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Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

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    Pictured is the home screen of the Choctaw Nation app.

    Choctaw Nation reveals Windows 8 application

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is continually finding new ways to connect its tribal members, whether through social networking and the Internet or face-to-face with community meetings across the United States.

    Now, the Choctaw Nation has found its way into your mobile phones and tablets.

    With the help of Planet Technologies, a leading Microsoft consulting and services company, two Choctaw Nation Office of Technology (IT) department employees have developed and created a Choctaw Nation application.

    Software programmer David Coxsey and IT director Dustin Stark, along with web director Vonna Shults, Ryan Spring in Historical Preservation and J.T. Wallace in the Choctaw Language department, provided their input to Planet Technology in designing the app.

    The development of the app was made possible through a program from Microsoft called the Microsoft Application Acceleration Program (MAAP), which funded its creation.

    It took only about one month, from initial concept to the application store, for the final product to be available for download, said Coxsey.

    After just two weeks in the Windows Marketplace, the Choctaw Nation app has been downloaded 134 times.

    “This program was designed to help clients get started on building applications for Microsoft’s newest operating system, Windows 8,” explained Don Lionetti, Choctaw Nation’s account manager at Microsoft. “Microsoft is thrilled that Choctaw Nation is the first tribal Nation with a Windows 8 app live on the Microsoft Windows 8 Application Store.”

    According to Coxsey, the new app provides new ways to connect tribal members and employees. “The purpose of the application is to provide connections to the Choctaw Nation’s news, Twitter and Facebook feeds, YouTube channel, along with historical and cultural information,” he stated. “The intended audience for the application is tribal members and the public.”

    The Choctaw Nation is a leader among tribal governments in the use of technology, said Lionetti.

    “This latest example of a Windows 8 application for the citizens and the public to keep informed of the excellent work being done by various groups within the Choctaw Nation exemplifies staying on the leading edge of technology adoption,” he continued. “Moreover, this development of a Windows 8 application gives the Choctaw Nation yet one more medium for communicating the positive message of the Choctaw people and also provides a platform for disseminating tribal government news about its programs and people.”

    If you were to explore the app, you would be able to do such things as catch up on current news by reading articles from the Choctaw Nation, see the Nation’s live Twitter and Facebook feeds to see what is happening with the Nation at a moment’s basis, watch videos from the Nation’s YouTube channel to learn more about the departments and activities of the tribe, or even research Choctaw history and learn more about the tribe’s culture.

    Coxsey said currently the app is only available on devices such as desktop PCs, laptops or tablets running Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system, but the IT department is working to get the app added to the Apple and Android stores so it will be available on all Android tablets and phones, iPhones and iPads.

    “We look forward to helping the Choctaw Nation in continuing the use of technology for the betterment of the Nation and its citizens,” said Lionetti.

    If you have a device that utilizes Windows 8, you may download the application to your device by searching for “Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma” in the Windows 8 application store.

    If you would like to download the app, click here.

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    Choctaw Nation nominated for Beacon Award

    As Oklahoma businesses and nonprofits continue to reach out to the recent tornado victims, The Journal Record is planning its annual tribute to those lighting the way in the state by giving back to the communities that support them. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is among the nominees for its efforts with organizations such as Veterans Airlift Command and Wounded Warriors among others.

    The Journal Record will recognize 28 businesses and organizations for their contributions to the nonprofit community at its sixth annual Beacon Awards event on July 11 in downtown Oklahoma City.

    Overall winners will be selected from the group and announced at the event at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. Organizations will be recognized in large, medium and small divisions for their contributions to the nonprofit community in two categories – charitable influence and philanthropic impact. In addition, three nonprofits will receive special recognition at the event: Allied Arts, Homeless Alliance and the Masonic Charity Foundation.

    “The Oklahoma standard for giving is recognized worldwide and the business community drives that spirit,” said Mary Mélon, publisher of The Journal Record. “The Journal Record Beacon Awards allow us to honor the businesses and organizations who provide generous financial support and a culture of volunteerism and service. Both are critically important for our state’s nonprofits to continue providing valuable and much-needed services.”

    These nonprofits and the company finalists will be featured in the Beacon Awards magazine and recognized at the event in July. A reception begins at 6 p.m., with dinner following at 7 p.m. Each of the Beacon Award honorees will receive an award. The overall winners in each category will receive a donation for the nonprofit they support. The event is presented by First Fidelity Bank and sponsored by Delta Dental, McAfee & Taft, Sonic and the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits.

    “A strong nonprofit community is an integral part of a community, and that is especially true in times of need like we have faced recently in Oklahoma,” said Lee R. Symcox, First Fidelity president and CEO. “It is important to recognize those within the business community that provide vital backing and leadership for nonprofits. They give of their time and resources, and are an example for others, encouraging further support.”

    Individual and group tickets are available. Reservations can be made by contacting Ashley Fitzpatrick at (405) 278-2820 or online at

    Charitable influence finalists – Organizations in the charitable influence category demonstrate a company culture that encourages and supports volunteerism, charitable giving and community involvement by its members.

    Large business subcategory finalists include (500+ employees):
    • Chaparral Energy.
    • Groendyke Transport Inc.
    • Oklahoma Publishing Co.
    • Target.

    Medium business subcategory finalists include (51-499 employees):
    • CFS2.
    • Cyntergy.
    • Lakeside Women’s Hospital.
    • Republic Bank & Trust.

    Small business subcategory finalists include (50 or fewer employees):
    • Retirement Investment Advisors Inc.
    • Vann & Associates.

    Philanthropic impact finalists – Those recognized in the philanthropic impact categories have made a significant charitable contribution to a nonprofit organization working to meet specific needs in the community. Large business subcategory finalists include (500 plus employees): • BancFirst.
    • Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
    • Crescent Cos.
    • Dell Inc.
    • Farmers Insurance.
    • Halliburton.
    • Nordam.

    Medium business subcategory finalists include (51-499 employees):
    • A Good Egg Dining Group.
    • BP America.
    • Cotton Electric Cooperative Inc.
    • HSI Sensing.

    Small business subcategory finalists include (50 or fewer employees):
    • Ark Wrecking Co. of Oklahoma.
    • CRI Feeders of Guymon LLC.
    • Framed in the Village.
    • Insight Creative Group.

    See more at The Journal Record website.

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    Program introduces youth to workforce

    WIA_web Since the 1960s, the Choctaw Nation has worked to provide employment and job training experiences to its younger generation by participating in the Tribal Youth and Supplemental Youth Work Experience Programs (formerly called Summer Youth Program). A component of the Workforce Investment Act, the Supplemental Youth Work Experience Program is a federally funded program, which is supplemented by tribal dollars for the Tribal Youth Program, that provides entry-level work for Native American teens between the ages of 14-21.
    The programs are a win-win for both the youth participants and the employers who hire them. “This introduces the kids to the workforce,” says Patty Mink, director over the programs, “and the employers are not out any money to take on them on because we pay their wages.”
    The teens participating in the programs are allowed to work up to 40 hours per week during the five-week summer programs at a job of their choosing. “They job shadow at different businesses,” says Mink, “and it can be any type of business, public, government, nonprofit – we let them choose. We try to get the kids to do something that they enjoy or that they think they may want to do later on in life and get a feel for it. “If they feel they want to get into childcare then they could go to work at a day care for this time period and see if that’s what they think they want to do,” she continued. “Maybe if they are interested in cosmetology then they could work at a beauty shop, or they could try a clinic if they are thinking about the medical field. The list can go on and on. The kids pick their own places of employment.” This allows the teens to be exposed to a particular career field and get a feeling for what it entails. It also helps them to build a resume and work history, making them more competitive in the job market, which can be a confidence boost to the young workers. The CNO kicked off the work programs on June 10 and it runs through July 12. The size of the programs has grown year to year, with approximately 1,700 workers participating this year, about a hundred more than in 2012. To be involved in the programs the youth must have their tribal membership and/or CDIB card, live in the 10 1/2 county tribal area, and meet certain age and income requirements. For more information on the Tribal Youth or Supplemental Youth Work Experience Programs contact 800-522-6170. Applications for next year will be available from Jan. 1 until April 15.

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  • 06/28/13--14:23: Culture at the Capitol
  • Baskets_web
    Debbie Damron explains about Choctaw baskets to a fascinated little visitor.

