State recognizes Vancleave Live Oak Choctaws

State recognizes Vancleave Live Oak Choctaws
Vancleave Live Oak Choctaw's get state recognition (Photo Source: WLOX News Now)

VANCLEAVE, MS (WLOX) - People packed the conference room at the Vancleave Library Saturday for a small piece of paper with a big meaning.

"This is a big day, a great day for my people," said Patty Bang Williams.

By her people, Williams means Vancleave's Live Oak Choctaws. The Native American tribe has struggled to become recognized for years. However, that's changing thanks to a resolution passed by Gov. Phil Bryant.

"We just got state recognized by the governor...it's a blessing," said Williams.

Being recognized is something Williams didn't think could happen. During a heartfelt speech, she recalled only being able to complete eighth-grade, as well as the discrimination she faced as a member of the tribe.

"I never, ever thought this day would come. We accepted life the way it was and the way things were. We were a separate bunch of people...back in the woods," Williams said.

Members of the tribe say the resolution is the catalyst to getting the tribe the recognition they deserve. The next step will be county recognition, then federal government.

"I just believe God's going to make a way for us to go all the way to the BIA," Williams said.

The BIA - Bureau of Indian Affairs - controls federal recognition. Leading the recognition efforts is tribe lawyer, Earl Denham.

"I've worked so hard on this for so long. It's kinda like being present at the birth of a child, it's a miraculous feeling," said Denham.

Jackson County District 5 supervisor Randy Bosarge is also helping the cause.

"May 16 we'll be recognizing the tribe just like the state and the city of Ocean Springs has...." said Bosarge.

The tribe says being recognized is a milestone, and they will continue to climb.

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