Choctaw Nation Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma en-us 40 Friendship through Famine <h3>A Letter of Gratitude to the Choctaw Nation</h3> <p><em>By Amadeus Finlay</em><br> <em>Contributing Writer</em><br></p> <p><em>“A mist rose up out of the sea, and you could hear a voice talking near a mile off across the stillness of the earth&#8230; when the fog lifted, you could begin to see the tops of the potato stalks lying over as if the life was gone out of them. And that was the beginning of the great trouble and famine that destroyed Ireland.”</em><br></p> <p>Of all the devastations to befall Ireland, few have been as harrowing as the Great Potato Famine. Striking in the fall of 1845 and lasting for almost six years, an Gorta Mór left over one million Irish dead as a result of starvation, exposure and disease. When the emaciated peasants looked to their colonial masters for support, the British minister for famine relief responded that the events were, &#8220;a mechanism for reducing surplus population&#8230; the selfish, perverse and turbulent character of [Irish] people.&#8221; During the famine years, Britain exported out of Ireland approximately £500,000 of government produced food. The fact that it had been British policy to constrain the Irish to tiny plots of barren land suitable only for growing basic tubers was conveniently forgotten. When famine hit, the Irish would starve. It was an inevitability brought on by nature but predetermined by acts of man.<br></p> <p>Within such a hostile environment, the Irish felt that they had few friends. And yet, 4,000 miles away, the news of the ruin in Ireland had reached the people of the Choctaw Nation. The Choctaw, too, were familiar with how society hemorrhages in the face of tyrannical governance, and in the Irish they saw shadows of their own past. Only fifteen years before, the Choctaw had been the victims of a forced march from their homelands, a wretched exodus that they call the Trail of Tears. But the long march from Mississippi to Oklahoma had made the Choctaw acutely sensitive to the anguish of those desperately in need, and when news arrived of what was happening in Ireland, a group of concerned tribal members promptly rallied together to raise funds for those Irish still clinging on to life.<br></p> <p>&#8220;We helped the Irish because that&#8217;s who we are and what we are,&#8221; explains tribal council speaker, Delton Cox, &#8220;we remembered the sorrow to befall our people, and we felt the same for the people in Ireland. $170 might not seem like much, we were poor, yet each of us eagerly gave to help our brothers and sisters.&#8221;<br></p> <p>A softly spoken man with a musical Oklahoma twang, Delton is the embodiment of the connection enjoyed by Ireland and the Choctaw. Some of his ancestors were Brysons, a name historically associated with a rugged peninsula on Ireland&#8217;s west coast named Donegal. Delton compares his two lines of heritage, drawing on a shared cultural landscape centered on kindness and support.<br></p> <p>&#8220;This way of being is important to us,&#8221; he continues, &#8220;my granddaughter is part of a short film about kindness and compassion, so she is learning to take this on through her life.&#8221;<br></p> <p>There is a certain familiarity in Delton&#8217;s fondness for his granddaughter. Like the Choctaw, the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is one that is highly treasured by the Irish, and it was from my grandmother that I first learned about the kindness of the Choctaw during the Great Hunger. Born in the spring of 1913, the Ireland that young Evelyn Johnston knew was a place still at the mercy of illness, violence and political unrest. Her own grandparents had lived through the famine, the proximity of the event made even closer by the lingering uncertainty in the world around her.<br></p> <p>With just enough animation, this kindly matriarch impressed upon me her belief that Ireland&#8217;s unlikely allies had been sent by the divine. But there was more. Not only had the unprompted charity of the Choctaw resonated deeply with my grandmother, but since her own father had met the great Lakota Sitting Bull during a visit to the United States in the 1880s, Evelyn felt she had just the faintest sense of connection with the native people of North America.<br></p> <p>In turn, Evelyn&#8217;s son, my father, ensured that the stories of our connected past were not lost, and until the day he died he passionately advocated that the Choctaw were to be remembered as our friends. But such is the way of Ireland, a misty island crisscrossed by a deeply engrained culture of oral history. Sure, I learned about Medb, Cú Chulainn and Finn, yet of all the exciting stories I heard growing up in rural Ulster, the relationship between Ireland and Oklahoma was the one that captured my imagination.<br></p> <p>Indeed, it seems that the relationship enjoyed by the Choctaw and Irish has captured the imagination of more than just my family. In 1990, a delegation of Choctaw officials participated in an annual walk in County Mayo to commemorate the Doolough Tragedy, a starvation march that occurred during the Hunger, while in 1992, a group of Irish anthropologists retraced the Trail of Tears in a gesture of reciprocal solidarity. Most notably of all, the Choctaw dubbed Ireland’s then-president, Mary Robinson, an honorary chief.