Choctaw Nation Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma en-us 40 “Achukma” pecan oil business, achukma hoke! <p><img src="" alt='Dan and Mark Hamilton' /><br> <em>Dan Hamilton (left) and Mark Hamilton (right) stand beside the machinery they use to produce the clean, cold pressed, unrefined “Achukma” pecan oil. Some of the machines used in the process had to be imported or fabricated to get even more oil out of the meats of the Oklahoma pecans. (PHOTO BY BRANDON FRYE)</em><br></p> <h3>Choctaw businessman keeps it natural and healthy</h3> <p><em>By Brandon Frye</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma</em><br></p> <p><strong>Coleman, Okla.</strong> - A year and a half after spearheading the development of a new product for his family business&#8211;wearing the hats of a researcher, business planner, production manager, and engineer along the way&#8211; Mark Hamilton, retired Oklahoma educator and coach, found himself in a room full of Choctaw Nation employees explaining the natural benefits of pecan oil.<br></p> <p>But the story of “Achukma,” 100% pure virgin pecan oil, does not start there in that room.<br></p> <p>It starts with Hamilton, a family man, a businessman, an Oklahoman, and a man often seen wearing a cap and a pair of work boots. He is a figure-it-out kind of guy, and had to be during the production of “Achukma“ pecan oil.<br></p> <p>“I was assigned the project with one directive: figure it out,” Hamilton said. The Hamilton family business, Tri-Agri Farm Center, lead by Mark’s father Dan Hamilton, had their hands in multiple products and services over the years, including animal feed and peanut handling. But, after the peanut growing business had moved out of Oklahoma and into Texas and other areas in 1999, the Hamiltons were left with equipment ready to be repurposed, a series of problems to be solved, and an opportunity.<br></p> <p>And so began the journey that has led to the Hamiltons operating one of the largest pecan cleaning and marketing operations in Oklahoma. In the spring of 2013, the Hamiltons found themselves faced with a new challenge and a new opportunity. An unstable economic environment surrounding the production and sale of pecans left some Oklahoma growers and harvesters with crops of little value. And the normal selection process left many smaller pecans, and pieces of pecans, with no value at all.<br></p> <p>But pecans are an important crop to Oklahoma, especially the native pecan. Oklahoma is very well suited for growing pecans, because the pecan tree is native to the area. Oklahoma produces, on average, 12 to 15 million pounds of pecans a year, according to Hamilton. Those pecans help generate money in cash crop value to the state of Oklahoma, and help provide jobs for people in the industry like harvesters and cleaners.<br><img src="" align="right" width="250" alt='Pecan Bucket' /><br></p> <p>So, the Hamiltons began looking into ways to stabilize the market, benefit the growers, use more Oklahoma pecans, and offer a pure and healthy product to consumers. “To create another market venue for Oklahoma pecans, we started looking at pecan oil,” Hamilton said. “We asked what areas could benefit from a pecan-based product. Most of the pecan usage in this country is over the holidays, but we wanted a product that would allow people to benefit from pecans year-round.”<br></p> <p>A few hurdles popped up along the way, the biggest of which was figuring out just how to get all of that healthy oil out of the pecan. “We developed a process that allows us to effectively extract the oil that is much more effective than the common process,” Hamilton said. They made adjustments to equipment, imported new and rare machines, and were left with a unique process.<br></p> <p>It all happens at the Hamilton family business, which is tucked away down a side road in Coleman. Without looking closely, it might perfectly blend in with the rest of the small Oklahoma town. From a distance, there appears to be only a gray building, but once the road hooks around, a view opens up to a line of trees surrounding holding bins, trailers, and birds playing on equipment once used to prepare peanuts.<br></p> <p>Walking into the room where “Achukma” pecan oil is made is like stepping through the gate of an old country road into a pristine laboratory. The walls are a shiny metallic, the ground is a smooth and spotless concrete, and the machines stand as simple bins, tubes, tanks, and machinery arranged to enact a streamlined experiment. During production, the pecans move through a series of procedures designed to keep the oil as fresh and pure as possible. Heat and chemicals, which would break down the oil, are never used. Instead, the pecans are spun and cold pressed as nearly all of the oil is extracted from the meat of the nut. In the end, pecan oil, pecan flour, and a form of pecan butter are left in a clean, whole, and pure state.<br></p> <p>With a fresh product, the Hamiltons started researching names. “I am Choctaw, my family moved to Boggy Depot, Indian territory, in 1872 and have been here ever since. We embrace our Choctaw heritage. I wanted to have our name represent our intent, to provide a natural, healthy product. My mother found the word achukma, which can mean good, beautiful, pure; and one of these days, I intend for achukma to be recognized world-wide.” Hamilton added that they are well on their way to that, with customer interest from as far away as Egypt and China.<br></p> <p>Almost two years later Hamilton found himself in what was later referred to as the Choctaw Nations’ version of the “Shark Tank” (a reality competition show where entrepreneurs make business presentations), the group had come together to explore in what ways the Hamilton family business could benefit from the programs the Choctaw Nation offers.<br></p> <p>In regards to “Achukma“ pecan oil, the product of Hamilton’s labors, he said the health benefits are tremendous. “We have learned so much. It is a great cooking oil, is good for your skin, and is even good for treating leather. I am really excited about the potential.” This got the ball rolling and piqued the interest of the group. Dale Jackson, Senior Business Analyst for the Choctaw Nation, said that he works to take tribal members and their companies and help them grow. “I see a unique opportunity here,” he said, adding that his family has enjoyed using the pecan oil before.