    Culture at the Capitol

    Choctaw Days’ third installment in Washington, D.C.

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) hosted its third installment of Choctaw Days, June 20 and 21, at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, D.C. The event is one of the CNO’s largest exhibitions of culture and tradition, aimed to educate and immerse patrons in what it truly means to be Choctaw.

    “We are always striving to keep our culture alive and strong. We love to share it near and we love to share it far, meeting new Choctaw faces all along the way,” stated Chief Gregory E. Pyle.

    During this time, members of CNO occupied the museum’s large atrium, the Potomac Room, and numerous staples of Choctaw culture were showcased. Aspects of the Choctaw way of life included stickball, social dances, storytelling, beadwork and ceremonies. Each day consisted of three presentations of time-honored traditions with time to meet cultural experts filling the moments between.

    “We are always glad to have the Choctaws in town,” said Kevin Gover, director of NMAI, as he addressed the audience. He went on to mention that Choctaw Days was one of the highlights of the museum during the year. Everyone in the booth is so engaging and happy, which creates a pleasant atmosphere and encourages guests to learn more, said Gover.

    “When we heard Choctaw Days was going on, we wanted to make sure we made it out,” stated Brad Rauh from Clemson, S.C., who was in town with his family for a visit. Patrons of the museum showed a pleasurable reception to the event, everyone enjoying the various exhibitions of Choctaw culture.


    Each morning the Choctaw princesses initiated the day’s activities by presenting the Lord’s Prayer in sign language, began the midday production with the Four- Directions ceremony, and concluded the day with a special presentation.

    Bead-working classes presented by CNO’s Office of Historic Preservation were offered throughout both days on the third floor of the building. Guests were taught to bead bracelets and turtles, which were chosen because of their significance to the tribe.

    “It is very intricate,” stated Rebecca Gelfond who is from Maryland, but has family in the Choctaw Nation boundaries. Gelfond’s children, Max and Julia, accompanied her in learning beadwork and seemed to have a knack for the art. “Given Julia’s fascination and success, I suspect we will be [beading again],” she laughed.

    Social dances are an integral part to all Choctaw cultural gatherings and Choctaw Day was no different. Dancers energized the room with their quick steps and bright colors, pulling in members of the audience for impromptu appearances in the Raccoon, Stealing Partners and Snake Dances. “It’s a different, more organic rhythm,” stated Kandall Masada, a ballet dancer from Texas.

    Stickball was a favorite of the youth in the crowd. Students from various educational groups would overtake the floor following the presentation to try their hand at the ancient sport, which is responsible for today’s lacrosse. Billy Eagle Road III and Jared “Pinti” Tom would give demonstrations, sharing stories of their games with Tvshka Homma, CNO’s official tribal stickball team. “I was totally fascinated by stickball,” exclaimed Kelly McHugle.

    Special presentations also graced the floor of the Potomac, including the lively stories of Tim Tingle. An award-winning author, Tingle has the ability to get the crowd energized and active through his stories, which often include a combination of Choctaw lore and history. Tingle told guests of the NMAI the story of how rabbit lost his tail, as well as the saga of Bigfoot and the Choctaw princess.

    Miss Choctaw Nation Cheyenne Murray, beadwork artist and chanter Brad Joe, and Broadway actor Aaron Umsted lent the audience their voices for solo performances at various times during the event. Each performer owned their own sound, but each sang completely in the Choctaw language, creating a totally Choctaw experience.

    Videos of the event recorded by the Smithsonian will be posted soon, so keep an eye on our Choctaw Facebook.

    Lana Sleeper, MaiMouna Youseff and Cheyenne Murray are all smiles during the Snake Dance.

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    Choctaw Nation recognized as Clean Community

    Award_presentation_webDepartment of Environmental Quality Deputy Executive Director Jimmy Givens presents the Oklahoma Clean Community to the Choctaw Nation – Assistant Chief Gary Batton and Director of Project Management Tracy Horst.

    A special ceremony was held June 19 at the Recycling Center in Durant to recognize the Choctaw Nation as an Oklahoma Clean Community.

    “Over the last couple of years. The Choctaw Nation has partnered with other communities to hold recycling events during which over 7,000 tires have been collected that would otherwise have ended up in dumps,” said Deputy Executive Director Jimmy Givens of the Department of Environmental Quality. “These events have provided residents and tribal members a safe and effective way to dispose of tires as well as other recyclables.”

    DEQ encourages entities to coordinate community-wide cleanups of used tires. DEQ’s Tire Indemnity Fund will pay to haul off old, unused, or abandoned tires. Tire piles can be an eyesore and attract unwelcome pests, such as mosquitoes and rodents. After a community has completed at least one cleanup event, it is then eligible to become an Oklahoma Clean Community.

    Givens was very impressed at the interest in the Choctaw Nation’s endeavors and what a broad section of the community has become involved. “We would also like to recognize those of you who are collaborating with the Choctaw Nation in making this a reality,” Givens continued from the podium, a mountain of recyclable material behind him. “We want to commend you for being a partner in resourcing efforts and to encourage you to encourage others to become involved.”

    The Choctaw Nation’s Green Team started recycling aluminum cans, printer cartridges and Christmas cards in late 2008. “It just exploded into a little bit of everything,” said Tracy Horst, director of Project Management and the Green Team. “The Chief, Assistant Chief and Tribal Council have been supportive and the employees have been very active. I can’t say enough about the Going Green team and recycling crew for all the hard work they do.”

    A Department of Energy grant kicked off the nation’s full-scale recycling initiative in October 2009 with four employees. The Durant facility opened in December 2010. During that month of December, the facility recycled 14,000 pounds.

    The number of staff has doubled and the center is now recycling more than 14 times the original 14,000 pounds each month. A second recycling facility opened in January in Poteau, partially funded by the Administration of Native Americans. Its two employees are already recycling over 20,000 pounds per month. Horst estimates the Choctaw Nation will reach a total of 5 million pounds of recycled materials by the end of this year.

    If you would like to keep up to date with the Choctaw Nation’s recycling efforts visit the Going Green Facebook page .

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    Durant Young Professionals First Annual Community Leaders Round Table Forum


    Durant Young Professionals is hosting the First Annual Community Leaders Round Table Forum on Tuesday, July 9. The event will take place at the REI Women’s Business Center, 2912 Enterprise Boulevard, Durant, OK from 5:30-7:00 p.m. The leaders who will present as part of the round table include Pat Dorris, CEO, Medical Center of Southeastern Oklahoma; Greg Massey, CEO, First United Bank; Dr. Larry Minks, President, Southeastern Oklahoma State University; and Gary Batton, Assistant Chief, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

    Durant Young Professionals members will have the opportunity to interact with some of Durant’s most prominent leaders through a panel discussion, as well as one-on-one interaction with the featured guests. Come prepared to ask questions about the successful careers and lives of the established panel. For more information visit DYP on Facebook or LinkedIn or contact the Durant Area Chamber of Commerce at (580) 924-0848.

    DYP is under the direction of the Durant Area Chamber of Commerce, and was formed in January 2013 to help connect the 20s, 30s, and young-at-heart in the Durant community. The Leaders Round Table is an example of “emerge” events hosted by DYP. Emerge events hone and develop leadership skills by learning from established professionals.

    “The mission of Durant Young Professionals is to provide opportunities to experience life with young professionals; opportunities to emerge and develop as leaders; and opportunities to engage the community through learning and service for the purpose of identifying, retaining and supporting the latest group of movers, shakers, and history makers of southern Oklahoma.”

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    Healthcare information provided during Labor Day Festival

    In an effort to keep our tribal members informed of the latest information regarding Health Care Reform, Medicare and Medicaid, presentations will be given on Sunday, Sept. 1, in the Healthy Lifestyle tent at the Choctaw Nation Labor Day Festival. Join us in the air conditioned tent for short presentations that will be sure to provide you with valuable health care information which will help you make the right decisions in the upcoming months about your health insurance! The following presentations will be provided free of charge to anyone who wants to learn more about Medicare and Medicaid plus the new law that affects every American and also hear how to avoid future health tax penalties beginning in 2014.