<br></p> <p>And the beautiful thing is that the friendship continues. Later this year, a monument of gratitude to the Choctaw shall be unveiled in Midleton, County Cork. The sculpture will take the form of an empty bowl cupped by feathers, a poignant embodiment of the Choctaw embracing a starving people. The news was warmly received in Ireland, and it was due to the announcement of the Midleton statue that I first got in contact with the Choctaw Nation. Not only did Chief Gary Batton promptly respond to my enquiry with considerable grace, but in the continuation of the close relationship between our people, I was extended the offer to write this article.<br></p> <p>So what to say in closing? Well, my thoughts are simple, and as I write in my adopted country of the United States, thousands of miles from the whitewashed cottage of my childhood, I fondly reflect that the friendship between the Choctaw and the Irish continues to blossom. Few, if any connections have lasted so long, and certainly none have known as much mutual respect, compassion and laughter as that enjoyed by Ireland and the Choctaw.<br></p> <p>Look how far we have come. Now, let&#8217;s see how far we can go.<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> Mon, 23 Mar 2015 13:33:50 GMT April is Autism Awareness-Know Your Signs <h4>April is Autism Awareness-Know Your Signs</h4> <p>According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less.<br></p> <p>A diagnosis of ASD now includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome. These conditions are now all called autism spectrum disorder.<br></p> <h3>Signs and Symptoms</h3> <p>People with ASD often have problems with social, emotional, and communication skills. They might repeat certain behaviors and might not want change in their daily activities. Many people with ASD also have different ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to things. Signs of ASD begin during early childhood and typically last throughout a person’s life.<br></p> <p><strong>Children or adults with ASD might:</strong><br></p> <ul> <li>not point at objects to show interest (for example, not point at an airplane flying over)<br></li> <li>not look at objects when another person points at them<br></li> <li>have trouble relating to others or not have an interest in other people at all<br></li> <li>avoid eye contact and want to be alone<br></li> <li>have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings<br></li> <li>prefer not to be held or cuddled, or might cuddle only when they want to<br></li> <li>appear to be unaware when people talk to them, but respond to other sounds<br></li> <li>be very interested in people, but not know how to talk, play, or relate to them<br></li> <li>repeat or echo words or phrases said to them, or repeat words or phrases in place of normal language<br></li> <li>have trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions<br></li> <li>not play “pretend” games (for example, not pretend to “feed” a doll)<br></li> <li>repeat actions over and over again<br></li> <li>have trouble adapting when a routine changes<br></li> <li>have unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound<br></li> <li>lose skills they once had (for example, stop saying words they were using)<br></li> </ul> <h3>Diagnosis</h3> <p>Diagnosing ASD can be difficult since there is no medical test, like a blood test, to diagnose the disorders. Doctors look at the child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis.<br></p> <p>ASD can sometimes be detected at 18 months or younger. By age 2, a diagnosis by an experienced professional can be considered very reliable. However, many children do not receive a final diagnosis until much older. This delay means that children with ASD might not get the early help they need.<br></p> <p>The Choctaw Nation is leading the way in autism education, support, and awareness in Southeast Oklahoma. Various events will be held during the month of April throughout the 10 ½ counties. These events include free autism screenings, educational trainings, and resource fairs. Through the TELI project and Autism Community CARES initiative, families and community members will have the opportunity to connect with autism professionals as well as local resources. For more information on autism and events scheduled, visit <a href=""></a>.<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> Thu, 19 Mar 2015 14:45:11 GMT 2015 Trail of Tears Commemorative Walk <h3>2015 Trail of Tears Walk</h3> <p>The Trail of Tears Commemorative Walk will be held at Tvshka Homma on Saturday, May 16.<br></p> <p>The purpose of this annual event is to honor and recognize the Choctaws who were forced to march from their ancient homelands to Indian Territory nearly two centuries ago. Many died along the Trail and we gather to honor them, as well as the survivors who became the foundation for today’s Choctaw Nation.