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Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

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    Jones Academy eighth graders learn outside the classroom

    Gear_up_2_web Eighth graders at Hartshorne Junior High have been active this fall with the GEAR UP program. The Hartshorne Junior High staff along with the GEAR UP sponsor, Racheal Ranallo, have taken the eighth graders on a couple of excursions outside the classroom.

    Field trips were made to the University of Oklahoma in Norman in October and the Battle of Honey Springs Battlefield Historic Site in November. The OU stop was hampered by rain; however, the students were able to go sightseeing, visiting the Barry Switzer Center and adjoining football facilities.

    Coach Marv Johnson gave the students a tour of the sports complex including the OU football players’ locker room, playback room and the football field. Students also made a stop at the Fred Jones, Jr. Fine Arts Museum located on the OU campus.

    The Battle of Honey Springs Battlefield Historic Site featured a civil war reenactment in Checotah the week of Nov. 9-10, 2013. The event was held to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the battle fought in 1863. Students were able to interact with civil war soldiers (reenactors,) tour the campsites, observe period pieces and relics and hear soldier fight music.

    The eighth graders saw shooting demonstrations as well as training on how to lead horses into battle. According to Ms. Ranallo, “The Battle of Honey Springs field trip was a success! Students were well-behaved and got to experience something new and different.”

    Hartshorne Eighth Graders visit the OU Gaylord Family Memorial Stadium

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    2014 Community Center Health Fair Schedule


    Center: Smithville Councilman: Kenny Bryant Date: 1-15-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: 11:30

    Center: Durant Councilman: Ted Dosh Date: 1-22-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: 11:30

    Center: Stigler Councilman: Ronald Perry Date: 2-5-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: 11:30

    Center: Atoka Councilman: Anthony Dillard Date: 2-12-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: 11:30

    Center: Coalgate Councilman: James Frazier Date: 2-26-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: Noon

    Center: Hugo Councilman: Perry Thompson Date: 3-12-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: Noon

    Center: Wright City Councilman: Jack Austin Date: 3-26-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: Noon

    Center: Antlers Councilman: Jack Austin Date: 4-9-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: 11:30

    Center: Spiro Councilman: Delton Cox Date: 4-16-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: 11:30


    Center: Idabel Councilman: Thomas Williston Date: 5-14-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: Noon

    Center: Broken Bow Councilman: Tony Messenger Date: 6-4-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: Noon

    Center: Poteau Councilman: Delton Cox Date: 7-9-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: Noon

    Center: Talihina Councilman: Kenny Bryant Date: 7-16-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: 11:30

    Center: Wilburton Councilman: Joe Coley Date: 8-6-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: 11:30

    Center: McAlester Councilman: Bob Pate Date: 9-10-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: 11:30

    Center: Bethel Councilman: Tony Messenger Date: 9-24-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: 11:30

    Center: Crowder Councilman: James Frazier Date: 10-15-14 Time: 10 a.m. Lunch: 11:30

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    Choctaw Nation responds to icy crisis

    Tribal Police Chainsaw Crew, Brant, Isaac and Randy, clean debris after the storm.

    Mother nature recently gave Choctaw Nation the cold shoulder in the form of a weeklong, multi-county ice storm beginning Dec. 6. Pushmataha, Choctaw, and northern McCurtain counties were hit hardest, with the rest of Southeastern Oklahoma experiencing difficulties as well.

    Power outages, icy roads and damage from falling tree limbs marred the week of the winter storm. According to reports from major electric providers – OGE, PSO, Choctaw Electric and Southeastern Electric – approximately 13,500 Oklahoma residents experienced loss of power for a period of time. Some even went without electricity for the duration of the storm and several days after.

    Daryl Holaday, director of Safety Management / Emergency Management, and Jeff Hansen, emergency manager for CNO, had been tracking the weather system as it moved closer to CNO’s 10.5 counties. Once certain the area was in for the winter chill, they began coordinating with other CNO departments to prepare for possible emergency response.

    The process of preparing for the worst began with securing large, trailer-pulled 100-120 kW generators and placing them at strategic locations based on where weather was forecast to be worst. CNO Tribal Police, Outreach workers and employees of Choctaw Housing Authority volunteered their time and were assigned to operate the Choctaw community centers, which were used as shelters.

    As the ice rolled into the area, so did calls of power outages. The Hugo and Antlers community centers opened their doors to provide shelter for those without power on Friday.

    Outreach_workers_web CNO Emergency Management then began coordinating with the local emergency managers in these areas, which were critical to CNO response efforts. The Red Cross also lent support in the form of cots and the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Cooking Crew began cooking, providing meals to those in need. The combined effort of these entities ensured that those who needed help got it.

    By Saturday, conditions had reached full force and many were unable to leave homes. Water supply was an issue for rural area residents who relied on well water, as many were still out of power and water pumps had frozen.

    In response to this fact, the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management supplied pallets of bottled water to town centers and CNO workers helped to distribute the supply.

    Meal delivery was coordinated to Boswell, Soper and Antlers. Pallets of water were also transported to Smithville, Bethel, Hugo and Antlers. By Sunday, all shelters were receiving food distribution.

    Food and water distribution continued into the next week with Antlers and Hugo seeing the majority of those needing assistance. As emergency workers were able to travel, smaller generators began to be delivered to those with immediate medical issues requiring electricity. Chainsaw crews also began removing debris from driveways, allowing residents to leave homes to obtain food and emergency vehicles to reach residents.

    “We want to make sure we can get emergency services to someone’s house,” Holaday said as he spoke about the importance of keeping driveways cleared of downed trees.

    As the week went on, conditions gradually improved and power was restored to some areas, creating less of a demand for assistance.

    Over the course of the event, the Antlers Choctaw community center housed anywhere from three to five people each night until Thursday, and provided almost 500 meals. The Hugo center housed from one to nine people a night and provided 423 meals, all while coordinating the pickup or delivery of 3,011 meals from the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Cooking Crew.

    During the ice storm, CNO proved that the time and effort invested in emergency management planning could make a substantial difference. “When an emergency occurs, we try to give it some level of organization,” said Hansen as he described the duties of his department.

    He went on to explain that in times such as this, there are usually many resources available, but without coordination, the utilization of said resources are not efficiently used and often duplicated when those involved don’t have specific instruction.

    Though material aid was essential, support from CNO employees and volunteers was equally necessary. Choctaw Housing Authority, Public Safety and Outreach Services employees, and many others were crucial in staffing shelters, distributing food and water, and securing items for special needs.

    Safety Specialist Shane Meshaya praised his team at the Antlers shelter for their dedication to the cause. He made note that the staff of the center had went above and beyond their job description. Meshaya feels that the staff “has been a resource for the community.” When folks needed a place to go, we were there, continued Meshaya.

