The Choctaw Indians are not strangers to me; I have been told my entire life that I have some of that very blood running through my own veins. Unfortunately, my family's name is not on a register anywhere, so I do not have a "card" indicating this. However, a few years ago, Robby and the children all became registered Choctaws with the Oklahoma tribe. It was Robby's grandmother's family who were the Native Americans, but his grandmother had never registered herself. Robby's mother registered herself and in turn so did Robby and all of my children. Now, they joke with me all of the time telling me that I'm not "one of them", so when we decided to make this little trip to Oklahoma, I sort of felt like the "odd man out".
We arrived in Oklahoma the evening before we were to meet with some of the individuals there and stayed...at the tribe's casino. I know what you may be thinking about Native Americans and casinos, but you may be surprised to know that this particular tribe does NOT give any of the money from the casino to its members (nope...we don't get a check). Instead, their money goes to things such as, education. And I am happy to say that my children have all been recipients of college scholarships from the tribe. They also have education incentive programs set up for school age students that rewards them for good grades and perfect attendance. I was actually quite impressed with what they call the "Choctaw Way" things are done.
Robby had spoken on the phone several times with Joy, the executive director of education of the tribe, and they had seemed to really hit it off. Well, I always say that Robby never meets a stranger AND when he becomes involved with something, he gives it his all. He appeared to really enjoy learning about his tribal heritage and wanted me to go along with him to meet everyone. Robby went to an early morning meeting with Joy and then came back to the hotel to get Caitlin and me. As we entered the building, a young man came down a stairway with a smile on his face and an outstretched hand as he said, "You must be the Rogenmoser family." As we were introducing ourselves, Joy came around the corner and before Robby could finish introducing me, she reached out and gave me a great big old hug. WOW! Her name fit her perfectly; her "joyful" enthusiasm was overwhelming. I already like "Robby's people"; they were so warm and welcoming. Joy introduced us to an entire committee of individuals who work for the Choctaw Tribe. They explained to us the work that they are doing and plan to do for the tribe and THAT is when I became hooked...I WANTED TO BE ONE OF THEM TOO! The passion they exhibited for their people and heritage was admirable; even to the extent of a couple of them currently learning the Choctaw language from an elderly tribal member (hey...I KNOW how difficult it is to master ANY other language; remember my Rosetta Stone venture?). As a matter of fact, I even mentioned that perhaps they could adopt me into the tribe...hmmm; they didn't exactly say no, but they didn't say yes either. That didn't mean that I would give up on that...after all, I had just put the thought in their mind. Joy had also planned an even MORE impressive meeting for us while we were visiting; we were going to get to meet the CHIEF!
As we walked through the corridor that lead to the chief's office, I was instantly taken aback by the items displayed on tables and walls. There was Native American artwork, artifacts of all sorts, pictures of tribal chiefs past and present and just so many historical items that told a story in and of itself of the Choctaw people. While we were waiting for the chief to arrive, I browsed this gallery and became even a bit more envious that I wasn't a part of this group; something bigger than myself. About that time, Chief Pyle arrived and was introduced to us and invited us into his office for a visit.
OK...so, I'm just saying...I couldn't have been more honored or excited to meet Chief Pyle. I actually told Robby that I was more excited to meet him than I would have been to meet the President! As we sat down, it was immediately obvious to me why this man is so respected and held with high esteem among the tribal members. Robby receives the "Biskinik", the tribal newspaper, and I had seen his picture in it many times before, however, getting to put a personality to the photographs certainly completed the picture for me. When speaking to Chief Pyle, one can see how he truly cares for the Choctaw people of Oklahoma and other Choctaw tribes around the country as well. He sat and visited with Robby, Caitlin, Joy and me in an unrushed manner that spoke volumes; he had the time to give us and interest in what brought us there.
People often say that first impressions are important. They generally set the tone for future relationships. I tend to agree. My first impression of the Oklahoma Tribe of Choctaws was AWESOME! What a lovely group of caring individuals who have looked at their past to continue to build a very bright future for many other Choctaw Native Americans to come. And although I am still not sure they will adopt me as a member of this special group, I am proud to be associated with them through my husband, children and grandchildren.
Robby, Caitlin and Chief Pyle
Robby and Chief Pyle
Want to find out more about the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma? Go to their web site: http://www.choctawnation.com/ Look up the Jones Academy. This is a wonderful school that provides such opportunity for Choctaw children. If a donation is made to the school, the Choctaw Nation will MATCH that donation!