomans do, and I was thrilled to enjoy one of my favorite foods for dinner. Finally, we were called over to eat. We were instructed to go through the line to fix ourselves a plate. I stacked plenty of this “catfish” on my plate. As I took the first bite, I noticed right away that it was very salty and tasted a lot like bacon! I made the comment to my co-worker about how my “catfish” tasted and she immediately burst into laughter at my ignorance. She quickly let me know that I was not eating catfish, but salt pork. I felt like a fool, but I was a happy fool because in my mistake I had gotten plenty of this delicious creation for myself. I ate and savored every morsel. After our dinner, we then greeted all of the guests that had traveled to come to the meeting. My responsibility at the meeting was to take photos of anyone who wanted a photo with Chief Pyle. We would then print the photo out for you to take home that evening. It was at the beginning of the photo session when I realized my mistake in eating so much salt pork – it makes you very thirsty. Desperately, I searched to see if I had any sweet tea left to drink. It was empty. I then searched to see if my co-worker had any tea remaining. Her glass was also empty. At this point I am desperate. My thirst had made my mouth feel as dry as C-3PO’s joints as he crossed the Tatooine desert. I wondered why my fellow co-workers had not warned me as they sat next to me at dinner about the perils of eating too much salt pork. I made a mental note to question them thoroughly, but right now finding something to drink was my number one priority. I turned to check on my waiting guests, the thirsty part of me hoping for a small line of people who were willing to wait their turn with Chief. No such luck, the line is out the door of the church. Finally, the last photo is taken and printed. I sprint from the sanctuary of the church and used their kitchen faucet as a drinking fountain. Never has there been a time that tap water tasted as good as what I was drinking directly from the faucet, using my hand as a cup. Did I even bother to wash my hands? I do not know, nor did I care. As I was leaving the meeting, I felt much better. As we walked out of the church, I thanked the elders for the meal they had worked so hard to provide for us and told them next time I would only eat two small slices of salt pork. I told them what had happened to me earlier and how much salt pork I had eaten. They were very gracious and did their best not to laugh out loud at me. We then bid each other “chi pisa la chike.” I knew after that evening that salt pork, in small portions, was a very delicious addition to a meal. It is a true delicacy of the Chahta people. Only now I needed to learn how to prepare it for my family…

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    The dangers of distracted driving

    Screen_Shot_2013-03-14_at_9.04.20_AM With ever increasing demands on our personal and professional time in today’s busy society, learning to juggle multiple tasks at once is something we all face daily. As a result, a new traffic safety epidemic has emerged on America’s roadways that demands immediate attention: distracted driving.

    In 2010, 3,092 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver. One of the most alarming and widespread forms of distracted driving is cell phone usage. According to a Carnegie Mellon study, driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent. And a report from the National Safety Council found that more than one out of every four traffic accidents is caused by people talking on cell phones or sending text messages.

    “Distracted driving is an epidemic on America’s roadways, and we’re doing our part to help put an end to it,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “Texting and cell phone use while driving is extremely dangerous, and we know simply getting drivers to turn their phones off when they get behind the wheel will make our roads significantly safer.”

    Text messaging is of heightened concern because it combines three types of distraction – visual, manual and cognitive. In other words, texting involves taking your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, and your mind off the task of driving.

    To tackle this ever-increasing problem, NHTSA is focusing on ways to change the behavior of drivers through legislation, enforcement, public awareness and education—the same tactics that have curbed drinking and driving and increased seat belt use.

    “Decades of experience with drunk driving and getting people to buckle up has taught us it takes a consistent combination of public education, effective enforcement, a committed judiciary, and the collective efforts of local, state, and national advocates to put a dent in the problem,” said LaHood.

    NHTSA’s message is simple – “One Text or Call Could Wreck it All.” With supporters ranging from President Obama to Oprah and legislation being passed across the nation to discourage distracted driving, we hope drivers get the message loud and clear.

    So the next time you are pressed for time, and it seems like multitasking in the car is the best decision, remember those 3,092 lives that were taken because someone decided they could do two things at once. A text or call is not worth your life, or anyone else’s.

    Article submitted by Cassandra Herring Choctaw Nation Injury Prevention, originally published on’s website.

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    Jack Hedrick, Choctaw University Program Manager; Dr. Aaron Adair, Dean of Adult and Distance Education at Southeastern Oklahoma State University; and Tana Sanders, Director of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Learning & Development Department accept the award on behalf of Choctaw University in Manhattan, Kansas.

    Choctaw University receives prestigious award

    Choctaw University, in partnership with Southeastern Oklahoma State University, has won the Distinguished Program-Credit Category Award for the Great Plains Region from the Association of Continuing Higher Education (ACHE), Inc. The ACHE Great Plains Region includes: Iowa, Kansas, Manitoba, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Saskatchewan, South Dakota, and Western Ontario.

    Established in 2012, Choctaw University’s mission is to empower associates who are committed to personal and professional growth in their career. It provides educational and leadership-building opportunities. At the conclusion of Choctaw University’s first year, 73 associates completed the Leadership series and over 100 associates completed the Continuing Education series.

    “Choctaw University has well exceeded our expectations,” said Chief Gregory E. Pyle. “It has been embraced by our associates on several levels and thanks to Southeastern, students are also earning college credits.”

    The Award was presented during the 2013 ACHE Great Plains Spring Conference on the campus of Kansas State University on March 7, 2013. Choctaw University is now eligible for recognition at the National Level. The National Award will be presented at the Annual ACHE Conference and Meeting in Lexington, KY in November 2013.

    Dr. Aaron Adair, Dean of Adult and Distance Learning from Southeastern Oklahoma State University, commented, “We’re now the ‘Award-Winning’ Choctaw University Executive Leadership Program!”

    The Association for Continuing Higher Education, Inc. (ACHE) is an institution-based organization of colleges, universities, and individuals dedicated to the promotion of lifelong learning and excellence in continuing higher education. ACHE encourages professional networks, research, and exchange of information for its members and advocates continuing higher education as a means of enhancing and improving society.

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    Chief Pyle addresses the audience as he accepts his award.

    Chief Gregory E. Pyle inducted into the Durant Area Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame

    Choctaw Nation Chief Gregory E. Pyle was inducted into the Durant Area Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame on Friday, March 15, during the chamber’s annual banquet.

    Chief Pyle was recognized for his outstanding efforts in bringing prosperity to the Durant and Bryan County area. “No one deserve this more than you do for leadership in this area,” stated 2013 Executive Committee President James Dunegan.

    Also inducted were notable Durant area leaders, Leon Sherrer, owner of Sherrer’s Diner, and Rev. Ross Kirven. The 2013 inductees mark the third year the chamber has honored area leaders with the Hall of Fame awards, with Chief Pyle being the sixth to earn such an honor.

    Janet Reed, executive director for the chamber, held all three inductees in high regard stating, “They have given tremendously of themselves and their businesses.”

    Read more about the night’s events and awards from the Durant Daily Democrat.

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    Choctaw University students visit the Oklahoma State Capitol

    Students of the award-winning Choctaw University were invited to Oklahoma City on Tuesday, March 26, to tour the Oklahoma State Capitol and visit with members of the Senate and House of Representatives. Five Choctaw University students, Christina Black, Nick Cody, Audrey Jacob, Darenda Joseph, and Melissa Stevens, traveled to the State Capitol, along with Choctaw U faculty members, Judy Morgan and Becky Parker.

