Born in a small frame house in Bennington, Oklahoma, Lorene Blaine never thought she would live a life that would take her across the country, to Europe, and back home again. “It was a one room house that had been sectioned off, and I was born in the kitchen, so I guess that’s why I love to cook,” Lorene confesses.
The youngest of six children and a full blood Choctaw, Lorene has accomplished much in her life.
She attended a small rural school until the 8th grade, only 24 kids and the same teacher every year. She and her sister would walk the mile and a half to school and back home again past an old cemetery, the thought still sends shivers down her spine. “We would run as fast as we could and only look back to make sure we were far enough away to slow down.”
She went on to Goodland to attend high school. “Only 12 kids in my graduating class, it was a big one,” she laughs. She still sees some of those friends when she visits Tvshka Homma for various functions.
After high school she stayed close to home attending Southeastern and taking business courses.
But marriage to a military man soon took her a long way from southern Oklahoma. After marrying Silas Blaine, she lived on bases on the west coast and Germany, where they were a bit of a novelty. “People there had never seen Native Americans before, so they were full of questions, friendly but curious.”
Lorene, as a young school girl in southern Oklahoma.
After moving back home, she continued her business degree at a school in Denison. She then began her career with the Choctaw Nation, taking a job with the CDIB department, or voter registration.
She helped kick start the cultural reawakening within the tribe by starting the Choctaw Intertribal Club in 1992, which held annual Native American arts and craft fairs and gospel singings. She said she wanted to not only get her fellow Choctaws involved but other tribes as well. They started holding small pow wows that were noticed by professors from Southeastern Oklahoma State University. They helped her organize the events and moved them onto the campus where they were held for several years.
In 2008, she was chosen as the Outstanding Female Elder of the Choctaw Nation. And just this past year was honored by AARP Oklahoma as an Outstanding Indian Elder in recognition of her work for the U.S. Department of Justice voting rights as an observer in many tribal and state elections.
In addition to cooking, she does beadwork, makes shawls, and crochets. She also accompanies Choctaw Nation representatives on cultural visits outside of Oklahoma, including the Smithsonian. She’s seen a real evolution in young Choctaws’ interest in their culture including traditional dance and stickball. This pleases her. And she tries to pass on to them the best advice her parents ever gave her, “Stand up for yourself, be independent, and always respect your elders.”
She also likes coaxing her fellow seniors into getting more involved at cultural gatherings. Sometimes, she says, they seem like they are too shy to join in.
She encourages them to participate, to get involved by telling them, “You don’t know what you can do until you get out there.”
Watch Lorene’s video interview below: