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Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
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    February 22, 2016 Chief Batton wins award on behalf of the Choctaw Nation

    Chief Gary Batton was among 27 executives recognized as Oklahoma’s Most Admired CEOs at The Journal Record’s seventh annual event Feb. 18 at the Embassy Suites Oklahoma City Downtown/Medical Center. “This is an award for the Choctaw Nation and its citizens,” Chief Batton said. “I am receiving this gift because of my family, our ancestors, tribal members, tribal council and employees and I proudly accept it on their behalf. Yakoke.” “Chief Batton is dedicated to the Choctaw Nation and Southeastern Oklahoma,” Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr. commented. “He exhibits great values and integrity. He enjoys being with people, and is as likely to join in a stickball game as he is to attend a board meeting.”

    “Soon after becoming Chief, he began traveling to visit with tribal members to listen to their stories, their concerns, and celebrate their successes. I respect him greatly for his friendship, leadership and dedication,” Assistant Chief Austin said. Chief Batton’s vision for the Choctaw Nation is one of providing sustainability for generations of tribal citizens. He focuses on developing a diverse economic base for businesses that are instrumental in providing more jobs, opportunities in education, career training, and improvements in health, housing, and social services.

    The Choctaw Nation is currently involved in 21 industries in 63 locations. In the last year, the Choctaw Nation has opened a large expansion to its health clinic in Poteau, broken ground on a regional clinic in Durant, and opened three new wellness centers. Other facilities and businesses opened in 2015 include two Chili’s franchises, a Travel Plaza, expansion to its resort in Durant, a community center, two food distribution centers, and a new independent living community for its elders. These openings have added much-needed jobs to southeastern Oklahoma, helping to counter the declining job rate for the rural area.

    Programs are being implemented to recognize and develop leadership at several levels, and to provide assistance through reintegration and job-for-the-day programs. A recent trip to participate in a walk that retraced steps of his Choctaw ancestors who were removed from Mississippi to Indian Territory left a deep impression on Chief Batton. “It heightened our awareness of our connection to the past,” he said. “It rejuvenated a commitment to the present – to support the employees, families, tribal members and each other for the betterment of the future of the tribe.”

    Following is the complete list of 2016 honorees:

    Private company category: John Barrett, Citizen Potawatomi Nation Gary Batton, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Sean Bauman, IMMY Jill Castilla, Citizens Bank of Edmond Mike Fine, Fine Airport Parking C. Douglas Houston, Houston Interests Nancy Hyde, Hyde & Company CPAs Behfar Jahanshahi, InterWorks Inc. Todd Lisle, BKD CPAs & Advisors Greg Massey, First United Bank & Trust Jeffrey McDougall, JMA Energy Co. Rick Nagel, Acorn Growth Cos. Jake Nossaman, Collision Works Thompson Phillips Jr., T.S. Phillips Investments Inc. Marcus Robinson, Monscierge Dan Rotelli, BIS Mark Russell, Great Plains National Bank Mel Smith, Energy & Environmental Services Mark Towler, Phase 2 David Woods, Giant Partners Public company category: Steve Hahn, AT&T Oklahoma John Higginbotham, Bank of Oklahoma Nonprofit category: Susan Agel, Positive Tomorrows Albert Gray, The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital Lyle Kelsey, Oklahoma State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision Jim McCarthy, Community Health Connection Roberta Preston, Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma 2016 Financial Stewardship honorees: Craig Boelte, Paycom Jeff Morton, Acorn Growth Cos. Michael Milligan, The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital

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    Roads always lead to somewhere across Choctaw Nation

    Most programs of the Choctaw Nation are available only to members of the Choctaw Nation, and others for those members within the 10 1/2 county service area of southeast Oklahoma. But when it comes to roads, and a few more vehicle and movement-related construction events, the Choctaw Nation steps up to the plate.

