Singers, dancers and artists will bring the sights and sounds of the Choctaw world to Tulsa tonight as tribal members expand their efforts to revitalize and introduce the tribal culture to a broader audience. In the process they will also share information about services the tribe provides in the state and across the country.
The free performance will begin at 6:30 p.m. in Tulsa’s Doubletree Hotel and the public is invited.
Mandy Lawson, who will lead about 10 couples in the dances, says, “We’re learning more about our heritage and want to share that as we go along. And it‘s also great fun.“ This will be the group’s first performance in Tulsa and follows a recent show in the Capitol building in Oklahoma City. Performances were given earlier this year in San Francisco, Denver and Washington, D.C., at the Smithsonian Institution.
Besides singers and dancers, the group includes a basket weaver, a teacher of the Choctaw language and tribal artists from the Tulsa area. And archaeologist Ian Thompson will demonstrate the traditional way of making pottery.
The services provided in many area communities have been expanded this year with the opening of a dental clinic in Stigler and a family counseling center in Idabel, and purchase and expansion of a printing company in Durant.
The tribe’s extensive casino operations have grown this year with a significant addition to the center in Pocola and the opening of a new casino in Stigler, the tribe’s eighth, all in Oklahoma. Gaming centers are the largest contributors to the tribe’s revenue, but many other businesses, such as 11 travel plazas around the state, add significantly to annual revenue. That money helps finance scores of health and educational activities for the tribe‘s 200,000 members worldwide. For example, in the past five years students have received about $30 million in higher-education scholarships while $14 million has gone to adults in career development training.
Choctaw Chief Gregory Pyle, in a Daily Democrat interview, said employee proposals have had a marked impact on tribal operations. About four years ago, he said, “We asked employees to come up with ideas of things they thought we should be doing. The members then voted strongly for “Go Green” environmental campaigns.”
The tribe’s highly successful recycling program ”has filled a need for the whole community,” he said. The recycling center off of Enterprise Blvd. in Durant processed 1.3 million pounds of recyclable material in the first 10 months of this year. Another employee initiative is a program called Solemates. It provided new shoes to children this fall so they could start school “without looking different than their classmates,” said Judy Allen, executive director of public relations for the tribe. The tribe has joined with Massey Foundation to establish a boys and girls club center in Durant. The two organizations pledged to donate $250,000 each if the community will donate another $250,000. Kari Walker, president of the board of directors of the Boys and Girls Club of Durant, said the community has raised more than $100,000 so far.
She said the club will open a center on Dec. 19 at 1303 Waco, close to the Durant School District headquarters. It will serve youngsters from 6 to 18 and will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. during the Christmas holidays.
The tribe has also partnered with The Nature Conservancy in setting aside a natural area near Tishomingo to help protect the Blue River, the source of Durant’s water supply.