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  • Ian Thompson

A Day with Yappali

On Saturday, we were honored to have Yappali come to the Nan Awaya Heritage Farmstead. Yappali is an amazing group of Choctaw women (and their families), who are dedicated to empowering the community towards healthy living. The group works with women from a different region of the Choctaw Nation each year. Participants interact with each other in a variety of events geared towards overcoming some of the challenges of colonization, by drawing upon Choctaw culture and community. As participants will tell you, Yappali has brought about a number of positive life changes for individuals in the community. This weekend, Yappali was joined by local members of YAB, the Choctaw Nation Youth Advisory Board, an entity dedicated towards helping the next generation develop servant leadership skills. Saturday morning, was the start to a fine, brisk Oklahoma spring day, with freezing rain on the trees and small ice cycles hanging from the electric fence. Our visitors put on their warm clothes, and we enjoyed a two hour walk together, focusing on more than two dozen different plants that Choctaw people have traditionally used for food and other purposes. We started with Hatofalaha Ikish (“Onion Medicine”, aka wild garlic). Its ice-encrusted greens were vibrant signs of new life among the dormant grass. For culinary purposes, wild garlic is as tasty as store-bought garlic cloves, and it also has uses in traditional medicine. We visited Isi Itaklushi (“The Deer’s Little Peach”, aka Sand Plums), whose tart flavor is unsurpassed on a hot summer day. We saw Hatak Hohlpa Chito (“Big Stings a Man”, aka Bull Nettle). This, potentially painful plant, is native to Oklahoma, but not to the Choctaw homeland. After arriving on the Trail of Tears Choctaw people learned to pick its nut-like seeds in the summertime using river cane tongs to avoid the stings of the plant. For Ian, one of the highlights of the walk was when Sandy showed us all Champulichi (“Sweetens”, aka Sheep Shower), a flavorful traditional herb gathered by her aunt. After the walk, Yappali hosted a healthy, flavor-full lunch, while Ian gave a Powerpoint presentation about community efforts to revitalize the Indigenous Choctaw foodway. Yappali’s gift to participants included the book “Recovering Our Ancestors’ Gardens” by Tribal Member Devon Mihesuah. It was a fun and meaningful day. The best part was getting to spend time with so many spiritually and mentally engaged Choctaws. To Yappali and YAB, and to the folks who helped to make the day happen, yakoke, e-hachim-achihoke! We look forward to working with you in the future.

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