    He was also quick to praise the efforts of other community entities such as the Antlers First Baptist Church, the Antlers Fire Department and Cowboy Church, all of which were a hub for those seeking aid in the wake of the storm.

    Community Health Representatives and nurses were on staff each day, some practically living at the center, ready and willing to help in any way they were able. Holaday, Hansen and Meshaya all praised the Antlers center for the degree to which it was prepared for such an event. Meshaya stated that the center had plenty of food ready and had “not had a shortage of anything.”

    “I’d love to see all our centers look like that one,” echoed Hansen.

    Angela_and_Oma_crop_web Not only well-equipped with supplies, Antlers also had dedicated employees such as Oma Clay and Angela James, Community Health Representatives from Rattan and Sobol. The two, along with other staff, ensured that there were always warm meals and clean facilities for people seeking refuge.

    “This is what our job is all about – helping people,” stated Clay.

    James, who had been without electricity since the initial frost, secured accommodations for her family, then sprang into action assisting Oma and delivering food. “I’m here to help the people,” she stated humbly.

    Among those assisted by the Antlers center is Howard Harty, who was referred the to the center by the Antlers hospital. Harty was in need of an oxygen supply due to complications with his lungs. Complete Care Medical provided access to a machine that generated oxygen and allowed him to reside at the center where he could access electricity.

    “They got me everything I needed,” said Harty as he praised the efforts of the CNO employees.

    Steve Bellairo, a resident of Moyers, was another grateful recipient of CNO aid. Bellairo’s house burned on Dec. 10, and a friend brought him to the center, where he found a place to stay and even assistance in finding a place to live after the shelter closed its doors. “They are helping a lot and I appreciate it,” said Bellairo as he exclaimed his appreciation.

    Holaday also reports of generator deliveries to those with urgent needs for electricity. McCurtain County Emergency Manager Greg Campbell made a special delivery to a paraplegic requiring power to operate essential medical equipment.

    Executive Director of Public Safety John Hobbs used CNO’s emergency response vehicle, the Bearcat, delivering a generator to a man with a heart condition who was also in need of power for his medical equipment. Nine other public safety employees joined Hobbs in delivering food and supplies and even acted as a chainsaw crew during the freeze. “We are just doing our part in serving and protecting,” Hobbs stated.

    Bearcat_web While using the Bearcat to make the trek from Durant to Hugo, Hobbs and his crew also pulled several vehicles out of ditches, which had slid off the road. Hobbs remarked that this feat would not have been possible with standard vehicles. “We could get places in [the Bearcat] that other people couldn’t.”

    The CNO Housing Authority was also instrumental in response efforts, coordinating resource allocation and assisting in emergency repairs. “We had a great response from a good number of our associates,” stated Housing Authority Executive Director Russell Sossamon.

    Many had their own problems with power outages, property damage or endangered livestock, but they stepped up to support our tribal members, Sossamon added. “I would like to commend our staff for their response.”

    As the ice thawed, the general sentiment of those responsible for the emergency effort was that procedures ran smoothly and efforts were efficient. “We know what it takes to make it through,” stated Holaday who cited other inclement weather conditions such as the Tushka tornado of 2011 and previous ice storms.

    A suggestion the Emergency Management team brought to light about preparing for future occurrences was better infrastructure – fortifying critical resources such as electricity by making sure trees are trimmed away from power lines.

    Holaday and Hansen both encourage strengthening the relationships between the Choctaw Nation, City and County governments, and local utilities to better prepare Choctaw communities in times of disaster. They also encourage tribal members to talk to their local utilities, and councilman if they see areas of vulnerability such as overgrown trees around power lines.

    The Emergency Management team also made mention that community centers should be the contacted first in area-wide cases of emergency. A list of community centers, the addresses and phone numbers can be found here.

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    ‘Iyyi Kowa’: A Choctaw Concept of Service

    A sketch of Iyyi Kowa by Ruby Bolding.

    With Christmas season and the coldest part of the year coming up, many are starting to turn their thoughts to helping people who are less fortunate. A willingness to help others in need, with no thought of getting something in return, is one of the more noble sentiments of the human heart. Serving others was very much a part of Choctaw traditional life. However, the original Choctaw way of serving was a little different from what we may see at Christmas time today, in that rather than being a special focus during a certain time of the year, this service was an innate part of the Choctaw lifestyle and culture, year round. This month’s edition of Iti Fabvssa presents a Choctaw concept of communal service, known as “Iyyi Kowa.”

    In the Choctaw language “Iyyi Kowa,” literally means “broken foot.” This may seem like a strange name, but this term refers to those people who are injured, sick, or otherwise incapable doing essential activities. The implication of Iyyi Kowa is that those with “broken feet” will receive the assistance they need. Yet, Iyyi Kowa has roots that go far below the surface meaning, and are in fact as deep as Choctaw culture itself.

    Up until around the turn of the 19th century, most Choctaw people lived in villages with family and friends, whom they saw nearly every day of their lives. Back in those times, there was no concept of land ownership or of wages or of financial debt, and there was no time clock to punch. Their mindset was such that rather than idealizing wealthy people, as we generally do today, they looked down on them as selfish individuals focused on themselves instead of the people around them. Such a person might be ridiculed as a “nan ihullo,” a “lover of things.” Choctaw insults don’t get much worse than that.

    Rather than working to amass wealth, Choctaw people of this time period worked at the task of living itself, providing the food and materials that their communities needed to live comfortably. They often made their tasks more pleasant by working in groups with laughing, joking, and the work itself building camaraderie. They worked in such teams to build houses for neighbors, to build defensive works around villages, to prepare agricultural fields, to plant, tend, and harvest crops, and probably other things too. With this manner of working, everyone was a part of the team, and given a way to contribute in line with his or her resources and abilities. With group work, community members who needed extra labor assistance could get it without being looked down on. Similarly, because sharing was viewed as better than possessing, community members in need of material items would likely receive them. All of this might seem like a lot of trouble, but in reality, when the needs of every family in the community had been met, our ancestors were still left with far more time for leisure, artwork, exercise, and fun than our “advanced” society allows us today. At the time, there may not have even been a specific name for this concept of communal work and service. It was probably just taken for granted as a normal behavior.

    When Europeans came, they brought the teachings of Christianity, but also brought and imposed their own concept of being separate from one’s neighbor. As early as the late 1700s, the U.S. agent to the Choctaws began to encourage Choctaw families to move out of the ancient villages and start setting up separate homesteads, as Europeans did. By the early 1900s, when Choctaw lands were broken up and allotted to individual people in dispersed areas, the Choctaw concept of community was dramatically changed to fit the European concept. Now, instead of seeing and working with neighbors every day, families had to be self-sufficient.