    The trip was donated by The Sullivan Agency of Ardmore in conjunction with Ardmore Main Street Authority. The Choctaw Nation associates were greeted at the State Capitol campus by the Executive Director of Ardmore Main Street Authority, Julie Patterson, and then introduced to legislators representing Southeastern Oklahoma. The group was taken on a guided tour and treated to lunch, where they had the opportunity to visit with Senator Josh Brecheen and Representative Dustin Roberts.

    Choctaw University’s mission is to empower associates who are committed to personal and professional growth in their career. It provides educational and leadership-building opportunities. Choctaw University Program Manager Jack Hedrick emphasized this point stating, “Leadership opportunities like this are a great example of the holistic approach to learning envisioned by Choctaw University.”

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    Please visit the information page to see if your family will be able to benefit from this discount from AT&T.
    At&T Discount for tribal members

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    Districts schedule 2013 Princess Pageants

    The District Princess Pageants are scheduled! Young ladies will be chosen in three age groups to represent their district for the next year. The winners in each district will then vie for the titles of Little Miss, Junior Miss and Miss Choctaw Nation during the Labor Day Pageant Aug. 29 at Tvshka Homma.

    Judging for the District Junior and Senior Miss Princesses will be based on four events – beauty and personality, traditional talent, goals as a princess, and traditional Choctaw dress (fabric type excluded).

    Contestants for District Little Miss Princess will be judged on two categories – beauty and personality, and traditional Choctaw dress (fabric type excluded).

    Following are a list of the pageants and requirements to run in each category.

    District 1
    May 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in Idabel. Deadline for applications is May 6. For more information, please call 580-286-6116.

    District 2
    May 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the Investment Center in Broken Bow. Applications may be picked up at the McCurtain County Boys and Girls Club or Bethel field office. Deadline for applications is noon on May 1. For more information, please call 580-584-3636.

    District 3
    May 14 at 6 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in Talihina. Deadline for applications is May 7. For more information, please call 918-567-2106.

    District 4
    May 25 at 2 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in Poteau. Deadline for applications is May 3. For more information, please call 918-647-9324.

    District 5
    May 8 at 1 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in Stigler. Deadline for applications is April 24. For more information, please call 918-967-2398.

    District 6
    May 11 at 4 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in Wilburton. Deadline for applications is May 3. For more information, please call 918-465-2389.

    District 7
    May 26 at 3 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in Wright City. Deadline for applications is 3 p.m. on May 17. For more information, please call 580-298-3856 or 580-981-7011.

    District 8
    May 30 at 6 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in Hugo. Deadline for applications is May 17. For more information, please call 580-326-3528.

    District 9
    May 31 at 5:30 p.m. at the Event Center in Durant, held in conjunction with the annual Magnolia Festival. Deadline for applications is April 30. For more information, please call 580-775-1774.

    District 10
    May 2 at 7 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in Atoka. Deadline for applications is April 19. For more information, please call 580-889-6147.

    District 11
    May 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in McAlester. Deadline for applications is April 19. For more information, please call 918-423-1016.

    District 12
    May 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the Choctaw Community Center in Crowder. Deadline for applications is May 3. For more information, please call 918-334-5344.

    Requirements to run in each category:
    Little Miss

    – Resident of District competing in
    – Between ages of 8-12 by Labor Day
    – 1/16 degree Oklahoma Choctaw or higher
    – Be willing to attend Choctaw History and Culture classes
    – Not held title of Little Miss Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    Junior Miss
    – Resident of District competing in
    – Single, never married or living with significant, no dependents
    – Between ages of 13-17 by Labor Day
    – 1/16 degree Oklahoma Choctaw or higher
    – Be willing to attend Choctaw History and Culture classes
    – Not held title of Junior Miss Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    Senior Miss
    – Resident of District competing in
    – Single, never married or living with significant, no dependents
    – Between ages of 18-23 by Labor Day Pageant
    – 1/16 degree Oklahoma Choctaw or higher
    – Be willing to attend Choctaw History and Culture classes
    – Not held title of Miss Choctaw Nation

    All entries must include the following information:

    1. Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB)
    2. Letter from school official stating contestant’s scholastic achievements and talents
    3. List of special recognitions
    4. Photograph of contestant in traditional Choctaw dress
    5. Miss District Choctaw Princess – Essay of 200 words or less on “What goals I hope to achieve as Miss Choctaw Nation”
    6. District Choctaw Junior Princess – Essay of 200 words or less on “What goals I hope to achieve as Junior Miss Choctaw Nation”
    7. Completed W-9 in contestant’s name

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    Connie Zalenski drops off bags of recyclable material from her home in the recycling bin at the tribal complex in Durant.

    Doing her part to better the community

    Purchasing employee Connie Zalenski recycles at her home, no longer pays trash bill

    By CHRISSY SHEPARD Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma continually promotes its “going green” efforts, and one tribal employee is not only bettering her community through her recycling habit at home, but is saving money in the process.

    For the past two years, purchasing department employee Connie Zalenski has recycled all of her household trash using the recycling bin located at the Tribal Headquarters building where she works, which has saved her an average of over $200 a year. She brings a load of materials (2-4 bags) weekly, or every other week at times.

    “I save an average of $20 a month,” she said, because she no longer has to pay her trash bill.

    Connie said she initially became aware of the importance of recycling when the tribe made the big push to go green. “I’ll try this,” she recalled.

    Choctaw Nation Director of Project Management Tracy Horst complimented Connie on her efforts. “I have gotten to know Connie over that last couple of years, and I think what she is doing is great,” she said.

    Not only does recycling save Connie money each month, it saves her time and work. “I live out in the country, so naturally, sometimes when you leave your trash out, animals get into it,” she explained. “I no longer have to clean up a big mess outside when that happens, and I no longer have to worry about putting the trash out.”

    Recycling has made her home and yard look cleaner and neater without the trash in the driveway, she added.

    Connie is happy she no longer has to deal with the occasional problem of the town’s trash pickup. “You know when they don’t come pick up your trash and you have to call them to come get it? I no longer have that inconvenience,” she said.

    Tracy provided some advice for recycling at home. “The best way to start at home is to designate an area of your home for recyclable material collection, much like you have a location for trash collection,” she explained. “You can purchase inexpensive trash cans and label them with names of the items you are planning to collect, so it makes it easy for everyone in the home, or visitors, to use.”

    Connie’s three children and nephew visit her home often, all being out of high school, except for her nephew, who is 16. She has most company in the summertime.

    “At first, my whole family went into shock,” Connie said, laughing, recalling how she gathers up materials after family meals she knows are recyclable. “But now, it’s funny after two years to see family automatically go rinse their stuff off and put it into the recycling bins in the laundry room.”

    Connie said her daughter, who is currently working on getting her master’s degree, will bring her items to recycle from her apartment. “My son will come home from college, and anything he’s bought along the drive that he might throw away, he’ll now bring into the house to recycle it,” she said. “He’ll bring his stuff in and pat me on the back.”

