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Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

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    Photo: Rainette Rowland
    Tvshka Homma’s Robert Baker, Ramsey Williston and Bobby Baker battle members of the Warrior team in the 2012 Labor Day Stickball Tournament.

    Labor Day Stickball tournament in its third year

    The Labor Day Festival Stickball Tournament will be held this year for the third time on the Choctaw Nation’s capitol grounds near Tuskahoma. New faces are coming in to practice and learn the sport as community involvement grows.

    “It’s good to see families learning stickball skills,” said Sue Folsom, Cultural Services executive director for the Choctaw Nation. “Most of them are even learning to make their own sticks and balls, too. Traditionally, if a person makes their own pair of sticks they fit the hands much better. There is a bonding between the hand and stick making them one and a part of their body.”

    The double-elimination men’s tournament begins at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30. The games continue on Saturday at 8 p.m. A children’s exhibition game begins at 7 p.m. Sunday followed by a women’s exhibition at 8 and the men’s championship at 9.

    The Cultural Services department is adding a new press box, score board and sound system for better coverage and if you are there on the final evening of the tournament, you will have the opportunity to win a prize.

    “One bit of history about stickball was how our ancestors used the game to solve conflict instead of going to war,” said Chief Gregory E. Pyle. “They would have warriors compete valiantly on the ball field to settle quarrels, earning stickball the nickname ‘Little Brother of War’.”

    Three smaller teams have developed in the Choctaw Nation and the players join the official Choctaw Nation team, Tvshka Homma, as they travel to larger tournaments and to the World Series in Mississippi. Southeast Thunder is based in the Broken Bow and Idabel area, Koi Chito in Talihina, and Sintullo Lakna includes players in the Durant and Atoka area. Another Oklahoma team, Okla Hannali, is comprised of players from Broken Bow, Ardmore, Oklahoma City and Stillwater. Both Tvshka Homma and Okla Hannali are entered in the Labor Day Festival tournament.

    Several practice fields are now available for organized practices or just a quick half-hour of running and shooting to hone skills. There are stickball fields at the capitol grounds, Broken Bow, Hugo, Idabel, Durant, Atoka, Antlers and Talihina where players meet.

    Walk-ons are allowed at the Labor Day stickball tournament. Each player must be at least 16 years old and must turn in a completed and signed waiver. Those under 18 are required to have a parent or guardian sign the waiver. A copy of the waiver can be printed from Waivers can be turned in to coaches beforehand or at a special meeting for coaches and players from 2 to 4:30 p.m. before Friday’s games at the festival. They may also be mailed to Billy Eagle Road III, Choctaw Nation Cultural Services, P.O. Box 1210, Durant, OK 74702.

    Stickball is the Choctaw national sport, known as “kapucha” or “ishtaboli.” Other tribes also play stickball and it is the precursor of lacrosse. The object of the game is to keep possession of the stickball or “towa,” only touching the ball with cupped sticks that are made to fit the left and right hands. The size of the field is comparable to the size of a football field. Each team has 30 players divided into 10 offense, 10 center and 10 defense positions. The team to score the most by hitting the opposition’s goal post with the ball wins. Play is broken up into four 15-minute quarters with players switching ends at halftime.

    There are very few rules in stickball. The ball can’t be touched by a player’s hands, can’t head butt, can’t intentionally hit another player with the sticks and can’t tackle below the knees.

    For more information or of you’re interested in joining practices, contact Eagle Road or Jared Tom at the Cultural Services office, 800-522-6170.

    The game of stickball is older than any written historical accounts and as it is taught to the youth today, its legacy will continue for thousands of years to come.

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    District 1 Councilman stays busy – and loves it

    Thomas Williston follows values he learned during 25 years in law enforcement

    Thomas Though stating his job is busy, tiring and “like no other,” District 1 Choctaw Nation Councilman Thomas Williston says he hasn’t ever had a bad day in his position as councilman in the two years and 10 months he’s been elected and he can’t imagine doing anything else.

    Before being elected into the Choctaw Nation Council in 2010, Williston worked in law enforcement for 25 years at and around Idabel, the town where he grew up and still resides.

    “I loved law enforcement,” he said. “It was all I knew and all I wanted to do. I remember the first time I applied for a policeman position, I had long hair. When I was hired I didn’t tell anyone. I cut my hair and put on the police uniform going out for my first shift, which was the night shift. My father’s eyes got big as saucers and he asked where was my gun. I said I didn’t have one. I had to get my first pay check first then I would get one.

    “Being in law enforcement himself, my father got up and went to his room and brought out his old duty belt and gun – a ‘western style,’ hand-tooled leather with .38 pistol,” Williston remembered. “It was big but I was proud to have it and I could tell he was even more proud. I went through the police academy with it and I still have it.”

    Williston said during his years working in law enforcement, he had many memorable experiences that taught him values he applies to his position as a Choctaw Nation Councilman today. “I’ve brought a lot of what I’ve learned to this job,” he said. “Law enforcement was not only carrying a gun and badge; the biggest part was having compassion for your fellow man, having honesty and integrity.”

    He continued, discussing the differences between the rewards in law and serving as a councilman. “Early in my law enforcement career I found that rewards weren’t there, but every so often someone would say ‘thank you’ and that made it all worth while,” Williston said. “It was motivation for me. Quickly I learned the dramatic social differences of people, which lead me to learn different ways of approach and how to relate to a victim or suspect. That made me effective as an investigator, and is an attribute that I rely on as councilman.”

    However, he said being a councilman has been different in that aspect. “In this job, the thank yous are quite often, and I like that,” mentioning having an attitude with understanding and compassion is important in order to help people.

    “My rewards are unlike anyone else’s rewards. Knowing that I helped somebody through their hard times, helped them with their problems. It rewards me, that I feel like I’ve steered them in the right direction and they took my advice and utilized the programs the Nation has; that’s fulfilling to me,” he stated.

    Williston has always stayed busy with his daily work and career life. “For the last 25 years, I’ve kept two jobs, law enforcement and carpenter work,” he said. “I’ve always been busy, constantly, but I love it.”

    Since Williston enjoys a busy and sometimes demanding job, serving as a council member is perfect for him. He said it is common for his phone to begin ringing at 7 a.m. and not ceasing until maybe 10 p.m.

    “I can get anywhere from 20 to 30 calls a day. I carry two phones. At some times both are quiet then one rings and, by golly, the other one rings too,” he said. “A lot of times I am traveling to or from our program meetings and reception is sometimes non-existent due to the terrain but, I do my best to answer my calls or return them. Everyone has problems, and it’s pleasing to me to know that I may be able to help so they can focus more on their family than what’s got them down at that particular time.”

    It’s no doubt Williston possesses the right mind-set for the requirements of a Choctaw Nation Council member. “I get up every morning with a smile, knowing that hopefully I’ll do something good for somebody,” he said. “I knew this was going to be a demanding job, and I was up for it, and I still am.”

    Williston said some of his senior citizens at the center, who he loves to laugh, visit and joke with, have told him he needs to slow down. “This job is two, sometimes three, jobs rolled into one; it’s constant,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s a challenge, it’s fun to me. I like staying busy.”

    Williston said right after he was sworn in, the Christmas holiday was arriving, bringing with it the Choctaw community center’s Christmas programs and dinners, both for the youth and seniors. He credits the employees at the community center for helping him a lot that first year. “Thank goodness for them,” he said. “I had never organized that before, but with their guidance, it was easy.”

    He said he hasn’t been overwhelmed as councilman yet. “I have not come across a situation I couldn’t handle as of yet. With the help of the center staff and with what I’ve learned, I know what program I need to call or I know the contact person or particular person I need to contact to help people.”