    Self sufficiency had its advantages, but also meant that an injury to a key family member during the wrong time of year might mean that family couldn’t plant or harvest the crops needed for its survival, or that it couldn’t butcher and preserve meat for the next year. Then of course, there was always the threat of an unexpected catastrophe, like a chimney fire that could literally leave a family out in the cold.

    When families of the early 1900s came into serious need, the Choctaw community would take a step back in time, to the original Choctaw concept of community service and organize an “Iyyi Kowa,” On an appointed day, the community would get together and bring the needed workforce and materials to help the family meet its needs. At Iyyi Kowa, everyone had a job, from doing the work itself, to cooking for the workers, to keeping the cooking fire going. It was a time of good spirit and friendship, where people worked hard, but also laughed and upheld the other people working with them. In the end, the work would be done; the family would have its need met, and the community bonds would be stronger. Through Iyyi Kowa, just as in the old Choctaw way, people did not look down on those who needed help, making them feel ashamed. Rather, they showed them that they were valued members of the community, and, by getting them back on their feet, empowered them to help others.

    Olin Williams, today a part of the Choctaw Nation Historic Preservation Department, grew up in the Tiak Hikia community in Mississippi, in the 1950s and 1960s, when Iyyi Kowa were still regularly hosted there. He participated in them on a monthly basis as a child and considered them one of his favorite things to do. The following interview with Mr. Williams presents some of his memories and thoughts:

    What was Iyyi Kowa like? To me, it was the only event that I looked forward to because it meant that folks were going to be generous, not just with things but in labor. You saw the best in people come out. Just Choctaws being Choctaws.

    What did you do at Iyyi Kowa? I did tasks that helped out the adults in what they were doing. If they needed fire, I got the wood. If they needed water, I’d get it from the well. Usually, the men worked outside. I’d help them and then get the stove wood for the ladies. In between the chores, we’d play a game of stickball or tag. If it was a hog killing, our job was to make sure the fire and the water were supplied. Hog killing was done on a cold day, so you had to be ready.

    How did it make you feel? I felt useful. I felt like part of a unit. I felt like I was contributing to my own reward. I felt like that was the highest form of Choctaw social life because it brought out the best in everyone.

    How could we go about bringing back the spirit of Iyyi Kowa today? I think first, we have to educate about what Iyyi Kowa means. Then, as cultural people, if we can do the service ourselves, we can recapture some of our cultural ideals. It would help bring pride back, along with a sense of community and family. Iyyi Kowa is vital in preserving our culture.

    Today, many of the services once provided by Iyyi Kowa are provided by programs offered by Choctaw Nation, to Tribal members as well as the community at large. This organized system does a great deal of good, however, we should never use that as an excuse to be complacent in helping people in need on a family to family basis. There are opportunities all around us not just in December but also throughout the year. In such communal service, we have the opportunity to uncover the core of Choctaw culture in a timeless way because the value of service is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

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    Spring 2014 Distance learning GED class information

    GED_classes_3x10_update_JAN_2013_ 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. Also, you may register the first day of class on Jan. 6.

    A Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB) is required. Please bring your CDIB card, social security card and state-issued ID to the first day of class.

    All classes will begin January 6, 2014, 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.

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    Choctaw Business Development Center to assist local young professionals group

    Durant_Young_Professionals_Flyer_2014_Kickoff The first Durant Young Professionals event of 2014 will occur on Tuesday, January 14, at 6:00 pm in the Yannish Room of the Choctaw Inn, 3735 Choctaw Road, Durant, OK. The Choctaw Business Development Center will sponsor the event, and food will be provided.

    This meeting will serve as an annual business meeting for Durant Young Professionals. Area professionals will have the opportunity to renew their membership dues for 2014. All members in good standing will then have the opportunity to run and vote in officer elections. Membership dues for the whole year are $20 for members of the Durant Area Chamber of Commerce, and $25 for nonmembers. Cash and checks will be accepted.

    In addition to officer elections, there will also be a business presentation from the Choctaw Business Development Center. DYP members will learn about business and entrepreneurial skills, as well as interact one-on-one with established entrepreneurs! Come prepared to ask questions about how you can successfully create your own start-up business!

    For more information on the January event, visit Durant Young Professionals on Facebook or contact the Durant Area Chamber of Commerce at (580) 924-0848, or email

    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 DYP 2014 Kickoff 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.”

    Please contact Janet Reed, Durant Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, or Sara-Jane Smallwood, Durant Young Professionals President, for further information or to schedule an interview. Ms. Reed can be reached at and Ms. Smallwood can be reached at ssmallwood@choctawnation.

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    Choctaw Nation Assists with EAST@KTC Beyond the Bell Program

    After numerous delays due to weather, the EAST@KTC program will begin their Beyond the Bell “Totally Teched Out” Camp this coming Monday, January 13 at the Kiamichi Technology Campus in Talihina. The EAST students are very excited to offer this camp to local 5th-8th grade students in their community and are ready to teach them about the technology used in GIS/GPS, Story Mapping, Videography and Digital Photography. Ryan Spring, former EAST student from Mena, Ark., and now GIS Specialist for the Choctaw Nation, will be conducting a short refresher course for the EAST students this week in GIS and how to utilize the GIS units to gather data and create maps that tell a story.

    The EAST@KTC program and their facilitator, Carrie Kirkes, would also like to thank the Choctaw Nation who recently awarded the program a donation, used to purchase items to assist in making the camp a success. There are still a few slots left in the camp; if you have a student in this age range, contact Mrs. Kirkes at 918-567-2264, ext. 122 to sign up. The camp runs Monday, Jan. 13, through Thursday, Jan. 16, from 4:00 – 8:00 p.m. each day. A light dinner will be served to campers each day.

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    Choctaw Nation Youth Work Program Now Taking Applications

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Workforce Investment Act Program offers young adults an opportunity to establish a foundation for success in the workplace. The youth program is designed to introduce workers into the workforce and assist with the development of behaviors and attributes to become a successful employee. Employers are seeking individuals with good communication skills, honesty, work ethic, professionalism, positive attitude and are self-motivated.

    WIA students at the summit which kicks off the summer program

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has made revisions to the upcoming youth work program effective Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013. The constraints placed upon employers by Child Labor Laws have made development of these skills more challenging. This challenge initiated the upcoming changes to the Choctaw Nation Youth Work Program. Child Labor Laws prohibit teen workers under the age of 16 to participate in job activities which are potentially harmful. For this reason, revisions have been made to the youth work program. Please note the decision was made to grandfather all youth work program participants who successfully completed the youth work program in 2013.

