Welcome to Native ChocTalk

Season 1

S2, E6: “His School Counselor Labeled Him, ‘Not college material’. Meet Dr. Wayne Johnson, Muscogee”

“His School Counselor Labeled Him, ‘Not college material’. Meet Dr. Wayne Johnson, Muscogee”

He happened to look down at what his counselor had jotted down on a piece of paper in his school file. He couldn’t help but take a peek. What did it say? The 3 words could’ve set his destiny in stone forever. “Not college material.” The phrase sank into his mind, solidifying what his future may entail – anything but college, he concluded, based on his counselor’s findings. After all, a counselor would know, right?

So how did this “not college material” Muscogee man end up achieving his master’s degree, followed by his Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, working for the Muscogee Nation as Secretary of Education, getting published in articles on Indian education, becoming Tribal Assembly President, and Educational Counselor appointed by the Governor and working on the executive board for the Johnson O’Malley Program? Oh, and not to mention, also serving our country in the Navy too!

My guest in today’s episode is Dr. Wayne Johnson, and despite his hard work and success, he humbly said to me, “None of that compares to when I was a teacher.” God bless you, Wayne!

In this episode, you’ll hear about:
• The precious words of Wayne’s mother detailing how she was taken from her family and sent to Chilocco Indian School
• How Wayne and his siblings were taken to a children’s home
• His powerful experience at Haskell Indian College
• How his parents believed in and influenced their sons’ futures
• His work at Riverside Indian School, Haskell Indian School, Pine Ridge Reservation, Flandreau Indian School and Rosebud Reservation
• Pine Ridge Reservation and the events that occurred there, such as Wounded Knee Massacre and more
• His friendship with Oglala Lakota, Tamakoce Te’Hila, (known as Billy Mills), 1964 Olympic gold medal champion, and how no one was expecting an American Indian to show up and win

I hope you’ll take inspiration from Wayne’s story (and Billy Mills’ too) and feel empowered to do what you’re meant to do in life, despite what someone may have said to or thought of you. The world is your oyster, my friends so release those chains of others’ opinions and go seize the day!

More information:

About Olympic gold medalist, Billy Mills:
• “Billy Mills - 1964 Gold Medalist in the 10,000 meters”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vs6G8NfEyVk
• dLife video about Billy Mills: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKny6vcq-_4
• “Tom Brokaw interviews Olympian Billy Mills”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvrPRAtrmJM

A must-read book:
“Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West” by Dee Brown”: https://tinyurl.com/j4rk3d39

Please consider learning about and donating to Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation! https://friendsofpineridgereservation.org/

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S2, E5, Part 2: “Stickball, Little Brother of War: Mississippi Choctaws, Mark Williams & Chalena Marcus Billy”, (2)

“If you wanna see women go to war, I would say come to Choctaw, Mississippi!” – Chalena Marcus Billy, Pearl River Ohoyo Team 2021 Stickball Champions

Welcome to a new episode of Native ChocTalk’s Part 2 of “Stickball, Little Brother of War: Mississippi Choctaws, Mark Williams & Chalena Marcus Billy

Listen to the episode here! https://tinyurl.com/mvtycpmm

In part 1, stickball player, expert and stickmaker, Brenner Billy helped us understand the history, culture and spirituality around the historic American Indian game of stickball.

And part 2 is here, y’all! And I know you’ll enjoy hearing from both Mark Williams, award-winning Choctaw filmmaker and champion stickball player, Chalena Marcus Billy.

Mark talks about how he raised money to make films by having an Indian taco sale, how he practiced horror filmmaking on his friends (and they survived), about his comics titled, “The adventures of Josie the Frybread Kid” and his well-deserved awards in film. This Choctaw is making big waves in the film industry!

Watch this video by Mark Williams: “While filming in Mississippi I captured this touching moment and with Dyni Morris’ permission I am sharing this clip of his dedicated score for a ‘fallen warrior’. This is more than just a game to the Choctaw people. It's an identity.” https://www.facebook.com/mark.williams.733450/posts/10216349076998812

And last but not least, this ohoyo powerhouse, Chalena tells us what it’s like to play out on the field in the historic and dangerous game of stickball, about the difference between stickball in Oklahoma vs. Mississippi, and how as a woman, her desire to play stickball derives from a drive deep within that differs from that of her male counterparts. But even this strong champion had a tender perspective on how the loss of the most important person in her life affected her world, yet made her the person and stickball player she is today.