<br><img src="" align="right" width="300" alt='Pecan Oil' /></p> <p>The product practically sells itself, said Hamilton’s Director of Marketing, Russell Washington. “If you let me talk to someone for two or three minutes, they’ll buy it,” he said during the meeting. “It’s not that you have to convince them to buy it, it’s just that most people have never heard of pecan oil and are not aware of its nutritional benefits.” <br></p> <p>Washington listed all of the perks and benefits of the oil to the group. It is gluten-free, so it is safe for people with gluten sensitivity or allergies. It is cold pressed and unrefined, so it stays as pure and healthy as the pecan itself. It contains antioxidants, which help prevent the oxidation and damage of cells. It contains healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids, which help with normal metabolism. It is never genetically modified, and so is a more natural and tasty product.<br></p> <p>According to Dr. Lloyd Sumner, microbiologist with Noble Foundation Research in Ardmore, “We (Drs. Zhentian Lei and myself) are collaborating with Native American Specialty Products to better assess the chemical nature of the nutritional components of the pecan oil; especially antioxidant phenolics and polyunsaturated fats.” This research could lead to the understanding of even more beneficial applications of the pecan products.<br></p> <p>And if the health benefits are not enough, Washington added, “My wife has tested it, and listen, guys, it makes the best chicken fried steak of your life.” Veree Shaw, Marketing Director for the Choctaw Nation, offered to help Hamilton and his pecan oil by looking into label printing and placing the items in Choctaw outlets like the welcome centers.<br></p> <p>The Hamiltons offer more than just pecan oil for culinary creations. They also supply a pecan flour as a pure and unrefined sidekick to the oil. And a blend of the oil is also packaged and sold as New Life Leather Treatment. Their products are currently available online at <a href="">Achukma</a>, or over the phone at (580) 937-4300, and will soon be available through health food stores, Choctaw Nation outlets, and the venues are still growing.<br></p> <p><!-- AddThis Button BEGIN --></p> <div class="addthis_toolbox addthis_default_style "> <a class="addthis_button_facebook_like" fb:like:layout="button_count"></a> <a class="addthis_button_tweet"></a> <a class="addthis_button_pinterest_pinit"></a> <a class="addthis_counter addthis_pill_style"></a> </div> <script type="text/javascript" src="//"></script> <p><!-- AddThis Button END --></p> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 15:36:54 GMT Elder Spotlight – Mr. and Mrs. Benton. <p><img src="" alt='Bentons' /><br> <em>Nathan Benton, full-blood Choctaw, and wife Aline Benton, full-blood Cherokee, meet with Chief Gary Batton at the Wichita Cultural Meeting on Oct.5. Mr. and Mrs. Benton met in youth while at the Haskell Institute, and Nathan&#8217;s father was an original enrollee.</em><br></p> <h3>Full-blood Choctaw and Full-blood Cherokee love, grow up, and spend life together.</h3> <p><em>By BRANDON FRYE</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma</em><br></p> <p><strong>DURANT, Okla.</strong> – Nathan Benton, full-blood Choctaw, and wife Aline Benton, full-blood Cherokee, met in youth while at the Haskell Indian Institute, what was then a high school and is now known as Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan. They have been together ever since.<br></p> <p>“We met at a church service on Sunday night,” Mr. Benton said. “We were walking out of the building and just started a conversation, that’s where it began.”<br></p> <p>The two of them had attended separate boarding schools during grade school. Mrs. Benton was a member of the Seneca Indian School, in Wyandotte, Okla. Mr. Benton attended the Jones Academy with the Choctaw Nation.<br></p> <p>He recalled a story from third grade where he and his cousin Jesse James (not the outlaw) left the academy on foot for Thanksgiving break, aiming to make it all the way home to Talihina. They walked a ways and ended up hitching a ride on the back of a farmer’s wagon. Mr. Benton found a dime in the back, and the farmer let the two stay the night and eat his wife’s cooking. The next day, they made it into town on foot and bought a loaf of bread to eat with that dime, but it was molded and they did without.<br></p> <p>&#8220;It sounds like hardship, but we took it in stride,” Mr. Benton said. The day they made it home after a three-day journey, Nathan was driven back and it only took half a day. Only Nathan got the ride, cousin Jesse stayed back.<br></p> <p>In high school, Mr. Benton was interested in mechanics and agriculture, and Mrs. Benton took classes in home economics and core subjects.<br> </p> <p>“I was a boxer back in those days, too,” Mr. Benton said. “That was in ‘45. We had a boxing program, so we boxed around different towns in Oklahoma. I had been boxing since when I weighed 65 pounds.”<br></p> <p>In the summers, Mr. Benton would harvest wheat with a group for a contractor, a job which took them from Texas up to the Canada/U.S. border. And when he graduated from high school, he went back to study mechanics as a post-grad.<br></p> <p>He was drafted into the Army for the Korean War in 1950, but before he left, he married the love of his life, Aline.<br></p> <p>After two years of service, Mr. Benton was honorably discharged after receiving a knee injury. “My wife and I moved back to Lawrence, Kansas,” he said. “I went to work as a heavy equipment operator, and when I would finish a contract, I had to look for another job.”<br></p> <p>After finishing a contract, the man who trained Nathan in auto mechanics talked him into taking a position at Chilocco Indian Boarding School.<br></p> <p>Mr. and Mrs. Benton worked until retirement at the school. Mr. Benton taught heavy machinery, and Mrs. Benton fed the 1,200 students three meals a day. To this day, Mr. Benton has retired from four jobs.<br></p> <p>They had five children, 14 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren, all descendants of Mr. Benton’s father, Nathan Hale Benton Sr., who was an original enrollee of the Choctaw Nation.<br></p> <p>The two celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary on Oct. 10, 2014. When asked what it took to stay together for so long, Mrs. Benton said, “I would say you need love. That’s the key. Because when you love each other, you have consideration for each other. And we got married to stay married when we got married.”