<br></p> <p>An opening prayer will be held at 10 a.m., then the Choctaw Nation Color Guard will lead the Walk. Chief of the Choctaw Nation Gary Batton will follow with Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr., the Tribal Council and Choctaw royalty along with the hundreds of Choctaws and friends who will make the Walk.<br></p> <p>A program will follow the Walk on the Capitol Grounds at Tvshka Homma to include messages from Chief Batton, Assistant Chief Austin and Council Speaker Delton Cox.<br></p> <p>Activities will include gospel singing in the traditional Choctaw style and Chahta Anumpa language, cultural demonstrations, basket weaving, beading, pottery, and Choctaw social dancers.<br></p> <p>Lunch will be served in the cafeteria and shuttle buses will be available between parking site and the Capitol.<br></p> <p>Download the 2015 Trail of Tears Commemorative Walk Shirt order form <a href="">here</a>.<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> Thu, 19 Mar 2015 14:05:30 GMT New ventures planned in Antlers and Bethel/Battiest area <p><img src="" alt='Groundbreaking Antlers/Bethel' /><br> <em>Shovels turn for a new Travel Plaza and Casino Too in Antlers on March 6. This is the first Choctaw Nation Travel Plaza in Pushmataha County.</em></p> <h3>Choctaw Nation Breaks New Ground</h3> <p><em>By Brandon Frye &amp; Ronni Pierce</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation</em><br></p> <p>The awakening of spring marked the breaking of ground for three new Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) ventures.<br></p> <p>In February a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the new community center and pre-school in the Bethel/Battiest area. The site of the new community center and pre-school is more centrally located between Bethel and Battiest, approximately 1 3/4 miles east of Battiest on Main County Road. The 7,956-square-foot location will give citizens from both areas better access to community gatherings. Construction on both is expected to be completed September 2015.<br></p> <p>The pre-school will accommodate up to 25 students in a school-readiness program for 3-to 4-year-olds. It will have an indoor safe room, the classroom will be equipped with newer technology such as a smart board, and it will have a larger dining area that can be utilized for parent/staff meetings.<br></p> <p>“These people need this, it is something that has been needed for a long time,” said Tony Messenger, District 2 Tribal Council member.<br> </p> <p>Speaking of the community center, Messenger added, “I hope everyone uses it and recognizes it for what it is, it’s for the gathering of our Choctaw people and for our communities.”<br></p> <p>And in March, CNO representatives and city officials met in Antlers to break ground on the new 10,254-square-foot Travel Plaza and Casino Too. The new 24-hour facility is the first CNO travel plaza to feature a Choctaw Country Welcome Center dedicated to showcasing tourism information, Choctaw culture, and Choctaw-made items for sale.<br></p> <p>“It’s about complementing this community and bringing the people services that help them,” noted Chief Gary Batton. The business will employ approximately 40 people from the area. And according to Antlers Mayor Mike Burrage, “We are thankful for the Choctaw Nation and the economic impact the Nation is bringing.”<br></p> <p>The facility is expected to be completed in early Summer 2015.<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, 17 Mar 2015 12:50:07 GMT Preferred Supplier Program continues to promote Choctaw Business <p><img src="" alt='Preferred Supplier Program Choctaw Business' /><br> <em>(Left to right) Sherlynn Kennedy, Brigette Viehe, Mike Viehe, Boyd Miller, and Billy Hamilton check out the easily recognized logo on a Servpro vehicle. Hamilton and Kennedy with Business Development, and Miller with Preferred Supplier Program, had just met with Mr. and Mrs. Viehe about their business.</em><br></p> <h4>Preferred Supplier Program continues to promote Choctaw Business<br></h4> <p><em>By Brandon Frye</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation</em><br></p> <p><strong>Durant, Okla.</strong> - The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) Preferred Supplier Program (PSP) continues to serve the Choctaw people by bringing Native-owned businesses into contact with more and better commercial opportunities.<br></p> <p>The goal of the PSP is to direct the business and trade of the Nation and other organizations to established Native and minority businesses. It is an effort to support local buying and growth development, expansion, and increased use of business enterprises owned by Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma tribal members, other Native Americans, and other federally recognized minorities.<br></p> <p>“We strive to continually develop and provide the most beneficial programs to our Choctaw-owned business members while seeking best value and performance for purchases by the Choctaw Nation through our supplier program,” Miller said. “We promote accountability to our members, sustainability, growth, diversity, and the creation of jobs throughout the Choctaw Nation.”<br></p> <p>For Choctaw business owners, making use of the PSP means gaining a preferred supplier status, and being certified in this way comes with a number of perks.