    Connie’s oldest son, Waddell Hearn, is also an employee of the Choctaw Nation and thinks highly of his mother. “I think it’s just awesome what she is doing,” he said. “My mom has always been an inspiration in my life in that she works hard and does her very best as what she puts her mind to, and we are seeing that in her effort towards recycling.”

    Not only is Connie serving as an example for her family, her recycling efforts have been noticed by her fellow community members. “When I first started, people at my church would bring me their materials to be recycled,” she said.

    Now, Connie is proud to say her church members take their materials to the Travel Plaza recycling bin location. “I thought that was pretty cool,” she said.

    Waddell said there is no doubt in his mind that his mother is inspiring others around her to recycle as well. “I think that she most certainly inspires others to recycle; she’s so passionate about recycling,” he said. “It just takes one person to lead, and actions speak louder than words, and her actions are definitely being seen.”

    Connie is well organized in her recycling process at her home. She said she keeps three separate containers in her laundry room, for plastic, cans and paper, which store her items she’s collected and separated. “I have really enjoyed doing it,” she said.

    Along with recycling the materials she can at her home, Connie said she no longer uses paper plates and doesn’t see a problem with washing all her dishes.

    “She has made a lot of progress over the past two years,” said Waddell. “And with the mindset she has, she will just keep progressing with recycling.”

    The most common material Connie recycles, she said, is plastic bottles from juice, milk, Gatorade, etc., as well as egg cartons and toilet paper rolls.

    “We can recycle all junk mail, catalogs, magazines, envelopes and all,” said Tracy. “Just about anything you have that is not food waste can be recycled.”

    An important step one must keep in mind when recycling is to rinse off and out your materials, Connie said. “Some people don’t clean their stuff up as they recycle it, and those people at the recycling center work hard,” she explained. “You need to be courteous and clean your items.”

    From having an influence on her children and her surrounding community, Connie has brought her positive attitude towards recycling to the workplace.

    “We recycle as much as we can in the office,” she said. “We recycle old folders and paper, especially when we’re cleaning out our areas. There’s so much stuff you can recycle, it’s unreal.”

    Connie respects the Choctaw Nation’s ongoing efforts in going green and preserving the environment. “I look at it this way,” she explained, “if it’s important to Chief Pyle and he asks us to do it, then we should do it.”

    Tracy encourages everyone to begin recycling. “Recycling is really pretty easy, it just takes some practice,” she said. “If you have any questions, call us at the recycling center and we will be happy to try and help you out.”

    Connie plans to continue her hobby and habit of recycling at home and encourages others to do the same. “When you see all the trash on the highway, it’s just sad,” she said. “We only have one Earth. We’re supposed to make it a better place.

    “We all have grandkids, and sooner or later, they will have to live in the mess we leave them,” she added.

    “My mom genuinely enjoys bettering our environment so that we can continue to enjoy what God has created,” said Waddell.

    If you have a question about recycling and would like to talk to a recycling center employee, please call 580-920-0488. The Choctaw Nation Recycling Center is located at 3408 Wes Watkins Blvd. in Durant.

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  • 04/18/13--10:40: Art in the Southwest Air
  • Art in the Southwest Air
    Choctaw Artists exhibit work during Amarillo and Albuquerque cultural gatherings

    By BRET MOSS Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma


    Choctaw Nation visited Amarillo Texas on April 5, 2013, bringing with it, culture and news on current tribal issues. Several artists exhibited their work during the event, including Stephen McCullough, Kimbra Simmons and Charlene Dodson.

    Stephen McCullough
    Stephen McCullough is an Amarillo resident with galleries in Santa Fe, N.M., Scottsdale, Ariz., and Sedona, Ariz. He has been an artist for 25 years following in the footsteps of his twin brother Michael, who has been an artist for 35 years. He had been involved in other careers and decided it was time for a change. “I started in and never looked back,” Stephen proclaimed.

    Stephen specializes in image art of the Southwest – painting images that reflect the heritages and cultures of Native Americans in that area. He also paints with non-Southwestern themes, putting trees and other objects to canvas. He displays his work at three of the country’s biggest Native American markets – The Santa Fe Indian Market, the Heard Museum Native Market and Red Earth Market.

    He explains his interest in Native American art stems from it being a constant art form. “It is here today, was here yesterday, and will be here tomorrow.” He went on to assert that in today’s art scene, “it’s cool to be native,” but takes pride in the fact that he was displaying his heritage from the start. Stephen was a registered native on the day of his birth and proudly exclaims that he is “an artist who happens to be Native American,” and not just following the trends.

    See more about Stephen’s art in the video:

    Kimbra Simmons
    Lubbock, Texas, resident Kimbra Simmons is a Choctaw artist who specializes in many types of crafts including dream catchers, jewelry, beading and leather work. She received her Choctaw connection from her mother as well as her beginnings in art. Since learning the basics years ago, she has been improving her art form with practice and online learning.

    Over her time as an artist, Simmons has developed unique ways to construct her dream catchers, weaving them tight on the outside and gradually allowing the weave to become more loose towards the middle, whereas most simply have loose weaves throughout. Larger holes are left amidst the tight portion to “let good dreams pass through,” explains Simmons.

    She very much enjoys creating artwork that promotes native culture. “I am very driven to carry on my heritage,” she exclaimed. Not only does she create native artwork, but takes language classes offered by the Choctaw Nation. Simmons’ desire is that the culture of the Choctaw Nation and other native people never fades, but remains strong, and she hopes to contribute to that preservation.

    Check out some of Kimbra’s work here:

    Charlene Dodson
    Artist Charlene Dodson was born in the heart of the Choctaw Nation, in Bokchito, but became a Texan at the age of three. She left the borders of the Choctaw Nation, but the Choctaw Nation remained strong with her as she carried on her love for her heritage through her artwork.

    Charlene works mainly in fabrics, printing and beading on quilts, leathers and more. She has enjoyed much success due to her ingenuity through artwork. She began a business called “Fabric Fotos,” where she worked mainly with quilts, which saw success.

    Eventually, from licensing fees she earned with her pioneering ways, she was able to open the American Indian Cultural Center. The center allowed representatives from many tribes to rent booths and display artwork from their respective cultures. Dodson served as the director for eight years until her retirement, when she says she “passed the torch” to the Kwahadi Heritage Center.

    Though she has retired, Charlene still sells art and art kits that allow individuals to create their own artwork. For example, in her moccasin kit, one may chose a beaded design guide to be placed on the material and one may then learn bead their own design following the printed guide.

    Charlene says she has chosen to create native art because “It’s my heritage… I am proud to be Choctaw.” Through her work with the cultural center in Amarillo and the guided beading kits, she feels that she has done well to spread her culture. “I love passing on my heritage,” she declared.

    See some of Charlene’s creations here:


    Choctaw Nation then visited Albuquerque, N.M. the following day on April 6, 2013, sharing even more of age-old traditions. Artists who presented their creations included Kristin Gentry and David McElroy.

    Kristin Gentry
    Oklahoma State University graduate Kristin Gentry is a jewelry maker, photographer and much more who now resides in Albuquerque. “I grew up in an artistic family,” said Kristin as she explained her introduction to the life of an artist.

    She found she enjoyed art in high school and decided to study it more thoroughly in college. After graduating with a fine art degree, she continued her endeavors by doing gallery art, teaching at community centers. She has felt a connection to art through generations of her artistic family. Her grandfather was a wood carver and her father was an architectural draftsman.