    Everyone who lives in Bethel or Battiest or attends school at Battiest uses the Bethel cutoff from Broken Bow. They will now be saving approximately seven miles per trip. A number of repairs and even new constructions were requested from a variety of sources, both tribal members and the public. These requests make their way to the Choctaw Nation Transportation program. Some jobs were not that big, and some not even roads. A school parking lot cost $65,677.

    Other jobs turn out to be very big indeed. Two road constructions ran in excess of $2,000,000 each. In all, 1,414 families were immediately impacted by these 13 miles of improvements. As the year unfurls, there are already 10 jobs, each in a different county, at various stages of completion. As the concrete solidifies, so does the cost. Work on these 26.12 miles is closing out at $26,055,068.54. Affected are no less than 156 families. For 2016, 11 more projects are scheduled to begin construction: one is a parking lot for a Head Start/daycare facility; the other 10 encompass road work in seven different counties.

    Some 530 families are expected to be served by this 27.85 miles of road development. Completion dates for these projects range from March to December, with most in the latter part of the year. In addition to county roads and school parking lots, earlier projects under taken by the Choctaw Nation have included items such as the winding road from the street to the parking lot of the Atoka Sports Center, and the quarter-mile concrete walking trail at the same location. These eyes-toward-health also increase the liveability and appeal of communities.

    Anyone can make a request to the Choctaw Nation, but the typical approach is an individual or an organization makes an appeal to a tribal councilman. The request is then considered by the council as a whole. If approved at that level, the next step is sending the idea to the Natural Resources Department and Executive Director Wayne Wylie. It’s then assigned to Transportation where a staff will research the total impact and viability of the job. If it is defined as a need of Choctaw families and others within the service area it is then given the green light. Bids are then taken by companies interested in doing the job. Again research is carried out, narrowing the choices until one is selected based on its qualifications.

    Once work begins, Transportation staff periodically visit the work site and reports are made on progress. Something seemingly as routine as filling potholes and resurfacing a bumpy road is not quite so simple. First a plan is engineered with specs determined. Then all right-of-way permits must be obtained. A job may include tearing out invasive trees, retrenching ditches, moving fences, tearing out and rebuilding private driveways, and adding new tin horns (metal drainage pipes). The 5.11 miles of Nixon Road required construction of a concrete plant nearby to supply the needs of the job. Such things add to the cost and time of a project.

    According to Transportation staff, the work on Voca Road is typical of a project. “The county is taking care of five miles, then the Choctaw Nation is doing two miles,” said a field rep. With all that, such jobs are designed to come in at 120-160 days. A lot goes into a “simple” resurfacing job. But is it worth it? Ask the at-least 2,100 families whose lives will be made easier, and safer, within the coming year thanks to the new roads/good neighbor efforts of the Choctaw Nation Transportation Program.

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    Choctaw Nation

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma’s Institutional Review Board (CNO IRB) is one of only four such organizations in the state that belongs to a tribal nation. IRBs are federally-recognized boards with a duty to protect people who are subjects in research studies. The board has authority to approve, deny, or require changes to research that effects tribal members, clients, or Choctaw tribal heritage. One key factor is guarding the tribe from dissemination of inaccurate information or defaming results based on work by outside researchers.

    Members of the CNO IRB are appointed by the Chief and come from across the Nation’s 10 1/2-county service area. Two new members, Carolyn Elgin (Talihina) and Chantelle Standefer (Durant), were recently appointed by Chief Gary Batton and welcomed in a ceremony on Jan. 20 at the Kiamichi Technology Center, Talihina. Other board members were recognized for their longstanding service to the Choctaw IRB.

    Bob Ludlow (Smithville), who opened and closed the meeting with prayer, was presented a 5-year award for his service. Sandra Reavis and John Jones, (both of Stigler) accepted charter members awards and 10-year service awards. David Wharton (Broken Bow), charter member and Scientific Co-chair, offered historical comments about the CNO IRB. Wharton noted that in 2002, Chief Batton, who was then the Executive Director for Health, proposed the idea of the Nation developing its own IRB. Within two years, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma had its own federally-recognized IRB, becoming only the third tribe in the state able to accomplish that goal. “Chief Batton saw the need and made it happen,” Wharton said.