    When it comes to helping people who come to him with problems, Williston said he relies on understanding. “I’d like to think that I have a good understanding of a lot of people, not only our Choctaw people, but people in general,” he explained, “because that was my job back in the day,” referring to law enforcement.

    He continued, saying some people would rather do without than to ask him for help, even if the needs were a great necessity, but he is familiar with the programs and funds the Choctaw Nation offers to its members, so he is able to help them as much as he can. “I ask them why, why do you need this assistance, what can I do to help?” Williston described.

    He said he has been able to help some of his district members find jobs throughout the county and state, saying he’s gotten them in contact with the Vo-Tech, enrolled in nursing classes or involved with whatever job training they may need. “I’ve gotten some of our guys jobs in the city through our programs,” he continued. “I’ve gone to businesses myself and asked if they would work with us to get them jobs; I’ve done that numerous times.”

    With every job comes frustrations, and Williston said sometimes people have reluctance to do their part. “I feel like it’s my job to get them motivated, one way or another, and it’s not always easy,” he said. “Not every adolescent or youth will follow the same path, but my duty is to help them not get too far off the path.”

    Williston said there are many things that are important to him as a council member, but one of the main things is assisting people with their needs and helping make them independent. “I like to cater to the youth and see that they grow up happy and be there for them when their needs change as they grow and show them the right path. I have seen so many of our youth addicted to drugs in jail, eventually end up in prison and that’s sad not only for our community but for their families.”

    Keeping our culture and traditions alive is utmost, too. “I often think of the Trail of Tears and imagine how our ancestors were forced to walk, what conditions were like, the pain and suffering they had to endure, and the loss of loved ones. At times I ask people to imagine what it was like. After all, it is because of them we are where we are now.

    “A lot of our people today still carry on some of the traditions of our culture but a lot has been lost. I strongly agree with the Choctaw Nation today reviving a lot of the culture, through our tribal events, reviving our Choctaw way of dance, traditional dress, language classes, stickball games, our foods – mmmmum our foods!,” he smiled big. “I still enjoy our foods like it was when I was growing up and a lot of Choctaw people still carry on the traditional foods especially at church gatherings and at home.

    “Choctaw hymns – there can’t be enough said about those,” Williston stressed. “I have always loved them, to listen, to sing along.

    We sing some hymns at our senior dinner and everyone enjoys them, too. It has been said that ‘Choctaw Hymn 116 Death Welcome’ was our Choctaw Warrior song, that our Choctaw boys in the World Wars sang it. I believe they possibly did, because in those days, it was common to see hundreds of Choctaws at church gatherings. I saw this as a youngster, and today the big church gatherings are not as big as they used to be.

    “Choctaw Hymn 112 is said to have been sung during the Trail of Tears,” he said, though he doesn’t know for sure but believes it is enlightening that it could have.

    One of his favorite activities as a councilman is integrating with the seniors, going around before community dinners and making an effort to speak to each one of them, and all visitors with whom he comes into contact. “I try not to meet a stranger,” he said.

    “I enjoy laughing with them and making them laugh with jokes and practical jokes. I really like it when I see they are happy.”

    With his position as a councilman, Williston was able to experience an act he will never forget, which took placed in Washington, D.C. “Probably one of the most memorable things I’ve done is the laying of the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” he stated. “We were there to represent our fallen Choctaw service men and women, then and now. We were there representing all Choctaw people and hopefully making them proud.”

    Assistant Chief Gary Batton laid the wreath with Williston in a small ceremony at the tomb. “That was a big honor for me and one of the most memorable and moving moments of this job.”

    He was also able to participate in a game of stickball on the lawn right in front of the United States Capitol building, another fun memory as a councilman.

    With his job, Williston said he has the opportunity to work with some great men. “I look at things two different ways,” he explained. “I was around when Idabel, District 1, only had an Indian clinic and we had a commodity truck. That’s all the Choctaw people had in terms of government assistance, in the ’60s and ’70s, just before the Choctaw Nation is what it is today.

    “Now, under Chief Pyle’s administration, even before I became a councilman, I could see the Choctaw Nation getting bigger, more programs coming in to help people, and I could see that was good.

    “Now that I’m in this position,” continued Williston, “I can basically see things from a different point of view. I can see where Chief [Pyle] comes from, and I agree with the vision that he has: sustainability for the Choctaw Nation.”

    Williston said the Choctaw Council, with the leadership of Chief Pyle and Assistant Chief Gary Batton, has one main goal: helping people. “Not everyone is going to see eye to eye, but the bottom line is what is going to benefit the Choctaw people, either right now or in the long run,” he said. “There’s always that vision of benefiting people, and that’s what I like.”

    Councilman Thomas Williston, left, and Assistant Chief Gary Batton place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during a ceremony June 21, 2012, at Arlington National Cemetery.

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    Choctaw Nation clinics Improving Patient Care

    Have you called Choctaw Nation Health Services Authority (CNHSA) Family Practice and wondered why you were directed to choose a Ruby Team, Jasper Team, etc.? These teams are all a part of CNHSA’s IPC program. CNHSA started the Improving Patient Care (IPC) Program at the McAlester Clinic in 2011.

    The IPC program assigns patients to a care team. When a patient is assigned to a care team, every effort is made to get that patient in to “their” doctor at every visit whether it is a walk-in, same day, or routine appointment. This is an important part of why we have implemented these IPC concepts because CNHSA wants patients and providers to have that continuity of care and get our patients in to the provider that already knows them and their healthcare needs. CNHSA also wants the patient to get to know their provider/team and feel comfortable with them.

    The IPC Care teams consist of the following members: Medical Provider, LPN, RN, Pharmacist, and Receptionist. Each team member has a specific role and work together to meet the needs of their patients.

    • Being involved with IPC we have had the opportunity for our staff members to network with other facilities across the Oklahoma area and nationwide. Networking with others that are similar to our health system has allowed us a unique opportunity to gain valuable information to help with our improvements. We are able to learn what is working and also what is not working from other facilities as well as share our own accomplishments.

    • IPC also focuses on the quality of care we are providing and gives us tools to measure this. We have performance measures that coincide with the current standards of care across the nation. We look at these standards of care for each team and the patients assigned to these teams continuously and look for areas for improvement. With this emphasis on looking at data and striving for improvement we are becoming more accountable and ensuring that we are providing high quality health care to the patients we serve.

    • In 2012, the IPC Program was spread to all of the Choctaw Nation Health Care facilities.

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    Faith-based seminars to encourage healthy mental habits

    Youth are excited to begin the event

    The desire to reach out to the community and show those in crisis there is hope and that the church cares led Durant area pastors and leaders to seek the assistance of the Choctaw Nation program, Methamphetamine and Suicide Prevention Initiative, or MSPI.

    The MSPI hosted multiple events for this cause through collaborations with the local pastors and leaders, as well as numerous Choctaw Nation departments, including Behavioral Health, Community Health Representatives, and the Event Center.

    According to Karen Hearod, director of Behavioral Health Services, several unfortunate events are why this area was chosen. “We targeted this area because we’ve had some tragedies in the last couple of months,” she said. “We wanted to do something for the community.”


    The Choctaw Nation hosted a three-day event Aug. 7-9 at the Choctaw Event Center in Durant that focused on suicide prevention and mental health awareness.

    “The Power of Three” opened the weekend and featured guest speaker Eric Weaver and Christian artist Jonny Diaz.

    Weaver, a retired New York police sergeant, incorporated his more than 23 years of professional and personal experience into his dynamic and interactive presentation. He provided a real-life, faith-based approach to mental health issues, mental illness, warning signs, suicide awareness and prevention.

    Diaz, who is known for his songs, “Scars,” “More Beautiful You” and “Stand For You,” contributed to the night with encouraging and uplifting music.

