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History of the Choctaw Nation Labor Day Festival - October 2019

Another successful Labor Day Festival is in the books. If you didn't make it to the festival, this issue of the Biskinik will show you some of the highlights of the weekend. It was hot, but so much fun to get to fellowship with so many of you. Chief and I got to see many old friends and meet new ones.

It is always great to see so many of our brothers and sisters from Mississippi who drove nine hours for our festival. They did well on the stickball field and seemed to enjoy themselves. I look forward to seeing them again next year.

Labor Day at Tvshka Homma always makes me reflect on what it means to all of us. I thought I would share some interesting points about Labor Day.

After Oklahoma's statehood in 1907, there was a rush of immigration into the new state. The population changed quickly, and for many, it seemed almost overnight. Many at that time believed the tribes, and the tribal governments would fade away. But we all know, that didn't happen.

What did happen was the Council House, which was built in 1884, became vacant. By the late 1920s, there were plans to sell the building. For two years, many expected it to be torn down and reassembled in Durant, as a memorial to the Five Civilized Tribes. The Great Depression forced the cancellation of those plans.

In 1933, a movement began to preserve the building in its existing location and establish it as a memorial.

By the end of 1937, this was becoming a reality. The property had been deeded back to the tribe by the state, and a crew of 40 men repaired the building and restored it to its former glory. The men were Native Americans themselves, serving in the Indian Division of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

The restoration work was completed in May and the building was dedicated in a grand celebration organized by Chief William A. Durant on June 3-4, 1938. Several hundred Choctaws and Chickasaws attended, and this marked the first of a continuing series of large, yearly celebrations of Choctaw faith, family and culture.

World War II forced a temporary end to the yearly gatherings, which didn't begin again until 1948. Led by Chief Harry J.W. Belvin, the gathering was moved from June to Labor Day. Belvin hoped it would become an annual custom, like the earlier meetings were. He was successful, and you can see the result. We owe these great Choctaw chiefs a debt of gratitude.

What I find interesting is that the Antlers American, in reporting on these efforts, suggested we were a "vanishing race" and felt the Council House would be, "the last remaining evidence of a race of people who lived and reigned over this part of the country." Not only have we not vanished, but because of our ancestors' answered prayers and determination, we are a strong, thriving tribe that is a beacon to others around the world.

I look forward to seeing you again next year at Labor Day. We are a blessed Nation and have so much to celebrate!

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Agriculture is important - September 2019

Fall is finally approaching, with the first official day of the season on Sept. 23. I hope that it brings with it cooler temperatures. So far, 2019 has been a roller coaster of wild weather. Deadly tornadoes, widespread flooding and record-breaking heat have especially taken their toll on agricultural producers across the country. Many lost entire crops in the floods, ripping away their source of income. I firmly believe that agricultural producers are the lifeblood of our country. The products they produce are what allows us to feed our people.

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma understands the importance of agricultural production, and the hardships producers face. This is where our Land Management department comes into play. They are here to protect, enhance, and improve natural resources for the Choctaw Nation. They provide technical assistance to agricultural producers, farmers, and ranchers, by hosting outreach meetings. These meetings cover topics like soil health and vegetable production. There are two demonstration sites located in Hugo and Lehigh, where they can demonstrate different agricultural practices so the agriculture producer can see results first-hand of how things work. Land Management also offers a Farmers Market Promotion Program. This United States Department of Agriculture funded grant, assists in the marketing and promotion of locally grown foods. In November, the department will implement a TSCAN unit weather station at Jones Academy. This unit will serve as a resource for Jones students for their science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs. It will be an excellent tool for tribal farmers and ranchers, as well. The Land Management team will be able to compile information regarding rainfall amounts, soil moisture and soil temperatures. Having a better understanding of these elements is key to proper management for producers.

Land Management works closely with local, state and federal USDA programs to better serve our tribal members and conserve, protect and improve our tribal lands.

The program also hosts the annual Choctaw Nation Ag Expo at the Event Center in Durant. This year, 650 people attended the event. This was an impressive increase in attendance from last year's 500 patrons. The 2019 event was bigger and better than ever, with added activities and vendors. The Ag Expo is a unique event, bringing together all different walks of life with one common goal. That goal is to create a better tomorrow for our land, families and food supply. The event allows producers to compare products and techniques while gaining information on available programs. It is an opportunity for our community to learn about where our food comes from. Events like this help promote awareness of natural resources and the agricultural industry. They also allow producers the opportunity to grow their network. They can meet other producers to share ideas and collaborate to solve common issues.

Our Land Management team works diligently to help our agricultural producers succeed. If you would like to learn more about the program, please call (580) 924-8280 ext. 4276 for more information.

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Summer camps render lifelong skills, memories - August 2019

August means back to school for many students. I hope that you all have a great school year and that you learn as much as possible. Education is so important, and I encourage you all to try your hardest and push yourselves to be the best student you can be.

Though another summer has passed us by, we get to take with us the memories we made. Maybe you went on vacation with your family, played sports or went to church camp. This summer, roughly 2,000 Choctaw students made lifelong memories at our Youth Events and Activities Summer Camps.

The weather put a damper on a few of the camps, with heavy rain, lightning, and even tornadic storms causing early closings and even one cancellation. However, the Youth Events and Activities team worked with Choctaw Nation Emergency Management to make the best decisions for the safety of the campers.

Despite the weather, this year was a huge success. There were a total of 19 camps, ranging in a variety of topics and sports. Each camp offered a unique experience to campers, offering the opportunity to learn new skills from qualified instructors. Camps included cultural, stickball, golf, baseball, softball, basketball, conservation and a new addition for 2019.

Cheer camp was added for the first time this year and was a hit. More than 100 campers attended the two-day camp. Coaches from all over the area were brought in to assist with the camp. Students were able to work on their skills and receive mentorship from the coaches.

My children have had wonderful experiences attending the youth camps, learning something new, becoming more confident in a sport or cultural activity that they are passionate about.

It is so essential for our young people to have opportunities like this. Instead of sitting at home, they get to go outdoors, be active and socialize. Experiences like this are vital in developing positive and productive lives. Camps are not only an opportunity to learn, but a safe and fun environment to meet new friends, build life skills and just have fun.

I look forward to seeing how this program grows in the future. The goal of the Youth Events and Activities team is to continue to improve upon the success of the program each year. They hope to grow with new activities and recruit more campers. To find out more about these summer camps, please visit http://www.choctawnation. com/youth-events-and-activities.

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Strong, loving fathers integral part of human experience-July 2019

Choctaw fathers are traditionally described as strong protectors. Many generations ago, they provided for their families by hunting, making tools and weapons to defend their communities. They were warriors, protecting their communities. They were also teachers, tasked with passing on valuable lessons to younger generations.

We owe a great deal to the Chahta men who came before us. Continuing their legacy and the Chahta values they passed by becoming strong, loving, and providing fathers ourselves is a great way to honor them.

I enjoyed getting to spend time with my father this Father's Day. It is such a blessing to have the opportunity to make memories with my father. Over the years, I have learned so many valuable lessons from him and credit him for the man that I am today. In true Chahta fashion, I am passing those same lessons on to my children hoping to continue the legacy of our ancestors.

The older we get, the more aware each of us becomes of how fast time passes by. I encourage all of you to slow down and soak in the moments you have with your loved ones. Our time together here on earth is precious, and the investment of time with loved ones is invaluable.

For some, Father's Day isn't a time for celebration. It can be a time of grief if they have experienced the loss of their father. If this is your experience, I hope that you can find comfort and peace with the memories you have. Many times, during family gatherings, you will hear stories passed down about those fathers who have gone on before us. This is always a great way of continuing those fond memories.