    Additional honorees at the ceremony included, Sylvester Moore (Talihina), charter member and Community Co-Chair of the CNO IRB, who received awards as a charter member and for his 10 years of service. “He’s been here since the beginning,” Wharton said of Moore. The final charter member recognized for his 10 years of service was Dr. Ed Work (Hugo). The remaining two members were recognized for their 5 years of service to the CNO IRB - Joe Bray (Wilburton) and Dr. Marie Cole (Talihina).

    The CNO IRB Institutional Officer is Teresa Jackson, Choctaw Nation Senior Executive Officer for Health, and the Administrative Director is Dannielle Branam. Researchers must apply to the IRB office before beginning their investigations and inquiries. Once the board approves, work begins, and periodic reports are made to the IRB. Then a final presentation of results must be approved by the IRB before the information can be officially released. While its origins were in health because research requests were first received for medical studies, the Choctaw IRB has jurisdiction for the entire tribe and has reviewed cultural, language, housing, and other research projects. Its workload continues to grow with ongoing research interest and the growth of Choctaw Nation.

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    Rules and contest information will be posted as soon as it becomes available.

    Women, Infants, and Children, (WIC) program 2015 Photo Contest begins March 1, 2016, and ends May 15, 2016, at 4:30 PM Central Standard Time (EST). By submitting an entry, each contestant agrees to the rules of the contest and states that he or she is 18 years old or older.

    Who may enter:

    Any tribal member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma that is 18 years of age or older.

    What to enter:

    The WIC program will soon be using an e-Card to replace their current WIC benefit issuance system. e-WIC, also known as WIC EBT, is an electronic system that replaces paper food checks or vouchers with a card similar to a debit card for food benefit issuance and redemption at authorized WIC grocery stores. The winning photo will be used as the identifier and background of the cards that will be issued to all participants through the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma WIC program.

    This photo needs to represent the faith, family, and culture of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

    To be eligible for any category, the photograph must have been shot by the entrant and not altered since January 1, 2016.

    Do not submit a photo that contains the face or form of any person.

    Similarly, entrants whose photos depict other people’s work (such as sculptures, statues, paintings, and other copyrightable works) will need to obtain a release from the rights holder and provide it to the Choctaw Nation upon request. 

    Photographs that have won any other major contests are not eligible. We define winning as having won a grand prize or 1st, 2nd or 3rd place overall. Photos that violate or infringe upon another person’s rights, including but not limited to copyright, are not eligible.

    Photos that contain sexually explicit, nude, obscene, violent or other objectionable or inappropriate content, are ineligible for all categories of this contest.

    How to enter:

    Please submit photographs and requested information by email to Shelly Rector at Send Email . We do not accept photographs submitted through the mail. Submit no more than fifteen (15) photographs per entrant. We do not accept more than one contestant per e-mail address. Photographs submitted to the contest must be at least 1,000 pixels wide so it can be used without being stretched or distorted. 

    High-quality scans of non-digital photographs are acceptable. Digital photographs should be taken at the highest resolution possible. Use the online entry form on our website. Complete a separate form for each photo submitted. Photographs must be in a .jpeg, .jpg or .gif format. Files submitted may not be larger than 10 MB.

    The Choctaw Nation reserves the right to disqualify incomplete entries and/or contestants who are unable to submit, upon request, a high-resolution photograph of at least 300 dpi at 3,000 pixels on the longest side or an original photo negative, print or slide. 

    All entries become the property of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, by entering the contest, you grant the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma a royalty-free, world-wide, perpetual, non-exclusive license to publicly display, distribute, reproduce and create derivative works of the entries, in whole or in part, in any media now existing or later developed, for any Choctaw Nation purpose purpose, including, but not limited to, advertising and promotion of the magazine and its website, exhibition, and commercial products, including but not limited to Choctaw Nation publications. Any photograph reproduced will include a photographer credit as feasible. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma will not be required to pay any additional consideration or seek any additional approval in connection with such uses.


