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Young Chickasaw veteran takes on role as student leader

Center for Sovereign Nations at Oklahoma State University


September 2, 2020

Chickasaw citizen Miko Brandon pictured playing a game of stickball. Mr. Brandon is a student at Oklahoma State University (OSU) and serves as a student leader at OSU's Center for Sovereign Nations.

STILLWATER, Okla. - Chickasaw student Miko Brandon has taken on the role of student leader at Oklahoma State University's Center for Sovereign Nations, a place where academic success, camaraderie and Native culture intertwine.

Mr. Brandon, 24, enrolled at Oklahoma State University (OSU) after he served his country for four years and seven months in the U.S. Navy. A sophomore, he's studying natural resource and ecology management, a degree designed to help students understand and address critical environmental problems on local, regional and global levels.

The degree, he said, helped build skills essential in ecology and natural resources management.

"A good example of what I would be doing is conducting surveys on rivers and finding out all I can about them – if they're short this, if they have too much of this, and then manage and stock them, and potentially raise fish in them," he said.

Mr. Brandon understands the importance of tribal sovereignty and the vital role it plays in exercising power as a tribal nation. His long-term goal is to serve tribal nations with the knowledge he gains.

"I would really like to be involved in building departments where we manage our own natural resources," he said. "That way we don't have to rely on other entities and can exercise our sovereignty."

He values his Chickasaw heritage and the customs, traditions and language passed down to him by his relatives. Mr. Brandon also plays for Chikasha Toli, the adult Chickasaw stickball team. He is the son of Jessica Imotichey and Brad Brandon, and the grandson of Carol Imotichey (Cheadle) and Paul Imotichey.

Mr. Brandon has memories from a young age of hearing the Chickasaw language spoken by his grandfather, Paul, who was one of few remaining Chickasaws who learned Chickasaw as their first language.

While he was away serving in the Navy, Mr. Brandon practiced the Chickasaw language with his grandfather over the phone. He treasures those memories of his grandfather, who has since passed.

Recently, the Center for Sovereign Nations asked students to submit videos for their YouTube channel of their new routines due to COVID-19 altering the way in person classes meet. Mr. Brandon shared a video of his new routine and used Chickasaw language to explain his schedule.

He hopes the video shared some insight on aspects of his Chickasaw culture to fellow Chickasaw students at OSU, as well as students of other tribal nations.

"Not a lot of people know their tribal language or have even heard it growing up," he said. "There are quite a few Chickasaw citizens at OSU, so I wanted to share the video to show other Chickasaws and students this is what my language sounds like. It's a simple video but it allows you to hear what the Chickasaw language sounds like and may help others to feel a little more connected."

The Center for Sovereign Nations is a resource made available to Native American students attending OSU. The center's purpose is to provide on-campus support to promote the understanding, respect and exercise of tribal sovereignty, promote American Indian student success and graduation and increase the number and quality of partnerships between OSU and the 39 federally-recognized tribal nations in Oklahoma.

Center director Elizabeth Payne said the concept was created in partnership between OSU and the Chickasaw Nation, and later joined by Choctaw Nation. Ms. Payne hired Mr. Brandon as a student leader. She said she regarded him as a gifted leader who made a significant contribution to their team.

"A number of incredibly talented Chickasaw citizens have been employed at the center as student leaders while they were undergraduates at OSU," Ms. Payne said. "Miko joins a number of high impact Chickasaw citizens who blessed our center with their leadership during their undergraduate years. These students share a vision for serving their tribal nations during and after their college careers."

The Center for Sovereign Nations has hosted over 20,000 undergraduate student visits in the last five years and the student leaders who work at the center are committed to creating an encouraging environment for all Native students and their friends. Of the student leaders, 68 percent who were employed and advised by the center since August 2015 have chosen to continue their educations in graduate school.

"Students describe the center as a home away from home," Ms. Payne said. "Through weekly calls with Chickasaw Nation, our center team has ensured that our students' college experience includes academic success, while learning about tribal sovereignty and staying connected to their culture. "

Mr. Brandon regards the center as a close, family environment. As a student leader, he serves in a multitude of ways, all while sharing his own culture and learning about other Native American cultures.

"As a student leader I help students by connecting them with networking and scholarship opportunities, internships and job opportunities and just general student help, like homework," he said. "It may be that they're just having a bad day and we get them some coffee. It's all kind of like a little family. You meet people from different tribes and can learn about their culture and how it's different from your own."


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