    How Health Care Reform Will Affect You and Your Family – 1:00-1:30 p.m. and 4:15-4:45 p.m.
    Did you know that there are more than 50 million Americans without insurance? President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, also known as Health Care Reform into law on March 2010. This law mandates that every American have health insurance or face a health tax penalty when filing their 2014 IRS income taxes. This presentation will provide you with a better understanding of the new law as well as share the next steps you and your family should take in order to take full advantage of the new law and avoid unnecessary tax penalties in the future. This is a presentation that you will not want to miss or it may end up costing you in the end. Door prizes will be awarded, and you must be present to win.

    What You Should Know About Medicare and Medicaid – 3:00-3:30 p.m.
    Let our Medicare and Medicaid Specialists help and guide you to ensure you have the best healthcare coverage possible. This presentation will include:
    • An overview of the Medicare and Medicaid programs
    • The Four Parts of Medicare
    • The costs and benefits of having Medicare benefit coverage
    • Open enrollment coming this fall and what it means for you
    • Who is eligible for Medicaid/SoonerCare benefits
    • The income and resource guidelines for Medicaid eligibility will be discussed as well as how to enroll for Medicaid and Medicare.

    You might be eligible for free health care and don’t even realize it! Don’t miss out on this presentation; you could be missing out on low cost or even free health care benefits for you and your family! Door prizes will be awarded, and you must be present to win.

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    Eight Choctaw Ancestors Have Returned to Rest

    On May 16, 2013, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma repatriated a collection containing the remains of eight Choctaw ancestors and 520 funerary objects from the Natchez Trace Parkway. The same day that these ancestors and funerary objects were returned, Choctaw Nation Historic Preservation Department staff, assisted by representatives from the Parkway, respectfully reburied them on protected land at an undisclosed location. Now, these ancestors are back at rest.

    The remains and objects came from the Boyd Mounds archaeological site, located in what is now Madison County, Mississippi. This was a village site inhabited by ancestral Choctaw people from AD 300-700. Several centuries later, earth mounds were built on the old village site and used to bury the deceased. Choctaw people continued to visit this ancient, sacred area and as recently as the early 1800s buried a loved one in the mounds. However, in 1820, the Choctaw Tribe ceded 5 million acres, including the land on which the site sits, to the United States through the Treaty of Doaks Stand.

    In 1963 and 1964 in preparation for constructing an adjacent section of the Natchez Trace Parkway, the National Park Service employed archaeologists to excavate many of the burial mounds at the Boyd Site. Human remains and burial objects were taken from their graves, studied, written about, and then placed in long-term storage. In that day and age, federal agencies gave no thought to whether or not Native American people wanted their ancestors’ graves to be treated in such a way. The remains and funerary objects from the Boyd site sat in storage for decades, far from where their loved ones had originally buried them.

    The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) became law in 1991, making it possible for Tribes to repatriate ancestral human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and items of cultural patrimony held in federal collections. The repatriation and reburial conducted in May culminated 12 years of NAGPRA consultation between the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the Natchez Trace Parkway, and other Tribes. The Choctaw NAGPRA Advisory Board, made up of 10 Tribal leaders and traditional people guided Choctaw Nation’s role process. The reburial was conducted under the direct supervision of 2 Choctaw spiritual leaders, and with the financial assistance of a National Parks Service grant.

    The past cannot be undone, but in working together to see these ancestors returned to their rightful rest, Choctaw people and current Natchez Trace Parkway staff fostered a friendship and understanding that will influence each other’s thoughts and actions far into the future. According to Olin Williams,” After several repatriations, I can tell that the agency folks are starting to understand what we are trying to communicate. I think they are beginning to sense the proper repatriation spirit. The fulfillment of returning the remains is erasing the guilt and fear of accounting for mistakes of history.”

    The ancestors from Boyd Mounds site are again buried, as their loved ones long ago intended. When we of the present day and age pass on to the next life and meet the spirits of these ancient people, we should ask them forgiveness for our failure to protect the sanctity of their original graves. However, we can also find a measure of solace that in laying their remains back to rest, some service has been done for them.

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    Choctaw Youth receive honors at Jim Thorpe Native Games

    The basketball team gathers for a photo

    By Shelley Garner
    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    Choctaw Youth basketball, golf and track and field athletes competed in the annual Jim Thorpe Native Games held at Remington Park in Oklahoma City on June 9. Twenty-eight athletes competed in five different divisions and brought home two medals. Teams competed against other Native athletes from Oklahoma, Florida, North Dakota and Arizona.

    Channah Cox of Norman and Matt Wood of Durant represented the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Monday at Lincoln Park Golf course. The two golfers finished their final round on Tuesday and Channah Cox brought home a silver metal, but Matt Wood fell just out of medal contention with a fifth-place finish.

    Thorpe_1Tuesday was a tough day of competition with both track and field events and basketball. Morgan Steve set the tone for the CNO teams by bringing home the gold in the shot put. The first day of pool play began for all basketball teams and Choctaw Nation swept the board with each team going undefeated in pool play. Wednesday’s pool play ended with all CNO teams winning and advancing into the tournament later that afternoon. Both 16 and up boys and girls lost in heartbreak rounds and were eliminated, girls by the SWO Outlaws from North Dakota, and boys by the Cheyenne Arapaho. The 19 and up team continued to dominate over the competition and won big advancing into the gold medal game on Thursday. The 19 and up boys team played a gold medal game against the Hostile Natives from the Shawnee tribe. They started off slow but made a huge second-half comeback sparked by Seth Youngblood and Markell Henderson to bring home the gold with an 8-point win.

    19 & Up Boys Basketball Team participants: Dallas Little, Cameron Collier, Dominic Davis, Seth Youngblood, Markell Henderson, Cade Clay, Bryce Martin, Chance Haislip

    16 & Up Boys Basketball Team participants: Chris Ortiz,, Alex Clay, Alex Steve, Cody Crase, Blake Crase, John Cox, Adonis Fox, Josh Hawkins

    16 & Up Girls Basketball Team participants: Sassy McCosar, Kelly Himes, Kaci Watts, Ashton Birchfield, Lauren Billie, Hailey Belvin, Abigail Simpson, Mallory Hawkins

    Golf participants : Channah Cox, Matt Wood

    Track and Field participants: Morgan Steve


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    Creative Oklahoma Presents the 2013 State of Creativity Forum

    Creative Oklahoma is proud to announce the 2013 State of Creativity Forum will take place Nov. 19 at the Civic Center Music Hall in Oklahoma City. The State of Creativity Forum is an annual event dedicated to promoting and influencing innovation in Oklahoma and around the world.

    Creative Oklahoma invites you to join innovators and entrepreneurs, educators and students, policy makers, business leaders, technology experts and trailblazers as they participate in this memorable event full of inspiration and collaboration.

    The Forum is projected to have over 1,200 attendees with many creative and innovative corporations, educational institutions, and civic organizations represented from around the world.

    The Creativity Forum attracts a diverse attendance population each year. Participants and speakers come from across the U.S. and the globe to take part in this event. Confirmed keynote speakers for this years’ Forum include Brad Moore, CEO of Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, Nancy Kanter, Senior VP of Disney Junior Worldwide, and Peter Sims, co-founder of FuseCorps and author of “Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries.” Many other speakers have been confirmed for workshop sessions and other presenting roles throughout the day.

    This Forum is an important and influential opportunity for entrepreneurs, university students, and business leaders to network and communicate with each other about the growing global creative economy.

    Creative Oklahoma is encouraging individuals to recognize their innate talents and creativity, bringing those gifts passionately into boardrooms, school rooms, parish halls, and city halls. Creative ideas will drive the economic and social change so critical to our survival. This Forum provides innovators and entrepreneurs a chance to communicate and share not only their ideas, but also their hopes and dreams for the growing creative economy.

    Our 21st century interconnected global economy is an economy built on ideas. The next new ideas will drive corporate profitability, entrepreneurial growth, and solutions to some of the most serious health, environmental, and social issues facing the human race. Yet, there is a disconnect between how educational systems are preparing young people for this fast-paced change and the needs of the workforce and society for creative thinkers, inventors, and entrepreneurs.

    In conjunction with the 2013 State of Creativity Forum, cSchool, a program of Creative Oklahoma to advance deeper creativity and innovation learning, will be presenting two half-day workshops on Nov. 18 as a pre-Forum offering. These workshops are focused on developing the “creative community” and attendees will have the option of taking both half-day sessions with lunch or each half-day session individually. The morning session will be co-presented by Oklahoma-based cSchool experts and the afternoon session will be taught by James Nave, utilizing his “Imaginative Storm” methodology in community development.

