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Carrying on Traditions
By Taylor Archuleta
Stockton, CA

 

     Colors of seed beads are all over the table; there are dozens of projects going on; the dining room has been transformed to a makeshift craft room. Next to me sits my sister, my mom, and my aunt. My patience is wearing thin, and my eyes are getting tired from staring at the same project for hours. Then it happens: after blood, sweat, and tears I finish my first beaded collar. After making mistake after mistake, I finally finish my first beaded project. Beading is just one of the few things that I have learned due to the Choctaw Nation’s revival of traditions and culture. Recently, the Nation has made it their first priority to spread the ways and ideas of our ancestors across the country.

     My great-grandma, Ada, spoke Choctaw the first six years of her life; but one day when a strange visitor came to her house, she was told not to ever speak the language again. She was told that she must forget her tribal ways and fit in, so she would not be discriminated against.  All things having to do with Choctaw were cut off from my great -grandma. None of her children were able to learn the ways of their ancestors or able to pass them on to their children. Everybody in my family was aware that they were Choctaw, but they had no idea what that meant. Only recently have I been able to learn about the Choctaw ways in depth.

     Due to the recent revival of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, I have been able to learn how to make beaded collars and earrings, pottery, basketry, and a dress. I have learned Choctaw Nation history.  I would have never been able to have the opportunity to learn how to make my beaded collar if it was not for the Nation’s cultural revival meetings. Every time that the Nation holds an event, there are always classes that one can take. They have provided an opportunity to those who want to learn more about their heritage.

     A big part of the cultural revival is traveling to spread the ideas of our ancestors. The Nation has started Choctaw cultural meetings in locations all over the country that include places like Denver, San Francisco, and Phoenix. Choctaws are encouraged to come to these events and see with their own eyes what it is like to be Choctaw. One can take a class in beading, learn traditional dancing, and see pottery and artifacts.  The highlight of these events is when Chief Pyle gives a speech on what is going on in the Nation and what his plans are for the future.

     The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is providing the opportunity for people like me to learn the ways of our ancestors, and is giving us the chance to pass down the traditions for generations to come. When I see the Nation hold events like these, I feel proud to be Choctaw. I feel that they are taking the initiative to teach people the way of the Choctaws, and I feel hopeful that the work they are doing now will be passed down for generations.

     If I were a tribal leader, the main way that I would keep the community moving forward is to make more information available to the public. To learn the real ways of the Choctaw people, one must be involved in the community. I think that it is important to make this information available to those in the public who are interested in learning Choctaw history and traditions. Having online classes about the Choctaws would also be a great way to provide the opportunity for people all over the country to learn about us. Getting the information out is very important to keep the traditions going. We also need to help new generations master Choctaw arts, so they can be passed on and ensure that we keep in touch with our native roots.

     If this revival had happened when my great grandma, Ada, was alive, she would have been able to carry on traditions that would have been passed down from our family for generations. She would be able to speak the language. I would have been able to learn from her. I am thankful that the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has taught me these traditions. I have now been given the opportunity to pass these on to future generations of Choctaws. This is a responsibility I proudly accept.

 

 Work Cited:

Pyle, Gregory E. “Sharing Our Culture Ensures Choctaw Ways Are Not Lost.”
Biskinik (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma) April. 2012. Print.

Pyle, Gregory E. "Making Investments in Our People."
Biskinik (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma) March. 2012. Print.

Copeland, Larissa. "A Cultural Awakening - Keeping Choctaw Traditions Alive."
Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. n.d.

“Choctaw Nation Heads West to Revive Culture.” Choctaw Nation, n.p., n.d.

“Choctaw Day in San Francisco” Choctaw Nation, n.p., n.d.

 

 


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