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Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

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    CoachBobFello_1_Coach Bob Fello guides a group of football camp participants Wednesday, June 25 in Durant. Youths going through football passing drills at the Day of Champions football camp in Durant. (Photos by BRANDON FRYE)

    Ken Heupel brings all-star cast of coaches to guide Choctaw Nation youth camp

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    DURANT– Coach Ken Heupel’s Day of Champions football camp drew 248 students of the game to Paul Laird Field on the Southeastern campus this week.
    Heupel brought an all-star cast of coaches to the two-day event, including Bob Fello of Kansas State, former Chicago Bears’ assistant coach Earl Mosely, Northwestern Oklahoma alum Waleed Gaines, ex-NFL player Will Harris and former OU wide receiver Jarrail Jackson.

    One of the highlights for attending youth was meeting Ken’s son Josh Heupel, a former OU quarterback who was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 2000.
    “This is a great opportunity to work with the Choctaw Nation,” Ken Heupel said. “They have a vision for their youth and their elders. And we teach young people how to listen and how to believe in themselves. And we’re also learning all the time.”

    Terri Confer, mother of eight-year-old camp attendee Ayden Confer, said she signed her son up to, “get some exercise and sunshine.” She added, “We come from a town that has no football, so this is a good opportunity.” Her son played youth football for a Durant league last year and she wants him to “strengthen, train and learn something new” at the camp.

    Heupel said the camp focuses on four principles: Discipline, respect, trust and hard work. The Day of Champions was one of several sports and cultural camps hosted by the Choctaw Nation throughout June. Other sports camps covered baseball, softball, basketball, golf and stickball.

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    Choctaw Scholarship Advisement Program services to be distributed among educational programs

    SAP_logo_800x800_ In recent months, the Choctaw Nation Education Department has restructured its suite of educational programs in an effort to streamline its efforts and increase the benefit to tribal members.

    During this restructuring, the Scholarship Advisement Program (SAP) has been dissolved and services contained therein either dispersed among other programs or discontinued. Pre-college initiatives will now be hosted through the Making A Difference (MAD) program and post-secondary matters completed through the Higher Education Program (HEP). Scholarships formerly hosted through SAP are now housed at the Chahta Foundation.

    Consolidation and elimination of certain services will enable the core services to access greater funding, translating to higher impact in areas most important to tribal members. As other programs absorb certain aspects of SAP, tribal members will see more action and fewer divisions in services.

    A staple event of SAP, Ivy League and Friends, which was an annual gathering of the nation’s top universities, will still take place with modifications. The new event will be titled Choctaw College Connect and will see a wider variety of schools invited. All previous attendees from past events will be welcomed, along with local institutions which include the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University.

    For more information and a registration form, please see here.

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    Joy Culbreath
    Joy Culbreath with husband Alton Culbreath photo by Zach Maxwell

    Choctaw children of tomorrow

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    The Choctaw Nation has changed immensely over the last twenty-one years with Joy Culbreath leading the way into the future of Choctaw education. Culbreath joined the Choctaw Nation in 1993, when there were few programs to help tribal members with goals for higher education. Twenty-one years later, the Choctaw Nation is helping students across the globe reach their goals.
    Culbreath’s family moved from Boggy Depot, to Lubbock, Texas, in 1942 at the age of three to find work as many families did in southeastern Oklahoma. Joy lived in Lubbock until 1957 when she graduated from Lubbock High just a year after Rock-n-Roll legend Buddy Holly. During her time in Lubbock, Joy “danced with Elvis at the Cotton Club.”
    Joy met Alton Culbreath during summer trips to Durant to visit her sister. Shortly after graduating high school she married Culbreath and then moved to Durant. Education was also important to Culbreath as she made several sacrifices to pursue her goals of a higher education.
    “We had to figure it out,” Joy said “we grew a big garden, raised our own beef, and I made all our children’s clothes. We did everything we could to save money so I could go to school.” Joy graduated from Southeastern Oklahoma State University in 1967 receiving her Bachelor’s in Business Education and Elementary Education. She later earned a Master of Behavioral Studies and a Master of Administration.
    Culbreath worked at Southeastern in the Trio Program and with federal programs for the next 30 years becoming the Director of Upward Bound. In 1993, she retired from Southeastern “on a Friday and on Monday morning began working for the Choctaw Nation.”
    The next twenty-one years Culbreath spent as the Executive Director of Education for the Choctaw Nation was a time of growth and expansion. A number of new programs and scholarships were created to help Choctaw tribal members under Joy’s watch.
    “It’s taken total dedication,” Joy said about the growth, “I’m a visionary. I’ve always tried to plan and look for what we can do to help children a generation from now.”
    Now, Choctaw children have the needed programs and opportunity for education. One of these new programs sees the Choctaw Nation teaming up with schools in the Choctaw Nation to form a summer school program.
    “I can see by us partnering with all eighty-five schools in the Choctaw Nation that summer schools are going to change education in southeastern Oklahoma.”
    With the Choctaw Nation in good hands, Culbreath announced her retirement although she said she would still be involved with the Nation through several projects including a historical book and various educational programs.