    Photo entries will be judged based on creativity, quality, originality, responsiveness to the prompt, and overall impact, that best represent the Faith, Family, and Culture of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

    The Choctaw Nation will notify the winner via the contact information provided at the time of entry; the Choctaw Nation may disqualify anyone who fails to respond to the notification within five business days. Please do not contact us about the status of entries or judging.

    Prizes: To be determined

    Conditions of Entry

    All entrants hold the Sponsors and their respective regents, directors, officers, employees, emeriti, fellows, interns, research associates, and volunteers (the “Indemnified Parties”) harmless from and against all claims of any nature arising in connection with entrant’s participation in the contest and acceptance or use of a prize. The Indemnified Parties are not liable for any costs, damages, injuries, or other claims incurred as a result of entrants’ participation in the contest or winner’s acceptance and usage of a prize.  The Indemnified Parties are not responsible for incomplete or misdirected entries, technical or network malfunctions or failures, or causes beyond their control. Entrants are solely responsible for their entries. Entrants may not submit materials that introduce any software viruses, worms or other programs designed to damage software, hardware or telecommunications equipment or are off-topic, partisan-political, contain advertising, nudity, personal attacks or expletives, or is otherwise abusive, threatening, unlawful, harassing, discriminatory, libelous, obscene, false, sexually explicit, or that infringes on the rights of any third party.

    The contest is void where prohibited or restricted by law. The Choctaw Nation reserves the right to cancel the contest or modify these rules at its discretion. In the event of a dispute regarding the winners, the Choctaw Nation reserves the right to award or not award the prizes in its sole discretion. The Smithsonian reserves the right to disqualify any entrant whose entry or conduct appears in any way to: inhibit the enjoyment of others; tamper with the competition; violate these rules or other applicable law or regulation; infringe on the rights of third parties; or act in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner. Decisions of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma are final and binding.

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    The Chahta Foundation is offering multiple competitive scholarships for Choctaw Nation Tribal Members working on their undergraduate to doctorate level degrees. These scholarship opportunities range from $1,000 up to $40,000. The Chahta Foundation funding opportunities are different from the Choctaw Nation Higher Education and Career Development Programs and can be received in addition to that funding. Please let all of your students know of these great opportunities.

    For additional information on the opportunities please visit: Chahta Foundation.

    To begin your application please visit: Scholarships Application

    Please note that applications need to be submitted by March 31, 2016.

    We will let all applicants know the results by May 31st. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at 580-924-8280 x2546 or Scott Wesley


    Scott Wesley | Scholarship Specialist | Chahta Foundation | p 580.924.8280 x2546 | f 580.745.9023

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    The Choctaw-Irish Bond Lives On

    In 2015, a statue was commissioned to be built in Midleton, County Cork, Ireland, to honor the kindness of the Choctaws. But the story begins in 1831, when the Choctaw people were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands in Mississippi. A few years later, Choctaws learned of people starving in Ireland. Only sixteen years had passed since the Choctaws had faced hunger and death on the first Trail of Tears and a great empathy was felt when they heard such a similar tale coming from across the ocean. Individual Choctaws collected and donated $170 in 1847 to assist the Irish people. Jump ahead a century and a half. It took a year for artist Alex Pentek to create Kindred Spirits. With its nine eagle feathers reaching 20 feet into the air, the statue represents “this great moment of compassion, strength, and unity,” said Pentek. The official unveiling is expected to take place later this spring. For the month of March we would like to share with you a story from a Choctaw Nation employee. Shannon Compton recently visited Midleton, County Cork, Ireland, and expressed her thoughts and feelings when she saw the statue.