    A large portion of Kristin’s work is with wood, creating many pieces of hand-painted jewelry on small sections of wood. “I like working with natural elements,” said Kristin, who also does relief printing. This requires her to carve her designs into wood and then use a hand-crank to press the designs. “It is a very manual art form.”

    In her creations, Kristin prefers to utilize tribal designs, mentioning that she mainly sticks with Choctaw designs, but does some Cherokee as well. She states that she chooses to work with wood, even though it is sometimes more difficult. She feels called to the medium because of her grandfather’s work with the material. Kristin is also a skilled painter and photographer.

    See the variety of items Kristin crafts here:

    David McElroy
    David McElroy, a lawyer by profession, is also a silversmith who works with sterling silver to create Native American jewelry. “I have always loved traditional Southwest silverwork,” David stated. “It is such a creative and lasting artform.”

    During his time as a lawyer, David spent eight years in the United Kingdom, where he began his silversmith training. He has since developed his skills and is now able to do repousse work, in which he uses a male and female die to press designs from the reverse side of the silver, forcing the shape to appear on the front facing side. He also incorporates semi-precious stones into his work to create a heightened unique quality.

    David is the grandson of two original enrollees of the Choctaw Nation, a fact of which he is exceptionally proud. Though silverwork is not traditionally a Choctaw art form and most of his designs are inspired by Navajo and other Southwestern tribes, David hopes to make his medium of choice more associated with the Choctaw Nation.

    In his studio located in Santa Fe, N.M., David also makes accessories such as candlesticks, boxes and dishes. He will be exhibiting his artwork in the Santa Fe Indian Market Aug. 16-18.

    Learn more about David’s art form here:

    To see more from the event, visit our Facebook page.

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  • 04/19/13--08:33: Thirty years of service
  • Doris_R

    Thirty years of service
    Doris Ross celebrates 30-year anniversary with Choctaw Nation

    By CHRISSY SHEPARD Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    DURANT, Okla. – Not many people that have worked in the same job for 30 years can love their job and be as happy as tribal employee Doris Ross, director of Choctaw Nation Housing Authority’s Rental Assistance Program.

    Unlike many employees at the Choctaw Nation, Doris hasn’t worked in various departments throughout her time as a tribal employee — she has proudly worked for Housing Authority all 30 years.

    Doris said her job keeps her interested, and she is never bored. “Every day is different,” she added. “You can talk to different people all over, and even across the United States, which is interesting. It never gets boring.”

    Her coworkers are one of her favorite parts about her job. “If I’m not talking to people who call me, I’m helping my coworkers,” Doris said. “The Housing Authority is like my family, we’re just one big happy family.”

    Doris’ job duties vary, including taking care of reports to return to her executives, the tribe and her staff as well as monitoring her staff, answering questions for people who need help and call for assistance.

    She said the main purpose of her department is to assist low-income families within the 10 ∏ counties with their rent.

    “Since I’m a tribal member, it satisfies me to work for my tribe,” she said. “It’s been very rewarding to do that in the position I am in.” Her ability to speak Choctaw fluently is helpful with her day-to-day interactions and makes her a valuable employee for the Nation. “I speak Choctaw, so that helps me to assist the elders of our communities,” she said. “We still have elders who come in that don’t speak English or who aren’t comfortable speaking English, so I’m kind of an interpreter.”

    Through her years working for Housing, Doris has been involved in helping a lot of people, and she said that it has been a rewarding experience. “Everybody has needs, and I can relate to all of their needs,” she said. “It’s nice to have someone you can go to and get those needs taken care of.” Doris said she is blessed to have great bosses as well. She worked with Assistant Chief Batton when he was an employee of Housing years ago, and she had nothing but good things to say about Chief Pyle. “I like both of them, they’re just wonderful,” she said, glancing at her 25-year anniversary photo with Chief and Assistant Chief hanging on her office wall. “They’re good people, and I like working for good people. I’ve always enjoyed those two guys.”

    Doris said her experience as a tribal employee has been fulfilling and a great part of her life for 30 years, especially when she knows she has helped someone.

    “Getting a thank you from someone we have worked really hard for, saying they’ve made it through their college years and telling us they don’t need our help anymore and thanking us for helping them, that makes us feel really good, when we’ve helped someone make a great accomplishment.” She said she is thankful for the relationships she’s formed through working for Housing.

    “All my days here are good days,” she said, smiling. “I’ve seen a lot of people coming through, and it seems like all of them were good employees. I think my department is a good department.”

    Doris’ hobbies outside of the office include playing Bingo, crocheting, pottery and basket weaving.

    She also has a large family with whom she loves spending time. “I have 13 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, so somebody always has a birthday,” she said, telling about how every month, her big family gets together for a birthday party. “It doesn’t matter how old that child is, we always have a party, we always have fun. I enjoy being with my family.”

    Doris said she would recommend any young person seeking employment to apply to work for the Choctaw Nation. “They have so many advantages for young people and chances for advancement,” she stated.

    “The benefits are so great, and I strongly push young people to seek tribal employment. Everybody is good to them, it doesn’t matter where down the line that person comes in at, everyone will welcome them, and it trickles on down.”

    Doris has been an essential employee all her 30 years working for the tribe, and the fact that she loves her job and enjoys every day at the office with her fellow employees she calls friends, makes her a special worker. “I love it and I enjoy it,” she said. “I guess that’s why I’ve been here for 30 years. I’m 70 years old, and I’m still not ready to go yet.”

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    Book-signing in Durant to highlight ‘Choctaw: A Cultural Awakening’

    The many facets of the Choctaw Nation reflect paths traveled by thousands over hundreds of miles. The Choctaw people persevered through centuries of change and have emerged as one of the largest and progressive nations in the world. Choctaw history and culture have provided a strong foundation and more and more tribal members today are experiencing a revival of interest in their heritage. Capturing the essence of the nation is “Choctaw: A Cultural Awakening,” a striking 200-page collection of images, history and information. A book launch will be held 12:30-2 p.m. on April 30 at the Donald W. Reynolds Community Center and Library, 1515 W. Main St., Durant.

    Award-winning photographer David Fitzgerald spent nearly two years traveling and gathering images of Choctaws of all ages, historical artifacts, places of interest and activities. Included in the book is one of the last photographs of Choctaw original enrollee Georgia Mae Self. There are photographs of several familiar to the Durant area such as the late Ernest Hooser, and articles by the late Brenda Hampton on the Dawes commission and the late Bill Coleman on Choctaw Lighthorsemen. “Choctaw: A Cultural Awakening” features families whose lives are engrained with the rich heritage of the Choctaw Nation.

    Fitzgerald has received state and national acclaim for his photography. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame in 2005 and received the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book in 2010.

    Accompanying the pictorial collection are Choctaw history and cultural information contributed by Tribal Archeologist Dr. Ian Thompson and Public Relations Executive Judy Allen. The reader is quickly brought up-to-date with an overview of the Choctaw people’s course from DeSoto’s first contact until today.

    Thompson, as Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, archaeologist and coordinator for Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), works to protect sacred and historic sites, researches Choctaw history and is dedicated to revitalizing the traditional culture. He learned many of the Choctaw art forms in his youth and instructs others in making bows, arrows, flint knapping, pottery, basketry and more.

