Welcome to Native ChocTalk

Season 2

S2, E12: “The Strength of the American Indian Woman: Inspiration for Women’s History Month, Rachael Youngman, Native ChocTalk Podcaster”

I was recently asked to speak with some inspiring 6th through 12th graders - young ladies of an Oklahoma Native American boarding school that’s near and dear to my heart.

After eating dinner with these intelligent (and fun) gals, many of them eager for their next steps and about to head into the adult world, I talked about Women’s History Month and what it means for us as Native American women.

“How many of you can name at least one famous American Indian Chief?”, I asked. Many of the girls blurted out multiple names of Chiefs that both Natives and non-Natives could easily recall.

“And now, outside of Pocahontas and Sacagawea, can you name some notable American Indian women from history?” The room was silent, as they each started to scan the room for their counterparts who may know. Perhaps they were thinking, “Surely there are several significant Native women we can talk about, right?”

It’s not that these important women don’t exist, they’re just not as well documented and certainly aren’t as well known. Think about it. Can YOU name a few?

Don’t worry, there’s no judgement here and I’ll save you some time – check out this list for starters, from powwow.com, “20 Native American Women You Should Know”: https://www.powwows.com/20-native-american-women-you-should-know/

I went back to my computer later after I met with these ladies and recorded what was in my presentation so that you may also take a listen. I hope you’ll share this episode with your female friends and family members, daughters, nieces, students and so on. It may be a good way for them to start thinking about their own futures and the preservation of the stories of their female ancestors.

In this episode, I share about my own story – the struggles and the successes (cliff notes version of Native ChocTalk’s Episode 1, Season 2). And I delve into the story of the Choctaw woman, Ella Davis, who was given up to a white guardian when she was only 3 years old, and was treated as one of a few slaves in the household. I also tell her of her mother and her mother’s mother, who if you didn’t really take time to peel back the “layers of the onion” of their stories, you’d think they were neglectful and uncaring mothers.

The strength of these women should be one for the history books. And yet their stories, and that of many other Native women in history are rarely preserved. The journeys they made and the struggles they faced have been forgotten – even discarded, like dust in the wind.

And now it is up to us, to both learn about and preserve the stories of those females who came before us. And it is also now our time to make history too!

I thank you, my sisters – both past and present, and those young ladies I met with from the boarding school. I am so proud of you already. I know you will go into the world, work hard, pave your own way, break historical trauma cycles that may be looming and inspire those around you. Maybe someday you will be a guest I’ll be interviewing at Native ChocTalk. And perhaps we’ll be reading about YOU when it comes to Women’s History Month! Please know, I am cheering you on and I will be here for you along your journey.

A special thank you to the ladies’ Dorm Manager at the school and for suggesting this chance to visit with these future generations. I’m inspired by the sincere love you have for these girls.


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S2, E11: “When Past Meets Present: Jake Tiger (Seminole) on Living & Preserving the Traditional Seminole Way of Life”

“Be proud of who you are because your existence is a resistance against cultural genocide.”
- Jake Tiger, Seminole

At the opening of the First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City, I saw someone I recognized. Actually, his back was turned to me, so I didn’t recognize him from his face, but from his Seminole clothing and the plume in his hat. I recalled that he was the Seminole textiles expert I follow on Facebook.

I took a photo of him looking at the displays, because my sister and I agreed that the scene looked like the past meeting the present. Then I approached him. Listen to the episode to hear what came next...

He’s the Seminole from Seminole, Oklahoma who works for the Seminole Nation. Can he even get more Seminole? Meet Jake Tiger, y’all!

In addition to being a Seminole Jake is also:
• A subject matter expert on (and he creates/sews/crafts) Seminole textiles and traditional garments:
   o Did you know in the old days, it cost 16 deer hides to buy 1 flintlock rifle and 2 deer hides for 1 yard of calico fabric?
   o Hear about Jake’s grandpa who was the leading expert in Seminole textiles, and the revelation that came to Jake upon his grandpa’s death
• An actor in films and commercials. Check him out in Killers of the Flower Moon, Reservation Dogs and more. Listen to find out which character he was forced to play when he lost in rock, paper, scissors.
• A knowledgeable resource on ancient Native tattooing
• Someone you’d really want to know if the world came to an end. He shares about:
  o How bear intestines are good for bow string
  o How to use bear grease
  o Flint knapping
  o Brain tanning, which came with a warning to not eat while you’re listening to this episode. “You’ll never look at strawberry milk the same again.” – Jake Tiger
• A descendent of 2 war chiefs – Black Hawk (Sac and Fox) and Osceola
• Like a capybara (listen to find out why)

Experts like Jake who are inspired by the past, bring beautiful representations of our Native history to life by bringing these historic textiles into the present, ensuring the cultural genocide that began long ago will no longer thrive. The past sometimes meets the present. And when it does, it’s a way to connect with our ancestors and to those who came before us.

