Tornadoes touchdown on the Mvskoke reservation

A house in Holdenville stands after being hit by severe storms over the weekend. (Courtesy: Daniel Wind)

MCN responds with disaster relief in Holdenville and Morris

by Braden Harper

MVSKOKE RESERVATION, Oklv. – The weekend of April 27-28 saw intense severe weather storms that left at least four dead and dozens injured in the state of Oklahoma. Among those killed included a four-month-old infant. The City of Sulphur in Murray County was hit particularly hard by tornadic activity, its downtown area covered in fallen building debris. Closer to home on the Mvskoke reservation, the Morris and Holdenville areas were hit by tornadoes as well. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt declared a state of emergency for 12 counties, and described the aftermath as the worst damage he has seen during his tenure as governor.

Two of the four fatalities from Holdenville were discovered by Muscogee (Creek) Nation Lighthorse Police Officers. Additional areas on the reservation affected by storm damage included Coweta, Wagoner, Okemah, Henrietta and Sapulpa. According to MCN Emergency Management Director Bobby Howard, no MCN tribal facilities were damaged. MCN emergency response departments coordinated with the state, county and municipal first responders to clean up the affected areas and conduct search and rescue efforts. Teams worked tirelessly around the clock through late night hours.

Howard credited the Nation’s new communication system as instrumental in his team’s success in coordinating the larger emergency response effort. His team was able to communicate with one another from Holdenville to Okmulgee and even other counties. This allowed the team to get in contact with dispatch to get ambulances on scene from far distances.

According to Howard, Morris and Holdenville received the brunt of the storms’ wrath.

“Holdenville just because of the loss of life,” Howard said. “Morris had the most structural damage just due to all the tree debris and because it was in town.”

Although the National Weather Service has not officially released a report on the amount of recorded tornadoes, nor the velocity, early estimates believe that the weekend’s storms produced either EF3 or EF4 tornadoes.

MCN Response

In a statement released on the Nation’s Facebook page, it expressed condolences for the lives lost by the storms. The statement reads,

“Our hearts and thoughts are with the communities that have been affected by these storms. We mourn for those we have lost, and we continue to pray for those who have been injured.”

MCN Second Chief Del Beaver made remarks on the storms, expressing sympathy and encouraging the community to come together.

“Our prayers go out to those affected by the storms last night. There are no words to express our sympathies for those who lost loved ones.” Second Chief Beaver said. “In times like these, we are blessed with our partner municipalities that appreciate and understand the importance of a community that works together for each other. This is who we are as Muscogee people. We are resilient and stand together during times like this. Please check on each other and lend a helping hand when needed.”

On April 29 MCN Principal Chief David Hill signed MCN Executive Order 24-03, declaring a state of emergency on the Muscogee Reservation in response to the storms. According to Principal Chief Hill, the declaration will engage the tribe’s emergency response plan and will allow the Nation to coordinate with federal partners on relief and recovery efforts.

Governor Stit is in talks with President Biden to receive federal support for ongoing disaster relief efforts across the state. For citizens who live within the Mvskoke reservation and are in need of disaster response services, contact the MCN Disaster Hotline at 918-732-7911.

ICYMI: Congressman Tom Cole dwells on role as first Native American to lead House Appropriations Committee

Congressman Tom Cole speaks at a Norman town hall in 2019. Caroline Halter/Legislative Service Bureau

History was made when Republican Congressman Tom Cole became not only the first Oklahoman to chair the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, but also the first Native American to do so.

By Sarah Liese

In a recent letter to constituents, Cole discussed the importance of his identity as a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and the role it has played in his perspective as a member of Congress.

He explained that he strives to be a voice for tribal citizens, highlighting issues in Indian Country that others in Congress might not understand. Cole specifically noted the federal trust responsibility that the federal government is obligated to protect the welfare of tribal citizens.

“States and the federal government must work with Native Americans to maintain the integrity of their heritage, culture, and rights,” Cole wrote. “At the same time, the federal government must uphold its constitutional oath to tribes to provide basic resources such as healthcare, education, infrastructure, and law enforcement, among many others, in Indian Country.”