    Allen has worked with Thompson on many projects and has been committed to sharing the Choctaw culture throughout the world. She has been instrumental in the recognition of the Choctaw Code Talkers of World War I who were inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame last year. Allen was also named one of Oklahoma’s 50 Women Making a Difference in 2012.

    Exploring through photos and stories by spiritual and historical leaders such as Virginia Espinoza, Eleanor Caldwell and Bill Coleman, “Choctaw: A Cultural Awakening” shows that members of the third-largest Indian Nation are from all walks of life, performing diverse jobs, and come from an amazing heritage.

    Be awakened to the beauty of tribal art, the unique savor of Choctaw food and the excitement of learning about Tvshka Homma – Red Warriors! Fitzgerald, Thompson and Allen will be available to share their experiences with visitors at the book launch April April 30 in Durant.

    Copies of the “Choctaw: A Cultural Awakening” photo book are also available for purchase by logging onto or by calling 888.932.9199.

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    Choctaw Nation Outreach employees Christi Hammons of Tribal PREP; Brandi Smallwood of Chahta Inchukka; Anglea Dancer, Better Beginnings Senior Director; and Barbara Moffitt of Chahta Vlla Apela.

    Choctaw Nation Outreach adds programs, helps more families
    Better Beginning now includes Tribal PREP and Chahta Vlla Apela programs

    The Choctaw Nation Outreach program has recently added two new programs to its Better Beginnings branch — the Tribal PREP (Personal Responsibility Educational Program for the Prevention of Teen Pregnancy) and Chahta Vlla Apela program were added to join the SPPT (Support for Pregnant and Parenting Teens) program and Chahta Inchukka (Tribal Maternal Early Childhood Program).

    The Better Beginnings program, which receives its grants from the Department of Health and Human Services, was added to Outreach about three years ago, said Senior Director of the program Angela Dancer. “All of our programs are providing evidence-based curriculums that have been proven to be effective, and we’re bringing those curriculums to Native American communities,” she explained.

    This is a significant achievement for the tribe, according to Angela. “There are no evidence-based curriculums that currently have been tested on Native Americans, so this is a new avenue,” she said. “Even though the curriculum has been proven, it hasn’t been proven with our target population, so we’re going to be one of the first programs out there that is providing an evidence-based curriculum to Native American communities.”

    Dancer has worked for the tribe for 19 years and the Outreach program for 10 years.

    “We have over 22 programs,” said Angela of Outreach, saying the programs focus on going out into the community and providing needed services to tribal members.

    The Outreach program houses over 118 employees, and Randy Hammons serves as executive director.

    With its two new programs, Better Beginnings has also added two new directors to its team: Christi Hammons for Tribal PREP and Barbara Moffitt for Chahta Vlla Apela.

    “Chahta Vlla Apela means ‘helping our Choctaw children,’” said Barbara about her program, which was approved in January of this year.

    Barbara’s program is similar to the existing Chahta Inchukka program, directed by Brandi Smallwood. “They’re serving people in at-risk situations,” said Angela, adding that ‘at-risk’ is a broad definition and encompasses many areas such as: mental health, substance abuse, child abuse, single parent or low income issue involved.

    Angela said Barbara and Brandi’s programs are from the same funding but two different grants, whereas, the SPPT grant, directed by Rebecca Morris, is strictly for the teen population. Teens must be under the age of 21, be expecting a child or have a child under the age of 1, and seeking an educational goal.

    These three programs include home-based services. “This means our workers go into the clients home to provide the curriculum; usually twice a month” said Angela.

    According to Angela, Chahta Vlla Apela, Chahta Inchukka, and SPPT are teaching a curriculum entitled ‘Parents As Teachers,’ which is a parent-child interaction plan that focuses on the child development stage and the social wellbeing of the entire family.

    Angela provided an example of how one of these home visits would take place: with the parent(s) observing, the Outreach worker would ask the young child to perform a basic activity, such as covering a toy with a towel and having the child look for and discover it. They would then ask the parent to perform the same activity, while observing the parent interacting with the child and completing the task.

    Following the activity, the worker would ask the parent why they believe this activity is helping the child grow and how it is benefiting that child at that age.

    “We’re really trying to get the parent to think about the cognitive growth, motor skills and communication skills,” Angela said. “It’s all about cognitively growing these children, to be on task and looking for red flags.”

    Every home visit will have a parent-child interaction to promote one-on-one play time. Each interaction is hand-picked by the worker to address a specific area of child development. All home visits also have a section related to family well-being. The worker and parent identify family needs and connect with other Choctaw Nation services and departments to fulfill those needs. “It encourages the parent to set goals for themselves and their child. Then the worker helps to locate resources and services to achieve those goals” said Angela.

    Chahta Inchukka and Vlla Apela workers also conduct home visits with the child’s future in mind. “The focus is, overall, child and family development, but school readiness as well,” said Angela. We’re looking at the kids prior to head start age, so hopefully we can find and address any red flags before school, so when they attend head start, they are ready and able to learn, she added.

    “Let’s say a child is not developing correctly,” said Angela, “we have assessments that verify that child is struggling or in trouble. There are multiple screenings to see that the child is on task with his or her development.”

    “I really enjoy the people,” said Barbara of her new job.

    With the Chahta Vlla Apela being relatively new to Outreach, the program is currently in the ‘planning phase,’ according to Barbara. “Right now, I’ve been conducting the needs assessment to identify exactly what areas or needs that community will have, and then we chose our evidence-base curriculum to fit those areas and needs,” she said.

    While the programs ran by Barbara, Brandi, and Rebecca involves home visits, Christi’s Tribal PREP program requires her to visit local schools.

    “I enjoy educating the kids,” Christi said, who works with students in grades 6 through 8 in four different schools.

    Christi visits middle schools in Boswell, Ft. Towson, Soper and Jones Academy twice a week.

    “We have a curriculum that we teach called ‘Draw the Line, Respect the Line,’” said Christi, which is an evidence-based curriculum with studies supporting it.

    According to Christi, Tribal PREP is intended to postpone the initiation of sex in adolescents, help prevent pregnancy, STDs and AIDS. “Hopefully we educate the students enough to help them make healthy choices,” she said.

    Christi said when thinking of the future of Tribal PREP, she hopes for expansion and growth. “I hope we can expand the program and visit more schools,” she said. “In the future, if funding is available, we would like to not only visit schools, but hold community programs instead of strictly school-based settings.”

    “I would love to see that program grow,” added Angela. She explained that while SPPT deals with teens that are pregnant or have a young child; Christi’s program focuses on preventing that pregnancy.

    “The Choctaw Nation has a higher teen pregnancy rate inside of the 10 ∏ counties than that of the national rate,” stated Angela. “The vision of Christi’s grant was, let’s do something proactive to prevent those teenage pregnancies.”

    Future plans for Better Beginnings include workers continuing providing for and helping families as much as possible, which Angela sees turning into a major accomplishment in the future. “If we keep funding long enough to do enough intervention services, then between the three home-based services, we can be serving at least 200 families in the next year,” she said. In addition, the PREP program and the healthy choices curriculum they bring, “We are positively influencing the next generation of children who will become the future leaders of our nation.”