    These changes will effect new applicants for the program. All new applicants must be 16 years or older on or before Monday June 9th to be apply for the 2014 Youth Work Program. Program guidelines still apply to all applicants for the program. Beginning January 2014, participants who successfully completed the youth work program will be permitted to work this year. Renewal applications will be accepted from participant’s ages 14 and 15 years of age who worked and successfully completed the youth work program in 2013. Renewal applications have been mailed out to all participants who worked last year.

    Applications are available at all Choctaw Nation Field offices, downloaded here or by contacting the WIA office. All applications must be in the Durant office, complete and approved by the deadline of April 1, 2014.

    Original applications is required for all new applicants. Application processing can take up to 10 days. If you have not been contacted via mail with the status of your application, call the WIA office at 1-800-522-6170. Please mail original application in a timely manner to meet the deadline of April 1, 2014.

    Renewals applications can be faxed or mailed.

    You may contact the WIA office at: 1-800-522-6170

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    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma designated a ‘Promise Zone’

    President Barack Obama announced the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma as one of five locations designated by his administration for its “Promise Zone” initiative, a new anti-poverty program meant to provide resources such as grants and tax incentives to help improve conditions in persistently high poverty communities.

    12_District_Map_web Choctaw Chief Gregory E. Pyle said, “I am very thankful that the Choctaw Nation and partners have been awarded the Promise Zone designation. We are blessed to work with many state, regional, county, municipal, school, and university partners who, along with the Choctaw Nation, believe that great things can occur to lift everyone in Southeastern Oklahoma when we work together.

    “This designation will assist ongoing efforts to emphasize small business development and bring economic opportunity to the high-need communities. I am confident that access to the technical assistance and resources offered by the Promise Zone designation will result in better lifestyles for people living and working within the Choctaw Nation.”

    The Choctaw Nation has shown tremendous improvement in the region in the past decades by making effective change with more than 5,000 education scholarships annually and creation of jobs through economic development throughout Choctaw Nation. Plans for the future include providing even more education and economic opportunities through this initiative. Projects on the radar have potential to develop tourism and small businesses in Southeast Oklahoma as well.

    The Choctaw Nation has been active in communities by building fire departments, donating to law enforcement agencies and schools and initiating programs like the summer school program. “The Tribal Council is excited to hear about the Promise Zone effort and anxious to implement even more revitalization efforts in their districts,” said Chief Pyle.

    The President first announced the Promise Zone Initiative during last year’s State of the Union Address, as a way to partner with local communities and businesses to create jobs, increase economic security, expand access to educational opportunities and quality, affordable housing and improve public safety. This announcement will be a critical step forward in delivering on this commitment, according to a White House release.

    The Promise Zone region is an important initiative; it identifies census tracts that experience high poverty and other challenging demographics. These areas are in several southeastern Oklahoma counties, including Atoka, Bryan, Coal, Choctaw, Haskell, Latimer, LeFlore, McCurtain, Pittsburg, and Pushmataha. Of the census tracts involved, nine have poverty rates over 30 percent, the highest of which is a staggering 52.8 percent.

    The goals of this initiative include attracting private investment, improving affordable housing availability, improving educational opportunities, reducing serious and violent crimes, and assisting local and tribal leaders in navigating federal programs and cutting through red tape.

    This designation provides benefits such as technical assistance, federal staff support, more extensive preference points and access to other federal grants programs, and may also provide the Promise Zones tax credit where private businesses would receive tax incentives for hiring and investing in Promise Zones, to create jobs and attract additional private investments.

    The initiative is sponsored by several federal agencies including the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Justice, Housing, and Education.

    The Choctaw Nation has worked to unite government officials, local leaders, and economic development groups across southeast Oklahoma to serve on a committee that will work together through the Promise Zones initiative to create a long-term vision and guidance plan that will best meet the needs of our communities.

    In addition to the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, San Antonio, Texas; Philadelphia; Los Angeles; and southeastern Kentucky were also included in the Promise Zone designation.

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    Choctaw Nation hosting E-Waste recycling event in Hugo

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma will be hosting an electronic waste (e-waste) recycling event in an effort to reduce the amount of reusable raw materials placed in landfills.

    Recycle_Hugo_Web The event will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 11, at the Choctaw Tribal Services, 304 Chahta Circle in Hugo.

    Each collection will allow those seeking to dispose of electronic waste to do so in an environmentally safe fashion. E-Waste is the most rapidly growing segment of the municipal waste stream. It is produced when electronic products from homes, schools, and businesses become obsolete or no longer functional and need to be discarded.

    E-Waste contains many valuable, recoverable resources such as aluminum, copper, gold, silver, plastics and ferrous metals, all of which require considerable energy to process and manufacture. Recycling old, unwanted electronics conserves natural resources, helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, and saves energy and raw material resources. Recycling also prevents the toxic chemicals found in electronic components (mercury, lead, cadmium, beryllium and chromium) from leaching into our soil when land filled.

    In observance with these facts, the Choctaw Nation encourages everyone to take part in this environmentally conscious effort. “ We want to make a difference in the environment by diverting waste from the landfill and we hope with events like this that all citizens will get involved to make Oklahoma cleaner and greener,” said Tracy Horst.

    To put things in perspective, Choctaw Nation Recycling would like everyone to remember that, “Recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by 3,657 homes in the United States in a year. For every one million cell phones recycled 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 of silver, 75 of gold, and 33 of palladium can be recovered.”

    Acceptable items for recycling include:

    • Personal computers
    • Laptops & Notebooks
    • CRT Monitors
    • Flat screen monitors
    • Keyboards & mice
    • Printers & copiers
    • Toner & ink cartridges
    • Fax Machines
    • Peripherals & gadgets
    • Power supplies & chargers
    • UPS systems
    • Cables & wires
    • Networking equipment
    • Servers & racks
    • Hard drive wipe ($20 fee)
    • Small kitchen appliances
    • Refrigerators
    • Washers/dryers
    • Other appliances (all sizes)
    • Multi-media equipment
    • Gaming equipment
    • CD’s & video tapes
    • Digital cameras
    • Cell phones & PDAs
    • Small electronic devices
    • TV’s: tube and flat screens
    • Rechargeable batteries
    • Auto batteries
    • Fitness equipment
    • Medical equipment

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    Childhood cancer survivor works toward career in cancer research

    Nathan Sweeney recipient of $20,000 Chahta Foundation doctorate scholarship

    “I hope my name becomes synonymous with cancer research,” says Nathan Sweeney, a 30-year-old graduate student studying for his Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz.

    Nathan Sweeney with his wife, Linnley,
    and their chocolate Labrador, Reese.

