The desire to legislate runs in the family for Jeannie Lunsford.

“My grandfather, Martin Cheadle, served on the very last Chickasaw Legislature and that was prior to Oklahoma becoming a state, and he had an office at the Capitol building,” Lunsford said. “My mother tells me she remembers going up those big steps visiting him, so I just feel like I carried on his dedicated service throughout the years.”

Lunsford has been active within the Chickasaw Nation for 25 years, and during that time, she’s helped implement several programs that focused on bettering the lives of Chickasaw people. Now she has a new focus on how she can help Chickasaws: through tribal legislation.

“I have worked for the Chickasaw Nation for 25 years, and I’ve seen the programs grow,” she said. “As a matter of fact, I’ve written so many of these programs and have helped to implement them. And these programs now, when we were able to apply for federal dollars, they’re still in existence today, so I’m real happy to have been part of that and to have seen it grow.”

Lunsford is the daughter of Jess and Betty (Cheadle) Betts, and the granddaughter of Martin Van Buran Cheadle and Mary Cheadle. She’s been a resident of Stratford since the age of 3 and attended Stratford High School and East Central University.

Some of the programs Lundsford said she helped write and implement during her work with the Chickasaw Nation include the first senior citizens program funded from the Administration of Aging, the first food distribution program funded from the USDA, the Indian Child welfare program, the first alcohol program, the first Chickasaw Scholarship program at East Central University and writing the contract for the health clinics in Tishomingo and Ardmore, which were all funded from the Indian Health Service.

“I’m a very strong advocate for our health services and I was the administrator for our health services,” she said. “We had two clinics, the Ardmore clinic and the Tishomingo clinic, and while I was there, we received accreditation from the Joint Commission Accreditation for Hospital Organization, and we received accreditation with commendation. And that’s not easy, but we really had good service and good people and that’s what made it work.”

Lunsford noted goals she would like to work towards if elected to the legislative position.

“My goals as a legislator are to retain our culture, traditions and language,” she said. “I have experience working with the cultural programs involved with our tribal museum and library. I will support our Repatriation program under the NAGPRA law, I will support and continue to protect our tribal sovereignty, I will work to reinstate a chaplin at our Indian hospital and I will continue to be an advocate for our tribal elders. As a Chickasaw grandmother and working with college students, it is of great importance to continue my work in expanding out education and youth programs.”

Some of Lunsford’s awards and honors include being awarded the first Volunteer of the Year award from the Chickasaw Historical Society, the National Indian Health Service award, 1985, and was the first woman chairperson of the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission from 1980-1982.

Lunsford said that starting new programs translates into employment for people.

“My greatest satisfaction is to see a Chickasaw staff person receive employment and move to higher positions through hard work and dedication,” she said. “As an employee, I was promoted within the Chickasaw Nation and want to see the same opportunities to those Chickasaw individuals that I have mentored over the years.”

Lunsford also said that even though she has received several awards and honors, her greatest honor is God blessing her with her four children, Steve, Robby, Kelley and Shawn. She also has five grandsons and one granddaughter.

“I have the experience and program knowledge to be your representative,” she said. “I will be able to work with the current legislators and know that we will compliment each other. I will be a full-time legislator because I believe my job will be a full-time position. I hope to meet you or speak to you on the phone to answer any questions that you may have. I will consider it an honor to be your representative and I humbly ask for your vote.”

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