    Ireland has always been on my bucket list of places to visit. When I saw the monument would be completed by the time our trip occurred, I knew we had to drive three hours off our original path to experience the beauty of what I had seen in the photos. Midleton is a small town and we were certain we would be able to find the statue easily BUT we were wrong. We drove up and down the main road, stopping and asking for directions, for two hours. This is part of my experience that I wouldn’t change though. Every person we stopped to ask knew exactly what the feathers represented and they were thrilled to have the monument in their town. As I was asking directions, I would tell each person that I worked for Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma back in the United States and that this monument meant something very special to me. The third time we got lost we turned around in a parking lot that appeared to be an elderly community. A woman, probably in her 80s, walked up to the car and asked if we were lost. (Everyone is very friendly in Ireland). I told her we were trying to find the Choctaw Feathers monument and she started tearing up. She pointed across the river and said it was located behind the trees that were blocking the view of the park from where we were.

    choctaw irish bond

    I told her that I worked for Choctaw Nation and she said that we will never know how much the Choctaw Nation people meant to Ireland for their help with the potato famine. She said her grandmother lived to tell her about the time period and her grandfather died from starvation during the famine because he made sure her grandmother and her children had food first. (The beautiful woman was crying while telling me this).

    As she was telling me her story, I was SO proud to be part of Choctaw Nation. My heart felt connected to her and I was so honored to share with her the love, kindness, and humility of the Choctaw Nation. Knowing that we were going to see the monument on our trip, I took a lapel pin with me to Ireland that had the seal on it. I wanted to leave it on the monument as a symbol of my love for the tribe. Instead of leaving it on the monument, I gave this sweet woman the lapel pen. I folded it in her palm and hugged her neck before we left. I told her that Choctaw was very special to me and my family and my hope was that every time she looked at the pen she would remember the love Choctaw Nation shows everyone whom they come in contact with. After we finished talking to her, we went to the monument. MAJESTIC … That’s the one word I felt as we walked up to the Choctaw feathers monument in Midleton, Ireland. Psalms 8:9 states, “Lord, O Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth”. That’s the scripture that came to my mind as we were walking up to the monument. The monument was so much bigger then it looked like in the pictures. The feathers are absolutely STUNNING. The detail in each feather is meticulous. They are built to look like they will blow over, but in reality their steel construction represents the strength and resilience of the Choctaw people. The backdrop of the monument is a small lake that is surrounded by greenery and I was overcome and brought to tears by the honor I felt being a part of a tribe that cares about people as much as Choctaw Nation does.

    I was so proud to be representing Choctaw Nation in a country that feels a deep connection from the pain of something so horrific. When we returned to the car and started driving again, I reflected on the beauty and lifetime experience that I had just experienced. The monument is built to look majestic and fragile at the same time. The feathers appear as though they are coming out of the ground … as though they were planted hundreds of years ago in a spot that only God could make as beautiful as where they are located. It was a wonderful experience to feel respect for the Choctaw Nation in a country so far away.

    I love this tribe, the people who serve the members, and the meaning behind what all of us work towards every day.

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    Choctaw vehicle tag program benefits communities

    The Choctaw Nation, in the historic tradition of coming to the aid of its neighbors, is adding millions of dollars directly into programs benefiting Oklahoma communities.

    While the Transportation Department of the Choctaw Nation continues to resurface county roads, build school parking lots, and more, serving all who travel these roads, another tribal program has emerged as a substantial benefit to all Oklahomans.

    Choctaw tribal tags for vehicles, a program operated by the Finance Department of the Choctaw Nation, was created through a compact with the State of Oklahoma and went into effect Jan. 1, 2015. According to the Oklahoma Tax Commission, in the period of July 2015 through January 2016 (or half of the year), total revenues from Choctaw tags to the State of Oklahoma reached $3,842,577.

    Choctaw Chief Gary Batton said, “The Chahta people wanted to show their pride by displaying the car tags. We are very fortunate to be able to provide a program that saves them money and helps the communities.”

    The Oklahoma Tax Commission reports collections retained by the state from the sale of Choctaw license plates from July to January were distributed to several city, county and state entities. Topping the list, school districts received $1,391,013 of the funds. Among the distributions, over $1 million were also allocated for construction and improvements on county roads and bridges, $278,203 for county highways, and $119,120 to cities and towns.