    “Eric Weaver spoke of offering hope to those who may have felt they were hopelessly dealing with mental illness or trying to support a friend or loved one that was affected by mental illness,” said Melanie Jones, program director of Choctaw Nation MSPI. “And everyone enjoyed the concert that followed, performed by Jonny Diaz.”

    MSPI, which is funded with a grant from Indian Health Service, hosted a similar event in McAlester in January and, according to Jones, “had a phenomenal response.” More than 1,000 people attended that event and numerous individuals reached out for help from counselors and pastors, who were on hand at both events to support those in need.

    Over the next two days, Weaver provided additional training on the warning signs and symptoms of mental illness called “Emotional Safety and Survival: Awareness and Prevention in Law Enforcement and Emergency Services.” Approximately 20 local police, fire, dispatch and sheriff’s department personnel were in attendance.

    In the powerful seminar, Weaver discussed openly of how his life was riddled with personal struggles, as well as battles with stress, depression, self-destruction and suicidal behaviors. He also discussed how his recovery allowed him to develop and command the Rochester Police Department’s Emotionally Disturbed Persons Response Team.

    The stressful occupation of the first responders often times makes them susceptible to these struggles. According to Hearod, “First responders have a lot of secondary trauma from what they see and don’t often recognize that and reach out for help.”

    Anyone in need of help because of suicidal thoughts or knows of someone who is in an emotional crisis can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Assistance and referrals are offered 24/7.

    If you would like to see other events hosted by the Choctaw Nation, visit our calendar.

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    Morgan Steven receives track scholarship, marks milestone

    Morgan Steve stops by the Choctaw Nation headquarters in Durant on her way to begin her freshman year at Bacone College. Pictured are Assistant Chief Gary Batton, Cultural Resources Executive Director Sue Folsom, Kerry Steve, Morgan Steve and Chief Gregory E. Pyle.

    Morgan Steve of Durant signed her letter of intent and became the first Native American female to receive a track scholarship to Bacone College in Muskogee. Steve, a 2013 graduate of Durant High School, caught the eye of Bacone officials during the recent Jim Thorpe Native American Games in Oklahoma City where she won gold in both the shot put and discus.

    While in high school, Steve lettered in softball three years, basketball four years and track and field four years. She is a two-time recipient of the Champions of Character award for basketball and was on the Principal’s Honor Roll. She finished seventh at the 5A state championship and was signed to Bacone’s newly created American Indian Athletes of Promise.
    Bacone Track and Field Head Coach Darrin Prince said Steve is not only great on the track but is an outstanding student in the classroom. “These are two key pieces in building a strong women’s track team both at the conference level and at the national level that is on par with the success of our men’s program,” he said.

    Steve is the daughter of Morris and Kerry Steve of Durant. She is the granddaughter of Willard and Sharon Polk of Bennington and Jimmy and Vesta Roberts of Boswell. She is the great-granddaughter of Red and Nora Johnico of Talihina.

    Her parents expressed their appreciation to the Choctaw Nation Cultural Resources department, the summer camp program and Chief Gregory E. Pyle for sponsoring athletes to competitive games such as Jim Thorpe. With this support Steve’s athletic ability was recognized and she has been given the opportunity of receiving a full scholarship to Bacone.

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    The Choctaw Nation Going Green Team will be hosting environmental conservation educational sessions throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday near the cafeteria. If you would like to learn about how you can help the Choctaw Nation preserve our great land, stop by!


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    2013 Labor Day Competition resultschampionshipgroup_small_withinfo

    For full resolution pictures, see our Smugmug account or our Facebook page.


    Tvshka Homma
    Runner Up
    Third Place
    Okla Hannali


    Chris Valliere finished first among the men with a time of 19:56.
    Ana Hollan came in first among women with a time of 23:00.
    For full results, click here.

    Art Show

    1st Place: Karen Clarkson, “Last Gift”
    2nd Place: Dylan Cavin, “Summer Scissortail”
    3rd Place: John Compelube, “Stirring the Pot”
    HM: Gwen Coleman Lester, “Lighthorseman”

    1st Place: Paul King, “At Peace”
    2nd Place: Sandy Sliger , “Beaver’s Bend”
    3rd Place: Jane Semple Umstead, “The Snapping Turtle”
    HM: None in this category

    1st Place: Stephanie Rose, “The Little Chahta News Bird”
    2nd Place: Cecil Henderson, “Ruffed Grouse”
    3rd Place: Lyman Choate , “She Speaks to the Animals”
    HM: None in this category

    1st Place: Dan Bernier, “Old Bowl or New Home”
    2nd Place: Marsha Hedrick, “Frog Bottle”
    3rd Place: Edmond Perkins Jr., Quawpaw Warrior Effigy Vase”
    HM: Vangie Robinson, Choctaw Pony

    1st Place: Susan Locke Charlesworth, Native Weave by Native Hands
    2nd Place: Susan Locke Charlesworth, Continuous Weave Field Basket
    3rd Place: Lizabeth B. Mitchell, Frog Mouth Basket
    HM: none in this category

    1st Place: Michael Rose, “Ball Players Medicine”
    2nd Place: Laura B. Pickens, “Dogwood Arrow”
    3rd Place: Ryan spring,” Traditional Stickball, buckeye core”
    HM: None in this category

    1st Place: Theresa Renegar, “Corn Dreams”
    2nd Place: Bob Proctor, “Broken Promises”
    3rd Place: Bob Procotor, “The Dancer”
    HM: Chester Cowen, “Where is Tobias?”

    Heritage Awards
    Gwen Coleman Lester, “Alikchi”
    Stephanie Rose, “Kapucha , Towa”
    Kevin Hardin, “The Artist and Her Two Paintings”

    Best of Show:
    Karen Clarkson, “Ancient Symbols 1&2”

    People’s Choice:
    Sandy Sliger, “Tear Drop”


    Co-ed age 9-11
    1st place: Skillz - Shadie Crase, Lindsay Waits, Ryan Huett, Logan Maxey, Jaxon Dorsey

    Co-ed age 12-14
    1st place: Outsiders - Stormy Taylor, Chris Trusty, Ivan Baker, Shantel Smith, Nana Jo Smith
    2nd place: Albino Indians - Jeffery Morris, Jordan Morris, Jordan Terry, Ethan Billings, Braden Dorsey
    3rd place: Dem Brown Kids - Mahala Battiest, Loren Crosby, Kyle Passmore, Ashton Willis, C.J. Briley

    Co-ed age 15-18
    1st place: Like Mike - Bailey Scarberry, Oscar Rivera, Ryan Scales, Junior Griffin, Dorian Threadgill, Delvin Johnson
    2nd place: Silo Rebels- Lauren Billie, Tanner Clark, Shane Tisdale, Kendall Shives, Bryce Brister
    3rd place: Dallas Pressure- Natalie Buck, Kamery Walker, Darius Kelly, NaQuan Hopkins, Matthew Hilinski, Coach Jason Samuels

    Women’s All Star
    1st place: War Party - Sharon Forte, Natasha Rouse, Kayla Davis
    2nd place: Lucky #7’s- Mandy Holman, Tammye Gwin, Sara Willie, Kelli Shawn

    Men’s age 18-35
    1st place: Running Skins - Chris Valliere, Kirk Taylor, Randall Clay, Caleb Taylor, Karahjon Hurd
    2nd place: Twerk Team - Justin Richards, Darius “Melo” Peace, Kendell Willis, T.J. Broades
    3rd place: Dub C Finest - Kyle Baker (not pictured), Clint Baker, Colton Converse, Bobby Baker “Delicious”