    One tool Sweeney is using to help realize that dream is a $20,000 doctoral scholarship awarded to him by the Chahta Foundation this past year. Sweeney was one of seven recipients of the scholarship, which was awarded for the first time in 2013.

    Sweeney’s path to choosing a career in cancer research was one that began for him when he was just a toddler. “I chose to pursue a degree in cancer biology because of my childhood,” he explains. “When I was 16 months [old] I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.”

    Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow and the most common type of childhood cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. After a year-and-a-half-long battle and treatments, doctors declared Sweeney cured of his leukemia.

    “My parents rejoiced!” he says, but the family’s time of celebration was short-lived. Sweeney’s leukemia returned just a brief six months later – only this time the cancer was a more aggressive form, taking its toll for a much longer period of time than his first bout.

    “I was a fortunate patient [though,]” says Sweeney, optimistically. “After I battled it for five years I went into remission and I’ve been in remission ever since. And I believe after you’ve been in remission for 10 years then you’re called a long-term survivor. I proudly say I’m a long-term survivor.”

    This fight during his childhood is what brought him to where he is today, pursuing his doctorate in cancer research so that he can, in his words, “get the last laugh” when it comes to cancer.

    “I want to make it so receiving the news of the diagnosis of cancer is not as difficult to take,” he says, “that people will know that there are treatments out there. I want to be a part of that.”

    After he graduates, which he expects to do in 2017, he plans to continue with his current work in a cancer prevention lab where he studies colon cancer. “I find it very exciting,” he says. “I enjoy it. There are good things happening and great things to come. It’s such an exciting field to be in, not just prevention but cancer research in general. There are a lot of remarkable people working in this field and it’s a good place to be. There are a lot of good things to come so stay tuned!”

    He says he’s incredibly grateful for the scholarship he received from the Chahta Foundation, which he considers a gift. “It’s something that’s precious to me; something that I cherish and I work hard every day to be worthy of this gift.”

    He applied for the scholarship a year ago after reading a notification on Facebook advertising the education opportunities available from the foundation. For the Fall 2013 semester, the Chahta Foundation offered the Chahta Doctorate Scholarship to a student who had been accepted into the doctorate program of their choice.

    “I knew it was going to be difficult because I knew there’d be a lot of qualified applicants,” he says, but he thought he’d give it a shot. A lot of qualified applicants indeed, according to Chahta Foundation Scholarship Specialist Scott Wesley.

    “We initially planned to give one scholarship but we received so many qualified, deserving applicants that we decided to award seven,” Wesley says. “Our board came together and quickly raised the money to fund the other six for a total of seven doctorate scholarships.”

    Sweeney says he was “deeply honored and overwhelmed with emotion” when he received the award. “It’s been a great blessing in my life and wife [Linnley’s] life, and my chocolate lab, Reese’s, life,” he says. “We have been so touched by it.

    “It’s made everything possible. It’s enabled me to pursue my dream of cancer research. I just hope that I’m able to be an example of the Choctaw people and the Chahta Foundation,” an example he says was set for him by his late grandfather, Rufus Sweeney.

    His grandfather was his hero. It is through him that he receives his Choctaw heritage and Sweeney says he tries to be like him every day. “He was an example of love, of kindness, of charity and hard work. He’s the kind of person who said when you do it, do it right and do it right the first time and have fun while you do it.”

    Sweeney relayed a story about his grandfather that was told by a cousin at their grandfather’s funeral. Sweeney’s cousin was serving in Iraq, feeling homesick, when he received a small care package from his grandfather. Inside was a single, carefully wrapped Symphony chocolate bar, his cousin’s favorite and one unavailable where he was currently serving.

    This simple gesture spoke volumes to his cousin and to Sweeney as well.

    “I think this tells you two things about my grandpa,” Sweeney says. “One, that he knows your favorite kind of chocolate bar, and two, that he knows when you’re homesick and when you need to feel that you’re loved.”

    He said his cousin went on to say that no matter the distance they were from their grandfather, his love was always felt.

    “And I don’t think my grandfather can be any farther away than he is now but I don’t think I’ve ever felt his love more strongly than I do now. I miss my grandpa and I strive every day to emulate the person that he was by the way that I live.”

    One way Sweeney does this is through his work.

    Sweeney says, “I hope when you hear my name again it’s tied to my discoveries or to my work that I’ve done and I hope to make the Choctaw people and the Choctaw Nation proud.”

    Chahta Foundation Director Stacy Shepherd added, “This is what it’s all about –helping a Choctaw student achieve his or her unique potential. There are many more stories like Nathan’s that need to be told. Chahta scholarships create a means for strengthening Choctaws and expanding their opportunities.”

    The Chahta Foundation is again offering the scholarships this year – the Chahta Masters Scholarship in the amount of $12,000, and the Chahta Doctorate Scholarship of $20,000. The application period is open from Jan. 15 to March 31. All applications and more information can be found at Anyone with questions can call the Chahta Foundation at 1-800-522-6170, ext. 2546.

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  • 01/10/14--08:22: A leader with a green thumb
  • A leader with a green thumb

    Councilman Dillard utilizes his agriculture background to better his community

    A favorite part of being a Choctaw Nation Tribal Council member is looking ahead, trying to plan for the future and truly being able to help people when they are in need, according to District 10 Councilman Anthony Dillard.

    Anthony“If somebody comes to you and needs help for whatever circumstance, whether it’s health related or job related,” he explains, “and you’re able to help – that’s what keeps you coming in. It’s those success stories.” He says he’s glad to be able to assist tribal members in utilizing the numerous programs the Choctaw Nation has to offer. Dillard was born in Talihina to Glen and Christine Dillard. He was raised in Caney and attended school there, graduating from Caney High School in 1986.

    After graduation, he earned a Federal Junior Fellowship through the USDA to work at the OSU/USDA Wes Watkins Research and Extension Center in Lane. Dillard says that part of the fellowship was to go to college and take classes that would benefit his position at the research center.

    He attended school at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, then transferred to Oklahoma State University (OSU) in Stillwater where he graduated in 1991 with a bachelors degree in horticulture.

    It was during his time at Southeastern that he met his future wife, Janie. Dillard was employed at the Choctaw Nation Bingo Hall in Durant, where Janie also worked in management. He transferred to OSU and upon moving back home after graduation he began to date Janie. They married in July of 1995, and he became stepfather to Janie’s two sons, Toby and Brad. Today, he and Janie are also grandparents to four grandchildren.

    Also after graduation, he went back to work at the research center as a research technician. There, his work emphasized on several different disciplines of agriculture research, from genetics, plant pathology and molecular genetics. “I knew that I wanted to stay in this area and it was a good job for the area,” says Dillard about his job at the research center.

