Based in Durant, Oklahoma, the Chahta Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was created in 1999 to provide support to the Choctaw people. Although separate from the Choctaw Nation, the Chahta Foundation works closely alongside the Tribe to serve the Choctaw people. The Foundation implements innovative and unique initiatives that do not duplicate existing tribal programming.
The majority of individuals serving on the Chahta Foundation Board of Directors are Choctaw tribal members. With a small staff and humble beginnings, the Foundation has made great strides since it was resurrected in 2010 to become a dynamic brick and mortar non-profit with staff, annual giving in the form of scholarships that total over $300,000, and an operational budget that allows the Board and staff to carry out the Foundation’s Mission.
In 2015, the Chahta Foundation secured the generous commitment of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma to match all monetary donations received at a ratio of 1:1. This allows the Foundation to continue to allocate 100% of all donations not received from the Choctaw Nation directly toward programs rather than overhead costs.
By the end of 2015, the Chahta Foundation secured ongoing payroll deduction donations from almost 500 Choctaw Nation employees, and had received monetary donations from 100 external donors. Armed with this ever-increasing support, the Foundation has been seeking new ways to assist the Choctaw people in the three focus areas listed in the organization’s Mission: Education, Culture, and Health.
Education – BROADENING HORIZONS
Creating Scholarships for Choctaws
The Chahta Foundation has implemented and expanded a successful scholarship program wherein a variety of diverse competitive scholarships are awarded annually to Choctaw students living throughout the United States. The scholarship program embodies the Foundation’s efforts to support Choctaw tribal members in the focus area of Education.
In the five years since the inception of the Chahta Foundation scholarship program, it has more than doubled in size, both in number of scholarships awarded and types of scholarships available. In the first year of the scholarship program, the Chahta Foundation had a budget of $6,000 and was able to fund one scholarship. At the end of the 2015 scholarship season, the Foundation funded over $300,000 toward 41 scholarships for incoming college freshmen to medical doctorate level students.
The Foundation is always researching and evaluating new scholarships to assist Choctaws in reaching their educational goals.
Culture – SECURING A LEGACY
Preserving a rich heritage and sharing it with all people
In 2011, the Chahta Foundation launched its successful storytelling project, which largely embodies the Foundation’s work in the focus area of Culture. The project represents an ongoing effort to help preserve Choctaw culture and history by recording interviews with Choctaws, many of whom are tribal elders and first speakers of the Choctaw language. Family members are encouraged to participate and ask questions of the interviewee, resulting in rich footage that captures multi-generational ties and a collective tribal cultural identity. Interviews cover a wide variety of topics but always highlight underlying themes of family, tribal history, historical events, culture, and language. These interviews are deeply touching and important.
In October of 2015, the Chahta Foundation’s Executive Director, Seth Fairchild, was invited to give a TED Talk about the Foundation’s oral storytelling project. The TED Talk, which was titled Native American Oral Storytelling and History, has been instrumental in shedding public light on the Chahta Foundation’s efforts to record Choctaw members’ stories: tedtalk.chahtafoundation.com .
The Chahta Foundation is always glad to accept referrals for Choctaw elders and their family members to interview. If you have a referral or would like to schedule an interview, please contact us via the contact information on the Contact Us page.
Health – INSPIRING WELLNESS
Promoting a healthy approach to living
The Chahta Foundation is always researching innovative strategies to promote the health of the Choctaw people. To this end, the Foundation recently launched a food sovereignty pilot program that will provide Choctaw families and senior living centers with wheelchair-accessible raised garden beds, chicken coops, and all associated supplies and training to make the project successful. Project sites for the 2016 pilot program year will be selected based on need, existing infrastructure and suitability of the site, and member commitment to perform the maintenance on the garden or chicken coop.
The purpose of this program is to increase the access that Choctaws of all ages have to fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, and poultry. Foundation staff will provide ongoing training and support for each new site to ensure the program’s success. Following a successful 2016 pilot program year, the Foundation hopes to gradually expand the food sovereignty program to encompass all 11 counties comprising the Choctaw tribal service area.