<br></p> <p>When a job needs to be done, when a service needs to be performed, when a product needs to be sold, PSP puts Choctaw businesses to use. Miller and the PSP maintain a registry of qualified businesses for this very purpose, so tribal businesses can be shared and made available when work needs to be done.<br></p> <p>A complete online directory will be available to not only organizations looking to pay for work, but also the public looking for services and products at an individual level.<br></p> <p>The program also gathers a directory of qualified businesses or vendors and gives them equal opportunity to submit bids for big jobs like construction, an opportunity which might not be available without having the support of the Nation through PSP.<br><img src="" width="250" align="right" alt='Preferred Supplier Program Coffee' /></p> <p>To make this bidding process even more accessible, an online bid board is in the works, which will make it easier for registered members of PSP to compete for bigger jobs and sales. This will allow vendors with a preferred supplier status more visibility with current and future CNO business opportunities as well.<br></p> <p>Since the Choctaw Nation PSP got its start last year, it has already registered more than 200 businesses fitting into 39 different categories. It has aided and advocated for these Choctaw businesses.<br></p> <p>Like the Hamilton family and their Achukma Pecan Oil, whose product, after receiving support from PSP, now sits on Choctaw Travel Plaza shelves waiting to be purchased. Boyd Miller brought the right people from within the Choctaw Nation—people from the Marketing Department and Business Development—in to help Achukma Pecan Oil get their business prepared and product ready to be sold at Choctaw Nation locations.<br></p> <p>PSP works with growing business, but also established big businesses, like Bill McClure’s This business, a coffee vendor already supplying goods to the Creek, Cherokee, and Chickasaw Nations, is partnering with PSP and the Choctaw Nation to offer new jobs and training to Choctaw people.<br></p> <p>Even businesses outside of the boundaries of the Choctaw Nation have this aid and advocacy available to them. Like Brigette and Mike Viehe, who own and operate a Servpro clean-up business out of Texas. They are looking to expand their service area, to help residents within the Choctaw Nation when fire or water emergencies strike. Miller and the PSP are currently in the process of helping make that possible.<br></p> <p>For Choctaws looking to support fellow Choctaws by buying their products or making use of their services, it is as simple as visiting, clicking on the Preferred Suppliers Listing link, and selecting from the list of certified vendors.<br></p> <p>For Choctaw business people and entrepreneurs, becoming a certified vendor with PSP is as simple as creating your company profile and registering on the website, providing the appropriate documents, as well as a capabilities statement. Should you have any questions or need help in the development and registering of your business please contact Boyd Miller, Program Manager, at (580) 924-8280, ext. 2889.<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> Mon, 16 Mar 2015 13:50:06 GMT State of the Choctaw Language School <p><img src="" alt='Language Jim and Teri Indoors' /><br> <em>Executive Director of Education School Programs Jim Parrish and Assistant Director of the language school Teresa Billy in the lobby of the new school building in Durant.</em><br></p> <h4>State of the Choctaw Language School</h4> <p><em>By Brandon Frye</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation</em><br> Through the work and dedication of many Choctaws over the years, our language has remained a legacy that is still thriving. The Choctaw language’s ongoing story has a rich history, with characters ranging from chiefs to community members playing a role. And looking forward, there are a number of exciting developments for the Choctaw language and the school dedicated to teaching it: “Chahta Anumpa Aiikhvna,” or the School of Choctaw Language.<br></p> <h3>Where we were</h3> <p>For Choctaws, the language is a way of “tracking back to who we are. And if you don’t know who you are, you don’t know where you are going,” according to Jim Parrish, Executive Director of Education School Programs and Director of the Choctaw Language School.<br></p> <p>Ian Thompson, Director of the Historic Preservation Department, traces the identity of Choctaw people back through 500 generations of Choctaw ancestors who developed a unique community, spirituality, and language through interacting with the landscape of our homeland.<br></p> <p>“This way of existing and of looking at the world is built into the structure and the words of the Choctaw language,” Thompson said. “Today even after years of colonization, the Choctaw language is still at the center of all things Choctaw; it connects us with our indigenous roots, relationships, and spirituality.”