I encourage the men in our community to strive to be the best fathers and role models our children need and deserve. No matter the decisions you have made in the past, or if you haven't had a good father figure in your life, you can be the one to break that cycle. It is up to you to decide to make the changes, and the Choctaw Nation is here to help you on that journey.

We provide multiple services that can assist our men. The Nation provides vocational training assistance and other educational programs to help our members complete their education. Our housing department assists tribal members with their efforts to meet their housing needs adequately. The Better Beginnings program helps parents and expecting parents in "at risk" situations, and provides them with the tools they need to become better parents. There are many other programs and services that are designed to help our tribal members live successful, healthy and productive lives.

I hope our families all enjoyed a wonderful Father's Day weekend. Together, we are continuing the Chahta spirit of our ancestors for our children and the generations to come. If you would like more information on programs offered by the Choctaw Nation, please visit www.choctawnation.com/tribal-services.

 

Choctaw Nation strives to raise awareness for mental health - May 2019

May is national mental health awareness month. Mental health awareness is an issue that I am very passionate about. I currently serve on a national board for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and am an advocate for mental health. Mental illness does not discriminate. It is something that affects communities and families of all races. Mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in behavior, emotions and thinking. Mental illness can take many forms and it's not always clear to understand.

However, we shouldn't be afraid or ashamed to talk about our mental health. To truly help each other, we need to shake the stigma around mental health. The first step in doing that, is talking about it.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness, nearly 1 in 25 adults live with serious mental illness and half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14 in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that depression affects 20 to 25% of Americans ages 18 and up. Those are staggering statistics, and Native Americans are at higher risk than other races. According to SAMHSA, 1.2% of the U.S. population identified as Native American or Alaskan Native in the 2014 census. Of those, 21% had a diagnosable mental illness in the past year.

Sadly, many individuals do not seek treatment or help. According to NAMI, nearly 60% of adults with mental illness didn't receive mental health services in the previous year, and nearly 50% of young people ages 18 through 25 didn't receive help.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death in ages 15 through 24 and the fourth in adults ages 18-65 in the U.S. Shockingly, according to a recent study by JAMA Pediatrics, the number of children and teens visiting the emergency for suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts nearly doubled between 2007 and 2015. The same study found estimated annual emergency room visits for suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts increased from 580,000 to 1.12 million in that time period, 43% of which were reportedly for ages 5 to 11.

The statistics are shocking, but here at the Choctaw Nation, we want to help reduce those numbers. We are committed to helping our tribal members who are struggling with these issues. Our Zero Suicide Team works to raise awareness, provide prevention and intervention for individuals at risk. Our Behavioral Health department provides a variety of services for tribal members ranging from counseling, case management, psychiatric evaluations, management crisis intervention and suicide prevention.

These services are available at the Choctaw Nation Health Care Center and all Choctaw Nation clinics by appointment. If you feel like these services could benefit you please reach out by calling 918-567-3065.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, I urge you to call the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255.

 

LEAP Program Set to Build 140 New Homes for Choctaw Families in 2019 - April 2019

I hope everyone is enjoying this spring weather. Springtime is always a wonderful and busy time here in the Choctaw Nation. We recently held a ribbon cutting for the new Choctaw Country Market in Boswell.

We are delighted we can help Boswell and the surrounding communities have access to fresh food and necessities. It is one of our goals to help provide our tribal members with opportunities to live healthy, successful, productive lives. I feel we are helping them accomplish a step toward that goal by providing access to fresh meat, fruit and vegetables.

With our mission of offering opportunities for growth and prosperity, we have many facilities and programs that aim to assist in fulfilling that mission. One program we are so proud to offer is the LEAP program.

The LEAP program is a new homeownership program opportunity for Choctaw tribal members who meet the program income guidelines. The goal is to assist families with credit issues to become mortgage-ready and lender-qualified over time with credit counseling services. The LEAP program works closely with the service coordinator team to help each family become budget- and credit-ready to finance a home in 15 years.

LEAP homes are energy-efficient three- and four-bedroom brick homes, with an enclosed two-car garage and vinyl plank flooring. In the 2018 fiscal year, the program helped place 110 families in LEAP homes. For the 2019 fiscal year, the LEAP program's plan includes 140 LEAP homes. Currently, there are 110 families on the list to move into these new homes. The plan includes 10 homes in Calera, which are a part of the first phase of homes in the Durant area.

I can't help but feel proud during every LEAP home ribbon cutting. It is an awesome feeling to be able to offer programs like this to our tribal members. We have come so far as a nation. I know our ancestors are looking down at us with pride. They labored tirelessly to lead the way for us to do what we do today. Our ancestors conceived and designed the chukka to transform raw materials into comfortable, strong buildings to meet their basic needs of shelter, protection and storage. These structures served not only as shelter but a place to spend time together as a family.

Today, having a comfortable and safe home to raise a family is just as essential as it was in the past. I am grateful our housing department and the LEAP program are working so hard to help provide families with that opportunity. Living a healthy, successful, productive life starts within the home. Through these programs, our tribal members are given the foundation for a better future.

Tribal members are encouraged to apply and our applications, along with a full list of guidelines, are available online and at all Choctaw Community Centers. For more information visit https://www.choctawnation.com/leapprogram.

 

Choctaw Nation Continues to Foster Strong International Relationships - March 2019 
Many groups designate specific months of the  year to commemorate ideas, themes or programs.  March has been named to remember at least 14. The  best known of those is probably Irish-American Heritage  Month. I find myself thinking about that one for several reasons in particular. 
In 2017, the "Kindred Spirits" statue was unveiled in  County Cork, Ireland. "Kindred Spirits" commemorates  the 1847 donation of financial aid by the Choctaw  people to the destitute Irish, who were suffering from  the Potato Famine. The Choctaws donated $170, which  would be approximately $4,700 in 2019 dollars. $170 was  a lot of money for our ancestors to share so soon after  experiencing suffering of their own. Chief Batton and I  had the honor and privilege of attending its dedication  in 2017. In 2018, Ireland's prime minister visited the  Choctaw Nation's headquarters. It was a special day. 
The Choctaw people are strong and gracious, and  I'm pleased to tell you we've been able to show others  a similar kindness. Feb. 20 marked the 76th year since  fatal airplane crashes north of Moyers took the lives  of four fliers in training from Britain's Royal Air Force. Three planes went down in bad  weather on that day in 1943, crashing into separate mountains, and another managed to  put down safely on the floor of Impson Valley, near Antlers. 
In 1999 and 2000, a group of school students from Rattan Elementary School investigated  the crashes, made contact with surviving family members of all four deceased  pilots, and also with the two pilots who survived their emergency landing in the valley.  The students, many of whom are Choctaw, erected a beautiful marker known as the AT6  Monument which lists the names of the deceased pilots and bears the Royal Air Force  seal. It stands on Big Mountain at one of the two crash sites, adjacent to a small boulder  which is known as the "Natural Tombstone." The stone was turned upright by the force  of the crashing plane.
The AT6 Monument was dedicated in February 2000, before a very large crowd, including  all the survivors, who came over from England and New Zealand for the occasion.
Smaller commemorations have been held each February since that year, each of them featuring the Choctaw Nation's Color Guard. Last year, on the 75th anniversary, Chief Batton and I hosted the commemoration and welcomed Britain's Consul General to the  United States as well as a group of Royal Air Force offcers and their families.
This February the Royal Air Force offcers returned, again with their families, to join local residents in their yearly commemoration at the monument. RAF Squadron Leader  Maj. Craig O'Donnell thanked the Choctaw Nation for its generosity and thoughtfulness.  I'm pleased to tell you he singled out our Color Guard, noting that they have been present  every year since 2000, faithfully helping honor Britain's fallen service members. It meant  something to him personally, as well as professionally. Maj. O'Donnell pointed out that  our Color Guard are always "impeccably turned out" and are excellent at what they do.
Our Color Guard's faithful attention to another country's fallen made a world of difference  to our British friends. They make me proud to be Choctaw. Our people have consistently  played a larger role in world affairs than you'd think possible, given our relatively  small size. Events at the "Kindred Spirits" sculpture in Ireland, and on Big Mountain  north of Moyers, remind me of why.