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    Labor Day Logo
    Choctaw Labor Day Festival emblem “Honoring the Giver of Life.”

    Choctaw Nation dedicates festival to honor the “Giver of Life.”

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    DURANT, Okla.– This year the Choctaw Nation dedicated the annual Labor Day Festival to the strong Choctaw women who are the heart of Choctaw culture. Throughout history and from the beginning, Choctaw mothers and grandmothers gave life, love, and learning to the tribe’s children and formed the core for the tribal matrilineal society. Women have harvested the crops, tended to the homes, were incredible artists, and were valued members of a tribe and thus were referred to as “beloved”. “Honoring the Giver of Life” is meant to signify the special bond and guidance given to the Choctaw people by the modern Choctaw woman and to show appreciation for continual leadership in faith, family, and culture.

    Events for this year’s festival will begin at 7 p.m. August 28 with the Princess Pageant and continue through September 1 ending with Chief Gary Batton’s State of the Nation Address along with door prize drawings and lunch.

    The Labor Day Festival is held at the Choctaw Nation Capitol building at Tushka Homma and expected to draw over 100,000 visitors. Admission to the festival is free as well as parking, rides, and concerts.

    Pow Wow Grand Entry will begin 7 p.m. on the Capitol lawn with a special statue unveiling ceremony of treasured former Choctaw council member Charlotte Jackson. Jackson’s statue will be the first female statue to be erected at the Capitol and women attending will receive commemorative buttons as a special honor.

    Main attractions for this year’s festival will include entertainers Merle Haggard, Jeff Foxworthy, Duck Dynasty’s Willie and Korie Robertson, Chris Cagle, Jason Crabb, and several local performers. Traditional Choctaw cultural events such as gospel singing, dancing, stickball, and crafts will be held throughout the festival. Fast pitch tournament, 5k race, horseshoe tournaments, an arts and crafts show, and special exhibits will also be held.

    For additional information about Choctaw events and activities during the 2014 Honoring the Giver of Life Labor Day Festival and Pow Wow visit Choctaw Nation or (800) 522-6170. To join in the social conversation during Labor Day events, don’t forget to use #ChoctawFest.

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    Health Care Van
    Choctaw Nation Community Health Caring Van.

    Choctaw Nation educates and assists public with Tdap and Pneumovax vaccines

    By Kelly Adams, RN/CHN Director
    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    DURANT, Okla.– Most people don’t know the details when it comes to vaccines, but this year, the Choctaw Nation hopes to educate and vaccinate the public about Tdap (a combined vaccine aimed to immunize against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough) and Pneumovax (immunization for the prevention of the streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria).

    Along with the facts, the Choctaw Nation Community Health Nurses will offer both vaccines from the Caring Van located behind the Healthy Living Tent at the Tushka Homma Capital grounds. Vaccines are free to the public.

    Here’s what the public can learn about from the Choctaw Nation Nurses:

    What is Whooping Cough and Tdap?
    Whooping cough—or pertussis—is a very serious respiratory (in the lungs and breathing tubes) infection caused by the pertussis bacteria. It causes violent coughing you can’t stop. Whooping cough is most harmful for young babies and can be deadly.

    Everyone around a baby needs a whooping cough vaccine Anyone who comes in close contact with a baby, from older siblings and cousins to grandparents and caregivers, should be up to date with whooping cough vaccination. CDC recommends only one dose of Tdap for most people 11 years and older. Currently, the only group that CDC recommends get more than one dose of this vaccine is pregnant women, who should get the vaccine each time they are pregnant.

    The recommended time to get Tdap is at 11 or 12 years of age. Teens who didn’t get Tdap as a preteen should get one dose the next time they visit their doctor. CDC recommends that all adults 19 years of age and older who didn’t get Tdap as a preteen or teen should also get one dose of Tdap.

