Healthy living a growing trend in the Osage

During the spring and summer months, residents in the Pawhuska Indian Village planted fresh fruits and vegetables and posted photos and status updates on Facebook about their efforts.

A trend began and community members such as Electa Hare-RedCorn (Pawnee/Ihanktowan) and Geneva HorseChief-Hamilton (Osage/Pawnee) latched onto the idea and began working to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to the community and the area public schools.

Both work for the Osage Nation Communities of Excellence and recently the pair hosted a feast in celebration of Champions of Health & Rising Star Advocates for Healthy Living within the community.

Using locally grown vegetables by local farmers and community members, they cooked the feast themselves, with the help of local AmeriCorps workers Frannie McKay, Rhea Real Bird and Theresa White Lightning. They presented a healthier and more affordable alternative to the more than 50 people who attended.

The dinner was held at the Wah-Zha-Zhi Cultural Center on Oct. 3 and the honorees included Carol Kliesen (Osage), Rick Loggins, Leanna Boe, Jennifer Tiger (Osage), Chris Gabriel, Destiny Kitchel, Addie Hudgins (Osage), and Ben Brown (Osage). 

Hare-RedCorn said local farmers provided the lemon grass, cushaw squash, tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables for the meal.

The meal consisted of Oatmeal and Peach Cobbler, Cabbage and Potato Soup, Wojape (a northern traditional dish), Chicken and Wild Rice, Cushaw Sweet, Quinoa, beef and chicken cutlets and skewers from Wild Country Meats in Hominy.

“We live in a food desert,” HorseChief-Hamilton said. “We don’t know where to get the healthy food.”

That is why HorseChief-Hamilton and Hare-RedCorn are advocating for community gardens, organic gardens and more Farmer’s Markets within Osage County. She said there are plans to create a Food Policy Board and they will be reaching out to schools, area tribes and vendors to help create more gardens and serve fresh vegetables to tribal and local citizens of Osage County.

Currently, the tribe serves food in its Pawhuska Senior Citizens complex, day cares, head starts, Boys & Girls Clubs and casinos.

Pass the salt

Dr. Ron Shaw was the guest speaker for the awards dinner and said the number one killer in Oklahoma was heart disease, followed by cancer, emphysema, strokes and diabetes.

“Improving our diets, loving and protecting our bodies … any type of exercise is good,” Shaw said. “But, it only takes moderate exercise like washing windows, pushing a stroller, cleaning your house, shooting some hoops, washing the car, that’s moderate exercise.”

Shaw also showed a power point presentation on the statistics of Osage County versus the rest of the state and country. He recommended at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, or vigorous intensity for 75 minutes per week, would help greatly.

“Don’t take in more calories than what you burn, or you will gain weight,” he said. “Don’t use the salt shaker on your food at the table. I tell my patients, your hand should never come in contact with the salt shaker.”

He applauded the Communities of Excellence and their work with Osage County schools to get them 24/7 smoke free, the Osage Nation campus smoke free and said he favored the Osage Casinos going smoke free as well.

Exercising is fun

Destiny Kitchel and Addie Hudgins showed attendees quick and easy ways to relieve stress while not exerting too much energy. They led an exercise session and showed participants breathing exercises to reduce stress.

Plaques went to all the award recipients and each recipient said something about their efforts to provide health and nutrition to the community.

Award Recipients

County Health Champion of the Year
Carol Kliesen – Osage Nation Head Start Compliance Manager. For more than 20 years Carol has coordinated the Osage Nation Head Start Health Fair. She has also worked her hometown, Fairfax, to improve health services for young children. She has made provider contacts for screenings for the children’s physicals, dental and sensory needs.  As a Fairfax Chamber of Commerce member, Carol has advocated for funding for a public use water recreation facilities at the Fairfax City Park. Her believe is healthy living practices at an early age yields long-term benefits for young children. “I enjoy promoting health, the safety and joy of our children. I just want to continue that.”

School Health Champion of the Year
Rick Loggins – Barnsdall Public Schools Superintendent. This year Loggins responded to outreach efforts by the Communities of Excellence Program to begin taking steps to make Barnsdall Schools 24/7 Tobacco Free. He has been proactive in educating school board members about the policy and the benefits and offered his full support of the initiative. Loggins is a 1979 graduate of Barnsdall Public Schools. After a few years as a classroom teacher, he moved up into an administrative position and was eventually promoted to the Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Human Resources. In 2003 he accepted the Superintendent position at Barnsdall Public Schools. The 2011-2012 school year will be his ninth year serving Barnsdall Public Schools. Loggins was unable to make the awards dinner.