<br></p> <p>Mr. and Mrs. Benton agreed that their faith played a large role. “The biggest factor is we are both Christians and have served the Lord all of these years,” Mr. Benton said. “We just lived by our Christian principles, and that was always our guide.”<br></p> <p>The two have been charter members of the Hillcrest Bible Baptist Church in Arkansas City, Kans., their local church for 51 years. “The lord blesses us all, and we kept close to him,” they said.<br></p> <p><!-- AddThis Button BEGIN --></p> <div class="addthis_toolbox addthis_default_style "> <a class="addthis_button_facebook_like" fb:like:layout="button_count"></a> <a class="addthis_button_tweet"></a> <a class="addthis_button_pinterest_pinit"></a> <a class="addthis_counter addthis_pill_style"></a> </div> <script type="text/javascript" src="//"></script> <p><!-- AddThis Button END --></p> Tue, 14 Oct 2014 18:00:05 GMT Choctaw Nation expanding economic footprint with ranch acquisitions <p><img src="" alt='Choctaw Ranch Cows' /><br> <em>Red Angus cattle approach a fence line at the northwest corner of Winding Stair Ranch, eager for a snack of hay or breeder cubes. (Photo by ZACH MAXWELL)</em><br></p> <h3>The Choctaw Nation is getting back to its roots – and some of those roots are right under our feet.</h3> <p><em>By ZACH MAXWELL</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma</em><br></p> <p>“We are going to reclaim our land base,” Chief Gary Batton said during his State of the Nation address at the tribe’s annual Labor Day Festival in September. “This last year, we acquired about 44,000 acres of land, and yes: We are reclaiming our homeland.”<br></p> <p>The purchase of twin ranches in the Kiamichi foothills in late 2013 has tripled the land base of the Choctaw Nation. Batton said the tribe already employs nearly a dozen people on the ranchland, with plans to hire another 19.<br></p> <p>“We’re going to go back to agriculture, that is part of our old ways,” Batton said. “We want to see what we can grow and what cattle we can raise, so we can help our tribal members go into agriculture.”<br></p> <p>The Nation now has more than 500 cattle—mostly Angus—on the Winding Stair Ranch with plans for many more. Nearly that many calves are expected in the coming months.<br></p> <p>Shannon McDaniel, Executive Director of Tribal Management, said these first steps are major mileposts on the tribe’s 20-year business development plan.<br></p> <p>“It’s great to have this land and cattle, and to have means of employing tribal people on our own lands,” McDaniel said. “We’re providing a food source to Oklahoma and our people and it’s all at the direction of Chief Batton.”<br></p> <p>The overall goals include planting and harvesting hay on some of the acreage, especially southern portions of the ranches. The cattle, hay, timber, and potential recreation will provide sustenance and profit for the ever-expanding economic base of the tribe.<br><img src="" align="right" width="250" alt='Choctaw Ranch Sign' /></p> <p>With these ranches added to the tribal land base, the Choctaw Nation now holds close to 70,000 acres of ranch land and some 950 head of cattle. The newest acquisitions are located between Daisy and Hartshorne, mainly in Ti Valley, but the Choctaw Nation also operates ranches southeast of Idabel, east of Tvshka Homma and in Sawyer and Hugo.<br></p> <p>In fact, the tribe also recently acquired 250 acres adjacent to the Tribal Services Complex on the west side of Hugo, which includes extensive working pens. This fits into long-range plans for the tribe to market its cattle, as well as a potential slaughterhouse that would bring in diverse local jobs.<br></p> <p>McDaniel said the Choctaw Nation is forming partnerships with the University of Arkansas as well as Oklahoma State University to explore land use strategies and sustainable crops such as alfalfa hay. McDaniel is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at a land management conference hosted this month by the university in Fayetteville, Ark.<br></p> <p>The Choctaw Nation has employed the services of a wildlife biologist and other visiting experts to gauge the usefulness of the 68.75 square miles of meadows, timbered hills and creek banks it has acquired.<br></p> <p>The sprawling Winding Stair, which is actually two ranches bisected by the Indian Nation Turnpike, includes heavily timbered hills and valleys. The sheer size and diversity of landscapes fit well into the tribe’s long-range land management plan.<br></p> <p>Jack Hicks, Director of Agriculture and Ranch Operations, together with new Ranch Manager Shane Sparks, oversee operations at Winding Stair. The main thoroughfare is a 17-mile path through the hills, where abundant wildlife and lush forests give a sense of what the first Choctaws must have seen when they arrived from the Trail of Tears nearly 200 years ago.<br></p> <p>The headwaters of McGee Creek and several smaller tributaries flow from these Choctaw hills and some have been impounded as ponds. The Brushy-Peaceable Creek Watershed Project, partially funded by the U.S. government in the 1970s, forms one of the largest ponds at the site of a lodge that was included in the purchase.<br></p> <p>The lodge sleeps 17 in large bedrooms and bunk-style group rooms with themes like “Indian territory,” “King Ranch,” and “Buck Fever.” Plans are in the works to rent out the lodge and provide outdoor recreational opportunities for youth groups and, potentially, the public.<br></p> <p>The eastern portion of Winding Stair is likely to be used for hay production and managed recreation, with the western land to focus on cattle ranching operations. There are more than 100 miles of roads and 70 miles of outer fence at Winding Stair.<br></p> <p><!-- AddThis Button BEGIN --></p> <div class="addthis_toolbox addthis_default_style "> <a class="addthis_button_facebook_like" fb:like:layout="button_count"></a> <a class="addthis_button_tweet"></a> <a class="addthis_button_pinterest_pinit"></a> <a class="addthis_counter addthis_pill_style"></a> </div> <script type="text/javascript" src="//"></script> <p><!