    If you are interested in learning more about Outreach and the Better Beginnings program, call 580-326-8304.

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    The students of Jones Academy’s 5th grade class experience an eventful year

    Contributed by JOE SIRMANS - Jones Academy

    First Field Trip - Eufaula Oklahoma


    May 2, 2013 Jones Academy 5th grade got to journey North to Eufaula Oklahoma to tour the Eufaula hydroelectric power plant. The students got to go down inside the dam and see how electricity is produced. It was amazing to see and have a better understanding of how water pressure can turn a turbine that turns a shaft at 100 RPM and then turns a generator that causes electrons to move on down the line. We often turn on electrical devices from lights to TVs without thinking about from where the power comes. Now, they 5th grade students have a better understanding of where the energy comes from after such a tremendous field trip to the Eufaula Dam. We were the first class to get to tour the dam since 9/11.

    After touring the dam, our Native American students got to view a wonderful arrowhead collection at the Eufaula Nature Center. The center had a variety of hands on activities that the students enjoyed. The working beehive was an attraction that had the students talking about honey. Some students enjoyed observing the mountain lion, buffalo, and other stuffed animals. Students looked threw binoculars and now better understand that these instruments can help enlarge organisms at far distances to help study their characteristics. LaRae_New_Holy_at_Nature_Center_WEB The ladies at the nature center were very knowledgeable and showed our students a variety of turtle species. The class also got to see our state reptile, the collard lizard. Some enjoyed looking at the cold-blooded organism called a copperhead snake, which our students can identify, by its copper color and markings. We all agree the copperhead is one not to step on in this part of the country.

    Over all I know we had a fantastic day because I heard many questions ask and answered. Lots of smiles on our student faces make for an unforgettable day in 5th grade. It was really heart warming to hear such great comments about our student’s behavior from the ones who gave the tours and showed our students many interesting exhibits.

    Second Field Trip - Elm Point Lake Eufaula

    May 10, 2013, the 5th grade students got to take a fishing field trip to Elm Point, which is part of Lake Eufaula. Prior to the trip students took part in the fishing clinic held in the 5th grade classroom at Jones Academy. The materials were provided by the Oklahoma State Department of Wildlife. students_learning_to_cast_WEB Students learned about tying knots, fish identification, casting instruction, outdoor ethics, water safety, water pollution, fishing equipment, fish cleaning and fish cooking.

    The students got their crappie fishing gear ready, which consisted of rods and reels, corks, hooks and minnows, then headed to the lake to catch fish. Kendra Wakolee caught the biggest crappie, which made a few boys wonder what was going on. Darius Sewell caught the second largest crappie, which put more fillets on the stringer.
    Students got to eat charcoaled hot dogs with chilly, cheese and onions for an outdoor lakeside luncheon. Some said the hot dogs were better than steaks on this day. Our students were generous to feed several elders at the lake that were fishing in the same fishing area. The students had a great time at the lake and picked up around the area to make it better than when they came.

    Later that day when returning to campus, the students got to watch first hand how to clean a fish and prepare it to eat. The kitchen staff was so kind as to get the cast iron skillet hot and ready for the fish after students battered the fillets. The fishing clinic did not teach how to eat the fish but the students did not seem to have any problem with that part. Learning life skills like fishing is something that 5th grade does not take lightly.

    The class also learned to make humming bird feeders out of baby food jars and painted them. They mixed one part granulated sugar with four parts sterile water to create the feed for the birds. For more information on the happenings occurring at Jones Academy visit Jones Academy’s website.

    Students display their newly created hummingbird feeders

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  • 05/15/13--12:51: Choctaw Champion
  • Choctaw Champion

    Joe Standifer shines in AEFL

    Joe_Standifer Joe Standifer is a champion, an American Eight-Man Football League (AEFL) champion to be specific. The Sachse Stallions, the team where Joe assumed the roll of number 44 defensive linemen, recently clinched an undefeated season of 10-0 as they earned the title of champion in the AEFL Bowl XII.

    The Sachse Stallion boasted a 32-17 win over the Texas Takeover on April 28 to complete their perfect season, an accomplishment that Joe had been seeking since he joined the league. “It has been one big huge roller coaster ride,” he remarked.

    Last season, when Joe joined the Stallions, the group saw a mediocre inaugural season. They made it to the first round of the playoffs, but “that wasn’t enough,” remarked Joe. He and his team were hungry for success. “We knew the talent that we had and we knew what we were capable of,” he declared as he spoke of his team.

    Every Sunday, each season began, Joe and his teammate Keith Vines, who had introduced Joe to the AEFL, would drive to Sachse, Texas, for practices with Coach Pete Espinosa. Joe and his teammates would perform drills, exercises and scrimmages. These weekly practices would run from August through Superbowl Sunday, with the season beginning the following week.

    The league hosted their games at Pennington Field in Euless, Texas. The games were not taken lightly, but were played with every bit of effort each team could rally. You had to give it 110 percent, because you knew the guy on the other side of the ball was. They weren’t just going to give it to you declared Joe as he explained the intensity of the action.

    Once the season commenced, every Sunday was a new game and a new time to shine for the Stallions. For Joe, a graduate of Tishomingo High School whose team went to the state championship in ‘98, every game was a way to demonstrate that those talents of the past had not faded.

    When Joe joined the AEFL three years prior to the championship title, playing for the Denton Dragons, he was 29 years old and had not played football in a considerable amount of time. He was anxious before his first practice, but, “After that first initial hit, it was like everything that was familiar about it came back,” mentioned Joe.

    The league served as a way for not only Joe, but also all the players to stay in shape, experience the bonds of a team and experience the fulfillment that accompanies such feats as winning championships.

    “Every Sunday you look forward to trying to knock somebody’s head off, but after the game, you shake hands and everybody is friends,” said Joe. “There was like a mutual respect throughout the league for each individual person and each team.”

    After a year with the Dragons, Keith got a call from Coach Espinosa asking him to play with the newly formed Stallions. Both Joe and Keith decided to join the new squad based in Sachse.

    During his time with in the league, it was not only Joe committing his efforts, his now 7-year-old son Adrian was happy to serve as water boy all while enjoying seeing his father in action.

    Joe has been pleased with Adrian’s support and commitment, stating that he was there with him through the good times and the bad, sporting a Stallion jersey. Sharing the championship with his son in a memory that both Joe and Adrian will hold dear for many years to come.

    Through his success with the AEFL, Joe hopes to be a role model to his son and other members of his family, stating that even though the road was long and rough, it was possible to earn the goal through perseverance.

    Adding to the complexity of his goal of being a champion, Joe not only was busy training, raising a son and working, but has also been enrolled at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. He is scheduled to graduate with a degree in math in May of 2014.

    This past season will be Joe’s last as a player. “It does take a toll on your body,” stated the now 32-year-old athlete. He continued by stating even though he could push himself for more seasons, it is worth more to him to preserve himself for an enjoyable future playing with his son.

    Joe will be leaving the league a champion, and “What better way to walk out than that?” he exclaimed. He does aspire to contribute to the Stallions in other ways such as coaching, stating that his attitude off the field will be the same as it was on the field, “Use me however you want, I just want to do my part.”

    If you would like to know more about the AEFL or the Stallions, visit the AEFL website or the Stallion’s website.

