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Chief Gary Batton, Oklahoma

As told by EAST Students at Poteau KTC
Poteau, Oklahoma

Story Narrative:

EAST students at Kiamichi Technology Center in Poteau, Oklahoma interview Chief Gary Batton about the culture of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. In addition to creating this story for MoMS' Stories: YES program, students also developed an exhibit at the LeFlore County Museum at Hotel Lowrey with support from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Read more about the project on our blog.

Find the complete transcript at the bottom of this page.

Speaker 1: I don't know if I'd say the traditions or if I would say the culture of our foods. And the reason why our foods are important to us is one, it's healthy, and well-being. But it also stimulates our true culture, so when you start learning about some of our food, its about the family. Here in the Choctaw Nation, we say our vision is living up to Choctaw spirit of faith, family and culture. So when you start getting people growing their own food, guess what? They begin to get healthier, they eat healthier, they spend more time with their family, they just practice their faith, and so the food is just a mechanism for a way of being a part of a greater purpose of a community and a family.

Speaker 1: [:55] Well, one is just to get involved. I mean, I think so many people are worried about "Oh my God, what if I say the language wrong?" "What if I pronounce this food wrong?" or something. My thing is it's just like anything else. Learn, understand that you're gonna make mistakes. Don't worry about it, overcome it, and just keep trying to learn and to keep that perseverance, so that people will learn. If we don't, that legacy will never pass on to our people.

Speaker 1: [1:20] And that's what I think has happened within the Choctaw Nation, is that people has gotten so scared of the culture that they don't know about. That's the reason why we have our language program. We do have our food programs and things like that, to help revitalize and make it become common say and common practice when we talk about foods, when we talk about our language, so that it becomes just a daily practice. Oh, definitely. I mean, again, I think about my family when I think about the food, because although our family always got together, I grew up where my aunts and uncles and cousins all lived around me. So when we would get together, especially like Thanksgiving, we would have issi nipi, which is deer meat, and we'd have tanchi labona, we would have some of our tribal cultural foods. Again, it's about bringing that family together, it's us understanding that like our aunts and uncles would say, issi nipi.

Speaker 1: [2:17] And peoples like "What are you talking about?" Well you learn, that's deer meat. So, it's alt funi, when we'd have squirrel and dumplings, funi means squirrel in Choctaw, and so it's just been chukfi, which is rabbit, so it's when you start learning, it's a way of learning, it's a way of keeping that culture and history alive, it's a way of your family staying united. So, that's what I remember as a kid, growing up and just everybody having a great time together. Of course, I've probably been from Southeastern Oklahoma. And I love isi nipi, which is our deer meat but I do love tanchi labona and I do love squirrel and dumplings. I love that type of food, it's very good, it's sweet of course.

Speaker 1: [3:08] And so those are the main ones that I can think of that comes to mind. It's both, for me it's spiritual and it's personal. Because again when I think about my family and all of us coming together, we all sat down, we all pray together. Everybody bless the food. You know it was about again that greater family. Everybody had a purpose. It felt like you had a sense of belonging in this family what your role was. And so it was personal to me. For everybody to come together and eat these food but it was also the spiritual side of it, of understanding that we had a bigger purpose greater than us. And it was about God. And it was about our family standing united and strong. One is just our uniqueness of from coming across "The Trail of Tears".

Additional content in transcript . . .

Asset ID: 8543
Themes: Crossroads, Native American, foodways, food traditions, family, democracy, freedom, voting
Date recorded: 2019
Length of recording: 7:54 m
Related traveling exhibition: Crossroads: Change in Rural America
Sponsor or affiliated organization: EAST (Education Accelerated by Service & Technology) Kiamichi Technology Center, Poteau, Oklahoma
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