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S2, E5, Part 1: “Stickball, Little Brother of War: Brenner Billy, Choctaw”

When you think of certain sports like football, you think rough, tough and full of injuries. But that’s nothing compared to say, rugby. Now THAT’s a dangerous sport. But have you heard of a sport that involved a goal to settle disputes between tribes, and sometimes so fierce that it ended in death?

The players of this game prepared for what was to come by painting their bodies and limiting their diet, drinking Spanish Tea made of bark from red oak trees, and by not eating and sleeping for several days and nights. By the time of the event, they were filled with adrenaline and rage, ready to take on their rivals.

At the signal, it all begins. As many as 1,000 men from opposing tribes screamed their war cries to the incessant beating of drums. The preciseness of thrusting a minuscule ball onto a narrow pole could only be performed by generations of warriors inheriting and honing their skill and focus - that same focus of those who hunted the stealthy deer and the swift-moving chukfi (rabbit).

Lasting for days, from sun-up to sundown, whoever won, won not just the dispute, but also their tribe and oppositions’ respect. With no protective gear, no referees and very few rules, this brutal and bloody event sometimes even meant death.

Today in part 1 of “Stickball, Little Brother of War” we discuss the spiritual and hard-core game of stickball, where even as recent as 1937, an eyewitness named Frank Grall was interviewed from Wewoka, Oklahoma while watching a stickball game saying, “…but when the first fellow got the ball, some player hit him over the head with a club, peeling the skin until it hung over his ear. The battle was so fierce, that when the game was ended and one side had been chased from the ground, the pool was perfectly bloody.” (The pool he’s talking about is where the women would pull the men from the game and place them in pools of water to try to get them to regain consciousness.) He then said, “This was the last Indian ball game played in such a brutal manner, for the Government took notice of such brutality and sent deputy marshals to the games to prevent such cruelty. At this game I saw players bite one another.”

Yep. Definitely rough.

As we talk about this historic and spiritual game that’s still played today, who better to talk about it than expert, Brenner Billy (Choctaw). He comes from a long line of stickball players, he’s a damn good player, and even he’s a master at making the sticks – a skill passed down to him by family.

And, please stay tuned for upcoming part 2 of “Stickball, Little Brother of War” where I’ll meet with both a filmmaker who documents the world of stickball, as well as one very strong Chahta oyoho (Choctaw lady) and total stickball rock star.


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S2, Ep4 “150 Years at Riverside Indian School: Timothy Yeahquo, Kiowa”

“150 Years at Riverside Indian School: Timothy Yeahquo, Kiowa”

You’ve heard the heartbreaking stories of the American Indian boarding schools from years past. And the atrocious accounts continue to unfold – children of all ages being removed from their homes, a government intent on “killing the man, saving the Indian”, and innocent kids being taught to forsake their language, customs, traditions and all they had ever known.

But what about the boarding schools that were turned over to the Bureau of Indian Affairs? There’s one such school today that’s run by American Indians, whose mission is not only to teach, but also to encourage and help students to understand, learn about and preserve their history, language and culture.

Today, we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Riverside Indian School – the oldest off-reservation Native American boarding school in the United States today! And this, my friends is a boarding school that’s a far cry from the past.

Growing up in Anadarko, Oklahoma and my father working at Riverside, as well as knowing many alumni and teachers, allowed me the opportunity to see a side to this school that others may not see.

As more of these awful, yet true stories of the boarding schools have come to light, some folks have begun to lump all boarding schools of today with the stories of those of the past, assuming abuse is still taking place. Misinformation is posted on social media by people who mean well, but may have never visited Anadarko, much less Riverside Indian School, alumni or current students. Many of those current Riverside students and alumni join the conversations online, trying to correct the assumptions, to share their stories and the good experiences they’ve had. No school is perfect and not every story is favorable. But the majority have great things to say – an opportunity to go to school with others who are also Native, being taught by Native American teachers. To have this tight-knit community taken away would be detrimental to current students and incoming students of the future.

There’s so much more to this story. Be sure to listen in to hear from Timothy Yeahquo about:

• The history of Riverside and the Quakers who originally started it.
• How the Navajo contributed to keeping Riverside from closing.
• Riverside’s former names.
• 76 tribes from all over the US have attended Riverside. One can walk through the campus at times, enjoying the sound of drums echoing through the campus or watching a game of stickball being played, often times among multiple tribal nations all coming together to share their own culture and to learn of others’ as well.

For Riverside Indian School’s 150 year celebration, students have enjoyed events throughout the 2022 spring semester, such as a 150 mile run in which Eric Smith, Chickasaw bow-maker (who made the bows and arrows for the movie, “The Revenant”) attended and provided an arrow for hand-offs, a fashion show featuring Native regalia, an art show and more!