    The 2013 Stallions. Photos provided.

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    Beginning Friday, May 24, the people of the Choctaw Nation will be donating 7 days of its net profits in fuel sales to the Salvation Army for those affected by the devastating tornado damage in Oklahoma.

    Fuel Sales Donations Week
    May 24-May 30

    Choctaw Travel Plazas are located in Atoka,
    Broken Bow, Durant (East and West),
    Garvin, Heavener, Grant, Idabel, McAlester and Pocola.

    Jars will be available for monetary donations at the Travel Plazas as well as at the lobby of the Tribal Headquarters at 529 N. 16th in Durant.

    Our thoughts and prayers are with the people working to recover from this devastation.
    Chief Greg Pyle
    Assistant Chief Gary Batton
    Choctaw Tribal Council Office
    and the People of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

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    Chahta Foundation awards scholarships

    Accompanied by Assistant Chief Gary Batton, those who earned scholarships are recognized for their accomplishments.

    The Choctaw Nation Chahta Foundation has selected 14 outstanding applicants to receive scholarships totaling $136,000 for the 2013-2014 school year. The scholarships are valued from $2,000 up to $20,000 and range from graduating high school seniors to doctoral students.

    These Chahta scholars were acknowledged for this honor during a luncheon on May 15, 2013. Recipients were able to accept their awards and speak their thoughts to leaders of the Choctaw Nation, family and friends.

    Recipients for the Apela Ima award are Jace Caldwell, Caitlin Roebuck and Taylor Wright; bachelor’s recipients are Hilary Price and Alexandria “Bailey” Lafitte; master’s include Jennifer Russell and Rebeka Perkins-Ulm; and doctorate recipients are Nathan Sweeney, Carmen Jones, Madeline Anna, Amanda Janitz, Randi Hardin, Seth Boydstun and Chase Woodley.

    The Chahta Foundation was established in 1999 and has been dedicated to “Empowering Choctaw Life” in the state of Oklahoma and across the United States. Chahta Foundation Scholarship recipients are chosen not only for their scholarly achievements, but also for their ties to their heritage and commitment to broadening horizons of Choctaw people for generations to come. For more information, visit

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  • 06/06/13--06:55: The Art of Dylan Cavin
  • Dylan_in_Norman_Web
    Cavin displays his artwork, “Overalls and Bright Skies” and ”Gold Skies,” at the Choctaw Cultural event in Norman on May 23. “Gold Skies” was a cover of Oklahoma Today Magazine, and “Overalls and Bright Skies” took Best in Show at the 2012 Choctaw Nation Labor Day Art Show.

    The Art of Dylan Cavin

    J. Dylan Cavin, a comic book kid from Chickasha, has accomplished a goal many only contemplate. He has turned what he loves into his career, producing impressive results along the way.

    Cavin is a multi-talented artist, able not only to put paint to canvas, but pixel to screen, shape to mold, and even ink to skin. His work has been featured on everything from personal effects to commercial placement. His designs can be seen advertising Oklahoma City’s 2013 Red Earth Festival on billboards, benches, bus stops and T-shirts.

    Cavin and his talents will also be showcased at this year’s Choctaw Days at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., June 21 and 22.

    No stranger to event exhibits, Cavin has also been featured at Choctaw events such as Choctaw Day in Oklahoma City in 2012. His artwork also hangs among other notable pieces inside the tribal headquarters in Durant.

    Immersion in the universe of art came early for Cavin, winning his first contest in middle school and having his picture in the paper for this drawing of the Statue of Liberty. He was drawn further into the realm of art when he was introduced to comics at the age of 10. “I became completely swallowed up by them,” Cavin declared.

    Cavin reminisces of times when he and his buddy would make high contrast photocopies of comics and color them in with markers. These actions inevitably led to completely redrawing images and eventually art classes to hone his newly discovered skills.

    As he made his way through Noble School, Cavin was fortunate to have the support of his instructors. “I had a couple of really great art teachers in high school that saw something in me,” Cavin mentioned. “I certainly never felt like I was the most talented in the class but I was always attentive and a good student willing to learn,” he continued.

    When graduation neared, a decision was made to continue his exploration of art in college. He earned an Art Talent scholarship with his artistic abilities, which led him to the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2000. This would allow him to find a career in the field of graphic design.

    “I feel like I got a very well-rounded education,” stated Cavin as he spoke of his opportunity to experiment with many forms of art before deciding on graphic design as his major. “I had a really great core group of professors that helped along the way,” he continued.

    Cavin mentioned that his professors were focused on hands-on education, an aspect that Cavin believes is necessary for a student of art to flourish. Professor Kent Lamar, who taught figure drawing and sculpture, stands out as one of the most influential of his collegiate career. “His figure drawing classes really helped me develop a style that I felt was my own. His encouragement was what really got me through a lot of those higher level college courses, when I think a lot of students start to second guess their majors,” he declared.

    Upon graduating, Cavin began working for a company where he did full services design for products. He would draw the concept art, digitize and color it for the printer, and then do that packaging and catalog artwork for the final physical copy. Though he felt this was a rewarding job, he would have anywhere from five to ten of these projects occurring simultaneously, which became stressful.

    Becoming burnt out with his current occupation, Cavin decided to join the Army. He was honorably discharged shortly after enlistment due to fracturing his femur. After his discharge, he had some time to explore creative aspects past graphic design. “It was the first time in awhile where my time was really my own,” he mentioned.

    He began to take pictures, invested time in watercolor and even learned the art of tattooing. “I really love the looseness of watercolor and the expression you can achieve with just the right single brushstroke,” he noted. As he produced paintings, he began to receive recognition for his skill.

    Friends who own galleries took notice and invited him to display his work. The positive reception he received boosted his confidence and led him further into the mediums of watercolor and portraits. “I had never thought doing that would get me anywhere. I’m still amazed and honored when people purchase a work from me,” said Cavin.

    Currently, Cavin shows at a gallery in Norman called Tribes Gallery, where he feels fortunate to display his work along with artists with which he is proud to associate himself.

    Among his abundance of artistic creations, there is one he holds in high esteem. It is a portrait of C.A. Burris (aka Ahshawlatab). “I love it because, in my eyes, I nailed the style of my favorite comic book artist,” exclaimed Cavin.

    Along with this item, his portfolio also boasts an array of award-winning pieces. His accolades include the Heritage Award in 2010, Best in Show at the 2012 Annual Choctaw Art Show and First Place in the Graphics Category at the 2012 Red Earth Festival. His works have also been on the cover of the Oklahoma Today Magazine.

    To accredit his artistic talents further, additional honors consist of First Place in the Graphics Category at the 2012 SEASAM (Southeastern Art Show And Market), featured in the 2013 Native American Art Calendar, and participation in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian 2012 Art Market in New York.

    Cavin now spends much time in the studio, creating, learning and expanding his artistic prowess. When he is not in the studio, he is with his wife, Lindsay, or reading comic books, the medium that sparked his interest in art many years ago. He is an avid collector of comic books and comic art to this day. “I haven’t found a way yet, but if I could trade my art for comic books and comic art I would,” he jested.

    With plans to grow his capabilities, Cavin is grateful for the success he has seen thus far. His art reflects heavily on his native heritage, and he plans to dive deeper into that characteristic of art. “I always feel like I need to push myself harder, learn more not only about other techniques in art, but my culture in general to be a better steward for the [Choctaw] Nation,” Cavin explained.