Tribal Members Encouraged to Get Healthy During National Heart Month February 2019

I hope everyone has had a fantastic start to  2019. The new year usually brings with it New  Year's resolutions. A good resolution is to make  healthy lifestyle changes. February is American  Heart Month. Heart disease does not discriminate.  According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading  cause of death in both men and women in the U.S.  The CDC also states that about 610,000 people die  of heart disease each year.

Though heart disease can be hereditary, high  blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking are  key risk factors that can affect anyone. Diabetes,  weight, poor diet, physical inactivity and excessive  alcohol use can all attribute to heart disease  as well. There are many programs and services  offered through the Choctaw Nation that can help  you reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

First, you should always seek the help of a doctor  if you think you might be at risk of having or  developing heart disease. We have many knowledgeable  physicians and health professionals at  our clinics and health facilities located throughout the 10 ½ counties. Our health  providers can start you on your journey to living a healthy and productive life.

Our tribal members may also seek help on their journey to health at one of  our Wellness Centers. Choctaw Nation Wellness Centers are currently located in  Atoka, Antlers, Broken Bow, Coalgate, Crowder, Durant, Hugo, Idabel, McAlester,  Poteau, Stigler and Wilburton. Tribal members and employees have the opportunity  to work out with top-of-the-line fitness equipment and join a fitness class that  works with their lifestyles. Our Wellness Center staff is knowledgeable and can  help you choose a fitness plan that works for you.

Everyone can visit heart.org for tips and information on how to prevent heart  disease and live a healthier life. If you think you might be experiencing symptoms  of heart disease, please seek medical attention. Your health and well-being are important.  Whether it is a part of your New Year's resolution or medically necessary,  getting healthy and active is an excellent goal to set. You can accomplish anything  you set your mind to.

Assit Chief

 

Choctaw Nation Foster Care Program in Urgent Need of Foster Parents - January 2018

I would like to wish you a happy New Year. It is amazing that another year has come and gone. However, 2018 was a great year here at the Choctaw Nation.

I cannot wait to see what 2019 has in store for our nation.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas. Christmas is a season of giving and spending time with family.

Even though the holidays are a time of celebration, many young Choctaws are unable to spend the holidays with their family.

There are currently 575 Choctaw children in custody of the state of Oklahoma.

This is where the Children and Family Service's Foster Care and Adoption Program steps in, to ensure our Choctaw children in the foster care system are placed in homes that provide faith, family and culture.

The Indian Child Welfare Act is a federal law established in 1978 to keep native children in native homes.

There is an urgent need for more Choctaw placement homes. The Choctaw Children and Family Service's Foster Care and Adoption Program has 53 foster homes statewide, 32 of which are in the 10½ counties.

I urge you to consider becoming a foster parent. We need more tribal members to open their hearts and homes to these children.

There are many types of placements needed. These placements are emergency, short-term, respite and traditional foster homes.

There are also kinship homes that place foster children with adults who have a familial relationship to the child.

Children and Family Services workers strive to help our foster families succeed.

The program assists the family to obtain services needed and provide cultural enrichment programs.

Tribal adoptive and foster care homes must complete at least 12 hours of yearly continuing education in areas such as culture, parenting, foster care and adoption.

Being a foster parent is about changing a child's life and giving them a home and love they desperately need.

No matter how long a child is in your care, you have the opportunity to change their lives.

Our Children and Family Service's Foster Care and Adoption Program is always seeking ways to recruit more homes.

If you or someone you know feels a calling to be a tribal foster parent, contact Kat Decaire at (800) 522-6170, ext. 2643. Visit ChoctawNation.com/tribal-services/ member-services/foster-care-adoption for more information on becoming a tribal foster parent, no matter what your location is.

There is a Choctaw child out there who needs you.

 

After Being MIA for 68 Years a Tvshka Chahta is Finally Home December - 2018

As a veteran, I have participated in many different types of military activities and ceremonies.

None of them prepared me for the emotional return of one of our Choctaw veterans who has been listed as missing in action since the Korean War.

In November, Councilpersons Thomas Williston, James Dry and I had the opportunity to accompany family members of Army Pvt. Charles Kaniatobe to Dallas to meet the aircraft carrying his remains.

In his early 20s when he was killed, Kaniatobe did not have any children. His closest living relatives, siblings James, Clara and Ann, have long-awaited any word on Charles.

Pvt. Kaniatobe was a member of Company A, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division engaged in combat operations against the North Korean People's Army.

He was declared missing in action in 1950, one of approximately 7,700 soldiers who had been listed as missing between 1950 and 1953.

Thanks to advances in DNA testing the Kaniatobe family was notified in October that his remains had been identified and they began plans to bring him home to Idabel.

The aircraft sat on DFW's tarmac and conversations ceased as the enormity of the situation hit us. Pvt. Kaniatobe had served our country and given his life to protect it and others in need. He had been gone for almost 70 years. His siblings were just children when they said goodbye to their brother, a true warrior, a Tvshka Chahta.

The last leg of his journey home began as an honor guard carefully carried the flagdraped casket to a hearse. Another honor guard held a row of American flags high and a third stood at attention as Pvt. Kaniatobe was transferred to the vehicle.

It made me proud to see the respect being shown by all attending and even other people who were watching from a distance. It was an extremely humbling experience and a great honor to be among those welcoming this hero.

The future changes for men and women when they join the military. Many are following strong family traditions.

All are signing up to protect our freedom and to paraphrase a famous quote-they have written a blank check payable to the United States of America, for the amount up to, and including his or her life.

When we read or hear words such as "Honoring all who served," "Freedom isn't free," or "Thank a veteran," do we really understand the commitment and sacrifices made?

Every soldier, sailor, Marine, airman and Coast Guard responder is putting aside a normal life to provide protection for us-many paying the ultimate sacrifice.

Military families are the strength behind the forces on the line. And, for the Kaniatobes, they can finally rest.

May God bless all of our warriors on domestic and foreign soil.

 

CNHSA, VA Team Up to Provide Services for Veterans - November 2018

As we honor veterans this month, it is good to know there are several Choctaw Nation departments developing ways to assist veterans year-round.

One example is the partnership between the Choctaw Nation Health Services Authority (CNHSA) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The agreement between the two allows reimbursement to CNHSA for direct care services provided to Native American veterans.

This allows CNHSA to continue to expand the services it provides and reduces travel time for veterans because more locations are available to access health care.

Native American veterans can be seen at any of the Choctaw Nation health facilities with no cost for most services.

Veterans are eligible for the same services as other eligible patients. Required documentation includes a photo ID, Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB), tribal membership and additional insurance information if they have not previously been seen in a CNHSA facility.

The Choctaw Nation operates clinics in Atoka, Broken Bow, Durant, Hugo, Idabel, McAlester, Poteau and Stigler. The Choctaw Nation Health Care Center is in Talihina.