    Men’s age 35 and over
    1st place: Jumbo - Naco Hopkins, Brent Shaw, Michael Clay, Derek
    2nd place: Show Birds - Kevin Gwin, Morris Steve, Nate Cox, Curtis Steve
    3rd place: Wheat Bread - Dewayne Hornbuckle, Rock Lebeau, Scott Greggory, Steve Battiest

    Free Throw age 6-9
    1st: Cale Clay
    2nd: Cason Taylor
    3rd: Ashia Jordan

    Free Throw age 10-12
    1st:Jocelyn Smith
    2nd: Logan Hewitt
    3rd: Calesa Murdock

    Free Throw age 13-15
    1st: Keeli Tsosie
    2nd: Daniel Boswell
    3rd: Jordan Scott

    Free Throw age 16-18
    1st: Alethia McKinney
    2nd: Derek Epperoy
    3rd: Tiffany Gantt

    Women’s Three-Point Contest
    1st: Dayna Dick
    2nd: Misty Madbull

    Men’s Three-Point Contest
    1st: Allen Clay
    2nd: Rock Johnson

    Board Games

    1st: Jasen Baker
    2nd: Johnny Parson

    1st: Sylvester Moore
    2nd: Roland Wade

    Bow Shoot

    5 and Under
    1st: Wyatt Kinslow
    2nd: Riggin Waugh
    3rd: Olivia Ellis

    Ages 6-8
    1st: Wil Helmsmoore
    2nd: Tristen Ross
    3rd: Trey Wilson

    Ages 9-13
    1st: Chase Zink
    2nd: Sarah Haven
    3rd: Madi McDonald.

    Ages 14-16
    1st: Sam Jacob
    2nd: Robert Breshears
    3rd: Chasey Bohanan

    Ages 17-19
    1st: Geffery Diaz

    Women’s 20 and over
    1st: Christina Waugh
    2nd: Rhonda Reiman
    3rd: Jennifer Dickson

    Men’s 20 and over
    1st: Lee Ellis
    2nd: Brad Hooker
    3rd: David Edwards


    1st: Gregg Moon, Cyrus Ben, Jon Lowder and Jason Grisham.
    2nd: Burt Perry, Kevin Davis, Mandy Jo and Brad Clay.
    3rd: Sherry Perry, Councilman Ron Perry, Gregg Robinson and not pictured, Councilman Tony Messenger

    Congratulations, Councilman Perry, on your hole-in-one!


    Youth Singles
    1st: Tyler Walker
    2nd: Tyler Leao
    3rd: Jaiden Smith

    Youth Ringer
    Tyler Walker

    Women’s Singles
    1st:Kisha Bohanan
    2nd:Stephanie Bohanan
    3rd:Sue Tait

    Women’s Double
    1st: Stephanie Bohanan and Tiffany Bohanan.
    2nd: Wanda Morris and Sue Tait.
    3rd: Ruby Long and Sherri Miller.

    Women’s Ringer
    Wanda Morris

    Men’s Singles
    1st: Bunky Impson
    2nd: Danny Adams
    3rd: David Knox

    Men’s Doubles
    1st: David Davis and Phillip Morris
    2nd: Danny Adams and Bunky Impson
    3rd: Charles Hilton and Michael Bedford.

    Men’s Ringer
    Nicky Slabaugh


    Hand Stitch
    1st: Sandra Stevens
    2nd: Lois Thomas
    3rd: Jan West

    Machine Stitch
    1st: Rebecca Mizell
    2nd: Wanda Leet “Christian Cross”
    3rd: Wanda Leet “Fall Leaves”

    Hand/Machine Combo Stitch
    1st: Rose Harris
    2nd: Charlene Benge
    3rd: Ruth McCoy

    People’s Choice Award
    Lois Thomas “Giant Dahlia”


    Men’s First Place
    Kansas Indians

    Women’s First Place
    Chitto Harjo

    Terrapin Races

    Ages 3-7
    1st: Snoweagle Rasha
    2nd: James Wortham
    3rd: Jackson Pollard.

    Ages 8-12
    1st: Draven Postoak
    2nd: Jordan Nolin
    3rd: Braxton Lemmons Martin.

    Best Dressed
    McKenzee Petty


    This year’s Tough-Tough champion is Chris Hawk who finished the four-event course in 1:44. Joshua Hensley finished in second place with a time of 2:18. Jerry and Leslie Flanagan, parents of the late Chris Flanagan, were presented with the Fighting Heart Award. Flanagan, who was a regular participant in the Tough-Tough event, passed away last year.


    Diggers: Lori Hamilton, Devon Frazier, Joe Thomas, Sean Gentry, Josh Carney, Marrisa McIntosh and Mitzi Doster
    Runner Up
    The Crew: Mike Scott, Felicia Scott, Thomas Hardy, Sarah Trusty, Taloa Camp, Joe Anderson, Kelley Braudrick, Amber Anderson and Rayburn Baker.

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  • 09/06/13--07:55: Caring Van on the Road
  • Caring Van on the Road

    Following an introduction to the community of Talihina in April of 2012, the fifth Caring Van began serving communities in Southeastern Oklahoma. Operated in partnership with Choctaw Nation Health Services, the van traveled across seven counties providing immunizations and additional preventive health services.

    After many years of providing Caring Van services in rural communities through day trips across the state, the Choctaw Nation van represents a new model whereby a partnering organization can operate the van each day of the week without relying on staffing from Oklahoma City and Tulsa. This arrangement has worked very well to date, with 46 clinics conducted in the fall of 2012 alone.

    Lead Choctaw Nation Caring Van nurse Kelly Adams commented, “The Caring Van is an incredible asset to Choctaw Nation Health Services nurses. We have increased the number of schools in which we offer immunizations. Because we work in such a rural area, the schools and parents appreciate the convenience of having this service provided. We like knowing that the risk of a child acquiring a vaccine preventable disease in the community lessens with every immunization administered. The Caring Van is a hit will all of the kids with its colorful and friendly design.”

    Serving primarily schools, the success of the van is evident, as more than 1,700 children received immunizations aboard the van between September and December. Other services were provided to an additional 1,750 individuals, including adult immunizations and lice checks for children.

    In addition to the services provided in 2012, the van has been on the road quite a bit in 2013, already providing immunizations to 189 children and 28 adults at seven clinics, in addition to 628 lice checks being performed.

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    Latimer Co. E-911 Dispatch thanks Choctaw Nation for donation

    Photo provided by Latimer County News-Tribune
    New E911 Supervisor Craig Johnson, (left) receives a check for $5,000 from Choctaw Nation Councilman Joe Coley. Former 911 Supervisor David Nix applied for the grant from the tribe. Following, is a letter written by Mr. Johnson to the Choctaw Nation.

    To the good people of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma,

    I am the supervisor for Latimer County E-911 dispatch center. On Friday, Aug. 16, 2013, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma District 6 Tribal Council member, Joe Coley, came to our dispatch office in Wilburton and presented us with a donation of $5000.00.

    On behalf of our Latimer County E-911, I want to thank Joe Coley and the entire Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma for their generous donation to our agency, and all you do for Latimer County.

    As Latimer County’s only public safety access point, we deal with Choctaw Tribal Police almost every day of the year. During my years of dispatching, I can truly say that every Tribal PD officer I have had contact with, including the Tribal PD dispatchers and the Choctaw Nation Indian Hospital security staff, have been very helpful and cooperative with our law enforcement coordination needs.

    Your contribution to our E-911 dispatch center comes at a time of great financial need. Currently, the E-911 fees for telephone landlines are greater than those same fees for cell phones. As more and more people switch from landlines to cell phones the fees that our agency receives go down. Plus, everything we use to run our agency keeps going up in cost. So, the donation from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma will help us a lot. Also, it was my first time to meet Joe Coley and I enjoyed visiting with him.

