Choctaw Nation

Talimena Drive at Night

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Thursday night was amazing, we drove up into the Ouachitas on Talimena Scenic Drive which connects Talihina Oklahoma to Mena Arkansas.   I had to go to the dentist on Friday (no fun at all) so we drove out and got a motel room in Talihina and went up to watch the stars in the mountains which did not disappoint.  

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I was in Arkansas four days and really haven't processed those photos we made it home on Sunday and I had a portrait shoot and a full day of shooting for Easter Seals along with housework, school shopping, bill paying and all that other adult nonsense. 

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I had to edit these.  This was by far the best night shooting that I've done- despite the wind.  To be able to see the Milky Way clearly with the naked eye was unusual 

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It was so dark I really had to adjust my camera settings. I've never had to shoot with an ISO above 1000 and that night I was shooting at 1600 and wide open.  

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It was an incredible view.  I began this wanting to shoot star trails and now I'm far more amazed at the Milky Way. 

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We enjoyed our starry night on the Talimena Drive. 

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I will update with more soon!   But right now I'm still not feeling the greatest so I will add more photos later. 


Early Morning Sardis Lake

Sardis Lake  (1 of 1)

Last Saturday I thought I had a headache.  It continued to grow worse and by Sunday night I had an unbearable toothache.   So I made the dreaded trip to the Choctaw Nation Hospital to the dental clinic.  Of course I took my camera and wide angle.  I do love to stop at this lake.  The pain wasn't too bad when we got down there but I still didn't feel well at all.  

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But I felt well enough to play around with some long exposures as the early morning light peeked out of the horizon.   I love this lake, it's a beautiful sight.  I did make it to the clinic and was put on pain killers (which I can't take because they make my stomach hurt) and antibiotics (which I'm trying to take religiously so I can return and have this tooth pulled). 

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Which has helped slow us down a week in the home improvement project.  It has also slowed me down a few days in doing much of anything.  Fortunately the pain is gone and I'm back to normal but definitely ready to finish the medication so I can have a permanent solution to this problem (which I've known about and chose to ignore for too long).  

Sardis Lake at Night (1 of 1)

I would like to spend more time here, but I'm usually just driving through.  

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It was right around 5am when we got there.  Early morning traffic was beginning to filter by. 

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So I had written more but since my blog server doesn't auto-save my posts I've had to go back and add these photos again. I'm sure you don't come here to read my writing anyways.   

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 One more before morning....  I may go out and shoot tonight but I'm not sure how ambitious I'm feeling.   


A Day for the Dogs (Sidewalk Angels and Muttnation Foundation) in Oklahoma

Last Saturday my Sister and I set out to go to see Rob Thomas in Concert at The Choctaw Casino in Durant, Oklahoma.   Since we were spending a day to go see the great Rob Thomas (of Matchbox Twenty fame) in concert we decided to make a little side trip to Tishomingo to stop at Miranda Lambert's Pink Pistol store -  My Sister had never been there and it wasn't too far out of the way.  So this is a great reason to post and highlight two great foundations working towards helping our four legged friends.  Do you even listen to Miranda Lambert?  Here try this out...  Dry Town or Sin For A Sin 

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Dogs have played a prominent role in my blog over the years.  I was excited to do a little shopping and go enjoy the show that I had bought my tickets for months ago.  I know Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton do a lot of work for stray/abandoned dogs in Tishomingo (and beyond).   Rob Thomas and his wife were in Oklahoma to put on a benefit concert for their Sidewalk Angels  charity. 

Miranda Lambert's The Pink Pistol in TIshomingo  -7412

I SERIOUSLY love these boots.  I have plenty of boots and heck, I live in Oklahoma and the most exciting things I go to are concerts (well that's not true since I do portrait photography I go to a lot of weddings and events now).   

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I try. It doesn't always work.  "Mama's Broken Heart"

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So yeah the Pink Pistol fountain drink is awesome.   

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If you must see Miranda, she's there... waiting.  