Also, alumni, students and teachers will also enjoy (at no cost):
• February 16, 2022 - Levi Platero musician
• March 26, 2022 - Adrianne Chalepah comedian (Riverside’s own alumni)
• May 19, 2022 - Senior/sesquicentennial POWWOW, followed by fireworks!

These events were eventually open and all were welcome, but considering covid concerns, these events will be for alumni only. However, Riverside wanted you listeners to know if anything changes, we promise to keep y’all posted!

Alumni, please join in and show your RIS Braves pride and support for current students!

For contributions for the upcoming events or for the students (donations for students are utilized for shoes for sports, prom dresses, hygiene products and more), please contact: Timothy Yeahquo, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Riverside Indian School, 101 Riverside Drive Anadarko, OK 73005 (Attn: 150 Years if you’re wishing to contribute to the upcoming event.)

Listeners, please stay tuned for another future episode dedicated to the children and tragic stories of the boarding schools, with a guest who will share about the historical trauma carried forward from her own experience, as well as that of her ancestors and thousands of others. We pray for hope and healing for all who have been affected and may we never forget the innocent children who lost so much. And we wish Riverside students many blessings on their journey of education, cultural preservation, and future opportunities!

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S2, Ep3 “Sarah Elisabeth, & Lynda Kay Sawyer (Choctaws) Discuss Ancestral History & the Anniversary of the book, Tushpa's Story”

“Sarah Elisabeth, & Lynda Kay Sawyer (Choctaws) Discuss Ancestral History & the Anniversary of the book, Tushpa's Story”

There’s an incredibly powerful book that changed the way we understand and “feel” the journeys of those who walked the Trail of Tears. It’s called Tushpa's Story (Touch My Tears: Tales from the Trail of Tears Collection), and January 28, 2022, is the 6th anniversary of its release!

What better way to celebrate this anniversary than by hearing more about the book, directly from Choctaw Author, Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer. And guess what? You can download a FREE copy by clicking here: https://www.sarahelisabethwrites.com/ , then click on the red ribbon at the top and sign up for the newsletter! (Or you can purchase it from the website.)

I found myself so connected to Sarah Elisabeth. We both homeschooled, we’re both Choctaw gals, we love horses and grew up in sister (yet rival) states – Texas and Oklahoma - and we’re both driven to preserve Native American stories and history.

Sarah isn’t just a writer - she’s a trailblazer. In her collections, she takes our historical Choctaw stories and events and creates fascinating can’t-put-it-down historical fiction books (“heavy on the fiction and heavy on the on the history”, she says) – finally, a way to make our history come alive!

A special guest, Sarah Elisabeth’s mother, Lynda Kay was also willing to join in to share about the work she does to support Sarah’s writing and about their family’s ancestral stories (she’ll also be writing a non-fiction book about their family!). By the way, I couldn’t tell these two ladies apart when they were talking – like mother, like daughter!

Lynda Kay is a photographer, writer and jewelry designer (with a little extra touch on each piece - excerpts of family stories on a card accompany each necklace). For instance, one is called, “The paisley shawl”, which is a story in itself. Check out this website to see more: https://www.sarahelisabethwrites.com/shopping?category=Jewelry

Tune in to this episode and you’ll hear:
• More about Sarah’s books as she reads excerpts to us
• How God put out a “feather mattress” to cushion the fall for her and her mother after her father’s death
• Why Sarah yelled in the library of congress (true story, y’all)
• If you’re a teacher and/or a homeschool family, Sarah says these books are kid friendly.
• How the Choctaw ponies brought us together and how that conversation resulted in my getting to meet the Choctaw ponies! By the way, check out some of Lynda Kay’s Choctaw ponies photos here! https://www.sarahelisabethwrites.com/shopping?category=Fine+Art+Photography
• Her new “Doc Beck” Series, set in the 1890s, about an Omaha Indian doctor, inspired by Dr Susan La Flesch who graduated in 1889 and practiced medicine for the Omaha nation.

I’m excited to be reading Sarah Elisabeth’s books in a book club I’m doing with my family - you should try it too! Sarah has agreed to do an author’s meeting with us as well and she signed all the books for us. So fun!

Once you’ve finish Tushpa’s Story, go check out all the great books in Sarah’s collections at https://www.sarahelisabethwrites.com/.

Sarah Elisabeth mentions in her website, “enduring hope and incredible beauty rises from the ashes.” And that’s what I love about these books. Each one conveys hope, even in the worst of times. I think you’ll be inspired, so enjoy and let me know what you think!

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