    Thank you again for all you do for Latimer County and for us here at the E-911 dispatch.

    Craig Johnson
    Latimer County E-911

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    Durant Casino and Resort breaks ground on expansion

    Casino_GroundbreakingLeaders of the Choctaw Nation break ground on the upcoming expansion.

    Pyle_at_groundbreakingThe Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant, a AAA Four Diamond Resort, held a groundbreaking ceremony Sept. 12 for a major expansion that will make it a regional tourist destination.

    The expansion will create additional gaming, non-gaming and entertainment venues as well as more dining and lodging options. The south casino remodel, which begins in October, will include new dining options and a themed center bar. Additional expansion phases will feature an updated Oasis pool experience with an indoor/outdoor bar and grill. A four-venue food court and sports bar adjacent to a 24-lane bowling alley, arcade, two-story laser tag and cinema complex with five state-of-the-art theaters will be adjacent to the south casino which will also feature additional gaming machines.

    A new 22-story hotel tower with 500 rooms and VIP suites is planned. A full-service destination “sky” spa with 12 treatment rooms, a hair and nail salon, a fitness center and an outdoor pool will all be located on the top floor of the new hotel “spa” tower.

    A multi-purpose three level convention/entertainment venue on the second floor of the new hotel tower will seat over 3,000 guests with over 100,000 square feet of meeting and convention space. The new hotel tower will also feature 9,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor of the new hotel tower.

    The south center remodel is projected to be completed in December 2013, with the overall expansion scheduled to be completed in first quarter of 2015.

    See video coverage from KTEN, local news. - No One Gets You Closer

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    Girls’ Day Out event encourages self defense

    Sergeant Robert Moore teaches escape techniques.

    Choctaw Nation Project SAFE, Voices 4 Survivors and the Oklahoma Federation of Indian Women hosted a “Girls Day Out” on Aug. 17, 2013, at the McAlester EXPO Center. The free daylong event open to girls ages 12-120, focused on the “My Body…My Life” program presented by keynote speaker Sergeant Robert Moore, MHR, BHRS, LPC of the Norman Police Department, who is the author and primary developer of the program. “One in 15 female students experience dating violence and one in four women are raped or sexually abused,” said Moore. “This class teaches young girls to protect themselves physically, mentally and socially.”

    Girls_Day_out_2 Opening for the day’s event, Choctaw Nation Tribal Councilman Bob Pate noted that violence comes in many shapes and forms, and affects both young and old. Sgt. Moore followed by presenting the “My Body…My Life” program, which focuses on “Empowering women through awareness, education, violence prevention and self-defense techniques.” “It is important to know your boundaries,” said Moore. “The most powerful word in any language is ‘no.’ No two people will say it the same. It defines your boundaries. It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it. In order to protect yourself, you must say no, walk away and report the situation.”

    Sexual violence is preventable, however a recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) showed that on average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical abuse or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States. Victimization often occurs for the first time before age 25 and is usually by someone known to the victim, primarily by a current or former intimate partner or acquaintance. Educational materials and techniques presented through Sgt. Moore’s “My Body…My Life” program aim to reduce rape and sexual violence by 70 to 90 percent.

    In addition to the “My Body…My Life” program, afternoon breakout sessions were held to allow participants the opportunity to focus on specific areas of interest. Sessions included:
    • “How Not to Act,” presented by Cherrah Giles of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Department of the Community and Human Services, and the Oklahoma Federation of Indian Women.
    • “The Language of Love,” presented by Mary Whiteshirt, MHR, LPC, of the Cherokee Nation Youth Shelter and the Oklahoma Federation of Indian Women.
    • “Self Respect,” presented by Sandy Hall of the Choctaw Nation Voices for Survivors.
    • “Ohoyo Pisa Achukma (Pretty Woman),” presented by LaDell Emmons of the OSU Extension Office and American Beauty Institute.
    • “Self- Defense,” presented by Sgt. Robert Moore and his daughter, Megan.

    The approximate 210 who attended “Girls Day Out” were also treated to lunch, goodie bags, and dancing, lead by District 11 Senior Choctaw Princess Cherish Wilkerson. All attending were entered into a drawing for several door prizes and given a shirt in exchange for evaluation forms.

    Yakoke to those whose hard work made this life changing event a success - Oklahoma Federation of Indian Women, Choctaw Nation Voices for Survivors, Choctaw Nation Project SAFE, Choctaw Senior Citizens of Pittsburg County, Choctaw Nation Youth Advisory Board and Youth Empowerment, Choctaw Nation Sexual Assault Response Team and Choctaw Nation Children and Family Services.

    Girls_Day_out_1District 11 Senior Choctaw Princess Cherish Wilkerson leads girls in dancing.

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    Annual Superintendents’ Luncheon has educators looking to future

    Partnerships between Southeast Oklahoma schools and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma show promise for the future of education.

    Crabtree_web Educators from across Southeast Oklahoma gathered Tuesday for the Second Annual Superintendents’ Luncheon hosted by Choctaw Nation Department of Education at Eastern Oklahoma State College in Wilburton.

    The Sept. 17 meeting was focused on continuing and strengthening a cooperative effort between the 85 school districts represented within Choctaw Nation’s 10.5 counties and the Choctaw Nation Department of Education. Superintendents from almost all these schools were present for the gathering.

    Since the initial luncheon in 2012, a pilot program set in place between Durant Schools and Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) has seen considerable success. That program is the Partnership of Summer School Education (POSSE), and is charged with providing academic remediation to students in grades Pre-K through 2nd grade, according to Paula Harp, director of POSSE.

    “It was a wonderful program and a great partnership,” said Valerie Crabtree, principal of the Durant summer school program as she took the podium to discuss methods utilized and results discovered upon completion of the pilot.

    According to Crabtree, POSSE’s inaugural summer was well received by students, teachers and parents alike. Teachers were thrilled to be working in a more hands-on situation with smaller classes and more time to devote to each student, she said.

    Parents of the elementary students were pleased to see their kids reinforcing subjects key to a solid academic foundation, assuring that students were progressing at a steady pace. “Our phones were ringing off the hook with more parents wanting to enroll their kids in our summer school program,” Crabtree stated.

    The seven-week program hosted at Washington Irving Elementary saw 185 Kindergarten through 2nd grade students. Those enrolled in the pilot were by teacher recommendation. Classes were held Monday through Thursday, from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m., and spanned June 3 to July 25.

    STAR_web The summer’s agenda was set up with an overarching theme, “The Great Outdoor Adventure,” and contained smaller sub-themes to encourage a more immersive, interesting and therefore effective experience. Intense morning classes covered core subjects and afternoon activities reinforced lessons in a fun way.

    A total of 16 morning and seven afternoon teachers, combined with the help of Choctaw Nation summer youth workers, “created a different approach to learning. [We] traded in a traditional approach to a more hands-on and diverse learning,” according to Crabtree.

    The results of this technique speak to its success. According to a report submitted by the Choctaw Nation Department of Education,

    • Pre-K class average showed improvement of 19 percent in letter recognition and 30 percent in sound recognition.
    • Kindergarten – 83 percent learned all capital and lower case letters and 73 percent recognized all required sounds.
    • Young people who acted as tutors are now interested in teaching. Others have a better understanding of how to help their own children some day.

    In 2014, POSSE is planning to expand to all of Bryan County utilizing Rock Creek and Calera facilities along with Durant as centers for all schools. During the program, CNO pays for all salaries, snacks, supplies, and arts and crafts materials, while the schools are responsible for providing teachers, transportation, software and meals, according to the report.