More than 13,000 veterans have been served at Choctaw Nation's health facilities since the memorandum of agreement was signed in March 2013. The agreement has resulted in more veteran visibility within the CNHSA health system.

This has resulted in more targeted services, outreach and initiatives specifically targeting veterans.

The agreement has also increased the level of collaboration between CNHSA staff and other Veteran Service officers locally, which increases applications for benefits and services by the veterans and their families.

Presumptive Conditions Campaign events were hosted by the Choctaw Nation and VA in Poteau and McAlester this summer. They were the first of their kind in this area and another one is in the planning stages.

The events focused on identifying and assisting veterans who may have presumptive disabilities to submit claims to the VA. Presumptive disabilities are specific conditions diagnosed in a veteran because of the unique circumstances of their military service.

It is presumed that the circumstances of his, or her service caused the condition. Examples are conditions related to being exposed to Agent Orange or radiation. They may also be eligible if they were prisoners of war, or because of serving in certain locations.

The Presumptive Conditions Campaign, "Your Service. Our Mission: Bringing Benefits Home," is boosting VA and tribal efforts to identify the veterans who are eligible for pension. It is having an impact on thousands of lives. The services offered through CNHSA and programs such as Choctaw Nation's Veterans Advocacy have raised engagement with veterans and provided opportunities for increased VA services and benefits.

As a veteran, and the son of a veteran, I am proud to see the care and respect afforded to the Marines, sailors, soldiers, airmen and Coast Guard who protected our freedoms.

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Veterans were honored at the 2017 Veterans Day Celebration held in Tvshka Homma.  Choctaw Nation has several programs that assist veterans.


Labor Day Festival Great Time to See growth in Our Youth  -  October 2018

I hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend. It was so good to see so many come together for a fun-filled festival.

I look forward to it every year and remember being there as a child with my family.

The theme for this year's festival was, "Making a Difference in a Child's Life."

Here in the Choctaw Nation, we understand how important our young people are. They are the future of the nation. During the festival, there were many different booths and activities geared toward our young tribal members.

Keeping our children active and healthy is an important goal. Many of the activities were held to promote a healthy lifestyle.

Various sports competitions were held throughout the weekend such as stickball, softball, volleyball, horseshoes and basketball.

Each year, the Chief's Youth Physical Fitness Challenge is held on the Council Chamber lawn. The challenge is a fun way to encourage our children to stay active.

When we make exercise fun, we are encouraging healthy habits for the future. It is great to see our young ones excited about being active. Inside the Healthy Living Tent, there were various booths encouraging healthy lifestyles.

Kids could also swing by the crafts booth presented by the Youth Advisory Board and the Choctaw Nation Day Care, visit the Education Tent or grab a book at the Mobile Library.

The Choctaw Village offered many cultural activities during the festival. Our young ones could take part in hands-on cultural demonstrations like pottery, taste traditional food, listen to Choctaw storytellers and take part in fun games throughout the weekend. I always enjoy seeing our young people learning about the Choctaw culture.

Watching them grow as individuals, not only at the Labor Day Festival, but throughout the year, is one of my favorite things.

One of the upcoming events is the annual Harvest Carnival in Tvshka Homma on Friday, Oct. 19. The event is popular with all ages and will take place from 6 p.m. through 9 p.m. at the Arts and Crafts Building.

There will be a costume contest for children up to 16 years of age, $1 cake walk and bingo, as well as free games and prizes.

The popular Trail of Terror begins at dusk, for those who enjoy a spooky adventure. The Cultural Events team will be showing a movie at the amphitheater and hosting a haunted house backstage. It is sure to be a hauntingly good time for everyone. We invite you and your family to come out and join the fun.

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While parents and famioly members play in the volleyball tournament or watch from
the sidelines a group of children play in the sand next to the volleyball courts.


CHR Program Important to the Wellbeing of Our Elders - September 2018

The CHR program (Community Health Representative) is one of the Choctaw Nation's most important programs for maintaining the wellbeing of our elders.

It is available for elderly Native Americans with a CDIB who reside within the Choctaw Nation's tribal service area.

This program is designed to assist Choctaws and other Native Americans to continue living healthy lifestyles.

The CHR Program can do many things to assist clients such as taking vitals, glucose monitoring for diabetes, providing hypertension and cholesterol diet education, patient health education, wound care, medical referral follow-up care, as well as many other health care services. There are no income guidelines for eligibility.

Pic 1 - Miko Apela - September 2018

Community Health Representaqtives help maintain the health
of Chahta elders.  CHRs do many things such as taking vitals,
wound care, glucose monitoring for diabetics and so much more.

I would like to share the story of one client, Junior Blaine. Mr. Blaine is a diabetic and he continued going to his doctor, who was treating a wound on his foot.

Due to concerns of him being diabetic and having the serious infection, his CHR visited him at least once a week to check his vitals and to check for signs of improvement with the infection.

One afternoon his CHR called to check on him. He told her he was weak and not feeling well. Once finding out he had an appointment with his doctor the next day, she told him she would be there within the hour to check on him. When she arrived at his house, Mr. Blaine's vital signs were very low. The CHR told him they were going to the doctor immediately.

Mr. Blaine uses a walker, and they had to stop and rest multiple times on the way to her vehicle due to his weakness. She drove him to the Choctaw Regional Medical Clinic in Durant where they rushed him in to see the doctor.

Once inside the doctor immediately called for an ambulance because his vitals were so weak. Mr. Blaine was taken to Texoma Medical Center in Denison, Texas, where it was discovered his infection had turned septic and he was in critical condition.

After 14 days in the hospital, his health improved. Mr. Blaine now calls his CHR his angel, because his doctor told him if he had waited until his next-day appointment, he would not have made it. Yakoke for your quick action in helping Mr. Blaine and to all the CHRs for your continued dedication.

He is very grateful to his CHR, Angela Hall; the referred care program for helping with his expenses; the doctors, nurses and pharmacists at the Choctaw Regional Medical Clinic in Durant; his Councilman, the Healthy Aging program and everyone who provided spiritual support, praying with him and for him.

Pic 2 - Miko Apela - September 2018

Teddi and Sylvester Moore of Talihina took top honors in the domino and checkers tournaments at
the annual Watermelon Festival July 28 in Valliant.  Teddi won first place in dominoes and Sylvester
came in second.  The roles reversed in the checker tournament when Sylvester won first place and
Teddi brought home second place.

He thanks God for these people and for having his health back.

We are all very thankful that we have a variety of tribal programs making a difference in our elders' lives. It is truly a blessing to have such caring people in the Choctaw Nation.

 

Safeguarding the Future With Programs for Youth - August 2018

During the months of June and July the Choctaw Nation Youth Outreach program held fundraisers throughout the tribal service area to raise money for the Sole Mates program.

Sole Mates purchases a new pair of shoes for youth outreach participants who have actively participated in the program for the past year.

The group set up donation sites at the Choctaw Travel Plazas to accept monetary donations so that each child in the program can begin the new school year with a new pair of shoes.

During the month of July, they also held a yard sale in Hugo in combination with a car wash and hamburger sale.

Last year enough money was raised to help 225 Choctaw youth. The number of youth this year has significantly increased and the Outreach team has kept diligently planning more fundraisers to be able to provide shoes for all of the youth in the program.

They had raised over $4,000 by early July to help meet the goal for this year of reaching over 300 of our youth.

Yakoke to everyone who has dedicated time to these efforts and to those who have donated. Having one pair of new shoes can make a huge difference in how these children feel as they start the new school year.

Another program making a difference for our youth is Chahta Inchukka, a Tribal Maternal Infant and Early Childhood Home Visitation program grant by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Chahta Inchukka provides home visitation services twice a month utilizing the Parents As Teachers evidence-based curriculum. Home visits are focused on the development of the child, both mentally and physically, as well as the overall wellbeing of the family.