    If you aren’t up to date with Tdap vaccine, getting vaccinated at least two weeks before coming into close contact with a baby is especially important. These two weeks give your body enough time to build up protection against whooping cough. You can get Tdap no matter when you got your last tetanus shot.

    Who needs Pneumovax? Pneumococcal disease is caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria and it is a leading cause of vaccine preventable illness and death in the United States.

    Although anyone can get pneumococcal disease, some people are at greater risk than others: Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV) protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria, including those most likely to cause serious disease.
    • People 65 years and older
    • Smokers
    • People with certain health problems (i.e., heart or lung disease, sickle cell disease, diabetes, asthma, alcoholism, cirrhosis)
    • People with a weakened immune system
    • HIV/AIDS
    Pneumococcal disease can lead to serious infections of the:
    • Lungs (pneumonia),
    • Blood (bacteremia), and
    • Covering of the brain (meningitis).

    Pneumococcal pneumonia kills about 1 out of 20 people who get it. Bacteremia kills about 1 person in 5, and meningitis about 3 people in 10. For further information, you may contact Kelly Adams, RN/CHN Director at 580-584-6697 ext. 33008.

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    REI Award
    Minority Business Development Agency Project Director, James Ray, Executive Director of Tribal Policy, Brian McClain, and REI Oklahoma President and CEO, Scott Dewald.

    Choctaw Nation receives Innovation Award from REI

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    DURANT, Okla.– The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma was given the “Innovation Award” during the Oklahoma Minority Enterprise Development (MED) banquet coordinated by the REI Native American Business Centers.

    REI Native American Business Centers deliver technical assistance and training programs in an effort to build successful Native American and minority-owned businesses. Companies utilizing the Centers receive specialized assistance with bids, contracting and procurement opportunities, training and business counseling, access to capital, and more.

    With the recent nomination of the Promise Zone, the Choctaw Nation is expected to be an even bigger part of the growth of new businesses and services throughout the southeastern Oklahoma areas. As an incubator for many minority owned small businesses, utilizing its servant leadership role, business growth is anticipated.

    James Ray, Minority Business Development Agency Project Director said, “The progressive work of the Choctaw Nation continues to open the doors of development within the communities its people live.”

    For additional information about the Choctaw Nation and business development, visit the Choctaw Nation.

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    Carole Ayers
    Carole Ayers shows art enthusiasts one of her recent watercolor paintings depicting a horse, a subject she wishes to produce more art with in the future. Her art was spotlighted during July’s Meet the Artist Event. (Photo by BRANDON FRYE)

    Carole Ayers July’s Choctaw Nation sponsored “Meet the Artist”.

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    DURANT, Okla.– “It has a picture of several generations of women and they are passing on things to the next generation,” Choctaw artist Carole Ayers said, explaining “The Thread of Life,” one of her watercolor paintings. “There are four women in the picture, but they are all connected by the umbilical cord, which I call the thread of life. They are passing on the spirit of the earth, the hope of the future.”

    A young girl watched attentively as Ayers reached over to help her paint a small watercolor during Meet the Artist on July 18. A red cloth, in sharp contrast to the purples and greens of the girl’s painting, covered the table they worked on. A palette of paint, a cup of colorful water, and assorted brushes rested at arms reach in wait to aid the two. Once finished, the girl held the painting up to her mother and received praise for her work.

    Ayers, who is also the president of the Durant Senior Community Center, was a featured artist for Meet the Artist, a monthly event managed by the Choctaw Nation Marketing Department aimed at giving exposure to Choctaw artists and culture. These events are held at the Choctaw Welcome Center in Colbert, which displays cultural items, pieces of art, and handcrafted gifts for travelers interested in Choctaw culture.

    “We had people from all over this time,” Carolyn Cross, Manager of the Choctaw Welcome Center, said. “After it was posted online, some people drove all the way out.” Ayers has had art booths set up at different art shows, including at the Choctaw Labor Day Festival, Red Earth, Haskell Indian Art Market, Tulsa Indian Art Market, the Chickasaw Festival, among others. She said she sees her art less as business and more as sharing her culture and preserving it for future generations. “After I retired from my nursing job—I worked 35 years as a nurse—my husband asked me what I wanted to do with my time and I said I’d like to study my heritage more and do more painting,” Ayers said. “He got me a very nice camera. I went to Red Earth and took my camera and become fascinated with the dancers and the colors and the music.”