    Another hot-topic at the gathering was the Choctaw Making A Difference (MAD) program, which is geared toward high school students. This initiative’s first priority is to make sure Choctaw students graduate.

    MAD has helped in several differing facets of education. From providing the means for students to retake the End of Instruction (EOI) tests when needed, to providing extra tutoring and/or counseling, MAD has already made a considerable difference in the lives of Choctaw students.

    To increase that influence, Choctaw Nation’s Education Department has encouraged all superintendents to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) allowing certain portions of their student information databases to be shared with CNO.

    This sharing of information will allow CNO to identify Choctaw students, enabling them to enroll in the program and receive help they were previously ineligible to acquire. Forty-six MOUs were signed prior to the meeting, contributing to the growing influence of MAD.

    “Kids that might not have graduated, have graduated because of the Choctaw Nation,” stated Clayton School Superintendent Randall Erwin, as he spoke of the impact MAD has already made in his school.

    Cary Ammons, superintendent of Antlers Schools was also onboard with cooperating with CNO through MAD. By allowing the sharing of information, Ammons hopes to streamline services by identifying Choctaws in the school district, permitting more access to services afforded by CNO.

    Choctaw Nation has been so good to us by providing help, “it’s a no brainer for us,” said Ammons, who hopes to have the infrastructure in place by May.

    Also on the agenda, was an address to the educators from CNO Language Director Jim Parrish, STAR Program Director Jason Campbell, Chahta Foundation Director Stacy Shepherd and Tribal Councilman Thomas Williston.

    Parrish and Campbell shared updates on each of their programs, discussing the benefits already offered to students within the school districts, as well as future ways CNO hopes to strengthen education.

    Campbell mentioned that the STAR program currently has almost 16,000 students enrolled. “It all started with your help,” he said thanking the school leaders.

    Shepherd informed attendees of the all the initiatives afforded by the Chahta Foundation, a non-profit organization that works closely with CNO. Through the foundation, students are able to receive scholarships as well as preserve their heritage.

    Williston, who spoke on behalf the tribal council, sang praises to the efforts of both school districts and CNO programs alike. He and the Choctaw leadership were pleased at the cooperation each of the districts has displayed, allowing for the betterment of the youth.

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    Choctaw Bike Team Encourages Breast Cancer Awareness

    breast-cancer-ribbon1 October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In the United States, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every 2.5 minutes, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, and breast cancer is the second leading cause of death in women.

    In honor of the 2.6 million survivors, the warriors that are fighting cancer, their friends, families, and those family members who lost the fight, the Choctaw Nation Bicycle Team (CBNT) will host its 3rd Annual Breast Cancer Awareness Day, Saturday, Oct. 19, in Talihina.

    They are raising money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF). BCRF remains one of the most fiscally responsible charities in the country and for the 10th time since 2002, it has earned four stars from Charity Navigator. Additionally, BCRF is the only cancer organization rated an “A”+ by Charity Watch with 91 cents of every dollar donated going to breast cancer research and awareness.

    The goal is to increase awareness by “Painting the town Pink.” The team asks that all businesses and store fronts place pink ribbons, balloons, shirts, or other pink objects in their store fronts or outside their stores. They will host “Ride To Survive” bicycle rides (5 and 10 miles), the “Pink Pajama Pancake Run,” (5K), and the 1-mile Warrior-Survivor “March On Main Street” walk. Walkers, riders, and runners are encouraged to raise donations with prizes given for the most donations collected. Wearing pink is always encouraged and appreciated. The rides start at 7 a.m., with the March on Main Street lining up at 8:30 and start at 8:45 a.m. The 5k run starts at 9 a.m.

    A $5.00 fundraiser pancake, bacon/sausage, biscuit/gravy, coffee, juice breakfast from 8-10 a.m., cooked by the ladies of St. Paul UMC, and a multiagency, informative Health and Wellness Fair on Saturday, from 9-12 noon. The Choctaw Senior Citizens and the Tiger Band Parents will also be on-site fundraising. Additional T-shirts, cowbells, “Think Pink” polo shirts, “Real Men Wear Pink” polo shirts, pink tie-dyed and pink camouflage T-shirts, “Man Enough to Wear Pink” camouflage caps, and other items, will be available for sale on site or from any CNBT member.

    We all have our own reasons for running, biking, or walking. Whether you are a survivor, a warrior, a family member or someone who just wants to help; each step, each stride, each pedal stroke brings us closer to ending breast cancer. We can turn the dream of a world without breast cancer into reality, one step at a time.

    For more information about the Breast Cancer Awareness: Bike-Run-Walk events in Talihina, as a participant, exhibitor or a volunteer, contact Nancy Jefferson,, 918-413-1581, Teresa Eagle Road at 918-567-7000 x6550, or any Choctaw Nation Bicycle Team member.

    Bike ride registrationWalk registration5k registration

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  • 09/20/13--09:15: From rotors to wings
  • Screen_shot_2013-09-20_at_12.16.46_PM

    From rotors to wings

    Black Hawk pilot selected for Army fixed-wing program

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    DURANT, Okla. – For a man who grew up in Durant on what he calls, “the wrong side of both tracks that run through the town,” Michael Beck has made quite a life for himself and his family while serving in the military.

    Beck, a 32-year-old U.S. Army chief warrant officer stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, is a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot who has just been accepted to the Army’s fixed-wing flight program – a feat achieved by only 180 soldiers annually, according to the Fort Rucker Public Affairs Office at Fort Rucker, Ala., a very small selection compared to the nearly 4,000 soldiers the Aviation Training Brigade trains as helicopter pilots each year.

    Beck is excited and understands the odds were against him when he decided to apply for the program. “It was actually a huge surprise because not many pilots in the army get to do this,” he said. “I fly a Black Hawk right now and after this I’ll be dual-rated to fly both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft for the military.

    “Only a small percentage of people in the military are accepted to flight school in general,” Beck continues. “But then within the fixed wing community in Army aviation, it’s an even smaller number of personnel that are chosen. I was incredibly surprised and very blessed that they selected me.”

    Beck is scheduled to attend the three-month Fixed Wing Qualification Course at Fort Rucker next summer. At the school at the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence, Beck will be trained on a number of aircraft but will specialize in piloting the Beechcraft C-12 Huron, the military variant of the twin-engine turboprop aircraft commonly known outside the military as a Beechcraft King Air.

    “At the school, they put you through multiple airframes to teach you different maneuvers but then you specialize in one,” he explains. “My training will culminate with the C-12 qualification.”

    Before he goes to the school though, Beck is scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan, which he’ll leave for later this month. It will be his third combat deployment overseas.

    “I was in Iraq for the previous two [deployments],” he says. “I was there for the initial invasion into Iraq and then I went back again in 2006.

    Screen_shot_2013-09-20_at_10.46.18_AM“The first time I worked on Apache attack helicopters as a crew chief,” he says. “The second time I went out I was running a quality control office as a technical inspector at Camp Taji. Basically, we were the guys who inspected the work of the guys who work on the helicopters.”

    This deployment will be quite a bit different for him than his first two – it will be his first since training to be a helicopter pilot three years ago. As opposed to being one of the soldiers on the ground working on or inspecting the aircraft, he’ll be one of those flying the missions.

    “We will do a combination of air assault, which is putting troops into the battle space of the enemy, and ‘med chase’ missions, where we fly as the gun ship for the MEDEVAC helicopters, being their wingman.

    “We will probably also be doing a lot of moving of personnel and equipment to central locations since at the end of the day we’ll be shutting down [the U.S. presence in] Afghanistan,” he says. “It’s kind of weird because I was there for the initial invasion in Iraq and now I’ll be there when we close up [combat missions in] Afghanistan.”