It is the goal of Chahta Inchukka to help parents be the first and best teacher for their child and to grow children that are ready to learn once they reach Head Start and kindergarten so that they may continue to be successful in learning.

The program serves Native American families who have a child under the age of one and can meet at least one of the eight federally mandated eligibility criteria. Chahta Inchukka has four home visitation specialists and can serve a maximum of 68 families at a time.

With the addition of this program, Choctaw Nation Outreach staff are now able to provide better services and interventions for our children and families through these home visits.

Shyla Ludlow joined the Chahta Inchukka program in October 2017 and says it is one of the best programs she has ever been a part of. Being with this program has been a big help to her, helping to make sure her son is staying on track and progressing as he should.

Each month she is given new activities to do with her son and new information on his progression for his age range. She has told her home visitation specialist that when her son was six months old he received a vision screening through the program and with this screening they discovered he has vision problems and will need glasses.

Without the Chahta Inchukka program providing the screenings they wouldn't have caught his vision issues until he was older and they could've worsened by then.

I am so grateful we can provide opportunities across our communities that allow people to be a blessing to others. Being able to personally be a part of blessing others certainly falls in line with living out the Chahta Spirit. I am reminded of Hebrews 13:16 (NIV), "And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased."

August Pic
                                                                                                       by Choctaw Nation

Choctaw Nation Outreach employees Christi Hammons of Tribal PREP; Brandi Smallwood of Chahta Inchukka; Anglea Dance, Better Beginnings Senior Director; and Barbara Moffitt of Chahta Vlla Apela are a few of the Outreach employees that help tribal youth and their families.

 

Investing in Choctaw Tribal Members Through Education - July 2018

Education is the key to success and the Choctaw Nation has several accomplishments to celebrate as it endeavors to provide educational opportunities.

Among those, the Higher Education Program (HEP) awarded $3,303,500 in scholarships for the Spring 2018 semester. The program is available to Choctaw Nation tribal members throughout the country who are actively pursuing a degree from an accredited college or university.

A great example of how HEP has helped make a difference is about a young man from Hugo, Oklahoma - Spencer Cooke. Spencer's family is in the restaurant business, and he always assumed that would be his future. His family encouraged him to attend college, and there he discovered his passion for literature. Once Spencer enrolled at Southeastern Oklahoma State University (SOSU), he maintained a 15-credit-hour schedule every semester while working over 50 hours a week. He graduated from SOSU this spring and has accepted a funded offer from the University of Wyoming for his Masters in English Literature. He credits his parents for their inspiration, saying the amount of work he put in every week did not compare to the amount of intensive labor that his parents put forth to get him to where he is today.

A new financial literacy program, College Freshman Year Initiative (FYI) at Eastern Oklahoma State College (EOSC), is the first partnership of its kind between a tribe and a higher education institution.

Statistics show money management is the number one reason students do not stay in school. EOSC has had a 100 percent success rate for students who participated in College FYI to continue their education in the spring.

Eleven of the 17 graduates from the LPN program at Kiamichi Technology Center in Idabel this spring were Choctaw. I enjoy seeing our Choctaw students filling the classrooms.

The Career Development Program provides a path to quality career and technology training opportunities that many people find more fitting to their goals.

It is open to tribal members throughout the United States and currently has 2,739 clients enrolled in approved training programs. More than 8,600 tribal members have completed an approved training program and obtained employment.

The average salary increase for those who complete training can be as much as $15,000 annually.

In May, Shelby Reynolds earned a Bachelor's Degree in Early Intervention Child Development. Career Development was helpful with Shelby finishing school and now she has a career she loves. Shelby continues to encourage everyone to reach out to the Career Development Program for assistance.

Information on these programs and other educational services can be found on ChoctawNation.com. Yakoke to all the dedicated associates and to the tribal members who strive to succeed. You are truly examples of living out the Chahta Spirit.

 

Choctaw Nation Health Services Continue to be Innovative in Providing Exceptional Services in Southeastern Oklahoma - June 2018

Congratulations to the Choctaw Nation Health Services Authority on being nominated for the Indian Health Service's National Director's Award for Exceptional Group Performance for Health Promotion and Wellness for their impact on the youth and elderly within the 10½ counties of the Choctaw Nation.

A nurse practitioner, and several pharmacists and pharmacy technicians were involved in the project.

They targeted one school and one community center within each of our 10½ counties for a total of 22 events with 876 students and over 1,000 adults attending one of the events.

The medication safety group discussed proper storage of medication, disposal sites within each county and appropriate home disposal of medications. They were able to provide valuable information and resources to all participants.

Congratulations also go to the Choctaw Health Care Center Pharmacy in Talihina for winning the Indian Health Service National Director's Award for sustained and improved performance during 2017.

The CNHCC pharmacy worked with health administration and tribal leadership to expand services designed to improve patients' care and develop innovative and far-reaching programs to improve access as well as increasing the amount of revenue that the pharmacy portion of the healthcare system recoups.

With clinics in Atoka, Broken Bow, Durant, Hugo, Idabel, McAlester, Poteau and Stigler, and the hospital and clinic in Talihina, the Choctaw Nation offers many services including family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, women's health, surgery, physical therapy, dental, optometry and behavioral health.

The Lois White Burton Pharmacy Refill Center in Poteau assists in filling eligible prescriptions for tribal members throughout the United States.

Providing access to wellness centers is another way to help stay fit. There are 13 wellness centers offering opportunities to work out with top-of-the-line fitness equipment, to pick the fitness class that works with your lifestyle, and to take advantage of the staff's extensive knowledge as they help you find the best fitness plan for you.

Grand opening ceremonies are scheduled for the new wellness center in Poteau on May 31 and in Durant on June 26 in conjunction with the grand opening of the new headquarters facility.

Good nutrition is vital to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and summer is time to gather an abundance of fresh food from the garden.

For anyone who is not able to have their own garden, farmers market programs are available to help make the fruits and vegetables more accessible.

The Farmers Market Nutrition Program for WIC (Women, Infant and Children) provides fresh food from local farmers throughout the 10½ counties of the Choctaw Nation.

The Farmers Market Nutrition Program for Seniors offers vouchers to eligible seniors age 55 and up that can be exchanged for locally grown fruits, vegetables, herbs and honey.

The farmers provide a much-needed opportunity for us by growing and selling a bounty of fresh food and in turn, we help the local farmers maintain the ability to keep producing on their farms.

More information about Choctaw Nation's health programs and facilities can be found on ChoctawNation.com.

As we improve our health, we add longevity and a quality of life that gives us a chance to enjoy every day.

 June Message Pic
                                                                                                                             by Stacy Hutto
A grand opening ceremony for the Durant Wellness Center is scheduled for Tuesday, June 26 in conjunction with the grand opening of the new Choctaw Nation Headquarters.  The grand opening will begin at 10 a.m.  The Durant Wellness Center had already won awards for its unique design and is currently open to tribal members and first responders.

 

Appreciating Our Armed Forces - May 2018

The month of May is Military Appreciation Month. On Memorial Day, May 28, the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country will be honored.

May 12 is Military Spouse Appreciation Day for all the spouses who support our country in a different way by sustaining the home and family.

May 19, the day of our commemorative Trail of Tears Walk, is Armed Forces Day.

During the opening program of the annual Trail of Tears event, before the Choctaw Color Guard begins leading the way for hundreds of people to follow the footsteps of our Choctaw ancestors, we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Choctaw Color Guard.