    Soon, Ayers began painting the photographs she took while at cultural gatherings. She said she preferred to work in watercolors, and preferred to work with people as her subjects. “There is a special thing to water coloring, you have to look at the light, and you have to leave the light. Once you put paint on it, you can’t go back,” she said. “For me, one of the main things was, I discovered that I like to do pictures of people. It’s almost as if the face in the paper comes out, the personality of that person comes out of the paper.” “This little girl…” Ayers said, beginning a story. “I was in my booth one day and a lady came in and had her child stand there and look in the same direction as the painting. She was a dead ringer for my picture. I had never seen anything like that.”

    Verree Shaw, Marketing Director for the Choctaw Nation, said there are currently 285 Choctaw artists like Carole Ayers registered with the nation, and they aim to reach 1,000 artists. “The artists are invited to cultural meetings and meet-the-artist events at the Choctaw Welcome Center. And we are striving to have Choctaw artist bazaars four times a year,” Shaw said.

    Shaw also said, through the events, with marketing plans, everyone who loves both traditional and contemporary Choctaw culture should have the capability of getting in contact with the artists and their artwork. Additionally, art lovers can view the artists on display at Choctaw Store.

    Ayers said, with her art, she hopes “people get a sense of the history of our culture, and it will make them think about where they are today, and what they want to preserve of their past and their ancestors.”

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    A young raccoon frolics with a camper during a visit from Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation staff at the Make A Change Summer Youth Camp at Jones Academy.

    Choctaw Nation, Jones Academy host 90 children at three day event

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    DURANT, Okla.– Ninety children attended the second year of Make A Change Summer Youth Camp held at Jones Academy hosted by the Choctaw Nation.

    This represents an increase in participation over the inaugural 2013 event in which 80 children took part. The camp is a new take on the summer retreat concept focusing on culture, fitness, nutrition, and self-respect.

    “We just wanted to give the kids a positive outlook on life, give them some confidence and social skills. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do since working at the Choctaw Nation,” said Raina Sparks, coordinator of the youth camp. “A lot of these kids have never been away from home until they come here. We have different grants that help cover it.”

    Unlike most other Choctaw Nation youth camps, Make A Change was open to all children between ages 8-12 living within tribal boundaries. Participation was made available on a first-come, first-serve basis advertised through the public schools.

    World record holder and Native American inspirational speaker Brian Jackson addressed the group and helped the children set a record for paper football making. “I want to teach you to hold onto something you love to do – and never let that go,” Jackson said to the children. “Impossible situations will come at you in all shapes and sizes. When we get a second chance handed to us, what we do with that second chance is completely up to us.”

    Participants were treated to a variety of events and activities over the two-and-a-half day camp. Choctaw culture was on full display with Dr. Ian Thompson showing kids how to make flint arrowheads, as well as native beadwork.

    Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation staff member Dalton Lyons brought live animals to teach the children about nature. Indoor and outdoor physical activities included tug-of-war, taekwondo, and a nighttime, one-mile glow-run.

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    Two-day event is free to all veterans and will be held at Choctaw Resort

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    DURANT, Okla.– The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is hosting the Southern Plains Region Veterans Training Summit at the Choctaw Nation Hotel and Casino resort this Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 27-28.

    All veterans, anyone who has ever served in the military in any capacity, are welcomed and encouraged to attend. This event will teach attendees about available grants, give updates on services and benefits, offer employment training and bring veterans in contact with agencies aimed at offering services.

    The summit will have a distinctively Choctaw flavor, but is open to all U.S. veterans regardless of race, age, economic status and service branch. The summit is free, no pre-registration is necessary and it is open to residents of Oklahoma, Texas and all other states.

    Cooperating agencies which will be on hand to provide information to veterans include: Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Social Security Administration, Small Business Administration (SBA) and tribal programs for Native American veterans.

    The summit will open at 8 a.m. Wednesday in the Choctaw Ballroom of the South Casino with opening ceremonies hosted by the Choctaw Nation. Opening remarks are scheduled by Gen. Rita Aragon (Ret.), State Rep. Seneca Scott and Jacque Hensley, tribal liaison to Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin.

    Wednesday sessions will be held on VA medical collaboration with the Indian Health Service, Veteran’s employment, Veterans Upward Bound program, the VA Home Loan Program and benefits.