    He was employed there for a total of 20 years, working there following his senior year of high school, then his college fellowship, and his post college days, until he was elected councilman in 2005. He stayed on part-time for a year after he was elected. “Doing research has probably helped being on council considerably because of the problem solving that the position entails,” he says.

    The councilman position is a legislative arm of the tribal government for the Choctaw Nation with numerous responsibilities, such as approving annual budgets for over a hundred different programs. This position also consists of program oversight, approving laws that govern the tribe and providing leadership to help guide the tribe into the future.

    “You look at the council position and might think it to be just passing council bills and worrying about the finances,” Dillard explains, “but you also dive into a lot of social work when you start talking about different individuals, with their needs or what’s going on in their lives and what they need help with. So you end up doing a lot of social work as well.”

    Dillard’s service area includes Atoka, northern Bryan and southern Pittsburg counties and is currently serving his second term in office.

    Dillard helps prepare the meal
    at a community meeting

    Dillard serves on many community boards in the Atoka area, such as the Atoka County Tornado Organization for Recovery, or ACTOR, after an F3 tornado went through his district, Southeastern Electric Co-op Board of Directors, Atoka County Rural Water District #3 and Oklahoma Southeast Economic Development Board. He has also served on the Caney school board and Atoka County Fair Board, which he says helped prepare him for the office of councilman.

    He thinks that the agriculture department is very valuable and is an extremely positive activity for kids to be involved in during school. “If you’re not showing animals and just doing the leadership aspect of FFA, it is also very valuable as far as the speech contests, getting up in front of people and the ability to be able to do that will help you in the future. It can help your success as a young person and open a lot more doors for you.”

    Because of Dillard’s agriculture background, he was eager to tell about the community garden he helped start about four years ago. Since the Atoka Community Center didn’t have a place for a garden at its former location, Dillard asked the research center in Lane, a town approximately 11 miles to the east, if they would help with space for the garden. He would help supplement the garden and assist as needed. Dillard said it worked well until the research center closed.

    Upon building the community center at a new location though, the garden was also relocated. Dillard was pleased to say that the Atoka Community Center has been approved to build a greenhouse at the location. Along with the greenhouse, “it would be nice to able to do some stuff throughout the winter,” Dillard says, “but also where we can grow transplants for our seniors to plant for their own gardens and help supply them.”

    This year, with the help from several of the seniors and employee Kendra Sparks, they were able to can a lot of dill pickles, made from cucumbers from their community garden. Dillard’s aunt and uncle gave him a delicious recipe for the pickles. He says he has canned pickles in the past, but nothing like this recipe.

    The food out of the garden is shared amongst the seniors, Dillard says. “It’s good because we are promoting our culture,” he says. “[Choctaws] were a farming culture. There are so many things about our ancestors’ way of life that we really should be embracing, such as living off the land, and that’s what we try to do with our community garden.”

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    A helping hand at the holidays

    The Choctaw Nation Outreach Services reached out to Choctaw families and our communities during this Holiday season:

    • Distributed 3,009 Thanksgiving food vouchers
    • Distributed 3,526 Christmas food vouchers
    • Distributed 240 Elder Angels Christmas gifts
    • Distributed 150 pairs of donated shoes to youth in the Youth Outreach Program
    • Distributed 75 donated coats and hoodies to youth in the Youth Outreach Program
    • Delivered 140 donated presents to the Little Chahta Angels in the Youth Outreach Program
    • Home specialists assisted 43 families in making applications for the Choctaw Christmas for Needy Children
    • Assisted with the Choctaw Nation heating stations/shelters during ice storms at Hugo and Antlers Community Centers: Dec. 6-11 Winter Storm 2013 the Choctaw Nation assisted with the Red Cross, Southern Baptist Relief Team and Hugo/Antlers Choctaw Community Centers (Councilmen Perry Thompson and Jack Austin.)
    • A total of 918 meals served at the Antlers and Hugo warming centers which included breakfast, lunch, and dinner with 50 residents staying through Dec. 6-11.
    • Volunteer shift hours were broken up into four shifts with six hours per shift each day. Two to four workers, male and female at the Choctaw Community Center Warming Shelter in Hugo and two shifts of seven hours each day per shift and one 10 hour shift for the overnight hour, with two to three workers, male and female, at the Antlers Choctaw Nation Community Warming Shelter. Choctaw Nation volunteers included staff from Outreach Services, Casino Security Officers, Housing Authority, Tribal Police, Health Services, and the Safety Department.

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    Alaska Pacific University Fly-In Opportunity for Choctaw SAP Students

    alaska-pacific-university-logo SAP is partnering with Alaska Pacific University to sponsor select Choctaw students who are high school juniors to visit their campus February 7-9 during their APU Experience program.

    Alaska Pacific University is a small, private, regional university in Anchorage, Alaska. They have a thriving Native American community and are actively recruiting Choctaw students. There are several faculty and staff from Oklahoma and they believe it’s a great fit for many of our students.

    The APU Experience (open house) events are designed to provide future students with a true glimpse of life at APU. From classroom engagement and campus activities, to Anchorage and the awe-inspiring natural environment in which we live, APU experience participants will experience higher education as it was meant to be.

    In order to be considered, Choctaw students must complete this application and return to Stephanie Gardner no later than January 20th.

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    Choctaw Nation announces Youth Stickball League

    The Choctaw Nation Youth Stickball league is now accepting applications for its inaugural 2014 season. Children ages 8 to 17 are invited to sign up.

    DSC_0614_web The league is made up of four teams in locations across the Choctaw Nation: Koi-Iskitini in Talihina, Hiloha Ossi (Little Thunder) in Broken Bow, Nashoba Homma in the Hugo/Antlers area, and Osi Heli (Flying Eagles) in Durant.

    Games will be played every other Saturday beginning Feb. 22 and will run through April 5.

    The league is open to both Native and non-Native players. All uniforms and gear will be provided with the exception of mouth pieces/guards.

    Registration closes on Jan. 31. For applications and more information, download the form here or call the head coach in your area:

    • Talihina area – Mikey Melton 918-318-0785
    • Broken Bow/McCurtain County area – Stanley Shomo 580-584-3636
    • Hugo/Antlers area – Jason James 580-743-3322
    • Durant area – Jared Tom 580-236-1920

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    Students tackle community projects with technology

    Choctaw Nation GIS Specialist Ryan Spring gives the students a tutorial.

    The Talihina Kiamichi Technology Center auditorium filled with friends and family of students who took part in the Beyond the Bell: Totally Teched Out Camp on the evening of Jan. 21, for the showcase and celebration of the work completed during the camp.