    The individual early-bird registration cost of the Forum is $195, and student tickets are $95 each. In order to keep the ticket price affordable, Creative Oklahoma seeks sponsorships to off-set the full cost of the event. Businesses, educational institutions, foundations, and individuals have the opportunity to become sponsors for the forum which includes recognition and amenities prior to and during the Forum. Information on sponsorship can be found by contacting

    About Creative Oklahoma: Established in 2006, Creative Oklahoma is a statewide nonprofit organization advancing Oklahoma’s creative economy through creativity and innovation. Our mission is to establish Oklahoma as a world-renowned center of creativity and innovation in education, commerce and culture. The organization transforms the State of Oklahoma through projects and collaborative ventures that help develop a more entrepreneurial and vibrant economy and an improved quality of life for its citizens. For more info, see

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  • 07/17/13--12:53: Short Story Contest
  • Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma & Five Civilized Tribes Museum Short Story Contest

    The Choctaw Nation is encouraging young authors to share their talents as writers and storytellers. Through a partnership with the Five Civilized Tribes Museum a story competition has been developed in conjunction with the annual Five Tribes Story Conference. The winners of the competition will be notified prior to the conference and announced with a special presentation at the event. The fictional short story must relate to the Choctaw Nation in a historical, cultural or family related way.

    • Middle School/High School • College

    Stories will be judged on style, content, grammar, and the originality with which the student approaches the topic. Judges will look for clear, concise writing that is entertaining, original, articulate, logically organized, and well-supported. The winning submission must demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, its history and culture.

    Winner in each category receives:
    • $100 prize
    • Cost of attendance, roundtrip travel to, 2-nights lodging during and meals during Five Tribes Story Conference Oct. 18-19 in Muskogee, Okla.
    • Choice of reading or selecting someone to read their work at the Five Tribes Story Conference.

    • Must be a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma residing in the United States.
    • Stories are to be fiction – 1,500-2,100 words or less, double-spaced.
    • E-mail submissions only – All stories must be emailed no later than Sept. 20, 2013.
    • Must include entrant’s name at the bottom of each page.
    • All submissions must be the original sole work of the entrant.
    • Submissions cannot have been published previously, though it could have been a class assignment.
    • Judges will award extra points for short stories using elements of the Choctaw language.
    • Winners will be notified by Oct. 1, 2013.

    Cover letter guidelines: All entries must be submitted with a cover letter that includes the following:
    • Date
    • Student’s name
    • Student’s address, email and telephone number
    • Student’s grade and school
    • Copy of CDIB and Tribal Membership

    Announcement will be made during the Five Tribes Story Conference, Oct. 18, and through media following the conference.

    For more information, please contact one of the following: Lisa Reed, Media Director, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma or 800-522-6170, ext. 2245

    Tim Tingle, Choctaw author and storyteller or 830-832-4288

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    Hitak_Bridge The bridge over Hickory Creek on Highway 77 near Overbrook was named in honor of the late Marine Lance Cpl. Hatak-Yuka-Keyu Martin Yearby, who was killed in action on May 14, 2006, in Iraq. A large gathering of friends and family were on hand to witness the unveiling of two new signs on July 24. Pictured are Love County Commissioner Herschel “Bub” Peery, Rep. Tommy Hardin, Choctaw Chief Gregory E. Pyle, Hatak’s mother, Mary Yearby of Overbrook, his wife, Lindsey Yearby of Durant, his father, Justin Yearby of Overbrook, Laquita Ladner of Burneyville, and Sen. Frank Simpson. Standing in back are fellow Marines and friends of Hatak’s, Staff Sgt. Rodrigo Roman of Chicago, Ill., Cpl. Will Torres of Hemet, Calif., and Lance Cpl. John Amador of San Diego, Calif.

    Bridge named in honor of fallen warrior

    By LARISSA COPELAND Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    The bridge over Hickory Creek on Highway 77 near Overbrook, Okla., was renamed on Wednesday, July 24, in honor of the late Marine Lance Cpl. Hatak-Yuka-Keyu Martin Yearby, who was killed in action on May 14, 2006, in Iraq.

    A reception to commemorate the newly named bridge was held at the Greenville Elementary School, the school Hatak attended as a child before going on to graduate from Marietta High School in 2003.

    Senator Frank Simpson, Representative Tommy Hardin, and Choctaw Chief Gregory E. Pyle all addressed the large gathering of family and friends, speaking on Hatak’s accomplishments and service to the nation and expressing their appreciation to his family.

    Chief Pyle spoke of the sacrifices of all who have served the country in the armed forces. “To all the veterans and their families, we appreciate so much all that you have done and all that you continue to do. To the Yearby family, this is especially true with Hatak having made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. I’m honored to be able to stand among you as we recognize him today.”

    Justin and Mary Yearby spoke about their son and expressed their gratitude for all in attendance, including three of Hatak’s friends and fellow Marines that he served with overseas, all who flew in for the occasion. His family presented Pendleton blankets to the three men, Staff Sgt. Rodrigo Roman of Chicago, Ill., Cpl. Will Torres of Hemet, Calif., and Lance Cpl. John Amador of San Diego, Calif. His father said as he introduced them, “These men were his friends, they were with him [in Iraq] and were close to him. They are now a part of us.”

    Love County also declared July 24 “Lance Corporal Hatak-Yuka-Keyu Martin Yearby Day.” The Choctaw Nation Color Guard also stood by at attention at the reception as the proclamation was read aloud by Love County Commissioner Herschel “Bub” Peery, which states:

    Whereas, Lance Corporal Hatak-Yuka-Keyu Martin Yearby had a concept of nation and thereafter aspired and struggled for the nation’s freedom, and

    Whereas, Lance Corporal Hatak-Yuka-Keyu Martin Yearby defined and contributed to a system of life of freedom and order for a nation, and

    Whereas, Lance Corporal Hatak-Yuka-Keyu Martin Yearby contributed to the quality of life and destiny of a nation by his faithful and loyal devotion to duties and made the ultimate sacrifice in service.

    Now therefore be it resolved by the Board of Commissioners of Love County, on behalf of all its citizens, as a show of deepest appreciation for everything Lance Corporal Hatak-Yuka-Keyu Martin Yearby did for Love County and the United States of America, does hereby declare July 24, 2013, “Lance Corporal Hatak-Yuka-Keyu Martin Yearby Day” throughout Love County.

    After a presentation to the family of a replica of the new bridge sign, everyone moved out in a large vehicle convoy, led by the Patriot Guard Riders, to Hickory Creek to witness the unveiling of the two new signs at each end of the bridge along Highway 77.

    “This is very special,” Justin said of the occasion. “It’s hard to express how thankful we are for all the support from the county, state and tribe for all that went into making this happen. It means a lot to our family.”

    He went on to describe his son and the path that lead him to a life of service. “Everyone who knew him would say he was fun, he was a prankster, a jokester, always having a good time,” he said.

    “But being in the service was something he always wanted to do,” he continued.

    Hatak, whose heritage included Choctaw, Creek and Seminole, was a pow wow dancer all his life. “He grew up in the pow wow arena and grew up seeing and knowing the respect our culture gives to our warriors. He witnessed this his whole life. And that was solidified when his older sister joined the Marines.

    “As his father, I had misgivings about him joining, of course. But he reminded me of something. He reminded me that I’ve always told him as he grew up that it takes a village, and no matter how big or small the gathering, wherever we are at any given time, that is our village. And he told me, ‘It’s my time to lead my own village,’ and I respected that. He had a warrior’s mentality.”

    When asked what he thought Hatak would think about the event, his father smiled and replied with what he said was Hatak’s favorite word – “Sweeeet!”

    Rep. Hardin sponsored the bill to name the bridge after Hatak after being contacted by Laquita Ladner of Burneyville, a former substitute teacher where Hatak attended school. Hardin began the process in the House, and Sen. Simpson ushered it through the State Senate.