-- AddThis Button END --></p> Tue, 14 Oct 2014 17:53:48 GMT Tvshka Homma wins Championship at Alabama-Coushatta for third year in a row <p><img src="" alt='tvshkahommateam' /><br> Team Tvshka Homma has won its third straight stickball championship at the Alabama-Coushatta Co-Ed Tournament in Livingston, Texas, on Oct. 11. The Choctaw Nation stickball team took three victories over the Nighthawks (5-1), Bok Cito from Mississippi (6-2) and the host Alabama-Coushatta team (12-4). Congratulations, Tvshka Homma!</p> <p><img src="" alt='tvshkahommaohoyo' /><br> Tvshka Homma had nine ladies on the Co-Ed team. The “Ohoyo Chakkali” were Valerie Williston, Nikki Eagleroad, Macy Bohanon, Janet James, Gennavie Tom, Shyla Gullick, Beckah Boykin, Jana Jim and “Beloved” Sarah Sharp.</p> <p><img src="" alt='teamtrophybags' /><br> Tvshka Homma accepted its championship stickball tournament trophy on Oct. 11 at the tournament banquet on the Alabama-Coushatta Reservation in Texas. Left to right: Tvshka Homma assistant coaches Josh Riley and Gennavie Tom, Gregory Battise from the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe, Tvshka Homma Coach Les Williston and assistant coach Casey McKinney.</p> Mon, 13 Oct 2014 22:51:28 GMT Bancroft leads day of domestic abuse training <p><img src="" alt='Domestic Candle Feather' /><br> <em>As the sun dips below the horizon at Tvshka Homma, attendees of the candlelight vigil hold their lights to remember and honor the men and women who have been impacted by domestic violence.</em><br></p> <h3>Bancroft leads day of domestic abuse training</h3> <p><em>By Brandon Frye</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma</em><br></p> <p><strong>Durant, Okla.</strong>- The Choctaw Nation hosted a day-long workshop meant to train and prepare victims of domestic abuse as well as the professionals who help them in Durant on Sept. 19. The event was held leading into October’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month, when the Choctaw Nation will host events to bring the issue to light and support anyone impacted by domestic abuse.<br></p> <p>Lundy Bancroft – who has more than 20 years of experience training professionals to intervene with male perpetrators of violence and supporting healing and empowerment for abused women – led the workshop, which was based around his book “Why Does He Do That?”<br></p> <p>“We are dealing with a problem that’s really profound, and communities keep underestimating it,” Bancroft said. “The question of why doesn’t she leave is really much better asked: what is it about our community that makes it so hard for her to be away from the abuser, and what can we change in our communities to make it possible?”<br></p> <p>Advocates and specialists from across the state spent the day exploring answers to such questions. Representatives from organizations such as Child Welfare, Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), and the office of the Oklahoma Attorney General were among those who gathered to spend the day sharing insight during activities. Representatives from Native programs including the Muscogee (Creek) “Warriors Honor Women” attended alongside individuals from Choctaw programs such as Project Safe and the Family Violence Prevention program.<br></p> <p class="align left" style="margin-left:20px;"><img src="" alt='Domestic Chief Signing' /><br><i><font size="2">Chief Gary Batton signs a Domestic Violence Proclamation, officially recognizing that domestic violence is a very serious issue, and showing he and the tribe will support domestic violence awarness, as well as the advocates and workers who serve victims. It is the first time in the Choctaw Nation history for a Chief to sign such a proclamation. Chief Batton announced that next October, the Nation will be wearing purple every Thursday to show support.</i></font></p> <p>“Lundy came into the Choctaw Nation and worked with the Choctaw Nation advocates, community partners, and anyone who may come across domestic violence. We invited the whole community, as well as our employees, so they could benefit from the workshop,” Davania Wesley, Victim’s Advocate with the Choctaw Nation and event organizer, said.<br></p> <p>One of the biggest teaching points of the event was the victim’s right to be treated as a human, and abusers ignoring these rights.<br></p> <p>“Not only is it just wrong that they are treated like this, but it is their right to be treated better,” Wesley said. “Maybe they don’t feel like they have any rights, they are just trying to survive day to day, but we have to build up a mind frame that they can and should be treated with respect and dignity.”<br></p> <p>As for why an abuser chooses to abuse, Nicole Schell-Loper, Project Safe Coordinator for the Choctaw Nation and event attendee, said, “There are many different answers, depending on the abuser, but in a nutshell, they want control of you, they like that power and control, and they have a low self-esteem.”<br></p> <p>Wesley said the assistance programs with the Choctaw Nation make it a goal to help clients with every aspect, with every need. She said if one person cannot help, the worker or advocate can give the client resources and refer them to a program which can help.<br></p> <p>“I want to let them know that they have rights and need to continue to protect themselves and can call us, or drop by any of the offices,” Wesley said.<br></p> <p>She listed the ways in which the Choctaw Nation offers aid to individuals escaping or recovering from domestic abuse. She said, “we try to help with their shelter, we provide transportation to the shelter, we give them legal information, we help them file protective orders, we offer a lot of resources and referrals of other services to help them with housing, social services, getting a GED, attending a vocational school or college.<br></p> <p>“Statistically, men don’t report it. But girls can be emotionally or verbally abusive, and if they are physically abusive, usually a guy won’t feel physically threatened, or they don’t want to report it because they don’t want to tell a police officer.<br></p> <p>“What I do, right now, I go into the schools and talk about domestic violence, teen dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking prevention. So I go through grades five through college and explain what healthy relationships are and which are not, and we talk about the early warning signs.<br></p> <p>“When the jealousy takes over, and you have to ask someone to change because of that jealousy, that’s a big red flag.