Cole also comes from a legacy of leaders in his family, who worked to preserve their tribe’s culture. He wrote in the letter his mother Helen TeAta Gale Cole was the first Native American woman elected to the Oklahoma State Senate, and his great-grandfather, Thomas Benjamin Thompson, Sr., was the last elected Treasurer of the Chickasaw Nation prior to Oklahoma statehood.

Cole took his post in Washington on April 10. He noted in the letter that his goal is to ensure tribal sovereignty is protected, and tribal citizens are taken care of.

“I have long been, and always will be, an advocate for expanding self-governance wherever possible and ensuring tribes receive the resources they need to take care of their communities because, at the end of the day, tribes are the best at taking care of their people,” Cole said.

Choctaw Nation Celebrates Chief Gary Batton’s 10 Years as Chief 

Photos by Christian Toews, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma 

DURANT, Okla. — Tribal members, government officials, associates, friends and family gathered Friday, April 26, to celebrate Chief Gary Batton's 10 years of service as Chief of the Choctaw Nation.   

Batton was sworn into office on April 28, 2014, as the 47th Chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Under his leadership, the tribe has evolved, significantly expanded its operations and continued improving its members' services.  

Chief Batton spoke of what drives him as Chief, saying, "I think about our people that came across the Trail of Tears, that lost lives, but they fought for us to be here today. And we have to keep that fight for our language, our culture, our history, our sovereignty to remain and stay strong."  

Under Chief Batton's leadership, food distribution centers, summer education programs and healthcare facilities have expanded, tribal housing has increased, and employment has more than doubled.  

"We want to grow our language and culture, along with opportunities like health, housing, education and social programs so that our tribal members can have a better way of life," said Chief Batton.  

Chief Batton's commitment to the community extends beyond the Choctaw Nation. He is actively involved in various organizations, including the Choctaw Nation Chahta Foundation, the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes, and the Southeastern Oklahoma State University Foundation.  

Recognized for his exceptional leadership, Chief Batton has received numerous accolades throughout his career. He has been honored as one of Oklahoma's Most Admired CEOs and appointed as an Oklahoma Creativity Ambassador. Chief Batton's outstanding achievements were further acknowledged when he was named Southeastern Oklahoma State University's Outstanding Alumni and received the Happy World Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award in Global Citizenship. In recognition of his significant contributions, Chief Batton was also inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.  

Chief Batton's visionary leadership and unwavering dedication have driven the Choctaw Nation forward, fostering growth and prosperity for its members. As the tribe celebrates his remarkable 10-year milestone, Chief Batton's legacy of service and commitment will continue to inspire future generations. 

Cherokee artist Kindra Swafford showcased in Cherokee Cultural Pathway

“Kindra Swafford: Journey Through the Woods” runs through Oct. 13

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Art connects with community and nature in the newest installation at the Cherokee Cultural Pathway in downtown Tahlequah.

“Kindra Swafford: Journey Through the Woods” is now open to the public and runs through Oct. 13.

The public art display features 13 large-scale reproductions of Swafford’s work that showcase a commitment to Cherokee language, culture, environmental stewardship and community engagement.

“This celebration of public art not only enriches the community but fosters a deeper appreciation for the voices that are shaping our cultural landscape today,” said Cherokee Nation First Lady January Hoskin. “Kindra Swafford's stylized pieces are a beautiful expression of creativity, and they will enhance the Cherokee Cultural Pathway while on display.”

Swafford is the third Cherokee artist to be featured at the Cherokee Cultural Pathway, following Cherokee National Treasure Traci Rabbit and Cherokee artist Roy Boney Jr.

“I think it's important to have these types of creative spaces in the community to showcase Cherokee artists and the stories they tell through their work,” Cherokee artist Kindra Swafford said. “The artwork on display all has a connection to animals and creatures and how we fit into this world. I hope that the vibrant colors, playful concepts and community aspects encourage others to opt outside if possible and connect to the world around them.”

The pathway opened in 2022 as an effort to improve safety and accessibility between downtown cultural sites. It has now transformed into an immersive experience, allowing visitors to connect with authentic Cherokee artists through rotating displays and permanent large-scale art installations.

For more information, please go to