    Section 2 of Oklahoma House Bill 1759, approved by Governor Mary Fallin on May 14, 2013, reads: “The bridge over Hickory Creek on U.S. Highway 77 between Oswalt Road and Campbell Road in Love County shall be designated the ‘LCpl Hatak-Yuka-Keyu Martin Yearby USMC Memorial Bridge.’ Pursuant to the provisions of Title 69 of the Oklahoma Statutes, the Department of Transportation shall cause suitable permanent markers to be placed upon the bridge bearing that name.”

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    Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid and How It Affects Yousize="5">

    Choctaw Nation staff will be visiting each Choctaw Nation Community Center to discuss the most up-to-date information regarding Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act also known as Health Care Reform.

    The following schedule provides dates and locations for these valuable and informative presentations on the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid. We hope to see you at one of the many community centers this fall. Presentations will begin 30 minutes prior to your meal time at each community center.

    Community Center Lunch and Learn Presentation Schedule
    September 11th – Durant Community Center

    September 18th – Poteau Community Center, McAlester Community Center

    September 25th – Wright City Community Center, Hugo Community Center

    October 2nd – Atoka Community Center, Stigler Community Center, Smithville Community Center

    October 8th – Talihina Community Center

    October 9th – Wilburton Community Center, Antlers Community Center, Crowder Community Center

    October 16th – Spiro Community Center, Idabel Community Center, Coalgate Community Center

    October 23rd – Broken Bow, Bethel Community Center

    Also, join us Labor Day weekend in the air conditioned Healthy Lifestyle tent for a short presentation that is sure to educate you and your family. Presentations are Sunday and will begin at 1:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m. and 4:15 p.m.


    There are more than 50 million Americans in the United States that do not have any form of insurance and tens of millions of Americans that are underinsured. Due to this dilemma, on March 2010 President Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act. It mandates that every American have health insurance coverage or face a new health tax penalty for not obtaining insurance beginning January 1, 2014.

    There are exemptions within the law that would allow some to be exempt from the mandatory insurance requirement/health tax penalty. The first exemptions include individuals that already have health insurance coverage such as: employer-sponsored coverage, Medicare and/or Medicaid, Veterans health benefits and/or TRICARE. The next types of exemptions are for individuals who cannot afford insurance coverage based on federally determined poverty level calculations; those incarcerated; or members of recognized religious sects. The last exemption is very important to know and understand for OUR tribal members; members of federally recognized Indian tribes. In order to be federally recognized, you and all members of your family MUST obtain a CBID card as well a tribal membership card prior to January 1, 2014. Some Native Americans (those without a federally recognized tribal membership and only possess a CDIB card) will have to request a hardship waiver as “proof” of Native American ancestry in order to be considered exempt from the mandatory insurance requirement and prevent future health tax penalties on future income tax returns.

    The Affordable Care Act will provide many services to include the following:
    • Creates the Health Insurance Marketplace, a new way for individuals, families, and small businesses to get health coverage,
    • Requires insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing health conditions,
    • Holds insurance companies accountable for rate increases,
    • Makes it illegal for health insurance companies to arbitrarily cancel your health insurance just because you get sick,
    • Protects your choice of doctors,
    • Covers young adults under 26,
    • Provides free preventive care,
    • Ends lifetime and yearly dollar limits on coverage of essential health benefits,
    • Guarantees your right to appeal.

    When you get health insurance coverage in the Marketplace, you may be able to get lower costs on monthly premiums. This depends on your income and family size. Enrollment will begin October 2013 and ends March 2014. The Marketplace Exchange can be very beneficial as it can give tribal members a safety net back-up plan for services Choctaw Nation Health Services are unable to provide to include certain surgeries or medications. The best part is that certain tribal members who purchase health insurance through the Marketplace Exchange do not have to pay co-pays or other cost-sharing if their income is under 300 percent of the federal poverty level, which is roughly $66,000 for a family of four (83,000 in Alaska). For those who choose not to enroll or provide membership of a federally recognized tribe will face tax penalties that in 2014 will be $95 per family member and by 2016 will be $695 per family member. Do not delay so you will not have to pay unnecessary tax penalties.

    Medicaid offers free insurance to those that qualify by age, blind and/or disabilities, pregnant women and children based on state income and resource guidelines. Often patients believe they might not qualify for this health care coverage and never apply. Each Choctaw Nation health facility has trained personnel that can assist with most types of enrollment and patients can know immediately see if they meet the requirements for this benefit. Patients should speak with a Benefit Coordinator and see if this free health insurance is available for them!

    Medicare open enrollments are just around the corner based on eligibility. To be eligible for Medicare one must be a US citizen that is 65 or older, under age 65 and disabled or any age with ESRD. There are four parts of Medicare: Part A covers hospitalization, skilled nursing facilities, home health and hospice. Part B covers physician services, ambulance, durable medical equipment/supplies and other services not paid under Part A. Part C replaces the traditional Part A/Part B Medicare and is ran by private insurance companies and finally Part D covers pharmacy prescription drugs. Penalties are charged to patients for not enrolling in Medicare coverage when they first become eligible, so do not delay and speak any of our Benefit Coordinators at your local Choctaw Nation Clinic or our Medicare or Medicaid Specialist with any questions or concerns you may have.

    Open enrollment for Medicare Part D begins October 15th-December 31st. Patients can sign up for Medicare Part C from October 5th- December 31st if they already have Medicare benefits and want to change from ‘traditional’ Medicare to a private insurance plan acting as Medicare. A second open enrollment runs January 1-February 14 which allows those on a Part C plan that want to make changes and/or go back to ‘traditional’ Medicare coverage. If you didn’t sign up for Part A and/or Part B when you were first eligible, you can sign up during the general enrollment period between January 1– March 31 each year.

    Many of the changes will not only affect our elders, but our younger working age and children tribal members. We need your help, by being informed of all the health care changes you can discuss and advise your family members and friends so that all of our tribal members can make informed important health care decisions in the upcoming months!

    Watch the individual community center fliers advertising the above special presentations posted within the centers to see if the Choctaw Community Health nurses will be on site to begin administration of the flu shots and take advantage of receiving a blood pressure screening.