The Choctaw Color Guard is an esteemed group of Choctaw veterans who give their time to attend tribal and community events around the country, including rendering military funeral honors and participating in parades and powwows.

Five members of the current Choctaw Color Guard were among the initial group formed in 1998-John Burleson, Shirley Mantaghi, John Barry, Terry Loman and Ron Scott. Yakoke for everything you do to represent the Choctaw Nation and veterans everywhere.

The Choctaw Nation is grateful to all who serve or have served and proud to be able to provide other ways of showing appreciation to the military. The Choctaw Nation Veterans Advocacy program was formed to ensure Native American veterans are receiving benefits equal to other veterans. The Veterans Advocacy team assists with VA claims, applications, referrals, Cell Phones for Soldiers, the Choctaw Veteran Cemetery at Tvshka Homma and scheduling the Choctaw Color Guard.

They purchase items and mail care packages every three months to military personnel stationed in active war zones. During 2017, Veterans Advocacy mailed out 1,269 care packages to soldiers stationed in a combat zone. From January to mid-April of this year, there have been 905 care packages sent to the soldiers deployed.

Family members, friends, or even groups can bring Veterans Advocacy items to be sent to our troops overseas at no charge, as long as they are stationed in a combat zone. Every district in the Choctaw Nation holds a special event during the summer to honor the Choctaw veterans in their areas. Every November, Choctaw veterans are invited to attend a ceremony at Tvshka Homma where they receive a special gift.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the original Choctaw Code Talkers and the end of World War I. During the Nov. 10 Veterans Ceremony, the Choctaw Nation and the Choctaw Code Talkers Association will be honoring all of the Code Talkers of World War I and II.

In 2017, both the Oklahoma House and Senate passed a bill to name 23 county bridges in southeastern Oklahoma after the Code Talkers. The first unveiling was the Joseph Oklahombi Bridge in Wright City in April.

During this month and every month, please say a prayer for the members of the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and National Guard. We have everything to thank them for.

Color Guard - May 2018

 

April Honors Choctaw Women - April 2018

April ushers in Easter, rains and the first full month of spring. It signifies renewal and hope. Choctaw tradition also refers to April as Tek i Hvshi or "Month of the Woman."

Culturally we are a matriarchal society. Before European settlement in southeastern North America, women were held in high esteem and wielded positions of power among Choctaws.

Today, our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers nurture us, teach us, and still have a strong influence in carrying on Choctaw traditions.

Even our language has grown with meaningful references because of the role of women. The Choctaw wordhollorefers to the "feminine essence." From that comesholitopaor holy;hullochi, to sanctify; evenihollo, meaning to love.Nvnih Waiya, perhaps the most sacred place for early Choctaws, wasHolitopa Ishki, which translates to Beloved Mother.

The concept of Mother Earth was integral in Choctaw belief. Women, like Earth, were viewed as the providers and sustainers of life itself.

Early Choctaw women held vital roles in their tribe, communities and their families. It is no different today. As we move into spring 2018, the Choctaw Nation employs 5,531 women, more than half of the tribe's total employees.

At Tvshka Homma, a permanent statue stands in honor of former tribal councilwoman, Charlotte Jackson. The full-size statue was the first female statue in the garden. Charlotte, often described as a selfless woman, was well known for her dedication to others and to the Choctaw Nation. The statue shows Charlotte with a young female child, both honoring the spirit of women.

That spirit is strong in our young girls learning to compete on the stickball field. It is strong as they set goals to reach beyond what was expected for their mothers; and it is strong as they become a mother, holding their newborn for the first time and already planning a better future for their child.

The Choctaw Nation has programs that primarily focus on the needs of individual women and women with children, including Choctaw Nation Better Beginnings; Women, Infants and Children (WIC); Child Care Assistance; Head Start; Chi Hullo Li, a residential treatment facility; Support for Expectant and Parenting Teen Program; Project EMPOWER and EMPOWER 2; and Project SAFE.

Many more serve a large number of women: Adult Education; Higher Education scholarship program; Career Development; Nutrition Services; Behavioral Health; and Wind Horse Counseling Program; as well as health and wellness facilities throughout the Choctaw Nation. A good place to find what may be available is your local Choctaw Nation Community Based Social Work Program. For a listing, check the website, www.ChoctawNation.com or call (580) 924-8280, or toll-free (800) 522-6170.

Yakoke to all the women who have helped shape us to be a caring, strong family of Chahta people.   

ACM - Pic 1   
A statue of former tribal councilwoman Charlotte Johnson with a
young girl stands in the garden at Tvshka Homma.           

 

Are you ready for the excitement of March Madness? We all have our favorite collegiate teams to follow during the tournaments ahead of us this month. And to add to the fun, sports action began for the Choctaw Nation in February with the kickoff of the annual youth stickball league games.

There are six teams in the youth stickball league, each with junior and senior divisions: Osi Heli, Nashoba Homma, Tvshka Waya, Yvnnvsh Homma, Hiloha Ossi and Bak Bak. The league was developed in 2014 and has proven to be a major factor in revitalizing the game. They will practice on weekends and hold games March 10 and March 17 with the end-of-season tournament scheduled for April 24. All games are held at the Tvshka Homma Stickball Field where the players and their families gather for the day.

March 17 is March Mania Day for Choctaw Nation employees. The 13th Annual March Mania Basketball Tournament will be held at the old and new gyms at Talihina with games starting at 9 a.m. The tournament is so popular that there are now two divisions-junior and senior.

The Choctaw Nation also participates in an annual tournament over spring break called Madness in March, organized by 4 Love of the Game. High school-age kids are selected from a showcase held in the fall every year by the Choctaw Nation Youth Events and Special Projects department and teams are entered in the tournament. The 15th Annual Madness in March will be held March 22-24 in Henryetta, Oklahoma.

The Amerind All West Native American 100 Basketball Classic is held annually in April in Colorado. The Choctaw Nation sends teams to the tournament, in its 33rd year, which has over 100 teams. It is comprised of native kids from all over the United States. A good feature of this tournament is that it has several college scouts watching the kids play.

Almost all of the Choctaw players involved in the all-star basketball programs are currently playing college ball. The exposure that we can help give these talented young people allows them the opportunity to play ball and get a good education.

The Youth Events and Special Projects department also hosts clinics throughout the year in baseball, softball and basketball for graduating seniors. Junior colleges and large universities are invited to come watch our kids at their best. This is another opportunity for the colleges to see our Indian students and how competitive they can be.

Summer camps are held every year to help enhance skills in stickball, basketball, football, softball, baseball and golf. The camps provide an atmosphere conducive for the youth to develop self-confidence while they build on their abilities.

I am looking forward to the variety of sports our Choctaw boys and girls will be involved in. Yakoke to all of the staff who are dedicated to providing these opportunities. Because of you, they have another chance to excel.

 ACM - Pic 1

OK Choctaws1 were the girls runner up team in the 14th Annual Madness in March tournament.  The 15th Annual Madness in March will be held March 22-24 in Henryetta, Oklahoma.

 

A Choctaw Program Improves Chahta Lives One Job at a Time - February 2018

One of our most successful programs has been Job for the Day. It offers tribal members six weeks of temporary work with the Choctaw Nation that can turn into a permanent opportunity either within the Nation, or with a business in their community.

Job for the Day works with other Choctaw Nation programs such as Work Force Development and Career Development to enhance skills and opportunities.

They identify and address issues that may be preventing an applicant from being hired and start coaching the member to alleviate the issues.

Jerry Wood Jr. is a great example. He visited with Job for the Day staff and expressed a strong desire to work for the Nation.