    Thursday sessions, beginning at 8 a.m., will focus on the veterans homeless program, family support services, Veterans Justice Outreach, SSA, SBA and health issues. Mary Culley, regional specialist for the VA Office of Tribal Government Relations, will offer closing remarks at 1 p.m.

    For more information about the Southern Plains Region Veterans Training Summit, call Mrs. Culley at (405) 626-3426.

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    New focus on engineering and civilian contracts helping create and retain jobs

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    McALESTER, Okla.– Choctaw Defense is expanding its capabilities by seeking and fulfilling contracts for engineering, building and remodeling structures.
    As the U.S. war machine slowly returns home following a decade of action in the Middle East, support service providers such as Choctaw Defense are diversifying their portfolios to include civilian enterprises.
    “You’ve got to be entrepreneurial,” said Stephen Benefield, President and CEO of Choctaw Defense. “What we’ve got to do as the Choctaw Nation is build more sustainable businesses.”

    There are numerous recent examples of Choctaw Defense moving into civilian contracts and other opportunities. The recently acquired company Architects in Partnerships Enterprises, a Moore-based “design-build” firm adds a commercial design and construction capabilities to the Choctaw Defense portfolio.

    “We’re off to a rip-roaring start,” Benefield says, explaining that the company has already grown to over $4 million under contract currently, with the latest being a new contract with the Federal Aviation Administration to refurbish aircraft hangars at the FAA Center in Oklahoma City.
    Another job will take Choctaw Defense to an FAA project at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport while yet another has them designing and building a $1 million elder living center in Stigler for the Choctaw Nation.
    “This is the product of the dedication of a lot of hard-working, smart people,” Benefield said. “All of the profits from Choctaw Defense go right back into the tribe.”

    Choctaw Defense also recently took over the contracts of a Tulsa-based information technology firm, hiring all 35 people from the firm with the expectation of rapidly expanding the “structured cabling” business. One of its first projects is providing all the security, communication, and computer cabling at the Tulsa International Airport ongoing remodeling effort, but the project “has the potential to expand into some very large operations.” Benefield said Choctaw Defense has set its sights on a $300 million contract with the Air Force to provide a variety of maintenance-level services at military installations. The winner of that contract should be announced later this year. Choctaw Defense is a business totally owned by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

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    Collaborating staff members for the reburial were left to right:
    Historic Preservation Senior Section 106 Reviewer Lindsey Bilyeu, Historic Preservation Section 106 Reviewer Daniel Ragle, Cultural Preservation Executive Director Sue Folsom, Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr., USACE Environmental Section Team Leader Chris Koeppel, USACE District Archaeologist and Tribal Liaison Sarah Koeppel, Director of Historic Preservation and Tribal Archaeologist Dr. Ian Thompson, Senior Heritage Resource Technician and Tribal Chaplain Olin Williams and Chief Gary Batton.

    Choctaw Nation, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and the United States Army Corps of Engineers partner together in tribal repatriation and reburial

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    DURANT, Okla.– Members of the Choctaw Nation recently journeyed to Mississippi to conduct a repatriation and reburial of an unknown Choctaw ancestor. The Choctaw Nation worked with, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to ensure possession as well as a protected burial for the individual.

    Chief Gary Batton, Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr., Cultural Preservation Executive Director Sue Folsom, Director of the Choctaw Nation Historic Preservation Department and Tribal Archaeologist, Dr. Ian Thompson, Historic Preservation Senior Section 106 Reviewer Lindsey Bilyeu, Historic Preservation Section 106 Reviewer Daniel Ragle, Tribal Chaplain Olin Williams and Nation staff member Sheila Kirven, were present for assistance with the acceptance of remains and burial ceremony.

    Although the identity of the deceased individual is without identification, Thompson explained, “The remains came from an individual who lived in what is now western Mississippi before European contact. He or she did not call themselves Choctaw, but was nonetheless ancestral to today’s Choctaw people, through subsequent mixing of his or her descendants with Choctaw communities. Through this mixing, this person’s genes and culture live on in the Choctaw community today.”

    Kirven stated that while on site, “I couldn’t help but wonder if the remains could even have been one of my ancestors. I often think about my Choctaw ancestors from Mississippi. I wonder about their lives and how the removal affected them. I wonder how they lived; think about their heartaches, about the things that made them happy and even the simple things of life that were taken from them. I always wish that I could know more. As I stood at the grave that day, I couldn’t help but wonder if that could have been one of my people. And then I realized that this person was because the Choctaw people are one family.”