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    Community Teacher Fall Class Starting Class Location
    Anderson, Rhoda
    Betty Thomas
    September 12th Thursday 6 - 8pm Choctaw Community Center
    1636 South George Nigh Expressway
    McAlester, OK
    Bailey, Robert September 14
    Saturday 10am - noon
    Friendship House
    56 Julian Avenue
    San Francisco, CA
    Battiest, Barbara August 5
    Monday 6 - 8pm
    Family Investment Center
    210 Chahta Road
    Broken Bow, OK
    Billy, Lou R. Children’s Class
    September 9
    Monday 4:30 - 5:30pm
    Choctaw Community Center
    400 SW Quest
    Antlers, OK
    Billy, Steven August 12
    Monday 6 - 8pm
    Old Community Center
    105 W. 10th Street
    Wright City, OK
    Boston, Helena Marenda August 15
    Thursday 5:30 - 7:30pm
    Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital
    500 N Highland Avenue
    Sherman, TX
    Carlile, Anna M
    Carol Roberts
    N/A Talihina Community Center
    100 Railroad
    Talihina, OK
    Carney, Paula Children & Teen Class
    September 9
    Monday 7 – 9pm
    Choctaw Community Center
    103 East California
    Coalgate, OK
    Cooper, Roy F September 9
    Monday 7 - 9pm
    Chickasaw Community Center
    401 E. Oklahoma
    Sulphur, OK
    Espinoza, Virginia October 3
    6 - 8pm
    Choctaw Archiving
    Hunter Road
    Boswell, OK
    Frazier, Abe W N/A Fife Indian Methodist Church
    1100 Eufaula
    Muskogee, OK
    Gibson, Berie September 9
    Monday 7 - 9pm
    Tulsa Creek Indian Community Center
    8611 S. Union Avenue
    Tulsa, OK
    Hancock, Ruth Okemah September 3
    Tuesday 6 - 8pm
    Christ Chapel Indian UMC
    317 South Davis
    Claremore, OK
    Hickman, Colina Children’s Class
    September 11
    Wednesday 6 - 7pm
    Choctaw Community Center
    2750 Big Lots Parkway
    Durant, OK
    Hicks, Elsie August 22
    Thursday 7 - 9pm
    Mitchell Memorial UMC
    221 West 7th Street
    Ada, OK
    Johnson, Margaret B August 13
    Tuesday 6 - 8pm
    Christ Chapel Indian UMC
    317 South Davis
    Claremore, OK
    Kaniatobe, Carol Ann September 10
    Tuesday 7 - 9pm
    Choctaw Community Center
    2750 Big Lots Parkway
    Durant, OK
    Lewis JR, Dixon September 3
    Tuesday 6 - 8pm
    Stigler Community Center
    2208 East Main
    Stigler, OK
    Murphy, Ruby R Children’s Class
    September 7
    Saturday 10am - noon
    Oklahoma Choctaw Alliance Center
    5320 S. Youngs Blvd
    Oklahoma City, OK
    Parish, Steven N/A Wilburton Community Center
    Riley, Josh August 14th
    Wednesday 6 - 8pm
    Choctaw Language Building
    3588 Tom Smith Road
    Durant, OK
    Samuels, Deloris August 12
    Monday 6 - 8pm
    Bethel Community Center
    144 County Road
    Bethel, OK
    Samuels, Norris September 10
    Tuesday 7 - 9pm
    Oklahoma Choctaw Alliance Center
    5320 S. Youngs Blvd
    Oklahoma City, OK
    Scott, Ronald C. td> August 20
    Tuesday 6 - 8pm
    Choctaw Community Center
    1410 South Gin Road
    Atoka, OK
    Scott, Ronald C. August 21
    Wednesday 2 - 4pm
    Choctaw Community Center
    1410 South Gin Road
    Atoka, OK
    Sealy JR, Leroy J September 3
    Tuesday 7 - 9pm
    First Indian Baptist Church
    2610 South Broadway
    Moore, OK
    Struwe, Theresa P September 7
    Saturday 10am - noon
    Southgate Church
    9817 California Road
    Southgate, CA
    Tobey, Juanita Ann August 15
    Thursday 6 - 8pm
    Edgewood United Methodist Church
    104 Wyandotte
    Hartshorne, OK
    Vaughn, Lillian D On-going class,
    Monday nights, 6-8pm
    Ardmore Public Library
    320 E. Street NW
    Ardmore, OK
    Wade, Catherine N September 3
    Tuesday 6:30 - 8:30pm
    Oklahoma Choctaw Alliance Center
    5320 S. Youngs Blvd
    Oklahoma City, OK
    Westbrook, Michelle September 9
    Monday 6 - 8pm
    Choctaw Community Center
    1636 South George Nigh Expressway
    McAlester, OK
    White, Anthony P August 13
    Tuesday 6 - 8pm
    Christ Chapel Indian UMC
    317 South Davis
    Claremore, OK
    Wickson, Dora August 12
    Monday 6 - 8pm
    Choctaw Community Center
    400 SW Quest
    Antlers, OK
    Wickson, Dora August 13
    Tuesday 6 - 8pm
    Choctaw Community Center
    408 North M Road
    Hugo, OK
    York, Billy Joe August 15
    Thursday 6:30 - 8:30pm
    Chickasaw Community Center
    Marlow, OK

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    Choctaw Nation hosts faith-based events

    Power_of_3web Wednesday, August 7, 2013, Choctaw Nation MSPI in collaboration with the Choctaw Nation Events Center will host a faith based suicide prevention event, “The Power of Three,” in the Choctaw Event Center at 6 p.m., at no cost.

    Featured speaker, Eric Weaver puts over 23 years of professional and personal experience into this dynamic and interactive presentation. He will provide a real-life, ‘no-nonsense’ faith-based approach to the issues of mental health, mental illness, warning signs and symptoms of stress and depression, stigmas, communication skills, recovery, suicide awareness and prevention.

    Christian artist, Jonny Diaz, will add to our encouraging and uplifting evening through his music. He is well known in Christian music for his songs “Scars”, “More Beautiful You”, and “Stand for You” – he will perform these hits and many more.

    T-Shirt or CD available for the first 250 in attendance. Call 918.302.0052 for more details.

    A second event will be hosted by Weaver titled, “Emotional Safety and Survival: Awareness and Prevention in Law Enforcement and Emergency Services.” Three sessions of this event will be available. Thursday, Aug. 8, from 9 a.m. to noon, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and Friday, Aug. 9, from 9 a.m. to noon. This event will be hosted in the Choctaw Nation Casino Ballroom in Durant and will be at no cost.

    In this powerful seminar, retired police sergeant Eric Weave discusses openly and honestly of how his life was riddled with personal struggles and trials, as well as severe battles with stress, depression, self destructive and suicidal behavior. Eric will also discuss how his recovery allowed him to develop and command the Rochester Police Department’s Emotionally Disturbed Persons Response Team (EDPRT), the first team of its kind in New York State, as well as train thousands of police officer and other law enforcement personnel on the issues of mental health. Eric puts over 23 years of professional and personal experience into this dynamic presentation, and provides a real-life, ‘no-nonsense’ approach to the issues of mental health, mental illness, symptoms of stress and depression, stigmas, communications skills, and suicide awareness and prevention among law enforcement officers and emergency services worker and their families.

    “This class has been accredited by the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training for three hours of mandatory continuing education credit. Regarding any law enforcement concepts, practices, methods, techniques, products or devices as might be taught, promoted or otherwise espoused in outside schools or seminars, there is no intent, expressed or implied that ‘accreditation’ indicates or in any way conveys ‘CLEET approval’ of such concepts, practices, methods, techniques, products or devices, unless such approval is explicitly stated by CLEET.”

    For more information and to pre-register, call: 918.302.0052 or email: law_enforcement_training_durant

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    Distance learning GED classes beginning soon

    Distance Learning GED classes are now available at the below locations. An experienced GED teacher will instruct you, using the Distance Learning Technology. Distance Learning allows the student and teacher to see and hear each other on large monitors. You will be able to interact with the teacher as she prepares you to take the GED test. Classes meet three days each week for approximately nine weeks. Books, supplies and testing fees are provided. In addition, a $10.00 (per day) transportation stipend is paid to those who attend classes on a regular basis and attempt the GED test. If you have turned in an application with our Adult Education Program for GED classes and wish to attend the upcoming class, please contact our office. If you have not applied and wish to attend these or future classes, please contact Neal Hawkins or Kathy Springfield at the Durant office, call (800) 522-6170 or (580) 924-8280 Ext. 2319 or 2122. Also, you may register the first day of class.

    All classes will begin August 19, 2013, and will be held on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays

    Classes at the Bethel, Smithville, Wright City Choctaw Nation
    community centers take place from 9 a.m. to noon.

    Classes at Atoka, Coalgate, Talihina community centers
    occur from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

    A Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB) is required.

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    Choctaw summer camps engage youth

    Brenner Billy teaches the basics of passing and catching at the stickball camp in Tvshka Homma, one of 23 camps offered by the Choctaw Nation this summer.

    By Larissa Copeland
    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    Summer break is winding down and school will be starting back soon for most kids. For a lot of the area Choctaw youth, their summer break was spent attending the many sports and cultural camps offered by the Choctaw Nation.

    Twenty-three camps, which are organized and operated by the Choctaw Nation Cultural Services Department, were held in numerous locations across southeastern Oklahoma beginning early this summer.

    “We’ve been going since May 28 and just finished up our last camp on July 26, with different camps every week,” said Director of Summer Camps Kevin Gwin.

    The two-day camps included cultural enrichment, stickball, baseball, softball, football, basketball, and golf.

    “When it first started 18 years ago,” said Sue Folsom, Cultural Services executive director, “we had baseball only and it grew into what we do now.”

    The sports offered at the camps today were chosen by what is popular in this area, Gwin said.

    All the camps were day camps open to children between the ages of 8 and 18, except golf camp, which was open to those ages 10 to 18. Approximately 2,500 Choctaw youth turned out for at least one of the camps, though many of them attended several, all at no cost to the children or their families.

    “It’s good for the kids because I think some of them wouldn’t be able to afford to go to a camp otherwise,” said Gwin. “If you were to go to a basketball camp that charges to attend you might be looking at $45-50 or more per kid, but these [Choctaw] camps are free. They are with us all day and they all go home with sports gear too.

    “That’s the best thing, I think, that the kids get the benefit of a professionally ran camp for free and they also get something to take home, which is a benefit because they can use the items when they go back to school or when they’re playing in summer leagues.”

    The free giveaways for each attendee to take home included items such as a basketball and bag at the basketball camps, a set of golf clubs at the golf camp, a baseball glove, and a football at the football camps, and more.