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The cool decor that is hanging from the ceiling is cool.  

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 Um, for that unclean feeling...  You never know. 

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There is a lot of growth for Tishomingo's Main Street.  

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We just wanted to stop at the store, we didn't know there was an event going on.   

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In case you need to adopt a pet - Muttnation Foundation were there with these sweet babies.  I already found and abandoned dog just a couple of days before.  Morris is doing much better after a week of his new home and food, now he's my new walking buddy.  

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You missed it...  

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I bet you can't ride in their little red wagon...

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SO we were done shopping and browsing and headed back to the car to head to Durant to see Rob Thomas! 

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Just a short drive down from Chickasaw Country to our own Choctaw Nation.   

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My Sister and I were happy...not sure about the folks sitting behind us.    This is my fourth Rob Thomas show-  I went to see him in Dallas in October of 2009, January 1, 2011 at Winstar Casino with Matchbox Twenty, and April of 2014 at Winstar Casino in Thackerville.  I was so excited to hear that he had a full band and this was a benefit for the Sidewalk Angels.   He opened with "Give Me The Meltdown." 

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 I'm not real anymore... I am an illusion.  

My phone concert snapshots are just depressing when I have my good gear in the car.  I would love, love, love, love to be a concert photographer it would combine my love of music (and lack of talent in that area and my love of photography)  ha ha. 

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Something To Be...   Jealous now? I told you this was an AWESOME show.  

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I love that he did "Feel So Bad"   I love all of his music.  Such a great show!  I can't wait on the new album.  I've been a fan since 1997 back when I was all of twenty years old.   Great show!  

 


Native Women's Voices at OU

Saturday I spent the day with my Native Sisters at Norman as we had a group dinner waiting to go see the film "Drunktown's Finest" at the Native Film Festival in Norman.  

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Our group luncheon before the film festival was with a J.D., PhD, Two girls who recently the White House to speak about Native Education,  Those of us with Masters Degrees in Native Studies and Geography.  This is a group of empowered, active Native writers and students.  

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This young lady has represented Native students across the nation by sitting in on a "Student Voices Session" with the Department of Education. Young Native Americans Share School Culture Experiences With Secretary Duncan

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He loved the horses.  

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As a student of Native American Studies and a person of Choctaw heritage I am saddened by seeing so many Native films which tell the story of contemporary people and reinforce stereotypes.   I wonder how Native people can overcome contemporary stereotypes while reinforcing them in the stories which make it to mainstream audiences?   But those are the stories that they have to tell.  So, I'm conflicted, I have a friend who calls the type of movies that go into the poverty and dark side of life "Poverty porn"  -  and that audiences like to watch those time of films where people overcome adversity.  

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This years film festival was on women's voices.  I missed most of it, since our weather was awful last week.  

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Accolades for the people who work so hard to put this festival on.  

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One of the actors in Drunktown's Finest.   

The film that we viewed this year, Drunktown's Finest was interesting on a personal level because it was shot and set around Gallup New Mexico, which we lived 34 miles south of Gallup in Zuni during the 2003-04 School year.  It was my first full year teaching and quite a life experience.   I love the southwest so watching this movie's landscape brought an element of home to it, because that land felt like home while I lived there.  I didn't realize the executive producer was Robert Redford.  Check out the page: Drunktown's Finest. Com  

This film was captivating because it held that element of a personal connection.   Having lived where I did my business in Gallup and a greater understanding of what life is like on a reservation.  I knew that it portrayed a certain reality.

I was going to post this before OU unfortunately made international news for the act of stupidity of a few.  I am not going to use this as an opportunity to get on a soapbox about racism and class in America.  I am not going to use it to rant about exclusive organizations on college campuses (I have a philosophical disagreement that we should have Greek organizations at colleges that promote hazing and exclusive rights).   I'm not going into the word "Sooner" - but it is embarrassing because it is an institution that I have respect for.   I refuse to let the actions of a very few undergraduates color my view of the University.  