    For additional information about historic preservation, Choctaw repatriation, cultural preservation and the Choctaw Nation, visit Choctaw Nation. More about the Mississippi Repatriation of a Choctaw Ancestor in the September Biskinik issue.

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    Fall semester 2014 applications are still being accepted at the Jones Academy through September 21.

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    DURANT, Okla.– The Jones Academy in Hartshorne will be accepting applications for the 2014 Fall semester until September 21. The academy encourages interested individuals to tour the facilities and understand the many program benefits offered to students.

    Jones has openings in grades 1-12 with tuition, travel, and services free for families. In addition to traditional grade level students, students also receive tutorial assistance, rewards for academic achievement, medical and counseling services, cultural and traditional activities, recreational activities, educational trips and agricultural learning opportunities.

    For high school students, Jones offers unique assistance with career counseling, college and post-secondary preparation, as well as vocational training opportunities. Graduation expenses are paid by the academy and students may have additional opportunities for scholarships.

    For applications, tours or additional information, please contact toll free (888) 767-2518 or visit the Jones Academy online at Jones Academy. Additional information requests can also be sent to: Jones Academy HCR 74 Box 102-5, Hartshorne, OK 74547.

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    King Monument
    Historic preservation workers install the headstone of Tecumseh King at the King Cemetery near Kinta, OK.

    Gravesites of vets discovered in King Cemetery near Kinta.

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    DURANT, Okla.– Choctaw Nation Historic Preservation employees worked for two months to prepare for the May 24 ceremony honoring two full-blood Choctaw Civil War confederate soldiers at their discovered gravesites in King Cemetery near Kinta.

    “I was doing family research and discovered the cemetery,” Karrie Shannon, Choctaw Nation employee in McAlester, said. “In November, I made a trip to Kinta, Oklahoma to locate the King Cemetery. I found the cemetery unmaintained and abandoned. No one might have entered there for 121 years, it was so thick you had a hard time making your way through the area.”

    Private Henry Cooper and 2nd Lieutenant Jerry Riddle received military government issued headstones and were honored during the cemetery dedication in May. Both were descendents of Chief Mosholatubbee, who had seven sons with the surname King and one daughter surnamed Cooper.

    Skyler Robinson, Cemetery Restoration Coordinator with Historic Preservation, said his crew works to preserve and protect abandoned Choctaw cemeteries like King Cemetery. “It was in really bad shape, thick with briars and bushes,” Robinson said. “We went in and cleaned it up, put a new fence around it with a gate, and then placed a couple of headstones.”

    District 5 Tribal Council Member Ron Perry was in attendance and spoke to dedicate King Cemetery during the event. Gene Arpelar said the prayer and blessing. The Choctaw Nation Color Guard sent members, led by Herbert Jessie, to give the 21-gun salute and play Taps. The Color Guard, while honoring the veterans, also showed gratitude to their relatives. “We were there to do the honors,” Harlan Wright, Color Guard member, said. “They folded a flag and presented it to the next of kin.”

    Karrie Shannon and Cheryl Stone-Pitchford, King descendants, were there to receive the flag. Stone-Pitchford, who had also researched Choctaw genealogy, aided Shannon in uncovering King Cemetery. She said it was a very sacred moment; everyone was there to remember and honor the cemetery and its buried that were too long forgotten.

    “When it became apparent who was buried there, it became a real significance in our family. I also believe it is significant to the Choctaw Nation and history overall,” Stone-Pitchford said.

    Dena Cantrell, also a King descendant in attendance at the ceremony, said she appreciated the genealogical research that had been done and how it was bringing the family history together. “Learning and knowing we are descendents of ancestors who played a great part in the history of the Choctaw Nation and the United States… is very gratifying,” she said.

    There are approximately 50 gravesites at King Cemetery. Some were identified by grave depressions, bases of headstones or bases of footstones. There are a handful of existing headstones still standing. Approximately 15 out of 50 buried individuals have been identified. Two of Chief Mosholatubbee’s children are buried in the cemetery, and five military veterans.

    Shannon is working to obtain military monuments for all five veterans within the cemetery. She received the monument for the grave of Tecumseh King, youngest son of Chief Mosholatubbee, on July 21. “There’s a lot of Choctaws in that cemetery,” Shannon said. “We’ve got to remember our Choctaw soldiers and what they have done for us. And if we can do anything to give back to them, that’s what this is all about. It’s for them.”

