More than 250 students from across Oklahoma took part in Native American Heritage Month Wednesday at Chickasaw Nation Youth Heritage Day. The annual event was conducted at the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur.
Students, ages 10-14, traveled from Stratford, Colbert, Ravia, Terrell, Lindsay, Greenville and Madill to enjoy games and activities based on Chickasaw culture.
“Youth Heritage Day gives all Native American students an opportunity to have some fun while gaining hands-on knowledge about tribal culture,” said Bill Anoatubby, Governor of the Chickasaw Nation.
“This event provides confirmation that our cultural center may play a vital role in helping young people embrace their heritage and pass it along to future generations.”
Archery, stickball and blowgun demonstrations were given in the traditional village. Students also made their own traditional corn husk dolls and participated in a stomp dance.
Cody Smith, a fifth grader from Stratford, is a bow hunter and particularly enjoyed the archery demonstrations.
“It was cool to hear the story of why Chickasaws used bows and to see the differences between the bows they made and the ones I use to hunt,” he said.
Cody’s classmate TJ Clark learned a lot through the hands-on style of the event.
“It’s better than just reading about Native Americans,” he said. “We actually got to do it.”
Chickasaw National Recreation Area Ranger Nancy Binderim presented water safety tips and Chickasaw Nation Lighthorse Police K9 Unit demonstrated the skills of canine officers Bako and Lana.
Chickasaw Nation Martial Arts Instructor Matt Clark presented a martial arts lesson.
In the amphitheater, Chickasaw storyteller Dixie Brewer shared some traditional tales and gave the group a lesson on Chickasaw regalia.
Chickasaw elder and fluent speaker Stanley Foster gave participants a language lesson.
Caden Schaufele, from Edmond’s Holy Trinity Christian School, attended the event with his third grade class and said he enjoyed stickball the best out of all eight activities.
“It was fun to play the game and learn about its history.”
The event was also an opportunity for many of the students and their sponsors to visit the Chickasaw Cultural Center for the first time.
Terrell School Superintendent Greg Fouse, a Chickasaw citizen, and his class left before sunup to get to the event.
The small southwest Oklahoma school participates in the event every year.
“It is important the students continue to know their culture and heritage.”
Linda Carter chaperoned a group of 35 Colbert sixth graders. She said it was her first visit to the Chickasaw Cultural Center and she said she wants to come back and explore the entire campus.
A hot dog lunch, provided by the Cultural Center’s Aaimpa Café, concluded the event.