<br></p> <p>In the 19th century, the Choctaw language gained an advocate with Christian missionary Cyrus Byington who produced the original Choctaw Language Dictionary with the help of Choctaws in Mississippi, and later also with Choctaws in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). With his dictionary—as well as his Choctaw translations for Christian hymns, parts of the Old Testament, and the entire New Testamen—the helped the Choctaws form their words into a written language. Up until then the language had not been written.<br></p> <p>More recently, in 1997, the Choctaw language gained many more advocates when then Chief Gregory Pyle decided to create a language department and preserve the language, which led to the development of the School of the Choctaw Language.<br></p> <p>“Chief Pyle told me one of the first programs he wanted to have would preserve the language,” said Joy Culbreath, life-long educator and current Director of Education Special Projects for the Nation. “At that point, I began to figure out, think, and see what we wanted to do.”<br></p> <p>Culbreath collected a team of educators and Choctaw language speakers and pushed forward to teaching Choctaw over the internet and in person, to children, to students in high schools, and to community members in and out of the bounds of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO).<br></p> <p>Since then, initiative has spread to Choctaw leaders, citizens, elders, educators, and curious students of all ages, all wanting to embrace their culture and learn their language.<br></p> <h3>Where we are</h3> <p>Chief Gary Batton has picked up the torch which Pyle, Culbreath, and others had earlier lit. “Chief Batton is carrying on all of these dreams and all of our work with the language. It shows that he is definitely on board for all we are doing with the language department,” Culbreath said.<br></p> <p>“Our language is what distinguishes us and makes us unique from the rest of the world,” Chief Batton said. “It encompasses who we are as Chahta people as it reminds us of our rich culture and past.”<br></p> <p>Now, there are 18 Choctaw instructors at the School of Choctaw Language who are teaching students at many points of development in their studies, from children to adults, beginners and up.<br></p> <p>These first and second language speakers share their knowledge to all of the Choctaw Nation’s head start locations, teaching our youth Choctaw. They teach students from 38 high schools across southeast Oklahoma, as well as college students. Instructors meet CNO employees where they work for language lessons. And there are 33 active community instructors across the Choctaw Nation.<br></p> <p>With the help of educators with the Nation, the Choctaw language is now considered on the same level as Spanish and French in our public schools and taught as a world language.<br></p> <h3>Where we are going</h3> <p>Today, “we are hoping to have the new Choctaw Dictionary published by the end of the year,” Parrish said.<br></p> <p>The newest edition will be made by Choctaws and for Choctaws. It will also be brought more up-to-date and will more accurately reflect the dialect of Oklahoma Choctaw speakers, according to Teresa Billy, Assistant Director of the Choctaw Language School. Additionally, the new dictionary will be “easier and more user-friendly for the learner,” Billy said. “In 100 years, when we are not here, someone should be able to sit down, look at this dictionary, and learn.”<br></p> <p>After finalization of the new dictionary, avenues for an online audio-dictionary and mobile applications will open up. These interactive learning opportunities would contain the approximately 4,000 Choctaw words, as well as sentences, also available in the new published dictionary.<br></p> <p>There is also a new curriculum textbook on the way. Billy said, in addition to the completed Choctaw I and II textbooks, the Choctaw III curriculum textbook will be finalized and printed before the next school year, Fall 2015. This new book will be used in college and high school classes by students and teachers alike, and will allow for a deeper, more advanced understanding of the language.<br></p> <p>She added, “The content of the Choctaw I book is already on the website. Anybody who wants to download it can download it, chapter-by-chapter.”<br></p> <p>There are more instructors on staff right now than ever before. These instructors are a mixture of Choctaw first-language-speaking elders who have lived the culture and grown up speaking Choctaw, and their diligent students who have learned directly from those elders and put in the work to be able to also teach the language.<br></p> <p>To continually bolster the number of instructors, two years ago the school began a teacher education scholarship called “Chahta Anumpa” (Choctaw language), which takes in college-level education students and—at no cost to the student—prepares them to teach the language. There are currently two student scholars, each preparing to work for the Choctaw Language School once they graduate.<br></p> <p>The Choctaw Language school currently offers a unique Choctaw language learning experience. There are more educators available. The curriculum is polished and published. Anyone interested in reading, writing, and speaking Choctaw has access to Choctaw language experts who lived it—an opportunity that will not always be available. And the school offers many opportunities to get involved with the language.