Honoring veterans, those who served our country in a myriad of ways, is highlighted on Veterans Day each year.
For members of the Chickasaw Nation, traditions run a bit deeper.
“Warrior songs were sung to honor those who fought for our tribe,” Lori White Buffalo said, talking about a stomp dance demonstration honoring veterans at the Chickasaw Nation Cultural Center inside the Aaittafama’ Room Saturday morning.
“This weekend especially, we want to focus on the veterans,” White Buffalo said. “We have brought in some of the Chickasaw veterans who work throughout the Nation. In the warrior’s stomp dance, he focuses on thanking the Creator for giving us strong men and women to go out and fight for our freedoms.”
White Buffalo said she has encouraged her team to take a moment and thank the veterans visiting the Cultural Center.
“I personally believe [veterans] don’t get as much recognition as they should,” White Buffalo said.
The Nation honors tribal veterans during an annual trip for those who served to Washington, D.C., usually around Veterans Day.
In 2015, a Chickasaw Navy veteran, Bob Lawrence, was able to make the trip, alongside several others.
“I was living in Texas at the time,” Lawrence said. “I was born and raised in Oklahoma — my grandfather was Chickasaw. I got an invitation to a meeting over in Tyler that was being put on by the Chickasaws.”
As a result of those meetings, Lawrence said, he became more interested in his native heritage.
“There were a lot of things going on in Oklahoma that I wasn’t aware of. I went to the Cultural Center and learned a lot more.”
Lawrence said after retiring he made the decision to move back to Ardmore.
“I wanted to be in the Chickasaw Nation to be close relatives,” Lawrence said. “I became more and more involved in different cultural activities as I found out about them.”
The first program Lawrence discovered was the Veteran Jacket program.
“I got the jacket and then just six months or so after that I got a call from the Nation asking if I wanted to go on this trip [to Washington DC],” Lawrence said. “So, of course, I jumped all over a chance to do that.”
Lawrence said he has continued to further his experiences with the tribe.
“I’m now a cornstalk bow shooter,” Lawrence said. “I’m getting involved in building primitive weapons like our ancestors did and learning more about farming techniques we used thousands of years ago.”
“Today is a day to give back to our veterans and honor all their sacrifices,”  said White Buffalo. “We want to honor them and their families. It’s important that we pause and thank them for their talents and giving us our freedom on their backs.” White Buffalo said the special stomp dance demonstrations will be presented today at 2 p.m. in addition to Saturday’s activities.
Experienced dancers Wayne Walker, Nick Underwood, Sara Herrera, Felix Shico, Courtney Parchcorn and Don Mose joined White Buffalo in the demonstration. Three young dancers, Jaden Martinez, Jaimen Lancaster and Shane Fulsom, also participated in the presentation.
“We have cultural demonstrations and make -and-take activities in the Aaittafama’ lobby as well.” All veterans will receive free admission to the Chikasa Poya exhibit center and receive a special discount in the Aaimpa’ Cafe.
The Chickasaw Nation honors veterans throughout the year in a number of ways, including the trips and services such as Lawrence described, as well as a Veterans Lodge in Ada. That facility offers leisure activities like ping-pong and pool, coffee and places to sit and talk to other veterans. They also offer services through the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs, like filing benefit claims, retrieving records and assisting veterans and their families with other services.
More information can be found online at chickasaw.net/veterans or by calling (580) 272-2550.