<br></p> <p>“A lot of these women, if they are not being physically assaulted, they might not realize it is abuse, especially if they grew up in a household with abuse.”<br></p> <p>The community is asked to support domestic violence awareness at the Victims Assistance walk in Hugo on October, 22. For more information regarding this event, please call the Choctaw Nation at (800) 522-6170 and ask for the Choctaw Family Services group.<br></p> <p><!-- AddThis Button BEGIN --></p> <div class="addthis_toolbox addthis_default_style "> <a class="addthis_button_facebook_like" fb:like:layout="button_count"></a> <a class="addthis_button_tweet"></a> <a class="addthis_button_pinterest_pinit"></a> <a class="addthis_counter addthis_pill_style"></a> </div> <script type="text/javascript" src="//"></script> <p><!-- AddThis Button END --></p> Fri, 10 Oct 2014 13:34:42 GMT AARP Recognizes Oklahoma Indian Elders at Annual Honors Event <p><img src="" alt='AARP Picture' /><br> <em>Chief Gary Batton and Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr., congratulate Lorene Blaine, Former Chief Greg Pyle and Sue Folsom during the AARP Oklahoma Honors event.</em><br></p> <h3>AARP Recognizes Oklahoma Indian Elders at Annual Honors Event</h3> <p><strong>Oklahoma City, Okla.</strong> - AARP Oklahoma hosted its 6th Annual Indian Elder Honors Tuesday, October 7 at the National Cowboy &amp; Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Fifty elders from 30 Oklahoma tribes and nations were recognized.<br></p> <p>Three Choctaw Nation members were honored during the event.<br></p> <p>Former Chief Greg E. Pyle was awarded the inaugural Dr. John Edwards Memorial Leadership Award in recognition of more than thirty years of service to his people.<br></p> <p>“Chief Pyle is a visionary leader whose service to all Native Americans will continue to be felt for generations to come,” Marjorie Lyons, AARP Oklahoma State President, said.<br></p> <p>Lorene Blaine and Sue Folsom were also honored as AARP Oklahoma Indian Elders during the event.<br> </p> <p>Lorene, a full blood Choctaw, is actively involved in cultural activities of the Choctaw Nation. She has passed down her talents of cooking native food, singing the native language, beadwork, and sewing to generations of Choctaws. Lorene’s contributions to the Choctaw Nation were honored in 2009 when she was named Outstanding Female Elder of the Choctaw Nation.<br></p> <p>Sue Folsom serves as a standard bearer for the Choctaw culture as the Executive Director of Cultural Services for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. She leads a staff that preserves the Choctaw culture, traditions and history. She was recently appointed vice president of the National Trail of Tears Association and also serves on the Oklahoma Museum Association, U.S. Marshall Tribal Advisory Committee, Kiamichi Tourism Board, Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes, and National Native American Indian Museum Association.<br> </p> <p>The Choctaw Nation is honored to be associated with these great individuals as they continue to uphold the great standard of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.<br></p> <p><!-- AddThis Button BEGIN --></p> <div class="addthis_toolbox addthis_default_style "> <a class="addthis_button_facebook_like" fb:like:layout="button_count"></a> <a class="addthis_button_tweet"></a> <a class="addthis_button_pinterest_pinit"></a> <a class="addthis_counter addthis_pill_style"></a> </div> <script type="text/javascript" src="//"></script> <p><!-- AddThis Button END --></p> Wed, 08 Oct 2014 19:53:51 GMT Student School and Activity Fund application available October 1, 2014 <h4><h4>Student School and Activity Fund</h4></h4> <p>Jason Campbell, Director<br /> P.O. Box 1210<br/> Durant, OK 74702<br/> Phone: (800) 522-6170 Ext. 2463 or Ext. 2175 <br /> <a href="">Student School and Activity Fund</a></p> <p>Due to the high volume of requests, all phone lines may be in use and you may leave a voicemail for an application.<br/><br/> If you leave a voice mail, be sure to leave your name, complete mailing address, and number of applications needed.<br/><br/> You may also <a href="">Email</a> for an application be sure to include mailing address and number of applications required. <br/></p> Wed, 01 Oct 2014 00:13:37 GMT Student School and Activity Fund <h4><h4>Student School and Activity Fund</h4></h4> <p>Jason Campbell, Director<br /> P.O. Box 1210<br/> Durant, OK 74702<br/> Phone: (800) 522-6170 Ext. 2463 or Ext. 2175 <br /> <a href="">Student School and Activity Fund</a></p> <p>Due to the high volume of requests, all phone lines may be in use and you may leave a voicemail for an application.<br/><br/> If you leave a voice mail, be sure to leave your name, complete mailing address, and number of applications needed.<br/><br/> You may also <a href="">Email</a> for an application be sure to include mailing address and number of applications required. <br/></p> Wed, 01 Oct 2014 00:13:05 GMT When Catastrophe Strikes: Responses to Natural Disasters in Indian Country <h3>Matt Gregory Speaks Before the U.S. Senate Committee of Indian Affairs</h3> <p><em>TESTIMONY OF MATT GREGORY</em><br> <em>CHOCTAW NATION OF OKLAHOMA</em><br></p> <p>Good Afternoon. Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, my name is Matt Gregory and I am the Executive Director of Risk Management for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. On behalf of our Chief, the Honorable Gary Batton, I thank you for this opportunity to testify.<br> I am responsible to the Choctaw Nation for oversight of its Emergency Management Program. Our job is to ensure that the Choctaw Nation is prepared for, and ready to respond to, the next disaster. I&#8217;ve held this responsibility for 13 years, and have many years of experience in the fields of risk management, insurance and public safety. The Choctaw Nation has grown our emergency response program over the past 5 years and we expect that we will need to further expand our capabilities.<br> The Choctaw Nation jurisdictional boundaries cover a 10 ••• county-wide area in southeastern Oklahoma, including Bryan, Atoka, Coal, Pittsburg, Haskell, Latimer, LeFlore, Hughes, McCurtain, Choctaw, and Pushmataha counties. We are responsible for approximately 11,000 square miles. This mostly rural area has a Census 2010 population of 233,126. Of that, approximately 42,000 are Choctaw tribal members. The Choctaw Nation shares governmental responsibilities with various local units of government. Because of our checkerboard land ownership and the generations of non-members who now live among tribal citizens in our communities, our challenges are somewhat different from tribal governments who exercise jurisdiction over an intact reservation land base. Our tribal government responsibilities are necessarily intertwined with the governmental responsibilities of our neighboring towns, cities, and counties.