Boggy Depot Cemetery- 2015

We were running early on our trip to Atoka on Saturday so I had my husband pull into Boggy Depot so we could stop at the cemetery.   I now think it's worthwhile to revisit places that I have posted about before because I can look at how my photography has evolved over the years.  In June of 2010 I visited Boggy Depot Cemetery for the first time. I did come home with some of the same shots of the same stones, so what caught my eye then, still catches my eye about this very old place that was once Indian Territory. 

Boggy Depot at Atoka Oklahoma-1139

But I can share a new perspective tonight.  

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I love the trees over this cemetery.  

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I apparently was interested in the final resting place of C.W. Flint who was born in 1812 during my last visit too.

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My husband joined me in taking in the names of these people who left our earthly realm so long ago.  It is good to read the names of people who are gone.  Just reading their name seems to bring peace that perhaps someday our names will be read in a cemetery and we will be remembered.  

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The trees tower far above the largest worn headstone.  

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Names hand scratched into stone.  What we don't think about is these historic cemeteries were probably also once filled with wooden crosses or other types of markers for those who couldn't afford the luxury of a name engraved in stone.  

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I don't think people who haven't spent time walking these old, abandoned, cemeteries realize how so many of the graves are those of beloved children and infants.  In this age of antibiotics I see the heartache and confusion in the news when a child passes away from strep throat or the flu. The measles outbreak is a wake up call for the importance of vaccination.   If parents spent time wandering old cemeteries they would see that they aren't filled with the elderly, they are filled with children.   Sad, little lambs gracing the grief of a hundred years ago.  

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When I posted the photo of these old graves a friend who lives in New York State mentioned how the stones were younger than her early 19th century home.  It is fascinating in how your region affects your perception of age.   

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Boggy Depot was a very busy town in Indian Territory.   Boggy Depot  was a town in between Ft Smith, Arkansas and Fort Washita which was closer to Madill and Tishomingo.   During the Civil War it was a Confederate Supply Depot, which my Great Great Uncle was stationed at briefly.   

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Broken stones dot this historical cemetery.  

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It is humbling as a human being to realize that someday this will be us.   

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The items of trade that came to Indian Territory were the stones and items like this fencing, this was before the time of the railroads.   

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The tribes saved Boggy Depot park a few years ago.  I think tribal sovereignty is a wonderful thing that allowed this historic place to be taken from the state and placed into trust in the hands of the Chickasaw Nation.   

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I found this interesting blog talking about experiencing a bit of the supernatural here at Boggy Depot Cemetery.  Which I don't usually "sense" anything in a cemetery, if anything cemeteries are extremely peaceful places.  The forgotten ones make me sad, but only because the people whose bodies are forever at rest there - have been forgotten by their loved ones or their entire families are gone now.  

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Oh here is a Bigfoot story!    Which is funny we were out driving around to do some night photography and this large black animal (clearly furry) darted across the road.  I'm saying it was just a stray dog on the loose - but it seemed huge.   

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One more of the impressive trees that loom over this antiquated cemetery.   


Good Earth State Park at Blood Run South Dakota

We drove to Sioux Falls so I could visit the Good Earth State Park at Blood Run, near Sioux Falls South Dakota.  The Blood Run site extends across the river into Iowa.  This is the site of a settlement that dates back 8,500 years.  Yes, you read that correctly eight thousand years ago people were living here.  We're talking people who pre-dated the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans or those other people you like to think of as "ancient." 

Blood Run South Dakota -Good Earth State Park-9017

So what happens when you're over 800 miles from home and you drive to visit a particular place at a particular time?  It rains.  Not only does it rain, there is a regular thunderstorm.   So I patiently waited over a half an hour for the rain to stop and the sky to stop rumbling.  It didn't.  Not totally. 

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I grew impatient and drove down the road, wondering how to get to the Iowa side of the river.  The road was closed.   My quest to see this ancient Mound Builder city, this meeting of peoples for thousands of  years, was somewhat unfulfilled. 