Thank you, Jake for helping us feel and experience this connection with the past!

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S2, E10: “Shell Shaker: A Chickasaw Opera, Jerod Impichchaachaaha Tate, Chickasaw Composer”

“Chickasaw legend tells of a girl who is teased by other children and named Loksi’—Turtle—for her slowness. Upon the counsel of a river, she goes to live in the forest. There, she finds hospitality among the turtle people. One day, the god of the turtles asks her to tell her fellow humans to treat turtles with respect and kindness, and gives her a gift of turtle shells filled with pebbles and seeds to bring back with her. The rattles were adopted by the people of Loksi’ and used to accompany dances and ceremonies, a reminder to treat the natural world with care.”*

As a former opera singer with a music degree, I’m ecstatic about today’s Native ChocTalk episode! Here we have something unprecedented - an opera in an American Indian language (Chickasaw), by an American Indian Composer (Jerod Impichchaachaaha Tate), and we all should be celebrating this enormous breakthrough in Native arts!

This Maestro is busy at work as this is just the first of three operas in the works. I hear the second will be in Cherokee, about Sequoyah.

Whether or not you’re an opera fan, you WILL enjoy this Chickasaw work of art. In fact, if you’re in the audience, you’ll notice supertitles (translations) will be provided, so be able to understand, even if you don’t speak Chickasaw.

In this episode, Jerod discusses with me (like the music nerds we are):
• How there aren’t yet rules established around the differences between spoken and sung Chickasaw. (In traditional operas with languages such as French and Italian, etc., there are rules around the spoken vs sung language.)
• The challenges around composing in a difficult language, paired with an extremely demanding genre such as opera, to complete a work that has never been attempted before. This requires a modern Chickasaw speaker (Joshua Hinson) who interprets and translates the words into text, as well as a Dramateur/Librettest (libretto = the wording in an opera), Lyla Palmer, partnering with a Composer such as Jerod who has vision and determination to see this opera to fruition. And voila – you now have something unique and beautiful.
• Jerod’s time as Instructor for the Chickasaw Summer Arts Academy, teaching composition to Native American high school students such as for the Lummi, Hopi and Navajo
• Jerod’s role as both father and artistic trail blazer.

Stay tuned for upcoming announcements, as this opera is slated for November of 2022 at UMass Amherst!

Three cheers for these talented folks, as well as the singers!
• Jerod Impichchaachaaha Tate: Composer
• Tianhui Ng: Conductor
• Lokosh (Josh Hinson): Interpreter/Translator
• Margaret Wheeler: Costume Design

Find and follow Jerod Tate here:
• Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jerodtatecomposer
• Website: https://jerodtate.com/

Bravo, Jerod. Bravo!


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S2, E9: “’Nothing About Us Without Us’: Nancy Tecumseh Mason (Choctaw) Empowering Our Native Youth”

Although she’s Choctaw, my guest, Nancy Tecumseh Mason is emersed within her husband and children’s tribe (Muscogee Nation). And for years now, Nancy has relentlessly poured her time and energy into supporting the youth of the tribe as Director of the Mvskoke Nation Youth Services.

In this episode, you’ll hear about Mvskoke Nation Youth Services:
• This program is created by youth for youth, and “Nothing about us without us” is the motto that empowers these youth to make decisions and to have a voice at the table from day one.
• Check out Mvskoke artists, including some pieces from these talented youth, where you can even purchase some of their items! https://www.mvskokeyouth.com/mvskokeartists

You’ll also learn about:
• The story of her dad and her Uncle Amos who both had an eye for Nancy’s mother
• The many spellings and versions of the Muscogee name
• Nancy isn’t related to Tecumseh, the Shawnee Warrior Chief we’ve read about in history books, but we do talk about the historical rhyme that could correct the way many of us say,
“Tecumseh”. How do YOU say this name?
• Our Choctaw tribe. Nancy also encourages anyone who would like to discuss Choctaw spiritual practices to reach out to her at https://www.facebook.com/supernance2
• P.S. Shout out to Nancy’s cousin Peggy – the family “paparazzi” (I fully support this title as I also hold that role within my own family too). Halito, Peggy!