<br></p> <p>You can also learn Choctaw by spending time and interacting with fluent Choctaw speakers, or by visiting to view and study Choctaw lessons. Chahta chia ho? (Are you Choctaw?). Chahta chia hokmvt Chahta Anumpa ish anumpuhola chike! (If you are Choctaw, then you need to speak Choctaw!). We here at the School of Choctaw Language await and welcome all persons eager to learn Choctaw.<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> Mon, 16 Mar 2015 13:42:07 GMT 20th annual California Choctaw cultural gathering to be held May 2-3 in Bakersfield <p><img src="" alt='Bakersfield Gathering 2015' /><br> <em>A group of Choctaws from all over the U.S. have fun performing the Snake Dance while wearing traditional clothing. They had come together during last year’s California cultural gathering.</em><br></p> <h3>20th annual California Choctaw cultural gathering to be held May 2-3 in Bakersfield, CA.</h3> <p>The Okla Chahta Clan of California will be holding their 20th annual California Choctaw Culture Gathering event May 2-3, 2015.<br></p> <p>Choctaws from all over the country will come together at Bakersfield College in Bakersfield, Calif. to enjoy an assortment of traditional and contemporary events.<br></p> <p>Make-and-take classes will be held for basket-making, pottery, and beading, so everyone can learn and get involved with traditional art. Interactive games, like the corn game, chunky, rabbit stick toss, and blow dart shooting will offer fun for children and adults.<br></p> <p>Food will play a large role in the celebration. Tanchi labona and grape dumplings will be served. There will be a free Saturday dinner, and a free pancake breakfast on Sunday while church is held by Olin Williams.<br></p> <p>Young ladies of ages six to 23 years old will compete for Okla Chahta Clan Princess titles.<br></p> <p>Youth and adult stickball will be played by those interested in joining, and traditional social dances will be performed.<br></p> <p>To keep up-to-date on the plans for this event, follow the Okla Chahta group on twitter at @oklachahtaca, visit <a href=""></a>, call (661)-319-6308, or email </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, 13 Mar 2015 15:50:09 GMT Choctaw Nation hosts first tribal Promise Zone Summit <p><img src="" alt='Promise Zone Summit' /><br> <em>Promise Zone Summit participants are shown in a roundtable discussion in Durant on March 5. (Photo courtesy Choctaw Nation)</em><br></p> <h3>Key players from local, tribal and federal stakeholders gather for the event</h3> <p>Choctaw Nation hosted the first Promise Zone Summit on March 5 and 6, a two-day event which brought federal, tribal and local partners together for the common goal of improving the lives of rural Oklahomans.<br></p> <p>“It’s encouraging to see everyone come together to improve the lives of not only tribal members, but all the people of southeast Oklahoma,” said Jesse Pacheco, Senior Executive Director of Tribal Operations for Choctaw Nation. “I look for good things to come from this meeting.”<br></p> <p>Wintry weather put a dent in the first-day agenda at Choctaw Resort and Casino, but organizers adapted and the 75 people who attended were able to break into four focus groups.<br></p> <p>The second day of the summit was a tour of Choctaw Nation facilities, properties and Promise Zone potential beneficiary sites in six counties. A dozen people representing the tribe and several federal agencies were able to experience the rural challenges and the economic potential of the Choctaw Nation.<br></p> <p>President Barack Obama has identified the Choctaw Nation as the first tribal area among a group of nationwide “Promise Zones,” areas of economic hardship such as rural Kentucky and inner-city Philadelphia. Along with Promise Zone designation comes a variety of potential incentives for business development and job creation in economically depressed areas.<br></p> <p>Tina Foshee-Thomas, mayor of Idabel, attended the summit to gather ideas and suggestions to improve the recent status McCurtain County has gained: The most unemployed county in Oklahoma.<br></p> <p>“We’re right in the corner of the wood basket of Oklahoma,” she said, referring to the timber industry. “But we recently lost a potential industry because we don’t have the natural gas they needed. We have a hard time getting retail to locate there because of our size.”<br></p> <p>Still, Foshee-Thomas can see a lot of potential in McCurtain County – and plenty of ways where the Promise Zone designation can step in to help things along. “Idabel is the gateway for one of the largest tourism areas in Oklahoma. (The summit) gave me some ideas, to offer incentive loans for small businesses to come in. It’s been very helpful.”<br></p> <p>Ryan McMullen, State Director for USDA Rural Development, led one of the four round-table discussions about community development. “It was an outstanding conversation in putting pieces together in which communities can partner with Choctaw Nation,” he said.