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The surrounding farmland gives way to the river valley. 

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I based a chapter of my graduate thesis around Blood Run; yet I had never visited.  I wrote about the importance of this place based upon the writing of Allison Hedge Coke's book of poetry titled Blood Run.   Because I was fascinated by the idea of this empire of moundbuilders stretching across the eastern half of North America; people who I never learned about as a child.  

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I wrapped the Canon T3i up in two empty plastic bags and put my versatile 18-135 lens on it and finally gathered the courage to take off down the hiking trails. I wasn't going to sit in the car and stare at a field all morning. 

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Had I felt comfortable in the thunder I would have taken more photos and done a much longer hike through this area.

Blood Run- at Good Earth State Park in Sioux Falls South Dakota-9055

I hate thunder and lightning. You won't ever catch me on a one mile hike in this kind of weather again.  Above is an example of my photographic artistry in the thunderstorm. 

Blood Run- at Good Earth State Park in Sioux Falls South Dakota-9059

It is probable that the Blood Run site (c.1500-1700 AD.) in southwestern Iowa was settled in the late proto-historic area by the Iowa, Oto, and Missouri Chiwere Siouans, along with the Omaha and Ponca Dhegiha Siouans. These groups were allied and known as the Oneota culture that is spread over a large Midwestern area. At Blood Run, they were under pressures from the Teton Lakota and Yankton Nakota peoples who had moved into the same region. According to Tom Thiessen's study of the Blood Run site, it once had 275 burial mounds. This is strong empirical evidence that mound building had persisted among these Siouan groups into late proto-historic times. (http://www.minnesotahistory.net/MHNet10.htm)

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The Oneota people; lived here for hundreds of years, used this as a trading center for pipestone or catlinite which was mined at nearby Pipestone, Minnesota. 

Blood Run- at Good Earth State Park in Sioux Falls South Dakota-9090

Across two states this site is there are the remnants of over 400 mounds. I really couldn't tell the natural landscape from the ancient moundbuilder site.  I've been to Emerald Mound in Mississippi a few years ago and that was impressive.

Blood Run- at Good Earth State Park in Sioux Falls South Dakota-9068

I'm sure this park will continue to grow and will eventually have a visitors center and be rich with the ancient Native heritage that fills the landscape.   Please go like their Facebook Page: Good Earth State Park at Blood Run

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I love the wildflowers in the northern plains.  Different from home.  

Deer at Blood Run- at Good Earth State Park in Sioux Falls South Dakota-9101

As I left this ancient mound builder city-  there was an issi  watching me.  She watched me for a few moments as I took a few frames of her beauty.   So this site is a place that was "formed not to be forgotten."  It was a site that shares similarities with our Spiro in Oklahoma.  It holds a shared heritage with our Chahta ancestors.   These people whose stories all converge in the river valleys across the eastern United States; these mound builders-  the great empire builders of North America's past.  


The Beautiful Lincoln Bridge in Sulphur

In July of 2010 I posted some photos of this bridge.  In May of 2014 I will post some more.  I must rid myself of this self inflicted backlog of photos from the month of April.   

Lincoln Bridge in Sulphur Oklahoma at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area -8161

I was shooting with a T3i and didn't realize my white balance was set to cloudy.  Can you see how warm this photo is, can you see the yellowish tone?  I didn't compensate in editing to make it look like the sunny day it was. Custom white balance is easy - just take a photo of something white in whatever light you are in.  But, if you shoot in raw you can correct white balance errors, easily. 

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I corrected it in this shot.  

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This is such a pretty, peaceful place.  This photo was shot with a wide angle zoom lens.   

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It was kind of a cool morning on April 30th but definitely better than the 95 degrees of today.