<br></p> <p>Along with our neighbors, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma usually is confronted by several natural disasters each year; including tornadoes, ice storms, high winds, extreme cold, hail storms, lightning, life-threatening heat, drought, wildfires, earthquakes, hazardous material releases, dam failures, and transportation accidents. In 2007, Oklahoma endured nine separate federally-declared disasters. <br> Throughout our history the Choctaw Nation has been plagued by significant disasters that disrupt our lives. According to the National Climatic Data Center, between 1950 and 2014, Choctaw Nation communities experienced 336 tornado events, with 48 deaths, and a total of $73 million in damages. In the last decade alone, Choctaw Nation communities lived through more than 1,450 events from all hazards and suffered damage totaling nearly $37 million, half of which was associated with 16 ice storms.<br> The 2007 winter ice storm had a significant impact on the citizens of Pittsburg and surrounding counties. 28,399 power outages were reported lasting for approximately two weeks. The Choctaw Nation responded immediately and worked with city, county, and state agencies to help those in need. Some of our activities included:<br> • Renting and placing generators in McAlester, Crowder, and Stigler at Community Centers used as shelters;<br> • Supplying water, food, toiletries, tarps, batteries, flashlights, lamp oil, and many other necessities to our tribal members and other citizens in the affected areas; and<br> • Collaborating with the National Guard to place a generator at our Travel Plaza which we opened to allow responding emergency vehicles to fuel up and get supplies. <br></p> <p>In April 2011 an EF3 tornado (winds measuring between 136-165 mph) struck the town of Tushka, just 26 miles from our Choctaw Tribal Headquarters, killing two people and injuring 40. The Choctaw Nation had many tribal members, employees, and neighbors deeply affected by this storm. The Choctaw Nation again responded immediately and had support on the ground within hours after the storm hit. At one point there were 100+ volunteers working in the area. Some of the activities included:<br> • Operating a feeding station at the Command Center for volunteer workers and displaced citizens;<br> • Delivering food, water, and basic necessities to several distribution points within the community;<br> • Opening the Atoka Community Center as a shelter and access point for tribal members needing services; and<br> • Setting up a first aid center for injured citizens and workers. </p> <p>I want to note that a survey after the tornado indicated that nearly one-half of the residents of Tushka did not have property insurance coverage. We found that after that disaster, the cost of insurance became even more expensive, increasing by as much as 50%. The growing lack of insurance coverage makes the Choctaw Nation&#8217;s disaster assistance all the more vital.<br> The Choctaw Nation has also responded to disasters like flooding events, microbursts, and winter storms. Our most recent response was to the winter ice storm that hit Choctaw, McCurtain, Leflore, and Pushmataha counties. During this event we performed the following activities:<br> • Renting and placing generators in Hugo and Antlers at Community Centers used as shelters;<br> • Renting and placing generators in Bethel and Smithville at Community Centers used as warming stations and water distribution sites;<br> • Supplying water, food, toiletries, tarps, batteries, flashlights, lamp oil, and many other necessities to our tribal members and other citizens in the affected areas; and<br> • Coordinating with the Red Cross and the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief to cook and deliver meals to several shelters and feeding stations.<br> </p> <p>The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has responded to disasters outside our geographical boundaries as well. All citizens of Oklahoma are faced with these various disasters and the leadership of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma understands that unity in these times is critical to recovering from a disaster. After the tornado struck Chickasaw communities in Moore, Oklahoma in 2013, the Choctaw Nation responded with equipment, personnel, and financial resources to assist in cleanup and recovery. Disasters affect every aspect of life, and require a wide variety of responses (for example, one of the many things we did was deliver chicken feed in Moore to keep flocks alive in the days after the tornado destroyed their community). For its efforts in Moore, the Choctaw Nation was honored to receive the &#8220;Doing the Most Good&#8221; award from the Salvation Army, which is one of many great organizations with whom we cooperate in disaster relief.<br> The Choctaw Nation considers itself blessed to have resources available to assist our tribal members and neighbors during these disasters. In 2010 the Choctaw Nation received FEMA approval of our tribally adopted Tribal Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan. We are currently working on updating this plan for resubmittal to FEMA. In 2012 we developed our Choctaw Nation Emergency Response Plan and established our Choctaw Nation Emergency Response Team. The Choctaw Nation currently utilizes the National Incident Management System and maintains current compliance with the program.<br> In 2012 the Nation hired a full time Emergency Manager and began to expand the development of the program. As of July this year the Nation has developed a joint Continuity of Operations/Continuity of Government or COO/COG plan, emergency communications plan, and is updating our Emergency Operations Plan or EOP. In addition the Nation will be developing several other plans to meet our needs and FEMA requirements (e.g., warning notification, public assistance administration, donation/volunteer management, other needs assistance, strategic development, and debris management).