They discussed his work experience and education and he was added to the list. Jerry said he had applied to Choctaw Nation in the past, received interviews, but had not been hired.

One of the services Job for the Day extends to program participants is providing suggestions on how to improve the interview process. It was noticed that Jerry appeared extremely nervous and that could cause him to present poorly during an interview.

Job for the Day went to work. Jerry's skills were identified. He had the experience and education required to make him a good fit in any accounting role. He was placed in the Choctaw Nation Purchasing Department and also connected with Career Development, who provided video and audio for him to take home to hone his interview skills and become more comfortable.

At the end of the six-week position in the purchasing department, he interviewed and was hired by purchasing. He has enrolled in Choctaw U, has interviewed and will transfer from purchasing to Choctaw Nation Fleet in the next few weeks.

Jerry is cheerful and interactive and shows a level of confidence he did not have when he first contacted Job for the Day.

Krystal Cato contacted Job for the Day while working as a shift manager at McDonald's in Atoka. Krystal's hours had been cut and she was in need of more stable employment.

During her assessment for Job for the Day she discussed her experience, education, and where she wanted to be in the future. Krystal was about seven hours from being a junior in college and was interested in reception or secretarial work that would keep her busy.

Job for the Day was in need of an administrative assistant at the time so her skills were discussed more in-depth. Krystal was very comfortable with Microsoft Office, Excel and PowerPoint.

Based on the way she presented during the assessment and the way she answered questions she appeared to be a good fit for the position. Krystal was placed with Job for the Day on Aug. 29, 2016, where she continues to be a valued part of the team.

The Job for the Day program has made a difference in many lives. They have helped build confidence, and with good work ethics, the members are following career paths they hadn't thought possible.

To read more about the Job for the Day program turn to Page 11 in this issue of the Biskinik.

February Message Pic

When Krystal Cato discussed her experience, education and where she wanted to be in the future during her assessment for the Job for the Day program she appeared to be a good fit for the administrative assistant position the Job for the Day program needed filled.  Cole has been a Job for the Day team member since Aug. 29, 2016.

 

Jones Academy Guiding Students and Creating Future Leaders - January 2018

It's known as a "place to call home." The Choctaw Nation's Jones Academy has been providing a home and education to Native American children for 127 years.

I visited the campus of Jones Academy last month to join in its Christmas celebration.

As I turned from the highway to begin the drive onto campus, I noticed several brightly colored flags lining the road-each with inspirational words such as integrity, leadership and dedication.

The Christmas celebration began with a visit from Santa just after classes ended for the day. Santa and his elves delivered two activity buses to the students, a gift from the Choctaw Nation Division of Commerce.

Chief Batton and I had hitched a ride with Santa to deliver the buses as the students filed out of the elementary building. I will never forget the look on their faces-excitement and pure joy.

The activity buses, currently white, will be wrapped with a distinctive Choctaw design in black and will be available for transporting students round-trip from home or the airport.

They will be used to take the newly formed basketball teams to games and their field trips will be much easier for everyone. The students also visit cultural sites, festivals, and museums throughout the year, as well as academic competitions and fun days bowling, skating, and going to the movies.

The residential learning center has welcomed students from at least 29 different American Indian tribes. Jones Academy has an Indian Club and provides cultural and traditional programs such as traditional dances and pow wows on campus.

Jones Academy is involved in determining a student's interests. They start focusing as early as first grade to find out what the students want to do with their lives and guide them along the right pathway. There are many programs within the Choctaw Nation that can also help along the way.

In addition to an award-winning academic program, focus is on developing artistic expression and social skills.

Its agriculture program has produced many champions. They are busy now preparing for the Choctaw Nation's annual livestock show in February, county shows, and state fairs in both Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Encouragement and drive are accomplishing the best environment at Jones Academy for learning and allowing student-led decision making. They are truly creating leaders.

January Message Pic

Jones Academy students greet Santa as he arrives for the Christmas celebration on one of the activity buses.  The buses will be used to transport the newly formed basketball team to games.  They will also be used to transport students to academic competitions, fun days, pow wows and field trips.

 

Wishing Everyone a Wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year - December 2017

I hope everyone had a blessed Thanksgiving and is enjoying the Christmas season. The autumn foliage has been beautiful in Oklahoma and we have thoroughly appreciated the chance to travel to events throughout the Choctaw Nation.

The Thanksgiving dinners at the Choctaw community centers are, as always, a great time to visit and enjoy the fellowship and delicious food.

I look forward to them every year. It gives Chief Batton and myself a chance to listen to the seniors' needs, as well as to celebrate good news about their family, such as a graduation, wedding, or the birth of new great-grandchild.

We love to hear the Chahta hymns that are often sung and are very thankful for the staff who volunteers to prepare the meal, serve, and clean afterward.

The Choctaw Nation has also held ribbon cutting ceremonies recently for the expansion of the Choctaw Casino & Resort-Grant and a new facility for the Choctaw Nation Head Start in Wright City.

As we grow the tribe's businesses, we have the ability to build more facilities such as the new location for the Head Start program. The teachers and students will have the newest technology, new playground equipment, and a safe room.

The location of the facility is close to the community center so I anticipate there will be a lot of fun interaction with the seniors. The students attended the ribbon cutting and checked out their new space with lots of happy chatter.

Some of the parents and grandparents were also at the grand opening of the Head Start. It was good to see them take an active interest in the youth's education.

Family is the most important gift. They love us for who we are and in the Choctaw Nation, we have extended families that include friends and the people we spend our days with at work.

We share principles and values. We are becoming more immersed in the Chahta culture. As we move forward, it is with the confidence that we come from a long line of Chahta who faced challenges, showed initiative, and succeeded.

I am proud to tell my grandchildren about their heritage. I am confident they will grow up thinking of the Nation as their home, as their family, and their culture. We give thanks to God every day and include a prayer for the Chahta people. May you all have a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year.

December Message Pic

Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr. is pictured with his wife, Philisha; oldest son, Clark and his wife, Tara; daughter, Malacha Sisk and her husband, Ethan; grandsons Dawson and Drake; youngest son, Samuel.

 

Throughout History Choctaw Warriors Have Volunteered When Needed - November 2017

Choctaw history shows multiple instances when Chahta tvshka stepped up to protect what they loved.

Choctaw Chief Pushmataha was considered a great warrior. According to historical accounts, he fought in a war for the first time at the age of 13.

He continued to fearlessly protect his homeland in the War of 1812 by forming a company of Choctaw warriors who fought for the United States. He worked tirelessly for years as a Choctaw leader and mediator.

Pushmataha received full military honors as he was buried in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

Almost a century later, the Choctaw Code Talkers of World War I, who were not considered United States citizens at the time, volunteered to join the armed forces.

Several were handpicked to experiment with sending messages. The unique Chahta language had never been heard by the enemies and they were able to create messages that totally confused the other side. They ingeniously crafted phrases using the Choctaw words for "little gun shoot fast" which meant a machine gun. "Big gun" was field artillery, and "twice big group" was battalion. These codes within a code were extremely effective. The telephone squad was instrumental in winning several key battles and ending the four-year-long war.

Choctaw men and women continue to guard our country, our families, and the life we hold dear. This is done not only by literally protecting our freedoms in battle but also offering assistance when needed. I speak often of servant leadership because it is close to my heart and it has been very evident during the last few months.

There are many of our Choctaws and employees who volunteered or were deployed to assist in southeast Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. Staff members from Choctaw Nation Public Safety and Emergency Management traveled to the ravaged areas to assist in assessing the damage and providing emergency relief. Choctaw Nation Health Services also provided supplies and the Choctaw Nation received calls from tribal members in the area with referrals to housing, social and emergency assistance services.