    Beck says he is excited to be able to go back overseas, however, there is one major drawback – his family. “When it comes to deployments, I don’t mind going. The only thing that bothers me is having to leave my family behind.”

    Screen_shot_2013-09-20_at_10.47.32_AM Beck and his wife, Melanie, have three children, Gillian, 13, Grayson, 4, and Madelyn, 1-and-a-half.

    It was, in fact, his family that led him to choose a career in the military. While his family life and career are both great and exactly what he wants now, that wasn’t always the case for Beck. The life he leads now is one far removed from the life he had as a child growing up in Durant.

    “I grew up in a very poor family,” he explains. “My mother was 15 when she had me and she didn’t know who my father was. She was a drug addict and was in and out of prison my whole childhood. I bounced around a lot, ended up in a couple of foster homes, even lived in a junkyard on Ninth Street for a while. It was pretty bad.

    “When I was a kid living on the east side you could walk down the street and there was used drug needles, a lot of violent people and drug addicts around me when I was younger, and most of them were my family members,” he says. “When you grow up in an environment like that, it changes you and who you are. You know, if you don’t start to fit in, if you don’t start meshing with that group of individuals…well, they’re violent. They will beat you until you start beating back and once you start beating back you’ve basically become a similar individual. It’s unfortunate.”

    Attending school as a child early on was never a problem for Beck though. “I’ve always done really well at school but I never had anyone in my childhood tell me why it was important.”

    When it came to his education, food was often his incentive for attending. “Most of the time I went to school because they had food there. In the morning I would get breakfast and then I’d get lunch,” something he might not have received at home.

    “Just to give a background,” he elaborated, “there was a guy named Mr. Crawford who owned a pig farm in town when I was little and he would go around to the local grocery stores and pick up the produce or bread or whatever that was out of date or expired. Before he would go to his pig farm though, he would drive really slowly in front of my grandmother’s house and all the little kids would run out yelling ‘Mr. Crawford! Mr. Crawford!’ We’d all jump on the back of his truck and he’d act like he wasn’t going to stop but he always did. He’d let us get up there in the back and dig through the stuff and pick out any fruit or food that we wanted to eat. Food was always a big motivator for me. They had food in school so I went to school.”

    Beck attended Jones Academy for a short period of time during his fifth grade year. “I actually enrolled myself there because I thought it’d be a good place to live. They had food, entertainment, a place to live…but I didn’t stay there too long.”

    Beck went back to Durant Public School and attended from elementary until his sophomore year of high school.

    “Whenever I got into high school, well, I never really talk about this, but there were bullies in school, and for a long time I kept getting in fights. There would be people picking on other little kids and so I always got into fights when I was in middle school and in high school. When I was in 10th grade I decided I wasn’t going to let other people dictate what I did or didn’t do,” he says.

    “No one really hung out with me in high school,” he explains. “I came from a bad family. And to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have let my kids hang out with me either. That’s pretty bad!”

    When he was 12 years old, his life took a turn. His mother went back to prison and he ran away from home. The state also came and took away his sister and three brothers.

    “I think the thing that stood out between me and the rest of my family was that I never thought that the way they were doing things was right,” he explains. “I thought ‘why are people acting this way?’ The way I rebelled as a teenager was that I said I was never going to do drugs, drink alcohol, never going to smoke cigarettes, never going to do these behaviors that they were doing. I never liked it there and that’s why I ran away. Shortly after that, the state took the other kids away. Since I was gone I was never included in it or something, I don’t really know. ”

    It was during his early high school years that his life took another abrupt turn. “During my ninth grade year, I was about 14 years old, my mother was back and she talked me into moving back in with her. She’d met a guy and they were going to get married so we moved down to Victoria, Texas, close to Corpus Christi on the Gulf of Mexico.

    “So, I trusted her, I moved back in with her and we headed down to the beach. Within two days, he left her. We were stranded.

    “I had to get a job so for my first ninth grade year, because I missed so many days I had to repeat it, I worked at a Viking Inn motel that was being repaired. We lived out of our truck until I got the job at the motel and they let us stay in one of the rooms while I helped with the construction and my mom helped out in the restaurant.

    “I also worked on a shrimp boat out on the Gulf of Mexico until we earned enough money to come back to Durant.”

    Beck was supposed to graduate high school in 1999 but that didn’t happen.

    “I didn’t quit school though, I was kicked out,” he says, for causing trouble at the school. Looking back though, I understand why they did that.”

    He moved around a lot after getting kicked out of school, living with friends, one of his mother’s ex-boyfriends, family and eventually living in a rental property owned by the Rawls family, a family who “adopted” him.

    “I never lived with them but they helped me out a lot. Basically I helped take care of their rental property and they let me live in a trailer house of theirs. I maintained their property and helped with their businesses.”

    Charlotte Rawls is the one who prompted Beck to go to college.

    “I was literally sleeping on a piece of plywood in a garage when Charlotte came in. She knew my mom had recently gone back to prison and a bunch of my friends were in trouble and she said, ‘I know you’ve never thought about it but I’ve paid for you to take an ACT test.’ I didn’t even know what the ACT was at the time.”

    “She told me, ‘No pressure but I did some research and the Choctaw Nation will help you pay for your school while you go because you’re Choctaw. You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to this time.’ So I thought about it and thought sure, I’ll take it since she paid for it and then I took the test.”

    And he did well…very well.

    “Apparently, I’m really good at taking tests,” he says with a laugh. “I got into Southeastern [Oklahoma State University] without a GED because I scored pretty high. They accepted me based off of my ACT score. They said if I can score that high on the ACT then I’ll have no trouble with the GED. So they let me start college. I think I was in class for two weeks before I ever took the GED test.”

    It was there at Southeastern that he met his future wife, Melanie.

    “I went there for only a semester and that’s when we were blessed with a little baby, so I had to get a ‘real’ job,” he says. “That’s when I joined the military. I was determined that my kids wouldn’t have the same upbringing that I did.”

    He joined in January 2001 and has rapidly moved up the ranks, excelling at all the endeavors put in his path, earning numerous awards and commendations along the way.

    “I joined initially because I needed to get some stability, mature and to have a job for my kids.

    “It’s funny though because with all my trouble growing up, once you get to the military, they don’t know all that,” he says. “They judge you based on how well you do there. Since I’ve been in the military I’ve graduated at the top of every school that I’ve been in.”

    He says when he joined the military he told his family in Durant he was leaving and never coming back…and he didn’t for about five years.

    Now, he and his family make it back to visit several times a year. “Normally, whenever we go back to Durant, I’ll go over to that side of town and I’ll talk with the little kids. I’ll visit the school and tell them about the things that I’ve done. I’ll see kids in my old neighborhood out playing and we’ll walk up to the gas station; I’ll buy them drinks and just talk to them. I let them know that there’s more to life out there.

    “There are so many places and things I’ve seen since I’ve been in the military that I would have never got to see if I hadn’t joined. There are a lot of moments, just different places around the world where I see something new that I would have only read about or seen on TV. It just changes your perspective on the world as a whole.”

    As for his relationship with his mother, he says, “I’m older now so I try not to hold a lot of that against her. She was 15, basically a kid, I guess. But there are choices that people make in their lives and I don’t think she ever chose any that were to the benefit of her children. I had a problem with that for a long time.”

    Beck doesn’t dwell on this though; that dark past is now behind him, and his future continues to look bright.

    “I plan to slowly transition out of that full-throttle [rotary wing] mentality and spend extra time with my family,” he says, “while gaining a whole new extra skill set that will be more marketable when I get out of the military, so I think it’s a blessing. I think it’s going to be really, really great.”

