Students Jena Thomason, Rachel Pearson and Katie Schlinker
answered almost every vocabulary question aloud in Choctaw as their
Durant, Okla., teacher asked questions by a video link Wednesday.
class and during review sessions, they and seven other Arkoma 10th-
through 12th-grade students in the morning Choctaw Language class
consulted one another and their workbooks regarding their lesson
on kinship terms.
more Arkoma students take an afternoon class, said Arkoma coach
Chester Johnson, who oversees the class.
four students dropped from the afternoon class this year, the 2-year-old
program is growing in popularity, Johnson said. Last year only three
students took the class, which is offered as an Indian Education
program and as a foreign language option, he said.
is one of several Indian Education programs offered at the Arkoma
School District and funded through or by the Choctaw Nation, High
School Principal Cyal Walden explained by note.
of the Indian Education programs offered at Oklahoma schools are
federally funded Title VII programs, the portion of the No Child
Left Behind act focused on Indians, native Hawaiians and native
said the Choctaw Nation provides teachers, books and resources for
students seeking a foreign/native language credit through the Choctaw
language distance learning class. Arkoma faculty members monitor
the students, but the Choctaw teachers provide the lessons, work
and instructions, he said. At the end of the year, the tribe invites
the students to hear Choctaw Nation guest speakers. Food and prizes
are provided, too.
two-year language program is offered as Choctaw I and Choctaw II.
Walden said tribal officials recently told the school the tribe
now offers scholarships for students who complete the program and
want to seek a degree to teach the language.
Other Indian Education programs offered at Arkoma are the Choctaw
Star program, the Summer Youth program and the Johnson-O'Malley
or JOM program, Walden said.
Star program provides incentives to eligible Choctaw students for
good grades and perfect attendance. Those who earned all A's or
all A's and B's receive a certificate and a Wal-Mart gift card,
Summer Youth program provides 14-year-old and older Choctaw students
and students holding certificates of degree of Indian blood with
opportunities for paid summer jobs. It benefits the students and
the community, Walden said.
Johnson-O'Malley program, funded through the federal Johnson-O'Malley
Act of 1934, is in its first year at Arkoma, Walden said. The act
aims to ensure Indian children receive educational opportunities
otherwise not provided by public schools. The JOM program requires
oversight by a parent committee made up of parents of Choctaw students
attending the school.
committee and the JOM director determine areas of need for the students
and solutions for those needs. The program helps with funding. This
year, Walden said, the focus is on school supplies, aid with extracurricular
activity dues and fees, attendance incentives and field trips focused
on Native American culture.
to the Oklahoma State Department of Education, more than 130,000
American Indian students attend Oklahoma public schools and more
than 400 Oklahoma public schools offer Indian Education programs.
Cherokee Nation contracts with the U.S. government to provide the
JOM program within its 14 county tribal jurisdiction, and the Choctaw
Nation contracts to provide it within its 101/2-county tribal jurisdiction.
Cherokee jurisdiction includes Sequoyah County. Choctaw jurisdiction
includes LeFlore County.
to Cherokee Nation literature, its JOM program serves 19,300 eligible
Indian children in 76 schools and five community based programs.
to Choctaw Nation literature, its JOM program serves 8,640 students
in 68 schools.
nations don't limit participation to members of their own tribes.
Although American Indian students must be served first, if space
is available, other students may participate, Pocola Elementary
School counselor Linda Shoemake said. Shoemake oversees the Indian
Education program at Pocola.
offers two types of Indian Education - an after school tutoring
program at the high school and programs that incorporate Native
American culture at the middle school and elementary, she said.
Arkoma student Divinity Cope asked Johnson if the Choctaw language
has a word for "history." Johnson relayed her question
to Durant teacher Bernie Davis.
pondered for a moment, said she didn't think so, and the class watched
by video as she left her desk, seeking a reference source to verify
her answer. On her return, Davis told the students "telling
a story" is likely the phrase that would be used.
said a Choctaw noun often has several meanings, and the meaning
is determined by context. For example, "holisso" can mean
"book" or "letter" or any kind of paper item,
said when he was assigned to the class for a second year, he made
it a goal to learn the language. Davis, he said, considers Choctaw
her first language. She is Choctaw.
said he thinks most of the students in his language classes have
Indian heritage, possibly excepting only the three foreign exchange
students in the morning class - Jacob Dohnal of the Czech Republic,
Lucas Campagnolo of Brazil and Christian Lohr of Germany. All the
exchange students attending the high school attend the Choctaw class.
said the principal added the class to his schedule when he saw that
Lohr already spoke three languages - German, English and French.
He said he enjoys it.
said she took Choctaw because she thought it'd be interesting. She'd
taken Spanish for a year and thought it was boring. Thomason said
she is about a fourth Cherokee by heritage.
Martin said he too thought the class would be interesting and could
add another language to his credits. He previously studied Spanish.
is good just to have it, and just in case you run into someone who
speaks it," Martin said of the language.
Martin's case, running into a Choctaw speaker is likely. He is of
is Choctaw, too, and holds a CDIB card. She is the only one of her
classmates to have a CDIB card, she said.
Freeman, a former Northside High School student, said he is also
of Choctaw heritage. However, Freeman said, he found the Latin he
studied at NHS to be easier to learn than Choctaw.
said her heritage is primarily Irish and German. She didn't choose
the class, she said, but she likes it.