<br> In addition, the Choctaw Nation is also working closely with the State of Oklahoma and FEMA on a pilot project through the Emergency Management Accreditation Program, and we hope to be the first Tribe in the Nation to receive this accreditation. The Choctaw Nation has also been working on a project with the State and several Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters or VOAD groups to ensure that the needs of children are met after a disaster strikes. In addition, the Choctaw Nation has been coordinating with the State to identify points of distribution for supplies in an effort to consolidate resources and coordinate more effective disaster response.<br> The Choctaw Nation is an active member of the Oklahoma Emergency Management Association (OEMA) and of the Inter-Tribal Emergency Management Coalition (ITEMC). ITEMC was developed to allow tribes to coordinate and share information regarding disaster response and preparedness activities. ITEMC has worked very closely with the State of Oklahoma and FEMA Region VI to bring training opportunities and vital information to the tribes regarding hazard mitigation and preparedness activities.<br> Planning efforts are very important and are vital to our success but we also realize the need for improvements through mitigation activities. The Choctaw Nation has completed several mitigation projects, including the following activities:<br> • Installed generators at several critical facilities;<br> • Developed a public information campaign;<br> • Implemented a storm shelter/safe room program and funded 1,136 shelters for elder and special needs tribal members;<br> • Purchased equipment for the delivery of supplies;<br> • Established a GIS department;<br> • Developed an EOP and response team;<br> • Secured equipment for our Public Safety division for disaster response; and<br> • Secured an off-site solution for data backup and recovery.<br> </p> <p>The Office of Emergency Management and the Emergency Management Program for the Choctaw Nation remains active in times when there are no disasters. Much of our effort focuses on the preparedness and capacity of the Tribe to recover from a disaster. Our vast coverage area can be a challenge but with strategic mitigation projects we hope to lessen the effects of a disaster on our tribal members and the communities in which we reside. As we move forward we hope to complete the following mitigation measures: • Purchasing and installing generators at all of our Community Centers;<br> • Purchasing and installing generators at all of our Travel Plazas;<br> • Building multiple warehouses in specific locations for the quick disbursement of water and supplies;<br> • Building a hardened Emergency Operations Center;<br> • Purchasing a mass notification system to communicate with our employees and tribal members during a disaster or emergency situation; and<br> • Creating an arbor program to help mitigate falling tree limbs on power lines during winter events.<br> </p> <p>These are just a few of the new measures that will be in our Hazard Mitigation Plan and of course will depend on available funding through the Tribe and state and federal funding sources. Federal grant programs like PDM (Pre-Disaster Mitigation) and HMGP (Hazard Mitigation Grant Program) are critical to the success of any mitigation strategy and the Tribe is thankful for the opportunity to apply for these resources. We applaud the recent changes to the Stafford Act which strengthen the sovereignty of tribal governments and allow a Tribe like the Choctaw Nation to seek a disaster declaration directly from the President of the United States.<br> As we work with you and the Administration to implement our Stafford Act authority, there are some issues that may require further refinement. For example, the Stafford Act set $1 million in damage as its threshold for applying for a declaration. This may not work well for a Tribe like the Choctaw Nation, with small communities spread out over a wide rural area. A tornado can wipe out a small impoverished town of 30 homes and not meet the $1 million damage threshold. However, for the 30 families in that community, the devastation is overwhelming and the destruction is total. A one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter approach never works very well in Indian Country, especially in Oklahoma, where tribes typically do not own utilities, roads, or other infrastructure that during a disaster help a county or state reach the $1 million damage threshold.<br> When the Choctaw Nation, as well as other tribes, responds to a disaster we are responding to the entire community not just our tribal members. This creates a list of other concerns with our new Stafford Act authority:<br> • If the State is not awarded a declaration but our Tribe is, can a county come to our Tribe for reimbursement of its costs related to the disaster?<br> • If the State and our Tribe or several tribes are awarded a declaration, how is that funding allocated?<br> • If our Tribe responds to the entire community are the costs related to non-tribal response efforts eligible for reimbursement?<br> </p> <p>These are just a few of the many unknowns regarding the changes to the Stafford Act. We do support changes to policy that strengthen tribal sovereignty and are committed to working with you to make these changes actually work in Indian Country. We do not have all of the answers. But we do want to be included in the discussion and an opportunity to help shape some of the recommended solutions. We need the help of this Committee to persuade FEMA to open up a constructive dialogue with all Indian tribes to develop and implement a disaster response policy that makes sense for all of Indian Country. These answers need to come quickly. We are faced with a number of disasters throughout the year, and without quick and specific direction, our new-found Stafford Act authority lacks some practical effect.<br> We would ask your help in expanding the opportunities for tribes to receive direct federal assistance for preparedness and mitigation projects. These capacity-building opportunities are critical to the recovery of any community, especially tribal communities. Over the last four years, Indian tribes have received just 1.3% of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant funds available for preparedness and capacity building. Tribal specific funding opportunities would assist Indian tribes to better prepare for and recover from disasters.