    “We did a lot in four days,” stated Carrie Kirkes, a facilitator for the program, which experienced its inaugural run with considerable success and positive reception.

    During the camp, which ran each evening from Jan. 13-16, students in grades 6-8 were able to take their interest in technology and produce useful services for the community.

    Tuesday’s event, consisting of dinner and presentations, was a showcase of the in-depth work completed during the four-day span. The presentations included videos recorded and edited by the students using industry standard hardware and software; graphic work utilizing photos taken by students and Adobe Photoshop; and detailed maps created by Geographical Information Systems (GIS), a widely used technology used to map complicated areas.

    Students who were a part of the program were excited to show their work and inspired to investigate further into how technology can influence their future.

    Moreland describes how maps are made using GIS

    “I am definitely going to keep trying this,” exclaimed Preston Moreland, a seventh grade student at Talihina School. Moreland, who gave a quick explanation on how GIS mapping can benefit community projects, explained that he enjoyed being able to use the equipment to tell a story.

    The story told was that of the Choctaw Nation Capitol Grounds and Museum, located near Tuskahoma. This historical site, which receives a steady amount of visitation during the year, had little information describing what guests should expect prior to a visit. The students saw an opportunity to assist a landmark in the community, all while improving their knowledgebase.

    Over the course of the program, students divided into three groups: video, photography/graphics, and GIS. These groups were led by juniors and seniors of area schools who are members of the Environmental And Spatial Technology (EAST) Initiative, a program based on education through the use of technology.

    EAST is a project-based curriculum according to Kirkes. It serves as a half-day alternative to conventional education for upperclassmen in high school who are interested in the utilization of technology for real-world implementation. More information about EAST is available on their website at

    The group grabs a quick picture before
    gathering content for their project

    Justin McClellan, a senior at Talihina High School and EAST participant who assisted students with the GIS portion of the project, mentioned that even though he was teaching he still learned from the experience.

    As the teams connected their creations with newfound skill, the entire vision of the project came to fruition in the form of promotional materials for the Choctaw Capitol Museum. The students produced a hard copy brochure featuring a layout of the grounds and descriptions of the landmarks guests will find while they explore.

    An interactive digital map was also included in the finished product. Potential guests will now be able to access a virtual tour of the capitol grounds online before they visit.

    “This will be utilized worldwide,” stated Museum Director Regina Green as she expressed how impressed she was with the students’ creations.

    Totally Teched Out was funded by the EAST Beyond the Bell Grant made possible by the EAST Initiative and the Arkansas Department of Education, and was the first Beyond the Bell program to occur outside the state of Arkansas. The facilities of the Kiamichi Technology Center were utilized to facilitate this project.

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma also contributed to the effort, providing funds for meals and shirts. Kirkes stated that she was very thankful for the support provided by the tribe and looks forward to working together in the future.

    This is the printed version of the map created for the capitol grounds. Click the image to view the interactive digital version.

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  • 01/15/14--10:29: Choctaw Means Business
  • Choctaw Means Business

    The Choctaw Nation is experiencing what some are calling a “Choctaw Renaissance” in Southeast Oklahoma. More specifically, the Nation is becoming a significant economic force as more Choctaw become entrepreneurs by starting their own businesses.

    For those who follow Choctaw history, this resurgence shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Choctaw have a strong history of doing business. As early as 1700, the tribe developed a strong economy based on farming and selling goods and livestock to the Europeans. Trade between the Choctaws and other Southeastern tribes had long been established. In years past, the primary business centered around agriculture and it is still a strong component of the Tribal economy today.

    While the Tribe is known for gaming, there are new and established businesses in many industry sectors including retail, cultural arts, technology and food. However, a range of challenges remain for members that desire the rewards of business ownership including business education, mentoring, access to capital and many others.

    Because entrepreneurship is critical to the future of the Nation, Chief Gregory E. Pyle has commissioned the Choctaw Business Development Center (CBDC) to provide assistance and support for Tribal members that want to start a new business or take their existing business to the next level.

    “The CBDC is a catalyst for job creation in Southeast Oklahoma” states Bill Wimberley, Chief Business & Economic Development Officer for Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. “But it’s really much more than that. Creating jobs is a means to an end. We are focused on sustainability for the Choctaw People.”

    The CBDC’s mission is to “…provide one-to-one business counseling, economic development assistance and development to both aspiring and existing Choctaw entrepreneurs. This support includes counseling, development and support services concerning the formation, management and operation of businesses, all in partnership with existing Choctaw Nation programs.”

    Aspiring entrepreneurs can apply to the CBDC through the Center’s website. Each application is evaluated by the center’s staff to evaluate the applicant’s business readiness and ensure the best fit.

    At this time, the Choctaw Business Development Center has two primary “tracks” for aspiring entrepreneurs: Incubation and Acceleration. Each track is designed to build critical business skills as members gain traction in their business.


    Designed for the advanced hobbyist or person who has a business concept but isn’t sure how to take the idea and leverage it into revenue. Often these businesses have been family run enterprises for many years, but have never created a business plan, financial model or marketing plan. The Incubate track provides simple to follow workshops and one-on-one time with experienced business people who provide mentoring.


    This track is for the business that has revenue, some level of planning and is looking to get to the “next level”. This “next level” might be revenue, profit, jobs created or any number of other metrics depending on the business. The idea is to strengthen what is working well and address any weaknesses to better prepare the business for growth and/or partnership to better compete in a larger market.

    Each track builds on the previous track. For example, a business that is in its infancy would enter the Incubate track and after ninety days of mentoring and support, graduate to the Accelerate track to further build on the opportunity. The CBDC is designed to take a lot of the guess work out of the process.

    For those not ready to enter the CBDC’s program tracks, the Center works closely with Jill Reyna, coordinator for The Native American Business Resource Center. The NABRC offers extensive training and workshops for Choctaw who desire to start their own business. According to Reyna, “The first thing I do is have a one on one counseling session where we discuss the type of business they are thinking of starting, the background they have and then the next steps they would take to start a business.”

    A unique aspect to the Choctaw Business Development Center is that it also originates businesses, developing and deploying business concepts completely within the Center.

    “We come across different opportunities that are isolated. On their own, they are not going to turn into businesses.” says Wimberley. “But from our purview, we can connect those opportunities into unique business concepts and literally create a business from the ground up.” For these “originated” businesses, the CBDC will hire from within the Tribal community to run and work in these businesses.

    “We understand the challenges faced when it comes to starting businesses and finding employment, but also know the unique strengths Choctaw people can bring to the business world,” says Wimberley.

    The Choctaw Business Development Center’s mission is to provide one-on-one business counseling, economic development assistance and technical support to Choctaw entrepreneurs.