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    Food Distribution Program policy updates

    New and exciting news from the Food Distribution Program has been released. Effective Sept. 26, 2013, the Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service will implement the following rule and regulation: 7 CFR Part 253 [FNS–2011–0036] RIN 0584–AE05 Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations Income Deductions and Resource Eligibility to our guidelines. What this means for the clients we serve and to potential clients in our service area is this:

      Overview of the Rule
    • 1. Eliminate the household resource eligibility criterion.
    • 2. Expand the current deductions for medical expenses.
    • 3.Establish a new deduction for shelter and utility expenses.
    • 4.Add household verification requirements relating to the proposed medical and shelter/utility expense deductions, and revise household reporting requirements

    This will increase the possibility of more clients becoming eligible for the program. Clients should call our offices for more information. As with every new fiscal year, the new income guidelines will also go into effect October 1st. However, we have not been given those amounts as of yet by USDA.

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  • 09/24/13--09:31: Going Lean events in October
  • Choctaw Nation Going Lean team has several events occurring throughout October.

    • October 5th- Big Foot 5K, Honobia, OK (PACE Race)
    • October 9th- Breast Cancer Awareness Luncheon, Talihina, OK
    • October 12th- Lumberjack 5K, Wright City, OK (PACE Race)
    • October 18th- Balloon Fest 5k (PACE Race)
    • October 19th- Colton’s Run, Durant, OK (PACE Race)
    • October 19th- Robbers Cave Run, Wilburton, OK
    • October 19th- Pink Panther Pancake Bike & Run, Talihina, OK
    • October 24th- Vike at Night, Poteau, OK
    • October 26th- Diabetes 5K Run, Talihina, OK

    For sign-up information on PACE Races, see the PACE Website.

    For more information on all the races, please call 800-349-7026 x-6958 or email

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    Cultural activities, ribbon cutting celebrate Grand Opening of Tourism Information Center


    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is celebrating the newly renovated Tourism Information Center at Colbert with a ribbon cutting 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 25, and a day of cultural activities. The Nation assumed operations of the facility, one of Oklahoma’s busiest, on July 1 under a five-year contract with the state.

    “We are excited about the opportunity to share the Choctaw heritage with so many people,” said Chief Gregory E. Pyle. “There is an opportunity to educate thousands of people a day about Oklahoma and the Choctaw Nation.”

    Activities scheduled for the grand opening include Choctaw pottery and basket making demonstrations, traditional weaponry, flutes, clothing, music and social dancing. Visitors will also be able to sample Choctaw traditional food.

    One-of-a-kind art and cultural items made by Choctaw and members of other Native tribes will be displayed and available for purchase inside the center. Everything in the store will have either a Native American influence or be representative of the state of Oklahoma. Many local artists have submitted their work.

    The Nation has added two personnel to work with the original staff and manage the tourism store. Items for purchase at the center will also be available online at

    The tourism center will remain a rest stop for drivers crossing into Oklahoma on Hwy. 69/75. Located just north of the Red River Bridge, the facility remains a popular place to take a break, grab a cup of coffee and a snack. A cultural area is being added outdoors with a Choctaw chukka (house) and a brush arbor. Travelers will also be able to walk their pets in the new dog park. The center offers numerous maps, brochures and tourism information about Oklahoma and is open daily except for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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    Choctaw Nation to Host Annual Ivy League & Friends Event

    Article provided by

    IVy_Leage_2012 The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Scholarship Advisement Program will host the annual Ivy League & Friends recruitment event at the Choctaw Casino and Resort in Durant, Okla., Nov. 9, starting at 11 a.m.

    “I am very glad that I attended.”

    Choctaw tribal members will have the opportunity to speak one-on-one with recruiters from some of the most prestigious universities in the nation, including Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, MIT, Wesleyan, Berkeley, Duke and many more.

    Past attendees have said that the Ivy League & Friends event has made what they thought to be an impossible dream, attending an Ivy League university, an achievable goal.

    “[Ivy League & Friends] is different because you get to talk to [representatives] one-on-one, and they provide you with some extremely helpful information and it’s Ivy League Colleges,” said one student that previously attended the event. “I am very glad that I attended.”

    Choctaw high school students and prospective graduate students are encouraged to attend the event, which will include a full day of breakout sessions where university representatives will speak about their institution to students and parents, and a college and graduate fair in the evening.

    The event is for any tribal members interested in college, regardless of if they wish to attend one of the universities at the event.

    “Even students who weren’t planning to attend an Ivy League school found benefit in attending the event and took away valuable information and insight into the college process,” said Jo McDaniel, SAP director.

    Students can learn about additional resources for Native American students such as information about scholarships and fellowships, summer programs and internships from various organizations including the American Indian Graduate Center, College and Graduate Horizons, Washington Internship for Native Students and Phillips Academy Institute for Recruitment of Teachers.

    Ivy_2_copy Ivy League & Friends began in 2008 as a way for students to connect with representatives from Harvard and has quickly grown to include more than 30 universities, making this one of SAP’s most successful programs. The event is hosted every November and encourages tribal members to think big when it comes to their educational goals.

    “The rapid growth of Ivy League & Friends suggests that the program is an idea whose time has come, not just for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, but for any group aiming to help Native American students fully realize their educational goals,” McDaniel said.

    The Choctaw Nation SAP was established in 2006 and exists to help Choctaw tribal members fulfill their college goals with smart, comprehensive preparation and advisement, and graduate with strong prospects for the future. In addition to hosting one of the largest recruitment events hosted by a tribe, other services offered through SAP include campus visit programs, ACT/SAT test prep, graduate school prep and scholarship resources.

    For more information about the event or Choctaw Nation SAP, visit

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    National Native American Heritage Month 2013
    A Proclamation from President Barack Obama

    From Alaskan mountain peaks to the Argentinian pampas to the rocky shores of Newfoundland, Native Americans were the first to carve out cities, domesticate crops, and establish great civilizations. When the Framers gathered to write the United States Constitution, they drew inspiration from the Iroquois Confederacy, and in the centuries since, American Indians and Alaska Natives from hundreds of tribes have shaped our national life. During Native American Heritage Month, we honor their vibrant cultures and strengthen the government-to-government relationship between the United States and each tribal nation.

    As we observe this month, we must not ignore the painful history Native Americans have endured – a history of violence, marginalization, broken promises, and upended justice. There was a time when native languages and religions were banned as part of a forced assimilation policy that attacked the political, social, and cultural identities of Native Americans in the United States. Through generations of struggle, American Indians and Alaska Natives held fast to their traditions, and eventually the United States Government repudiated its destructive policies and began to turn the page on a troubled past.

    My Administration remains committed to self-determination, the right of tribal governments to build and strengthen their own communities. Each year I host the White House Tribal Nations Conference, and our work together has translated into action. We have resolved longstanding legal disputes, prioritized placing land into trust on behalf of tribes, stepped up support for Tribal Colleges and Universities, made tribal health care more accessible, and streamlined leasing regulations to put more power in tribal hands. Earlier this year, an amendment to the Stafford Act gave tribes the option to directly request Federal emergency assistance when natural disasters strike their homelands. In March, I signed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, which recognizes tribal courts’ power to convict and sentence certain perpetrators of domestic violence, regardless of whether they are Indian or non-Indian. And this June, I moved to strengthen our nation-to-nation relationships by establishing the White House Tribal Council on Native American Affairs. The Council is responsible for promoting and sustaining prosperous and resilient Native American communities.

    As we observe Native American Heritage Month, we must build on this work. Let us shape a future worthy of a bright new generation, and together, let us ensure this country’s promise is fully realized for every Native American. NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2013 as National Native American Heritage Month. I call upon all Americans to commemorate this month with appropriate programs and activities, and to celebrate November 29, 2013, as Native American Heritage Day.

    IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.


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