    As figures are gathered for a complete picture of the fiscal year, the Choctaw Nation expects more good news to come. Choctaw Nation leadership plans to continue operation of the vehicle tag and other programs in such a way as to assist not only Choctaws, but, all of its neighbors in Oklahoma.

    About The Choctaw Nation The Choctaw Nation is the third largest Indian Nation in the United States, with close to 200,000 tribal members. The first tribe over the Trail of Tears, the historic boundaries are in the southeast corner of Oklahoma. The vision of the Choctaw Nation is “To achieve healthy, successful, productive, and self-sufficient lifestyles for a proud nation of Choctaws.” Tribal business success over the past few years has enabled the Choctaw Nation to begin to achieve this vision, as well as to assist the communities that are in the Choctaw Nation. Faith, Family and Culture are important values to Choctaw people. For more information about the Choctaw Nation, its culture, heritage and traditions, please go to Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

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    March 23, 2016


    Choctaw Nation Indian Child Welfare Case

    A custody case over a six-year-old Choctaw girl named Lexi that has been going on nearly five years has been settled after three separate court battles. The Choctaw Nation began the journey to reunite Lexi with her family in 2011. Lexi is now home with her extended family – where she is able to grow up with both of her biological Choctaw sisters.

    From the very beginning of Lexi’s case, the goal was for Lexi to have a permanent home with her family. The foster parents were always aware that Lexi’s presence in their home was intended to be temporary, as is the nature of foster care. The foster parents were also always aware that Lexi’s case fell under the federal and California Indian Child Welfare Acts.

    Lexi’s family made sure they were part of Lexi’s life, and they have a relationship with her. Each month, they made the long drive to see Lexi. Twice each week, her family had SKYPE visits with Lexi. In addition, Lexi has had extended visits in her family’s home in Utah. Lexi has a relationship with her biological sisters and she knows them as her sisters.

    The tribe and the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services have been vilified and the facts of this case have been warped in an attempt to gain public sympathy for the foster family. This case is not about the foster family – but about a child’s long-term best interest- Lexi’s best interest.

    Lexi – a child who should never have been subjected to the trauma of a media circus when the foster parents’ legal remedies were exhausted.

    Lexi- a child who should never have had her rights to privacy and confidentiality violated.

    It appears the foster family and their counsel are attempting to turn Lexi’s case into a political call to arms to dismantle ICWA. For the Choctaw Nation this case is not about politics. This case is about one of our children, one of our tribal members.

    And regardless of tribal membership, Lexi should be allowed to live with her family, just as all children in any deprived case should.

    The law requires Lexi be given the chance to grow up with her family, with her sisters. The California courts, time and again, found that Lexi should live with her family. The Pages have done nothing but delay Lexi’s reunification with her family.

    Despite all the delays, the Choctaw Nation can report that Lexi is safely home with her loving family and her sisters, and she is doing well.

    The Choctaw Nation is grateful that so many people are interested in Lexi’s wellbeing, and hope everyone continues to look at both sides of Lexi’s case. We also request that each of you respect this young child’s right to privacy.

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    January 5, 2016


    Choctaw Nation holds groundbreaking ceremony in Heavener

    Heavener_groundbreaking Chief Gary Batton along with council and community members break ground on new Travel Plaza and Casino Too in Heavener.

    The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma had a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday, Jan. 5, for its new Travel Plaza and Casino Too in Heavener.

    The new location, adjacent to the current Travel Plaza, will add a Casino Too and will provide 18 new jobs for a total of 38 at the facility. “If we can put these 18 new jobs here in Heavener, it’s a win for us in Southeastern Oklahoma,” said Chief Gary Batton.

    It will feature a Choctaw Country Welcome Center dedicated to showcasing tourism information and destinations, Choctaw culture and Choctaw-made items.

    The new 10,254-sq.-ft. facility will offer gasoline, diesel and two trucking lanes. Amenities include a full kitchen, a dining area, drive-through service and 25 games in the Casino Too.