Taking part in the tour were Seth Rogers, Amanda Garner, Terri Henry, Micah Schulze, Dr. John Love, Lilly Roberts, Emily Holt, Lou Howard, Charlee Dill, Dr. Melanie Price, Hannah Bryan, and Barbara Shope.
DURANT, Okla. – The Southeastern Oklahoma State University Native American Excellence In Education (NAEIE) grant participants took a recent two-day history/cultural tour through the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma in the southeastern part of the state.
The grant participants and university staff, along with staff from the Choctaw Nation Language and Culture Department, toured Fort Towson, Wheelock Academy, the Museum of the Red River, the Gardner Mansion, local attractions around Beavers Bend State Park, and the Choctaw Capitol building and Museum in Tuskahomma.
The purpose of the tour was to provide professional development to the grant participants while they are working toward completion of their degrees in teacher education at Southeastern. Each of the participants gained knowledge and a better understanding of the history and culture of the Choctaw Nation.
The NAEIE grant participants hope to be teaching in public schools within the Choctaw Nation upon graduation from Southeastern.
“Our grant participants will be able to take the information given to them at these particular sites and develop lesson plans for their respective fields of study,” said Chris Wesberry, Director of the NAEIE Grant at Southeastern. “We want them to take what they have learned from this experience and use that knowledge in their classrooms.” During the upcoming fall and spring semesters, the grant participants will work on projects as a group in which they will gather additional resources about these historical sites.
Dr. John Love, who is the Coordinator of Teacher Education Field Experience at Southeastern, accompanied the grant participants for the two days.
“Having the opportunity to visit an original site where the Trail of Tears crossed the Mountain Fork River was a very significant experience for me,” Love said. “The roadbed’s beaten path seemed to show respect for the burdens of the Native American walkers who passed there.”
Prior to the tour, the grant participants were required to read a book by Louis Coleman, Cyrus Byington: Missionary and Choctaw Linguist. The book is a biography of sorts about the life of Byington as he did mission work with the Choctaws and took on an additional project to provide the Choctaws with a written language. Coleman, the book’s author, spoke to the students as they visited the Museum of the Red River in Idabel.
“The cultural tour was an excellent opportunity to connect learning with real life experiences in our history,” said Terri Henry, an NAEIE Elementary Education major. “It is so important to teach students about the history of our language and culture. There is so much of our history right in our own back yard. It is important for students to know the struggles and how our people overcame adversity to get to where we are today. Now that we as future teachers have increased our knowledge base by learning more about Native American history and culture, we will share it with our future students.”
Funding for the NAEIE grant comes from the U.S. Department of Education through the Office of Indian Education.