    Cavin is one of many of the talented Choctaw members on the Choctaw Nation Artist Registry. “I am just a kid from Chickasha who worked hard at what he loved and got pretty lucky along the way,” Cavin concluded and he thought back over his journey though the world of art.

    You can view many of Cavin’s creations and keep up with his progress in the studio at .

    C. A. Burris (aka Ahshawlatab) Choctaw/Chickasaw” is a portrait that Cavin holds in high regard, mentioning, “I love it because, in my eyes, I nailed the style of my favorite comic book artist.”

    “Legacy” has been heavily used to advertise Oklahoma City’s 2013 Annual Red Earth Festival.

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    smithsonian_main_graphic_webChoctaw Days’ Return to the Smithsonian

    Choctaw Days is returning to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., for its third straight year. The event, scheduled for June 21-22, will provide a Choctaw Nation cultural experience for thousands of visitors.

    “We find Choctaw Days to be just as rewarding for us as the people who come to the museum say it is for them,” said Chief Gregory E. Pyle. “We meet families vacationing from places like Switzerland, Italy and Africa. It is a great opportunity to share culture.”

    The Choctaw Nation princesses will have a world map set up and encourage everyone to place a pushpin in the general area of their home. The map from last year’s event was covered with the multi-colored circles, representing travelers from 23 countries. Miss Choctaw Nation Cheyenne Murray, Junior Miss Choctaw Nation Cheyenne Shomo and Little Miss Choctaw Nation Josephine Gilmore will also open each day with the “Lord’s Prayer” in sign language and participate in a “Four Directions Ceremony” in the afternoon.

    Approximately 1,000 tribal members live in the area and they look forward to reconnecting with their heritage as well.

    They will be able to hear the Choctaw language through conversations, songs and stories. Dancers will mimic the antics of the playful raccoon and the curving paths of the snake. The Choctaw is the only American Indian tribe who includes women in their war dances, recognizing the important role of women in their society. The dancers are scheduled to perform three times each day, demonstrating several dances including the Four-Step War, the Wedding and Stealing Partners.

    Pottery, basket weaving and Choctaw flute experts will demonstrate the creativity passed down through generations. The skill of today’s craftsmen reflects the versatility implemented centuries ago out of necessity combined with improved techniques made possible by modern materials and equipment.

    “One of my favorite things during the festival is watching people’s expressions as they walk from table to table,” said Assistant Chief Gary Batton. “They are fascinated with the process of shaping a bowl or water vessel out of clay. The Choctaw Nation has some of the best instructors in the country on historic preservation.”

    Choctaw Nation Cultural Services staff will be holding make-and-take sessions each day to teach how to make animal forms with glass beads that would be ideal to hang on a key chain or lanyard. The finished work will be a treasured keepsake of the time spent at Choctaw Days.

    Janis McKinney’s beaded jewelry adds sparkle to the eyes of girls from the age of 2 to 92. She and husband, Karl, will set up a booth covered with everything from simple bracelets and hair barrettes to intricate medallions and collars worn with cultural clothing. Visitors can watch as McKinney continuously works with her beads or sews a Choctaw dress for one of her daughters or granddaughters.

    Everyone who comes together to present Choctaw Days is multi-talented. Most of the artists can also dance, chant or sing. Storyteller Tim Tingle brings many elements to life in his tales. Surrounded by his audience, Tingle becomes a rabbit or a turtle. The author often includes sad laments or rhythmic beats of a drum with his stories, capturing and holding the attention of all who hear. He turns the sad thoughts of the Trail of Tears to happy sounds of laughter with a description of how the rabbit lost his tail, waving his hands above his head to imitate the long floppy ears of a cottontail. Tingle tells of Choctaw trials, travels and triumphs.

    There will be much to see, hear, and taste during Choctaw Days. The Choctaw Nation’s cultural awakening will be evident throughout the Potomac Atrium, films in the theatre and in the Mitsitam Native Foods Café with several Choctaw-inspired dishes on the menu.

    The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian is located at 4th St. and Independence Ave., SW, in Washington, D.C.

    There will also be a book-signing for the 200-page book, “Choctaw: A Cultural Awakening” from 12-1 p.m. Saturday, June 22, in the museum’s Roanoke Museum Store on the second level.


    Choctaw Days June 21-22

    10:30 a.m.
    Princesses – The Lord’s Prayer in sign language
    Social Dancing
    Flutist Presley Byington
    Historian Olin Williams – Stickball
    Dr. Ian Thompson – History of Choctaw Food

    1 p.m.
    Princesses – Four Directions Ceremony
    Social Dancing
    Flutist Presley Byington
    Storyteller Tim Tingle

    3 p.m.
    Lord’s Prayer
    Choctaw Social Dancing
    Storyteller Tim Tingle
    Soloist Brad Joe

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    Urban Inter-Tribal Center of Texas relocates to Dallas Medical District

    Information provided by The Urban Inter-Tribal Center


    The Urban Inter-Tribal Center of Texas (UITCT) announced today its move to the Medical District of Dallas. The Center, a non-profit corporation, serves Native Americans throughout the Dallas-Ft.Worth metroplex. They provide primary medical and dental care, pharmacy, counseling, job training and education services to an often forgotten demographic of our first Americans. After 42 years in the Oak Cliff community Chief Executive Officer Dr. Rodney Stapp (Comanche) said it was the perfect time to move as they had outgrown their previous facility and suffered a partial roof collapse last August during a Texas sized downpour.

    “This gives us a great opportunity to better serve our Native community with a bigger, modern facility that is more centrally located to our expanding base of patients and clients,” Stapp said. The mission of the center is simple, “To improve the health and socio-economic status of the DFW American Indians,” said Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Jim Edmonson. “I think this move is another big step in the right direction.”

    UITCT has a long history of collaborating with the Parkland Health System and is excited about being neighbors. The center is also looking forward to forming partnerships with UTSW Medical Center. It will be very convenient having UTSW’s new hospital just a few blocks down the street on Record Crossing Road and Parkland’s new hospital just around the corner. Children’s Hospital is nearby as well so we feel fortunate to be surrounded by world class facilities.

    The center is primarily funded by federal, state and private grants and donations with their largest grantor being the Indian Health Services, a federal agency. Tribal partners such as the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Chickasaw Nation, Comanche Nation and Creek Nation contribute to the center’s cause as well. The American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Texas also helps with extracurricular sponsorships. All eligible patients and clients are seen regardless of their ability to pay or insurance status. “We strive to offer the best medical care possible on a shoestring budget because that’s what they deserve,” says Administrative Director Angela Young (Choctaw). In addition to their medical and dental services the center’s job training and education department headed by Director Kathy McDonald offers everything from GED preparation to college tuition assistance and job development training to help clients get back on their feet and into the job market, thus fulfilling their mission.

    For more information about the Urban Inter-Tribal Center of Texas or to make a donation please contact: Urban Inter-Tribal Center of Texas 1283 Record Crossing Rd. Dallas, TX 75235 Telephone: 214-941-1050 ext: 203 email:

    CEO Dr. Rodney Stapp says “This move is a catalyst for the future growth of our organization”

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