Lincoln Bridge in Sulphur Oklahoma at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area -3699

Someone working for the  Chickasaw Nation contacted me and asked to use one of my Lincoln Bridge photos once, I returned the email and asked them how much they paid, to no response.  Normally I allow image usage, but my own Choctaw Nation pays the artists who contribute to their buildings and with their images.   I am proud to be Choctaw.    This land was once part of the Choctaw Nation, we allowed the Chickasaws to share this land with our people after the hardship of the Trail of Tears of the 1830s.   But before the Chickasaws and Choctaws moved on this land, it was home to Plains tribes and Caddo and even more ancient cultures.  This landscape was never empty, to imagine it was is contemporary arrogance.   

Lincoln Bridge in Sulphur Oklahoma at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area -8167

So at heart I am a Choctaw Nationalist.  Our people sided with the French, our histories were clouded by assimilation.   Yet, one Native issue that bothers me is how there seems to be an assimilation guilt of those who do not know their culture.  There is a guilt and one placed upon us by traditional Natives.  Far too many of us were raised in a secular nationalist sort of way, by secular nationalist I mean we are members of our tribal nation, yet we do not know the language or ceremony that made our people survive the thousands of years that we did on this continent.   

Lincoln Bridge in Sulphur Oklahoma at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area -8171

So while I go off on wild tangents as I write these posts; I am always thinking about what an interconnected world we live in.  I am proud to see the Chickasaws and Choctaws be successful as nations as long as they don't lose sight of why they are nations to begin with and become giant corporations with voiceless people.  


Rowan is 16

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On April 23 1998 my oldest son was born.  He turned 16 yesterday.  It's hard to believe it's been that long looking back on old photos.  If you look at any of my snapshots of the past you will know that photography is more of a learned skill than a great artistic blessing.  

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He is 16 and over six feet tall now.  His oldest sister is now a Mother (sitting beside him) and his other sister got her drivers permit yesterday.  We are all growing up in this household.  

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I remember the day I found out I was having a boy, my world was filled with little blue newborn blankets and clothes.   I still had my one year old daughter at home.  My oldest two aren't quite two years apart, she's 17 and he's 16 until June then my oldest turns 18.   So by June we will have a 21 year old, 18 year old, 16 and 13.   A couple of weeks ago we went to the amusement park and all three of the kids were with us and the cashier asked "Are they all yours."  That had not happened in a very long time.  

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But we celebrated his 16th birthday last night. 

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Rowan and his Dad on April 24, 1998.  

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April 2014 with his Dad at Frontier City  

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He was informing his Uncle that he just couldn't grow a "manly beard" like he could.  His Grandma made him shave before she'd take him birthday shopping, because he looked so old. 

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Rowan has Aspergers syndrome,  he also has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.  I know there are a lot of parents who write about Autism and crusade to end or change autism.  I don't.  I don't want to change my Son, I'd much rather change the people who are intolerant to others disabilities, those so called "normal" people who think they can treat anyone who has a different world view with disrespect or bullying.   I don't write about autism, because it doesn't trouble me.  I don't crusade with flags or pins or buttons. I don't participate in Autism 5Ks or make a big deal about it.  I don't write about it often.  He is who he is.  Autism or any disability doesn't define a person and their interests, it may shape their interactions and how they deal with the outside world.   I spent five years working with kids who had disabilities, while society and the state labeled them for their weaknesses I had the opportunity to see their strengths.   

 

Our society spends far too much time worrying about a disability and working with peoples weaknesses to the detriments of their strengths.  Imagine what kind of world we would have if we reshaped our educational system to focus on someone's strength from an early age instead of years of remediation?  That would change our world.   

So happy birthday to my oldest son, who is artistic and brilliant but will never conform.  He has been working on learning the Choctaw language for the last two years.    I am his Ishki, Yakoke for being my Chahta Ushi.   He is part of my inspiration behind my thesis work and has helped fuel my interest in Choctaw language and culture. 