    The camps are a great way to keep children engaged during the summer, Gwin says.

    “The kids get to come and learn, and get to interact with other kids,” he says. “This gives them something to do and look forward to.”

    According to Folsom, the camps align with the tribe’s vision of growing with pride, hope and success by giving Choctaw youth every opportunity to experience through the camps their identity of who they are as Choctaws.

    “The pride of their heritage, the hope of courage, the success to persevere, and to sustain their family values,” says Folsom. “This is what makes them Choctaw.”

    The focus differs for each camp, bringing exciting new learning experiences for the youth. The cultural enrichment camp provides an opportunity for the kids to learn more about the Choctaw heritage and culture, emphasizing archery, arts and crafts, storytelling and the Choctaw language.

    Leading high school and college-level coaches from the area were brought in to instruct the kids at the sports camps on basic fundamentals of the respective sporting activities, plus provide each camper the proper instruction to help improve their level of play and decrease his or her potential for injuries.

    Countless hours were required to put on these camps by not only the Cultural Services staff and the coaches, but also by volunteers, according to Gwin.

    “In addition to my staff, the Outreach Services department, Choctaw [Community Health Representatives] and counselors have been a huge part of the camps,” he says. “If it weren’t for them we couldn’t do it. They’ve really helped us, especially with the bussing schedules, being chaperones and helping out at the camps.”

    Gwin says the kids tell him they appreciate the opportunities the tribe provides by hosting the camps. “I think that the kids see that the tribe is doing this for them,” he says. “When they get older that’s when they’ll really understand what a benefit this was to them.”

    The camps were held in towns across the Choctaw Nation including Durant, Tvshka Homma, Canadian, Kingston, Idabel, Spiro, Rattan, Tushka, Coalgate, McAlester, Soper, Wilburton, and Poteau.

    “We’ve been welcomed everywhere we’ve held a camp,” he says.

    It’s a rewarding job, according to Gwin. “I enjoy working with the kids,” he says. “We have a lot of fun. It’s nice to get to know them all. We see a lot of kids return year to year so I feel like I get to see them grow up,” Gwin says.

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  • 08/14/13--12:50: The Flu and You
  • The Flu and You

    Flu Clinics at Choctaw Nation Community Centers

    Additional dates will be added as soon flu vaccine becomes available.
    09/11/13 Durant and McAlester {if flu vaccine is available}
    09/18/13 McAlester {if flu vaccine is available}
    09/25/13 Wright City, Bethel , Spiro and Hugo
    10/02/13 Atoka, Stigler and Smithville
    10/08/13 Talihina
    10/09/13 Wilburton, Antlers and Crowder,
    10/16/13 Spiro, Idabel, Coalgate and Crowder
    10/23/13 Broken Bow, Bethel

    What you need to know about the flu


    What is influenza (the flu)?

    The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness. At times, it can lead to death.

    Who should get a flu vaccine?

    Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine, especially if you are at high risk for complications, or if you live with or care for someone who is high risk for complications.

    Your family may be especially vulnerable to the flu.

    Influenza poses a greater risk to certain people, including pregnant women, children, and elders, who are all at high risk for flu-related complications. In fact, pneumonia and flu are a leading cause of death among Native elders. The flu also can cause certain health conditions, including diabetes, asthma, and heart and lung disease, to become worse. Pneumonia and bronchitis are examples of serious flu-related complications, which can result in hospitalization and sometimes even death.

    Signs and symptoms of the FLU

    People sick with influenza feel some or all of these symptoms:
    • Fever* or feeling feverish/ chills
    • Cough
    • Sore throat
    • Runny or stuffy nose
    • Muscle or body aches
    • Headaches
    • Fatigue (very tired)
    • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
    *Not everyone with the flu will have a fever. You can be sick and contagious without running a temperature.

    Help prevent the spread of flu

    • Get a flu vaccine each year.
    • Stop the spread of germs, including influenza viruses:
    ™™ - Cover your coughs and sneezes
    ™™ - Wash your hands often
    ™™ - If you’re sick, stay home
    • Take antiviral drugs if they are prescribed for you.

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    Choctaw Nation to hold its 66th annual Labor Day Festival


    The Choctaw Nation is holding its 66th annual Labor Day Festival Aug. 29-Sept. 2 at its capitol grounds near Tuskahoma, Okla. Top entertainment, lots of fun and Choctaw cultural activities keep people coming back every year.

    “The Nation’s festival is a tradition,” Chief Greg Pyle says. “Some of the people have been coming since they were kids. We try to give everyone a chance to enjoy what they like best whether it’s the concerts, the culture, the sports or just the great food.

    “The surrounding communities prepare well in advance for the surge of visitors. We appreciate how everyone works with us,” Pyle continued. “Most of the Nation’s employees work the long weekend to provide a memorable holiday for others. We are grateful for all the hard work it takes to prepare and hold an event of this magnitude. It’s as much fun for us, though, as it is for all of our thousands of visitors.” Choctaw_Stickball Chief Pyle, Assistant Chief Gary Batton and the Tribal Council have agreed it is important to provide several cost-free activities at the festival such as the concerts and carnival rides because many are not able to afford the expense. All of the sports tournaments are also free to enter, which has increased participation, keeping the Red Warrior Sports Complex a hub of activity.

    “Giving is in the heart of the Choctaw,” Chief Pyle said. The Choctaw Nation welcomes the opportunity to bring everyone together, he continued.

    Thursday, Aug. 29, opens the five-day event with the tribe’s princess pageant at 7 p.m. Young ladies from the Choctaw Nation’s 12 districts vie for the titles of Little Miss, Junior Miss and Miss Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Each will have the opportunity to walk the amphitheater stage in their finest Choctaw traditional clothing, their beaded jewelry glowing under the lights. The junior and senior miss contestants also perform in a traditional talent competition. The three winners will become ambassadors for the Choctaw Nation, participating in the Friday night inter-tribal pow wow and other events during the festival. They will spend the next year traveling and representing the Choctaw Nation throughout Oklahoma and often in other states.

    Top country music entertainers are booked for Friday and Saturday. The ever-popular Neal McCoy will shake things up at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the amphitheater. McCoy, a two-time CMA Entertainer of the Year, is known for his hits, “No Doubt About It,” “Wink” and “The Shake.” He has performed at several of the Choctaw Nation’s Labor Day Festivals and is one of the crowd favorites.

    The headliner for Friday is Ronnie Dunn, on the road and sharing his powerful voice as a solo artist. Dunn, known for his successful days as half of the duo Brooks and Dunn, has one of the most recognizable sounds in country music today. His debut solo album reached the Top 10 with “Bleed Red” and the most recent single, “Kiss You There,” is rising in popularity.

    Taking the stage at 7:30 Saturday night will be the legendary “Gentle Giant,” Don Williams. Since the 1970s, Williams has shared his unique style around the world. “And So It Goes,” released June 19, proves Williams’ vocals are still right on target with the audience. Choctaw_Labor_Day_Pow_Wow Siblings Kimberly, Neil and Reid – better known to all as The Band Perry – are one of the hottest acts in recent history. And they are performing Saturday, Aug. 31, at Tvshka Homma. The Band Perry has earned several honors including ACM, CMA and CMT Music awards, as well as Grammy nominations. Their exciting performance will be highlighted with hits such as “Better Dig Two,” “Done” and “If I Die Young.”

    Among the specialty acts this year, Choctaw tribal member Robert “Tamaka” Bailey of San Francisco will be performing magic acts for everyone. Tamaka weaves his magic through his stories, speaking in English and Choctaw, and keeping kids of all ages enthralled. Storyteller Tim Tingle will be returning to the village area to share his tales of Choctaw culture. Tingle rivets the audience with his words, telling somber historical accounts or humorous legends about rabbits or Bigfoot.

    The Choctaw National Day of Prayer opens a day of fellowship, worship and song at 7 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 1, at the war memorial. The worship service is followed by another service in the church tent near the amphitheater and a whole afternoon and evening of gospel singing. The sounds of worship can be heard across the grounds as performers begin lifting their voices. Twenty-nine acts begin singing in 15-minute intervals leading into concerts by the southern gospel group Gold City and contemporary Christian musician Jeremy Camp. Camp has 25 No. 1 radio singles including the recent “Overcome” from his album “We Cry Out.”