    Robinson, with Historic Preservation, said his department gets calls informing them of abandoned Choctaw cemeteries periodically, occasionally multiple within one week. He said if anyone knows of an abandoned Choctaw cemetery, it would be appreciated if the individual calls (580) 924-8280 ext. 2236. Additionally, Shannon offered to aid anyone researching family genealogy and can be contacted at

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    Choctaw Defense Justin
    Choctaw Defense employee Justin Yearby in front of MTVR trailers. (Photo courtesy Choctaw Defense)

    Renewal of Marine trailer contract announced

    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    McALESTER, Okla.– Choctaw Defense has announced a $15 million contract renewal for Marine Tactical Vehicle Replacement Trailers.

    “This is a continuation of a contract we’ve had for seven years,” said Stephen Benefield, President and CEO of Choctaw Defense. “We expect to be in the contract for several more years.”

    The MTVR Trailer, is the most capable off road trailer in the Marines Corps fleet. It is designed to work under extreme off road conditions matching the capability of the MTVR Prime Mover tow vehicle. This next generation trailer will replace the current fleet of trailers not capable of handling the demands of the newest generation of combat vehicles and is designed and manufactured at Choctaw Defense facilities in McAlester and Hugo. Choctaw Defense has approximately 150 employees in both locations combined.

    The MTVR is one of several tactical vehicle contracts awarded to Choctaw Defense. They have also partnered with the U.S. Navy “Seabees,” the combat construction division of the Navy, to convert certain trucks into “field service units.”

    The first of 12 units were delivered this year. Choctaw Defense crews outfit the trucks to include onboard generators and in-the-field fluid replacement capability for heavy equipment such as cranes and dozers.

    Choctaw Defense is a subsidiary of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

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  • 09/04/14--10:27: State of the Nation 2014
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    Former Choctaw Nation tribal councilwoman Charlotte Jackson forever remembered with statue on tribal capitol grounds.
    First female statue erected for Nation “Honoring the Giver of Life”

    By STEPHENIE OCHOA Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    DURANT, Ok – On Friday Aug. 29, in front of the Choctaw Nation capitol, Pat Jones and brother Kevin Jackson were asked to unveil a permanent statue in honor of their mother, former tribal councilwoman, Charlotte Jackson. The full-size statue sculpted by John Gooden is the first female statue in the garden at Tvshka Homma.

    Charlotte Jackson was well known for her dedication to others and her tribe and often described as a selfless woman. The statue was a surprise to many members who showed up at the unveiling and after her children removed the covering there were many stories and fond memories shared about her work within communities.

    Pat Jones and Kevin Jackson unveiling statue of mother Charlotte Jackson.

    Daughter Jones said, “Both my brother and I always hear about how grateful people are for our mother to have been in their lives. She was so dedicated to helping others whether they were within the Choctaw Nation or not” she added, “we were blessed to have her as a mother mostly and so very honored that the Choctaw Nation wanted to honor her in this way.”

    Charlotte was a member of the Choctaw Nation Tribal Council from 1991 to 2011. She was instrumental in the construction of several facilities in Stigler including the Choctaw Nation’s community center, health clinic, and Head Start.

    The statue shows Charlotte with a young female child and her family says they believe the depiction of her was perfect in its visual effects as well as the intent to honor the spirit of women.

    Chief Gary Batton led a round of applause to thank the women of the Choctaw Nation acknowledging them for their contributions as “the giver of life” and being the “core” of the family and the tribe. For additional information about the Choctaw Nation visit

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    Casino Redesign #1
    Rendering of the expansion of the Choctaw Casino and Resort in Durant, OK.

    Choctaw Casino Expansion Redesigned

    Durant, Okla. - The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has redesigned plans for the expansion of its resort in Durant that includes a second hotel tower and entertainment complex.

    The new 14-story hotel, redesigned from the original 22 levels, will include several VIP suites in its 286 rooms and complement the first 12-story tower opened in 2010. The current plans will align with all requirements and the tribe’s desire to provide an area in its resort with activities for all ages. Casino Redesign #3

    Construction teams are now concentrating on the entertainment complex, a phase in the redesign that allows the tribe to focus on the values of family-oriented entertainment. Added amenities include a 4-screen movie theater, 20-lane bowling center, laser tag and arcade, a new 150-seat Oasis Bar and Grille, an event center with theater seating for 3,000, over 10,000-sq.-ft. spa, and 20,000 square feet of convention center space.

