Celebrating Culture & Tradition: OU’s first-ever Choctaw Day
OU’s first-ever Choctaw Day on campus attracted students from different Native tribes, friends of friends, and community members from the Oklahoma City metro area. The common threads of celebrating culture, fun and an amazing day of weather brought everyone together on the South Oval.
“I’m very proud of all of our students who came together and created this day,” said Hannah Blackwell, OU staff advisor for Choctaw Day. “There are a myriad of reasons why students might not be completely connected to their culture, but we’ve really built a home away from home for Choctaw students at OU.”
A home away from home
Those who identify with the Choctaw Nation may or may not be from the tribe’s main region of southeastern Oklahoma. However, Choctaws of OU offer a “home away from home” for in-state and out-of-state students.
“I think it’s a really beautiful thing – building this community and helping them understand their culture and the history that’s associated with it has been helpful to a lot of students,” Blackwell said. “It connects students across disciplines and it connects them with mentors. We have found having events and activities like today are very helpful with building friendships and community.”
OU Senior Macheala Adkison said the simple act of inviting students to experience each other’s cultures is a great way to develop a better understanding of one another at the university.
“Activities like this are all about learning to respect each other and respect our differences, while also learning new things about each other,” Adkison said. “As a college campus that’s accepting as OU, it’s a great place to come for higher education, because you don’t just learn more about your field of study, you learn more about people, and you learn more about relationships. I think that’s what college is really about.”
Choctaw Day activities included Tanchi Toss, a game similar to corn hole, basket weaving, bead work, weaponry, social dancing and perhaps the most popular game of the day, stick ball.
How to play stickball with OU freshman Julia Spottedbird
“So you have these sticks, and they’re made from different types of trees, and they’re intertwined with leather. Then the ball – it usually has a rock in the middle and it’s covered with duct tape. It’s kind of like lacrosse, it’s actually what lacrosse is based off of – so you carry the ball with both sticks. The girls don’t usually use sticks, but the boys do. The goal of the game is to try and hit the fish at the top of the pole. The fish is three points, and if you hit the pole above a certain point, that’s one point. You go to however many points you want.”
While Adkison and Spottedbird find it important to celebrate and share their culture with the OU community, both are serious about learning as much as possible at OU, in order to make an impact in their respective communities.
Spottedbird, a health and exercise science major with a minor in Native American studies, hopes to strengthen her tribe’s diabetes prevention program and help implement cultural days, similar to OU’s Choctaw Day, for primary and secondary schools.
Adkison, who will be graduating soon, will continue her education in graduate school and hopes to study osteopathic medicine.
“I don’t want to treat just individual patients, but I want to impact community health,” Adkison said. “That’s a big part of native tradition and healing – not just healing the individual person, but the entire community. I really want to take that practice into my philosophy and hopefully I’ll work for Indian Health Services and give back to the health care that I have received throughout my entire life.”
For more information about Choctaws of OU and other student organizations on campus, please visit OU Student Life.