<br> Currently very little if any information exists regarding preparedness response and recovery within American Indian or Alaska Native tribal communities. We know far too little about the existing disaster-response capacity, or lack thereof, of tribal governments. We would request that Congress utilize the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the homeland security and emergency management capabilities of tribal governments. A GAO report may help inform federal decision-makers about the challenges of disaster response and recovery in Indian Country and also assist tribal leaders as we apply federal policies and opportunities to the needs we must meet in Indian Country. Perhaps that GAO report could also identify specific legislative changes that may be necessary to make the Stafford Act work more effectively in Indian Country.<br> Finally, we ask that the Committee urge FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security to include a larger presence of tribal representation on federal committees engaged in disaster response and recovery. Tribal representation from a variety of tribes should be required on committees such as Federal Incident Management Teams, FEMA National Advisory Council, and the FEMA Floodplain Management Council. The most useful understanding of tribal disaster response operations will come from those who deal with these situations on a daily basis.<br> Again, we are honored by this opportunity to testify and thank you for it. We appreciate the Committee&#8217;s leadership and commitment to Indian Country and our needs in response to disaster situations. The Choctaw Nation is committed to continuing this dialogue and to better preparing our people to respond to and recover from disasters. Your continued support in these matters is critical to the success of emergency preparedness in Indian Country.<br></p> <p><a href=";list=UU-ZKzkDatyp6JmmNPi5JXHA">Video Part 1</a><br> <a href=";list=UU-ZKzkDatyp6JmmNPi5JXHA">Video Part 2</a></p> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 18:48:51 GMT Tribal Council officers re-elected for 2014-2015 term <p><img src="" width="400" alt='Councilmen Re-elected' /><br> <em>Delton Cox (District 4), Thomas Williston (District 1) and Joe Coley (District 6) were re-elected for new terms.</em></p> <h3>Tribal Council new terms to begin October 1, 2015.</h3> <p><em>By LISA REED</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma</em><br></p> <p><strong>DURANT, Okla.</strong> – The Choctaw Nation Tribal Council met in regular session Sept. 13 at Tvshka Homma. Officers for the new fiscal year were elected during the meeting. District 4 Councilman Delton Cox of Pocola was chosen for the eighth consecutive year to represent the council as speaker.<br></p> <p>Cox was elected to the Tribal Council in July 2001 and took office the following September. He has spent 32 years in various fields of education. He has been teacher, coach, counselor, education specialist, instruction specialist and administrator in tribal and BIA school systems and Oklahoma public schools, from elementary through junior college levels. He served as the Choctaw Nation’s tribal treasurer for 3 ½ years before being elected Councilman of District 4 in northern LeFlore County.<br></p> <p>Thomas Williston of Idabel, District 1, will retain the position of secretary and Joe Coley of Red Oak, District 6, Latimer County, will also remain the Council&#8217;s chaplain.<br></p> <p>Williston has served as the Councilman for southern McCurtain County since November 2010. Before being elected as a member of the Council, Thomas worked 25 years in law enforcement. He has also worked as a carpenter for the last 25 years.<br></p> <p>Coley has served as Councilman of District 6 since 2004. Coley has worked with churches throughout Oklahoma and has been appointed Council Chaplain for several years. He spent decades with the Choctaw Nation Community Health Representatives before becoming the Choctaw Councilman in Latimer County.<br></p> <p>The new terms begin Oct. 1. Following the election, Speaker Cox appointed recording secretary Patty Hawkins of Talihina, sergeant-at-arms Sylvester Moore of Talihina, and parliamentarian Bob Rabon of Hugo to their positions for another year.<br></p> <p>The Council&#8217;s two steering committees were chosen and the officers for the Enterprise Board were selected. The board president is a position held by the Council speaker. Vice president for 2014-15 is Anthony Dillard, District 10, Atoka County, and secretary is Kenny Bryant, District 3, southern LeFlore County.<br></p> <p>Several Youth Advisory Board members attended the session, learning more about the tribe&#8217;s legislative process. The students belonged to YAB chapters from Latimer County, Stigler, Hugo and Boswell. YAB is comprised of youth leaders who become involved in their communities by volunteering for service projects and promoting programs to prevent underage drinking, tobacco use, and domestic violence. Each year they attend at least one Tribal Council meeting, City Council meeting, and School Board meeting.<br></p> <p>The 12-member Council approved several bills during new business, including:<br></p> <p>• An application for the Early Head Start – Child Care Partnership Grant.<br></p> <p>• Membership to the National Congress of American Indians.<br></p> <p>• Funds and budgets for the Tribal Homeland Security Grant Program; Project SAFE; Support for Expectant and Parenting Teens, Women, Fathers, and their Families (SEPT) Program; Women, Infant, and Children’s Program (WIC); WIC Farmer’s Market, and the Health Services Program.<br></p> <p>• A sand and gravel lease, a recreational lease, and disposal of surplus equipment.<br></p> <p>The Choctaw Nation Tribal Council meets at 10 a.m. on the second Saturday of every month in the Council Chambers at Tvshka Homma.<br></p> <p><!-- AddThis Button BEGIN --></p> <div class="addthis_toolbox addthis_default_style "> <a class="addthis_button_facebook_like" fb:like:layout="button_count"></a> <a class="addthis_button_tweet"></a> <a class="addthis_button_pinterest_pinit"></a> <a class="addthis_counter addthis_pill_style"></a> </div> <script type="text/javascript" src="//"></script> <p><!-- AddThis Button END --></p> Fri, 26 Sep 2014 13:18:59 GMT