Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Choctaw Ponies, the Choctaw Nation

Today was a very full day of scheduling and talking to people we will be interviewing and places we will visit. We will be visiting the Choctaw Nation and see how they are working hard to preserve and revive their traditions and crafts.
From the history of the Choctaw Nation:For hundreds of years before Europeans came to the United States, the Choctaw Nation was a tribe of farmers who lived in what is now the southeastern U.S. until the federal government forcibly removed most tribal members in 1830 to Southeastern Oklahoma in what became known as the “Trail of Tears.” Tribal members have overcome diversity to grow to nearly 200,000 strong, the country’s third largest tribe. The tribe’s growing business enterprises have allowed it to work to improve the lives of tribal members who have a rich tradition of serving in the military (see Code Talkers) serving their community and the State of Oklahoma.
 They are working very hard to preserve the Choctaw ponies which were forced out of the mountains of southeastern Oklahoma by clearcut logging.  Bryant Rickman has moved many of these ponies to his ranch south of  Antlers.  In addition, he leases land for the ponies from Jim Stephens.  Together, and with the help of Francine Locke Bray who is researching the history of the ponies, they are working very hard to create an environment where the ponies can thrive. Jim and Bryant are learning how to restore the forests and the grasslands on Jim’s ranch so that the ponies can once more live there as they did in the wild. Their enthusiasm for this project and the challenges and learning curve they face is very inspirational. At present the approximately 577 ponies have to be fed etc during the harsh winters rather than fending for themselves as they were able to do before clear-cutting of the forests. My next post will take us to Durant where I will speak more about the issues facing the Choctaw and who we will be interviewing and where we will be going in our quest to learn more about how they are restoring sustainability in their culture. This could be a whole documentary in and of itself. Maybe at some point we will have the opportunity to do that.

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