    The culture of the Choctaw Nation is present throughout the five days. The sixth annual Art Show showcases a variety of fine art, all by Choctaw artists. Their work will be open to the public in the Choctaw Nation Museum located in the historic capitol building. A new exhibit on the Choctaw Code Talkers will also be ready by Labor Day weekend for all to enjoy. The cultural building on the other side of the grounds will have booth after booth of arts and crafts to purchase.

    Choctaw social dances and the third annual stickball tournament are among the events reflecting the rich Choctaw heritage. Artists will be creating pottery, weaving baskets, beading jewelry, and shaping arrowheads in the Choctaw village, a “world” away from the modern bustle.

    The festival’s finale on Labor Day morning features Chief Pyle’s State of the Nation address, an update on the progress of the Nation. Also on stage, will be the Choctaw Nation Color Guard posting the colors to open Monday’s official ceremonies, the princesses with The Lord’s Prayer in sign language, Choctaw storyteller Tim Tingle, and the swearing-in of six councilmen who begin new terms.

    It really is a place with something for everyone. For more information and a full schedule of events, please see our Labor Day page.

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  • 08/16/13--11:53: Program Making a Difference
  • Program Making a Difference

    “The definition of ‘posse’ is a group of people who come together for a common goal,” explained Paula Harp, director of the Partnership of Summer School Education (POSSE) program and the Making a Difference program at the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    Harp smiled as she described just what the POSSE program does for the youth of Durant and the surrounding area. It is evident the name given to the program is an appropriate fit.

    “The main goal of the Partnership of Summer School Education program is to provide academic remediation to students in grades pre-k through second grade,” stated Harp. “It is the goal of the Choctaw Nation to provide a culturally enriched, safe and positive atmosphere for the students that participate in the summer school program.”

    POSSE is available for eligible children pre-k through second grade, who attend school Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. as well as the “Jump Start to Kindergarten” group of students, who attend class Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to noon. It is a seven-week-long program, held at Washington Irving Elementary School in Durant, which began June 3 and will end July 25.

    The selection of students to be accepted into POSSE is based on teacher recommendation and test scores; Choctaw tribal membership is not required. If the student is having trouble with reading or math during the school year, the teacher will suggest to Harp they need to be admitted into the summer school program.

    Harp continued illustrating the goals of POSSE by listing examples of how the staff and educators conduct themselves: they work to inspire and empower the students; build on the strengths of the community; applaud students’ achievements; expand resources; work with communities, schools and organizations in the geographic service area; and plan, implement, expand, coordinate and evaluate the program itself.

    According to Harp, the program has several objectives. The children will grow academically through remediation in reading and math; grow socially through cultural services provided; develop emotionally through the afternoon educational activities; feel safe and secure while being supervised by a competent and caring staff; and benefit in a positive manner as they are taught caring and cooperative attitudes.

    “We currently have 184 students enrolled in the summer school,” said Harp.

    Harp works closely with Durant School administration and staff to develop the curriculum for the summer school, in which she has an advantage because of her background. “Since I am a former teacher, it helps me a lot, because I know what the school day is like,” and since Harp was once a teacher from Durant ISD, the teachers she is now working with are some of her good friends. “We have a great working relationship; we just kind of know what the other is thinking and what we need to do.”

    The Choctaw Nation helps with funding POSSE, providing the school with half of the needed funds. While the Nation provides funding for teachers’ salaries and supplies throughout the seven weeks, Durant ISD provides all other expenses, such as bus drivers’ salaries, bus fuel, air conditioning in the building, summer lunch program, etc.

    Harp said Durant Public Schools usually accept around 300 children into kindergarten each year with about 100 of these students who have never gone to school. She described the program as being an exceptional program for children who have never experienced a school environment but are about to enter kindergarten. “Some kids, when they start kindergarten, have never been to school (pre-k) before,” she said, because it is not required. “They may or may not have been taught their alphabet, how to tie their shoes, etc.” During the seven-week period of Jump Start to Kindergarten, those areas are covered, she said. “We teach them quite a few things, so that when school starts, they are ready to go.”

    Locating these children throughout the Durant area for Jump Start to Kindergarten proved to be a daunting but rewarding task. “We visited all the Head Starts and the Durant schools and found names for all Choctaw children who fit the age group,” explained Harp.

    “The education department employees visited the homes of Choctaw children in the Durant school district and found Choctaw children who are going into kindergarten but have not been through pre-k,” said Harp. “We did it in one afternoon, each of us had a certain number of students to find, and we just went out and did it. It was a great group effort.”

    To find children who are not Choctaw members for the Jump Start to Kindergarten program, Harp’s department organized a city-wide mail out. “We were trying to get the word out, whatever it took, we did it,” she said.

    When it comes to the future of POSSE, promising plans are being made to expand the service area of the program. According to Harp, next year, the additional seven Bryan County schools will be added to the program: Achille, Caddo, Calera, Silo, Bennington, Colbert and Rock Creek Public Schools.

    By the end of August, the schools are to tell her where the site of the summer school is going to be and who will serve as administrator.

    “We’re not in the business of running schools, they’re the experts,” said Harp. “We are just helping to fund the extra expense.”

    Harp said the success of the program with the Bryan County schools next summer will determine whether or not expansion into the 10 ½ counties will occur in 2015.

    There are 85 schools that are either pre-k through eighth grade or pre-k through 12th grade in the 10 ½ county service area of the Choctaw Nation. “We’ve visited with every single one of them now, and they know what we’re going to do. They’ll have a choice,” said Harp. “Some schools may already have a summer school program,” she continued, “but the Choctaw Nation will help with funding if they choose to be a part of the program.”

    Harp said they have also spoken to other Native American tribes about starting a similar summer school program in their area. “We’re hoping the whole state will get on board, and then we can really see a change in education in southeast Oklahoma.”

    The curriculum chosen for the POSSE students seems to be making an impact by providing various activities to stimulate their minds. This year’s summer school theme is “The Great Outdoor Adventure,” said Harp.

    The first two weeks of summer school had a camping theme, the next two weeks an aerospace theme and the last three weeks a Native American theme, in which Choctaw storyteller Tim Tingle visited the students and provided each child with their own book.

    “Each grade level has a book,” said Harp. At the end of each theme period, the students were allowed to take their books home with them.

    Harp said the children take a field trip every week as well.

    “They really made an impression,” Harp said of the field trip the children attended at the Choctaw Nation Recycling Center. She laughed as she told how the parents were telling her their kids came home saying, “don’t waste water,” telling them how to recycle at home, turn the lights out and clean up the environment.

    While POSSE focuses on younger students, the Making a Difference program’s goal is to help Choctaw students, grades nine through 12, graduate high school and have a next step after graduation, whether that is college, a trade school, the military or going right into the workforce.

    “We go to the 63 high schools in the 10 ½ counties and visit with students who are Choctaw,” said Harp. “We are trying to make sure that they graduate high school, which is our first goal.”

    Once the student graduates high school, it is the Making a Difference program’s job to help them decide what is next. The program will be two years old in July, said Harp, and has the potential to reach 4,000 students.

    If a student is a participant in Making a Difference, they will have the opportunity to visit college campuses if they wish to do so. “We encourage them to attend college, but we don’t force them,” said Harp, who also encourages students to attend military academies or two-year schools.

    Harp said the program has come a long way the past two years in terms of research. “When we first started, this was all pencil and paper. By the time we visited the school, a student could have missed 10 days of school; since we didn’t even know, we could not help,” she explained.

    According to Harp, the students are the top priority for Making a Difference. “It is the most rewarding job I have ever had,” she said. “We may be the resource that helps that student. We hope the parents and students will call us to help answer their questions.”

    The program gets a multitude of calls, said Harp, whether it is a parent, grandparent, school counselor, superintendent or teacher.

    There is no deadline for joining Making a Difference. Harp said they accept applications every day, but believes it is more beneficial for the student to sign up as a freshman rather than a senior.

    From children in pre-k to graduating seniors in high school entering college or the workforce, the Choctaw Nation shows the priority it places on education of its tribal members and the community through POSSE and the Making a Difference Program.

    If you’d like to learn more about these programs, contact Paula Harp at 580-924-8280 ext. 2452, or visit their Facebook page.

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