n a world full of things designed to make life more customizable, efficient, and modern, there is still a need, whether out of curiosity, honor or entertainment, for cultural traditions to be shared between generations. Preserving and sharing traditions brings about a different level of respect, understanding, comfort, and, most importantly, a sense of belonging. The students of EAST at Kiamichi Technology Center in Poteau, Oklahoma with EAST Facilitator Kelly Falkner have created a project that exemplifies the importance of communicating cultural traditions and are on their way to helping a nation of people keep their traditions alive. Faith, Family, and Culture: Tradition at the Table is a collaborative effort between EAST students and the LeFlore County Museum at Hotel Lowrey. This exhibit will analyze the cultural importance of traditional foods of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and creatively display the tribe's core values according to community partner and Museum Director, Bonnie Prigmore. With the guidance of local architect Michael Riley, the students are building an exhibit that will host interview footage with Choctaw Chief Batton, onsite Choctaw storytellers, live cooking demonstrations, Choctaw cookbooks, and artifacts showing the process of food and fellowship within the Nation, from harvest to the table. In efforts to make the
exhibit as interactive and lifelike as possible, visitors will experience 3D modeling and 3D printing of replicas of traditional food items and artifacts as well as a recording of a Choctaw flutist to incorporate music for the exhibit and footage for the Smithsonian archive. A community partner, Scotty Morrison, a local film company owner, is assisting the students with capturing footage to share in the museum. Brayden Treat, a student leader on the project shared his perspective: “History is the preservation of a legacy that stands the test of time. We want to help honor the Choctaw culture that millions have fought for so many years to preserve.” It is important to Falkner, Prigmore, and other community partners like Pam Waugh of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Capitol Museum, that this group of students complete this project to educate their peers on the importance of traditions. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is working hard to connect the past with the future so that no traditions are forgotten. "So much has already been lost to the hands of history. We should work to preserve much of the Choctaw culture, and what better way to do that than with food?" says EAST student Samm Woodruff. “The family values they are learning about are influencing them in the best way,” Falkner said. She went on to express her joy about a
Tradition Table at the
conversation she heard two of her students having that reflected on how a project through EAST has brought them together: “I used to go hang out in a crowd alone…now I hang out in a crowd with my EAST friends!” To which another student replied, “That’s right (laughing), you’re never alone in EAST!” With faith in each other, they have become family. And in becoming family they are not only living out the core values of the Choctaw Nation but also a value of EAST. Over the summer, Kelly Falkner and her students applied for a grant with the Smithsonian museum and worked with Smithsonian representative Shannon Sullivan in Washington, D.C.to ensure grant compliance. Although those who have been awarded the grant will not get official word until January, the EAST students are proceeding with the project and will continue with or without funding. “We are determined to make this happen,” says student team member Kaylee Pinkerton.