    The expansion will open next summer.

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    Durant Clinic Transition Frequently Asked Questions

    The Chickasaw Nation and the Choctaw Nation are proud to announce the transition of the Durant Clinic operations beginning October 1, 2014 to the Choctaw Nation. Our goal is to have a safe and smooth transition for patients and staff.
    Below is a FAQ to answer all of your questions.

    Frequently Asked Questions

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    YAB in classKelsey Janway leads the YAB members in a mock meeting for Choctaw U.

    Youth Advisory Board visits Choctaw U

    By Payton Guthrie
    Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

    Pocola, Okla. - The Choctaw Nation Youth Advisory Board visited the sophomore class of the Choctaw U Leadership Series during their short course on Sept. 12 in Pocola.
    The YAB group, led by Chapter Chair Kelsey Janway of Heavener, conducted a meeting by following Robert’s Rules of Order to display how to efficiently run a meeting.

    “Presenting in front of Choctaw U for my chapter and me was such a great experience for us. It showed us that hard work does pay off and that we are learning so much at such a young age and that we can do something with it. I can’t wait to see what lies in store for the Youth Advisory Board in the future,” Janway said.
    The Choctaw U class was very impressed with the YAB members during the short course. Kelly S. Johnson, Choctaw U instructor, thanked the group for their contribution to the class.
    YAB Group

    “I would personally like to thank Shonnie Hall and the LeFlore County YAB members for the excellent job they did of modeling the proper productive meeting techniques to the sophomore class of Choctaw University,” Johnson said.

    For more information about the Youth Advisory Board click here

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    Leo Smallwood Family
    Leo Smallwood receives recognition with his family on the Rattan High School baseball field. [Photo by Payton Guthrie]

    Spotlight on Elders with Leo Smallwood

    By Payton Guthrie
    Choctaw Nation

    Rattan, Okla. - Student. Teacher. Veteran. Coach. Principal. Rancher. Choctaw.
    Leo Smallwood has lived a full life at the age of 97 serving his local community in Rattan.
    Leo was raised on a farm as a middle child, “just right with the big ones to run over and the little ones not to bother with,” with three brothers and one sister.

    “We dug out of the ground mostly what we lived on,” Leo said.

    After graduating from Rattan High School in 1936 Leo followed his older sister to Southeastern Oklahoma State University in order to pursue his education. By working as a janitor, washing dishes in the cafeteria, and by milking cows, Leo Smallwood managed enough hours to get a temporary teaching certificate.

    Leo’s first teaching position was in the sawmill community of Frazier Valley. Leo would ride horseback to school over the hills by way of pig and cow trails in order to teach 42 children at a salary of $65 a month.

    “Being young and inexperienced I got quite an education,” Leo said about his first year teaching.

    In February of 1942, Smallwood was drafted into the United States Army. After basic training Leo was positioned as an Army teacher for the cadets who didn’t know how to read or write. That assignment lasted about 18 months at Fort Sill before Leo was deployed overseas.

    “I was sitting in South Hampton, England, when the invasion started,” Smallwood said, “the ground where I was sitting was shaking from the bombardment and the water would shimmer from the explosions.”
    Leo Smallwood Army

    Six days after D-Day Leo Smallwood crossed the English Channel to patrol the hedgerows before taking part in the Battle of the Bulge.

    Upon returning from the service he continued his studies at Southeastern where he met his future wife, Jane. He would receive his Bachelor’s degree in 1946 and his Master’s degree from North Texas State in the early 1950s.

    Leo Smallwood became Coach Smallwood for Rattan High School upon completion of his Bachelor’s degree. He coached all levels of boys and girls basketball and created the school’s baseball program. Coach Smallwood changed Rattan from the ground up event changing the school’s colors from black and orange to green and white, as they remain today.

    His time at Rattan led to over 625 baseball victories and 15 district titles. His basketball teams fared equally well winning over 600 games and 9 district titles. After coaching and teaching for over 20 years, Leo transitioned into the role of Principal for the next 20 years, giving over 40 years of service to the Rattan School System.

    The Rattan School System recently recognized Coach Smallwood for his works with the sports programs and his time as principal at Rattan High School. After the baseball game the fans and baseball players stood in recognition of his leadership of intramural sports at Rattan.

    Watch the Leo Smallwood interview here

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