Youth Health Champion of the Year
Leanna Boe – Students Working Against Tobacco Adult Partner and Wynona Public Schools Middle School Teacher. Boe currently promotes tobacco free lifestyle and healthy choices by contributing her time to the Students Working Against Tobacco movement as an Adult Partner. She and her students work together at every opportunity to inform and educate non-smokers and smokers about the health risks of tobacco use and secondhand smoke. In May of this year, Boe and her students volunteered at the Osage Nation Littlest Amazing Race and some students participated in the Run for the health of It! 5K. “I have young students that are dipping Skoal and chewing tobacco … try to educate the youth that it’s not cool, it’s not healthy at all.”

Senior Health Champion of the Year
Jennifer Tiger – Director of Osage Nation Strategic Planning and Grants Management. Tiger’s mother is afflicted with the debilitating disease Alzheimer’s. Too often, seniors in this country are shuffled into nursing homes where their health and quality of life are at risk and subject to decline and neglect. For more than six years, Jennifer has cared for her mother’s needs and relocated from a long-time career in California to ensure her mother’s best interests and needs were met. She has been selected as this year’s Senior Health Champion of the Year for living the example of family love and support through advanced age and chronic illness. “The most important thing you can do is take care of yourself … if you have a family member out there that is taking care of someone, give’em a break, go help them out.”

Business Health Champion of the Year
Chris Gabriel – Owner of Wild Country Meats, Meat Market Grill and Custom Processing. Gabriel and his family have worked hard to establish a respectable meat processing and packing business in Osage County. Since 1998, the Gabriels have expanded their business to include a large employment base, business relationships in more than 10 Oklahoma counties, a full service meat market, and a casual dining option unparalleled by other local restaurants. They have expanded their menu to include healthy and fresh items. They offer a selection of free range, local meat choices not readily available to local residents. “The big restaurants are injecting their meat with solutions and tenderizers … there is nothing added to our product and I think people are looking for a healthy alternative.”

Rising Star Advocate for Healthy Living
Destiny Kitchel – Day Care owner, Shakeology Retail Sales, and Pawhuska Fit Club Coordinator. Kitchel got started with healthy living and a fit lifestyle in May of 2012. She had hurt her hip running, training for the Tulsa Run and Route 66 Half-Marathon, and needed an exercise alternative. After yo-yo dieting and fad diets, she discovered Shakeology and began a home workout program and followed a nutrition guide. The result was pounds and inches lost, a new outlook on life and helping others realize their weight-loss goals. She now works at her Beachbody business full time and offers weekly exercise classes (which are very popular) and sells Shakeology. “I love what I do, I love how it makes me feel to help others set goals and achieve them and I look forward to doing this for the rest of my healthy, fit life!”

Rising Star Advocate for Healthy Living
Addie Hudgins – Osage Nation Cultural Center & Employee Fitness Challenge Award Winner. Hudgins started her healthy living in February of 2013 with the employee fitness challenge. She stopped drinking pop, eating sugary and greasy foods and eating out. She did home workouts, Zumba, utilized the ON Fitness Center, lifted weights and lost over 50 pounds. She documented her transformation on social media and became an inspiration to many within the Osage community. She is stronger than she’s ever been and living a healthier and happy life. “I’ve always done everything for everybody else … it’s been crazy, but I’ve done it (on her weight loss). I can honestly say I’m happier now than I’ve ever been.”

Rising Star Advocate for Healthy Living
Ben Brown – Pawhuska native and employee of Buffalo Nickel in Pawhuska, Brown quit smoking commercial tobacco and improved personal heart health through consistent physical activity and lost over 30 pounds. Through his work as a graphic design apprentice, he has locally contributed to the aesthetic quality of Osage County by helping paint a straight dance mural in the Osage orthography. Recently he has reached out to the professional disc golf association and the local disc golf community to host a local Youth Disc Golf Clinic. “My family and I got into disc golf, it didn’t hurt and it was something that we could all do and have fun … they can pair up with parents, elderly, youth, it’s for anyone for any age.”

For more information on the Communities of Excellence, call (918) 287-5367.

To view more photos from the Healthy Harvest awards dinner, visit the Osage News Flickr page at