Chi Hullo Li 


LeAnne Howe at the University of Central Oklahoma

March was filled with academic excursions reminiscent of my last two years in graduate school.  After the Sovereignty Symposium at the OU School of Law and then the Native Crossroads Film Festival at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History on the 7th my friend, Surviving Summer and I went to the University of Central Oklahoma to see our fellow Chahta  LeAnne Howe give a reading from her new book Choctalking on Other Realities

University of Central Oklahoma --UCO in Edmond-9276

But before I write about LeAnne Howe and her impact upon the story of my life, first I must talk about The University of Central Oklahoma.   I spent 2002-2003 taking graduate coursework here. I must admit that it didn't have the impact on me that attending OU did, but it was still a place of learning to return to.  I was studying special education and I really don't recall that much about that experience.  I vividly remember traveling to UCO's history department one day to discuss seeking a Masters Degree in History only to be told by the rude professor that "You should just read a book instead."  

University of Central Oklahoma --UCO in Edmond-9283

I quit halfway through a degree program for a Master's in Special Education, after teaching special education I decided that I no longer desired the expertise in the field.  Yet, I continued to teach this subject area for an additional four years.   Now, looking back I can see the impact as I am a strong advocate for special needs students as a parent and a teacher.   I'm a firm believer in individualized education as opposed to the one size fits all approach.  

University of Central Oklahoma --UCO in Edmond-9284

The best advice I had while at UCO was to not teach forever.  She (I can't even remember the professor's name now)- told us that we should only teach special education for five years and then cycle out for a few years and do something else, so we could return fresh and not burnt out of the profession.  This is the best career advice. I followed it.  Now I'm looking to return to teaching, but with a new perspective and more education than ever before.  

University of Central Oklahoma --UCO in Edmond-9289

 UCO was the historic home to the "Normal School" where teachers were educated.  The legacy remains in this historic building.   

UCO in Edmond-9296

I've always appreciated the open feel to UCO's campus, plus there usually is a place to park at this school (unlike OU).   The enrollment and price is reasonable and I really did enjoy my year I spent at UCO.   

UCO in Edmond-9302

Surviving Summer attended the lecture with me. It's nice to have real friends who will actually go places with you.  This mural could use some decolonizing, we live in a state based upon giving land to Native people then how the land was taken from them.   The land runs are glorified to the detriment of the people who were disenfranchised and lost their sovereignty.   

UCO in Edmond-9306

In Spring of 2013, I wrote my Master's thesis on the work of LeAnne Howe and Allison Hedge Coke who happens to teach at UCO.   I wrote of their contemporary incorporation of the ancient mound builders in their poetry and novels.   So, I was eager to attend this reading.   

UCO in Edmond-9311

This is a lesson that The University of Oklahoma could learn from UCO.  Clearly defined visitor parking.  OU is horrible for parking.  

LeAnne Howe at UCO in Edmond-9314

I'm afraid photography of speakers and people reading is not the easiest task and most of the images would not make the speaker pleased.  I do have a couple of frames that I will share.  Now, of course my photography of events such as these will improve significantly with the 85mm lens.   LeAnne Howe read from her memoir "Choctalking on Other Realities."   I enjoy all of her writing.  Shell Shaker fascinates me and Miko Kings I draw personal connections to.  But this was Summer's first time to hear her speak so I'm glad I could introduce a fellow Choctaw  Ohoyo to her writing.   

LeAnne Howe at UCO in Edmond-9331

I feel as if Howe's writing incorporates and embraces Choctaw Nationalism in her storytelling.  We need our tribal identity to remain a tribe.  We need a sense of unity and sovereignty to continue to grow.  

Allison Adele Hedge Coke  at UCO in Edmond-9342

I ran across Allison Hedge Coke while I was researching the mound builders for my thesis last year.  I was fascinated by the idea of the northern mound builders and this vast empire of ancient people who resided throughout the northern midwest, into the great plains and throughout the eastern woodlands.  She wrote a book of poetry called Blood Run as a work of activism to promote a sacred, ancient site near Sioux Falls South Dakota.  Here is some more information about the Blood Run site.  

 

It was an enjoyable evening.  I'm not finished with my Native Lecture series.  I attended a lecture at Cameron University a couple of weeks ago that I've yet to post about.