<br></p> <p>Other discussions focused upon business, education and agricultural issues. Participants included Southeastern Oklahoma State University President Sean Burrage, Durant City Manager James Dunegan, as well as representatives from the US Public Health Service, FEMA, US Department of Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development (HUD).<br></p> <p>A day-long tour offered the opportunity for some of the Promise Zone partners to visit a wellness center and greenhouse in Atoka, Choctaw Nation Hospital in Talihina, the tribal museum at Tvshka Homma, Winding Stair scenic byway and small businesses in Clayton.<br></p> <p><em>Are you in the Promise Zone? To see an interactive map of the Choctaw Nation Promise Zone, go online and visit <a href="">here</a>.</em></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, 13 Mar 2015 15:28:25 GMT Chester Cowen knows his cultural art, teaches it <p><img src="" alt='Chester Teaches' /><br> <em>Chester Cowen teaches Martha Plunkett about beaded neck dresses during a class held at the Durant community center on March 4.</em></p> <h3>Proud Choctaw Artist shares his story</h3> <p><em>By Brandon Frye</em><br> <em>Choctaw Nation</em><br> Chester Cowen was born to a Choctaw mother and Chickasaw father in Chickasha.<br></p> <p>His parents stressed learning family history to the young Chester, and he would spend time with his Choctaw grandmother, often staying with her for three months in the summer.<br></p> <p>“I was between first and second grade when I was sitting at my grandmother’s dining room table drawing the poinsettias on the Christmas table,” Cowen remembered. “Those are the first times I remember spending prolonged time in an artistic area.”<br></p> <p>He added his early days doodling were mostly play, he didn’t get heavily into his own art until a little later in life. His interests in art and culture were apparent throughout, though, and after finding role models and elders to guide him, he found himself interacting more with Native art and identity.<br></p> <p>“My first beading experience was in 1957, when a Comanche elder, George McVey, taught me Comanche style beading,” Cowen said. And because he did not have Choctaw beaders close to him at the time, he would attend events and have elder Kiowa women criticize his work.<br></p> <p>Chester was 18 when he learned from McVey, who taught him the importance of patience and levelheadedness. His relationship with McVey lead Chester into a better understanding of not only beading, but also Plains style dancing. Cowen attended a Boy Scout International Jamboree, held in England in the summer of 1957, with a dance troupe. Preparation for this event gave McVey an opportunity to teach the young Cowen about Plains style dancing.<br></p> <p>By the time he entered college at Oklahoma University, he was already studying the various cultures of the globe through their art. As an undergraduate studying Anthropology, his interests expanded to African culture. After four years of these studies, before graduating, Cowen joined the Army, which gave him the opportunity to see African culture firsthand, as well as meet the woman he would marry. Once back from service in the military, he courted and wed his wife, as well as continued his education to earn two undergraduate degrees and a master&#8217;s degree.<br></p> <p>During his exploration into art and culture, he had waited on camel paths in Ethiopia bargaining to buy the combs the salt traders would wear on their heads. Chester said he could tell a lot about the engravings on these combs, about the person who made and wore them.<br></p> <p>He also spent time in Guatemala looking into Mayan materials. He constantly came in contact with earthenware pottery. Pottery was one of his artforms of choice. He enjoyed it so much, and produced so much, that professors in the art department would exclaim they couldn’t afford to have him.<br></p> <p>“Pottery is where I first got into art, hands-on, extensively. I would still like to get back into it, but when you are working with ceramic bodies, you have to keep a particular kind of schedule,” Cowen said. “So, that was one reason for moving into something like beadwork. With beadwork, I can fold it up, and then open it up any place and work on it when I have a slot of open time.”<br></p> <p>Now, beadwork is what Chester Cowen is known for, and though he makes it a point to be knowledgeable in regards to the beading of many cultures, he specializes in Choctaw beadwork.<br></p> <p>“The Choctaws mainly do two types of stitches in their traditional beadwork: net beading is the predominant one for almost all women’s materials, and if we move to men’s material, we see more standing beads, which is an exclusively Choctaw stitch,” Cowen said.<br></p> <p>With standing bead stitching, the beads are literally standing on edge, they don’t have another bead supporting it on each side. This stitch is normally only found on baldrics, or belts worn over the shoulder.<br> </p> <p>Net beading resembles a fishing net, and is associated with places where the streams run year-round or lakes are present, where the people practice the harvesting of fish using nets. “With the construction of nets, you are doing basically the same construction as when you make a net-beaded collar,” Cowen explained.