The wildfires in California are another devastating travesty. Members of the Choctaw Nation's wildland firefighter group have often assisted throughout the country with ravaging fires such as these in the past.

We hear of mass shootings, bombings and other terrible attacks in addition to natural disasters. I am very thankful for the military, law enforcement, and emergency personnel who face each day with one thought in mind-to protect. The efforts of these courageous people are not to be taken lightly. There are many accounts of bravery and sacrifice.

Yakoke to you all.

November Pic

During a 2016 trip to Washington, D.C., Chief Gary Batton and Assistant Jack Austin Jr. laid a wreath at Chief Pushmataha's gravesight in the Congressional Cemetery.

 


Labor Day Festival Highlight of The Year  -  October 2017

This year's Labor Day Festival was the epitome of faith, family and culture-from the opening night when the capitol grounds was host to the annual princess pageant through the whole weekend when we reached tens of thousands of visitors. 

It is my favorite annual event, because I see so many good friends and family and have the opportunity to enjoy the fun.

Congratulations to the young ladies representing the Choctaw Nation for the next year-Miss Choctaw Nation BreAnna Jefferson of Millerton, District 1; Jr. Miss Choctaw Nation Jade Cossey of Spiro, District 4; and Little Miss Choctaw Nation Mya Thomas of Boswell, District 8.

They are truly our ambassadors as they represent the Choctaw Nation everywhere they go. I want to extend a very heartfelt thank you to all of the staff that put the festival together. It takes a full year of planning.

Once the Labor Day Festival ends, lists are started for the next year. It takes well-oiled professionalism to seamlessly provide so many activities. The teams behind the scenes delivered a great weekend.

Several of those teams, along with many volunteers prepared the grounds, assisted with traffic and parking, saw that the grounds were kept clean, recyclables were gathered, electricity and water kept flowing, ensured safety standards were maintained, and help was provided when needed. Those are many of the things we take for granted and I am very grateful for them all.

I have many great memories from the weekend. Chief Batton and I had the privilege to present a jacket to a softball legend on Friday night at the Red Warrior Park. Wayne Tisho was honored for 53 years of dedication to the game.

He is retiring after playing and then coaching with the same team and many players. Yakoke to you, Wayne, for your commitment and love of softball that you have shared with us through the years.

This year was the first to have Choctaw talent open the concerts on Friday and Saturday nights. They were great! Joni Morris took the stage Friday night and Jerry Tims rocked the night on Saturday-a great way to start the concert entertainment. I am so proud of them for stepping up to the challenge of opening before well-known entertainers. They delivered concerts equal to, if not better, than many we have had at Tvshka Homma before.

The Choctaw National Day of Prayer is held every year during the festival. It is an inspiration to hear the prayers and testimonies from the very young to our revered elders. This year, the Red River Prayer Network and the congregation at the chapel took up a special offering for victims of Hurricane Harvey. They gave from the heart to help the thousands who were in need. Since then we have had several teams and staff members deploy to assist with recovery of both Hurricane Harvey and Irma. Our prayers are with them and those who are faced with disaster.

The Chahta spirit was evident everywhere during the festival. And, now it is time to count down to next year's amazing event.


ACM - 1
                                                                                                                             by Apryl Mock

 (from left) Assistant Chief Jack Austin, Jr., Wayne Tisho and Chief Gary Batton share a laugh after Tisho was presented a jacket to honor his 53 years of dedication to softball at the Choctaw Nation Labor Day Festival.

Bless the Chahta Tvshka & Troops Who Protect Our Freedom - September 2017

   When I greeted Leo Smallwood of Rattan during his 100th birthday celebration, I was immediately impressed with his strength, both inner and outer.

   Mr. Smallwood and his late wife, Jane, set the example and their family stays connected even though all of their children and grandchildren have spread their wings.

   Their relationship is strong and they are very close. My dad spoke of him and his coaching days and how mentally tough his teams were because he had them prepared.

   He is a very down-to-earth guy who worked hard and loves his family, preparing them in much the same way, a trait very reminiscent of that generation.

   Leo is also an Army veteran of World War II with many stories to share. We are very grateful to all the veterans who serve to maintain our freedom and we are extremely proud of the Chahta Tvshka who protect our families and homeland.

   The Choctaw Nation recently had an opportunity to partner with the Chickasaw Nation to assist a group from the 180th Cavalry to return home for a pass before deployment.

   Last year, the two Nations also combined efforts to bring several members of the 45th Infantry Brigade home for Christmas. We continue to pray for the safety of all of the members of the Armed Forces.

Tvshka Soldier Pic
                                                                                                                                by Kendra Germany

On Aug. 3, 2017, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Veteran's Advocacy presented the First Squadron 180th Cavalry with a donation of $30,000. This donation is a part of a combined mission of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO), the Chickasaw Nation, and various other orginazations to lease buses to bring members of the 180th Cavalry home for a pass before they deploy to Afghanistan. Pictured from left, CNO Veteran's Advocacy Deputy Director Roger Hamil, Sergeant Chad Dougherty, Sergeant First Class Bruce Williams, CNO Community Service Senior Director Brent Oakes, Larry Marcy from Bryan County Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3916, Jim Garner from Bryan County Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3916 and Michael Robbins from CNO Veteran's Advocacy.

 

Communities Still Celebrate Life in the Choctaw Way

   The closeness of communities coming together is one of the things I love the mostabout life in the Choctaw Nation. In our rural communities, everyone pulls together to help someone in need or to celebrate life in the Choctaw way with our friends and families.
   I had the opportunity to attend the first day of the meeting at Bobb-Myers Methodist Church in Antlers and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
   It was a perfect example of community as people gathered together to hear a message, take communion, and visit the camp houses where there was great food and fellowship. We are blessed to still have camp meetings to connect and inspire people in ways I remember as a young boy.
   Boom in the Valley is always a great community event and is very reflective of family values and time spent together.
   It was held July 3 at Tvshka Homma, the first time the event was held on the Choctaw Nation's capitol grounds. Boom in the Valley reminded me of that small-town feel of families getting together to enjoy the day.
   A spectacular fireworks display closed the evening. Yakoke to all who pitched in to provide a wonderful celebration.

Boom in the Valley pic

 During Boom in the Valley on July 3, fireworks lit up the sky in Tvshka Homma. The large crowd watched as the fireworks illuminated the Capitol Building. This year was the first time the fireworks show was held in the heart of the Choctaw Nation.

   Tvshka Homma will literally become a community of thousands for a short time as the annual Labor Day Festival kicks off August 31.
   Choctaw staff members spend weeks preparing the grounds and more work throughout the long weekend to ensure everyone has a good time.
   Many Choctaw families are already preparing for Labor Day. Those who play softball set up camp near Red Warrior Park to be close to the fields. They don't want to miss any of the action provided by the approximately 50 teams in the tournament.
   It isn't uncommon to see two or three generations on a fast pitch or volleyball team or in the horseshoe pits.
   Opening night brings Choctaw families in from across the Nation to support and cheer for their favorite young ladies in the princess pageant. The contestants model in their Choctaw dresses and jewelry often made by a member of their family. Mom, Dad, brothers, sisters, grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts, uncles and cousins are in the audience. It's one of the most anticipated events every year. Other highlights include village activities, a stickball tournament, and an inter-tribal pow wow.
   The grounds at Tvshka Homma will be filled with culture, art, sports, food and entertainment. It gives us an opportunity to forget our troubles and bring us closer while we celebrate our Choctaw traditions.

*Photo above by Jack Austin, Jr.

 
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