Nancy’s Recommended Book Reading:
“Living in the Land of Death: The Choctaw Nation, 1830-1860” Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/yckxx7b7

Mvskoke Nation Youth Services:
• Website: https://www.mvskokeyouth.com/
• Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MvskokeYouth
• Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mvskokeyouth/

I hope you’ll check out this good cause and support in the multiple ways Nancy talks about in this episode!

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S2, E8, “Christianity and Spirituality in the Native American Community: Monroe Tsatoke, Kiowa Pastor”

Prior to non-Natives settling in what is now the United States, Native American spirituality had solidified over centuries, differing within each tribe.

But it wasn’t long after the settlers arrived that missionaries felt called (and/or were appointed) to spread the gospel of Jesus to the Indigenous people. Some missionaries grew to love their friendships with the Natives, even adopting some of their culture, language and ways of life, some even creating dictionaries which thankfully today can be attributed to the preservation of languages that otherwise would have become “dust in the wind”. Again, some evangelists cared for and didn’t wish to change the Indians, but rather sought to act as a liaison and mentor in an inevitably changing world, for the sake of the survival of the tribes.

Some tribes welcomed the missionaries and adopted Christianity, even holding to and passing their faith on to future generations, into present day. On the other hand, some of their peers then and now perceived this adherence to Christianity as contribution to the breakdown of their ancient culture and their long-established spirituality.

The darker side to this infiltration of the missionaries was brought upon by those who had a more sinister goal in mind. That “kill the Indian, save the man” mentality meant at times “beating” the spirituality, language, culture and traditions out of the Indigenous people so that the non-Natives would be more easily able to assimilate them into their own culture and grab their land and resources. One may wonder, how could any person draw near to a God who used such vessels who would abuse them.

Some American Indians gave up their centuries-old spirituality in exchange for Christianity, while others defied the white man’s ways and took their beliefs and practices underground, fearful of the ramifications of being discovered, but even more afraid of giving up all they had ever known, which by that time was only hanging on by a thread. And yet, there was still another option that many grew to adopt – a hybrid, so-to-speak of the two (both their ancient spirituality and their newly adopted religion).

And still today, an inner turmoil often arises for those who practice Christianity in tandem along with their centuries-old spiritual traditions. At church, they don’t dare tell their Christian friends that they still go to Indian Church, for fear of being judged. And yet, they won’t tell their Native friends that they go to a Christian church, due to accusations of giving in to colonization. But a new revelation has come about for some who are now openly practicing their Christian faith along with their spiritual traditions. Some say you can’t mix the two, others say it’s not for anyone to judge.

You may recall my friend and guest who appeared in Season 1 - Monroe Tsatoke (Kiowa), descendent of Hunting Horse and Monroe Tsatoke of the well-known artists group, The Kiowa 5/Kiowa 6. Today, Monroe and I come to you from Hunting Horse United Methodist Church in Lawton, Oklahoma where Monroe lovingly leads as Pastor, and he has kindly agreed to share his take on this controversial subject.

You’ll hear about:
• The history of the United Methodist Church among Native Americans
• Monroe’s long legacy of family preachers
• How many years back, prayer (or “cottage”) meetings lasted from morning to night
• His own recollections of being talked down to by outside missionaries coming into the Native community
• How Stumbling Bear was one of the first Methodist Kiowas to convert to Christianity
• How the United Methodist Church of Oklahoma was able to get Native American attendance
• About his grandparents who would walk 5 miles to church every Sunday to preach
• If you haven’t heard the story of the Tin Lizzie from last time, you’re in for a treat!
• How Monroe almost ruined the Christmas pageant
• Hilarious stories from Kiowa country
• And I can’t help but give you a spoiler – Monroe himself sings a hymn for us in Kiowa. I hope his words and voice will bless your soul.

You are invited to hear Monroe preach at Hunting Horse United Methodist Church: 611 S 25th, Lawton, OK 73505; service at 11:00 am on Sundays (communion is the 1st Sunday of each month)

Yakoke, Monroe for your kind and encouraging spirit and for all you do in our communities!

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