<br></p> <p>“You’ve got to stop and think about from where the Choctaws were removed. If you don’t think that you are dealing with fishing, then you’ve really got to get down there and get swamped,” he added.<br></p> <p>According to Dr. Ian Thompson, Director of Historic Preservation, Choctaws have been a fishing people for thousands of years. Before removal, in the summer time, Choctaw people netted fish, speared them, shot them with fish arrows, poisoned them, trapped them, and “noodled”. Ian also said some Choctaw groups went to the coast each winter to gather clams and catch fish, to smoke and store for the next year.<br></p> <p>To honor these Choctaws of the past, Chester Cowen starts all of his beadwork pieces by threading the first bead without the use of a needle. “This is in respect and honor of the work done by our ancestors before Europeans introduced metal needles,” Cowen said.<br></p> <p>Choctaw-specific beadwork doesn’t stop there. Design and color also play a large role in making beadwork ours.<br> </p> <p>“What are the colors used in traditional Choctaw beadwork?” Cowen asked, wanting to give a quick lesson.<br> </p> <p>“Primarily, until about the 1950’s, it was dominated by red, white, and black. The symbolism was white being death or ancestors, the red and black however were the colors of warriors. And so you have the concept of longevity of the tribe represented by the bones through time, but you have the fact that it existed as a tribe by the defense of that color. Those three colors, simple as they are, express a whole lot. We have existed for a long time, and we will continue to exist. And that is just the color alone, before we get to what the patterns are saying,” he explained.<br></p> <p>Chester stressed these concepts are owned by the people, not the individual making a piece of art. “Since I tend to work with the older forms of Choctaw beading, my inspiration comes from the examples that the people have left behind, the unsigned examples. Because that’s one of the things about beadwork, it’s kind of hard to do a signature.”<br></p> <p>Hard though it may be, Cowen has found a way to occasionally place a signature on his beadwork pieces. He used the rim of his ball cap, which he often wears, to illustrate this signature.<br></p> <p>“I will do a particular row of lane stitch beading, showing two rattlesnakes converging. This comes from one of the legends of origin for the Choctaw people, that we and the Chickasaws were at one time the same people. When the tribe got to the Mississippi river, there was a splitting of the tribes. When my father and mother got married, it was the two tribes coming back together, and I am the offspring of that coming back together. So I use the rattle snake, the guardian of our stomp dance grounds, as the motif for designating that’s who I am,” Cowen explained.<br><img src="" width="250" align="right" alt='Chester Hands' /></p> <p>Cowen has found much success with his beadwork, having his artwork on display in museums and for sale at locations in Oklahoma, Texas, and across the U.S. He said he owes some of that success to his tendency to donate his work to organizations, especially the ones aimed at preserving and teaching the culture.<br></p> <p>He is a proponent of the Choctaw culture and historical art, and this is one of his biggest drives. “I’m not out looking for awards,” he said, “but I do enjoy teaching, and trying to continue the tradition, and exploring the tradition. I’m 75, I’m going to be around for x-amount of years. This is an old tradition within the tribe. I want it to continue and be an active tradition, and you only do that by passing it on.” Chester Cowen believes everyone needs to be able to relate to their individual history, and do that by going back to the places and people where their blood takes them. He also believes we should be proud to express that identity.<br></p> <p>“So, what are the simple things we can do to allow a Choctaw to identify themselves as Choctaw?” he asked. Then he pointed out simple things like the earrings a woman wears every day, a ball cap a veteran might wear, or the belt buckle he wears most times when he goes out.<br></p> <p>“For me, this helps to give the person an identity, and a pride, and a way of showing it. There is no question when you look at these things that you are dealing with a Choctaw. If you pass me in the hallway or on the street, you can tell that I’m Choctaw and proud of it!”<br></p> <p>Watch the interview <a href=";">here</a>.<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> Thu, 12 Mar 2015 13:50:25 GMT Please answer a short survey regarding new Cultural Center <p>To enhance our awareness and understanding of he oaks and expectations of a new cultural center to be developers for the Choctaw Nation, we want to hear from you! <br><br> We hope you will share some information with us in this community survey as we continue our journey to share our Choctaw story and culture&#8230;<br> <strong>Yakoke!!</strong><br><br> Take Survey <a href="">here</a>.</p> Wed, 11 Mar 2015 23:20:29 GMT