    The CBDC provides aspiring and existing Choctaw businesses with services focused on counseling, development and support services to support the formation, management and operation of Choctaw-owned businesses.

    If you wish to start a business or take you existing business to the next level, the CBDC can help.

    Qualified applicants receive one-on-one mentoring, entrepreneurial development, business planning support and much more. Learn more at

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    2014 OK-INBRE Summer Program for Science Majors

    OK-INBRE If you are a science major who will have completed at least four semesters of core science classes by summer 2014, and are interested in earning $5000 while gaining 9 weeks of biomedical research experience, you are eligible to apply for an OK-INBRE 2014 Summer Internship. In addition to contributing to scientific research, the program is designed to give you a chance to see if you might want to choose to pursue research or a biomedical PhD as part of your future career.

    If you are interested, please read the attached document for more information , and email or mail the application and required supporting information to the addresses indicated. Applications must be post-marked (preferably e-mailed) by THIS Friday (January 31, 2014). You should also ask the registrar’s office to mail a copy of your transcript to the indicated address, and ask two faculty members to send letter of reference.

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    Annual Career Expo set for McAlester

    “Winds of Change!” is the theme for the 7th Annual Career Expo. The event will be held at the Southeast Expo Center in McAlester, Oklahoma, on Wednesday February 26, 2014 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Career Expo creates an opportunity for job seekers and students to connect with employers and college or training facility representatives at more than 140 booth spaces. There will be something for everyone at the career expo!

    This year’s guest speaker is Mr. Brian Aspell, Vice President of Champion Cooler, Denison, TX. Brian will be presenting his inspiring story of overcoming obstacles and pursuing his dreams in “From the Hood to VIP”. Recently, Brian received the 2011-2012 Friend of Education Award from Denison ISD and 2012 Employer of the Year for the state of Texas, awarded by the Texas Workforce Commission. Brian is largely credited for implementing internships for high school students and recent graduates in which they are placed in technical positions within the Denison area.

    The focus of the Career Expo is to connect job seekers with employment and training opportunities available throughout the region. Hiring representatives will be onsite from such businesses as: Trinity Industries, Tyson, Tulsa Life Flight, State of Oklahoma, Kelworth Trucking, and Choctaw Casinos to name a few. There will also be representatives from colleges and training centers. Some of those attending include: Oklahoma City University, Kiamichi Technology Center, OU, OSU, and Grayson Truck Driving.

    Career_Expo_web The annual Career Expo is hosted by the Choctaw Nation Career Development Program. Career Development assists tribal members in obtaining high quality career and technology training which leads to industry recognized certifications and licensures. Currently, the program supports tribal members in training programs ranging from truck driving, welding, teaching, and heavy equipment operation, and wide variety of health fields.

    A new component of this year’s event is the Veteran’s Resource Center. All Veterans are invited to visit this center to learn how military experience translates to job skills. “Veteran Friendly” employers will be identified and eager to meet with those in attendance.

    The “must see” exhibits at this year’s expo include: Career Planning Exhibit, Dress for Success, FAFSA Information Center, Native American Business Showcase, OSUIT Career Spot, STEM, Robot Races.

    Transportation is available to Choctaw tribal members in Southeast Oklahoma who make reservations. Members can call Deidre Inselman at (580) 920-2260 to reserve seating. Deadline to sign up for transportation is Friday, February 14, 2013.

    The Career Expo is open to all persons interested in finding out more information about educational or employment opportunities. Admission is free.

    For more information or if you would like to participate in this February 26th event, contact Kelli Ostman or Rhonda Mize with Choctaw Nation Career Development at (866) 933-2260.

    Check out the “must sees” at this year’s event

    • Career Planning Exhibit: Begin Your Future Today
    Start planning your future today in our walk through Career Planning Exhibit. Begin with knowing your interests, then explore your options, followed by visiting your career choices and then on to experience career success.

    • Dress for Success: You Only Get One First Impression
    Do you think you are dressed appropriately for your big interview? Visit the Dress for Success exhibit to see how you can dress professionally for your career and on your budget.

    • FAFSA Information Center: Don’t Let College Loans Weigh You Down
    Think college loans are no big deal? Think again! Visit our FAFSA Information Center to learn how to go to college without carrying around a large amount of debt.

    • Native American Business Showcase: Find Your True Direction
    Have you ever dreamed of owning your own business? Visit our Business Showcase and talk with some of our successful business owners who are living their dream!

    • OSUIT Career Spot: How an Education Leads to a Career
    How does choosing the right training affect your future career? Visit the OSUIT Career Spot. Meet with representatives from each of their programs along with the employers who hire their graduates.

    • STEM in Action: Robot Races
    Does STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) race your heart? Come to the robotics booth and watch how all four categories work together. Cheer for your favorite robot in the Amazing Race.

    • STEM: The Future of Jobs
    Science + Technology + Engineering + Mathematics = higher paying jobs, better job opportunities, job security STEM field careers are some of the best paying jobs and have the greatest potential for job growth in the future. Come and visit the STEM Booth where you will be able to actively participate in STEM activities.

    • Veteran’s Resource Center
    You’ve served your country and we thank you! Visit the Veteran’s Resource Center to learn how your military experience translates to job skills and connect with military-hiring employers.

    • DRETS Lab
    The Oklahoma Department of Career and Technical Education (ODCTE) along with Kiamichi Technology Center (KTC) EMS Program have joined forces to develop and manage DRETS: A Disaster Response and EMS Training Simulator. This 48-foot mobile trailer brings unique training directly to community healthcare providers. Hospitals, EMS agencies, fire departments, educational facilities and other emergency medical organizations can request the use of the simulator across the state of Oklahoma.

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    Internship Opportunity in D.C. offered by Oklahoma Congressman Mullin

    Mullin Mary Frances Rooney, the intern coordinator for Congressman Markwayne Mullin’s Washington, D.C., office has informed Choctaw Nation of an internship opportunity for an ambitious individual looking to begin their path in public service.

    According to Rooney, interns are responsible for assisting with general front-office duties including answering phones, conducting and scheduling tours of the capitol, logging and writing office correspondence, assisting in policy research and helping with other administrative and research tasks. Qualified candidates should have excellent organizational and communication skills, a positive attitude, a strong work ethic, and an interest in civic involvement.

    The internship is for the spring term and is an unpaid, full-time position with work from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. during session days, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during recess days, including an hour break for a lunch. The term of the internship goes from as soon as possible until May 9, with flexible dates. The congressman’s office can also provide college credit to accepting institutions.

    If you are interested in this opportunity, please contact the Choctaw Nation via email by clicking here.

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