Path Home Shows 2016 Show Archive July 2016 Show 1631 Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1631

Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1631

This week on “Oklahoma Horizon,” we examine the economic impact of Oklahoma’s Native American roots.
Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1631

Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1631

For more information visit these links:

Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association

The Chickasaw Nation

Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

The American Indian Center

Cherokee Data Solutions

CareerTech - OBAN


Kimberly Norris Guerrero

Show Details

Show 1631: Oklahoma Horizon TV
Air Date: July 31, 2016



Rob McClendon: Here’s what’s coming up on your “Horizon.” Well, over one in 10 Oklahomans can trace their tribal ancestry, while even more identify with their family’s Native American roots. Today, we’re going to explore Oklahoma’s Native American heritage, and we begin with the economic impact tribes have on the state. We’ll show why Oklahoma’s federal designation as Indian Country can benefit businesses no matter who owns them. And we end our day with Oklahoma’s Kimberly Norris Guerrero, the award-winning actress of stage and screen. Stay with us for “Oklahoma Horizon.”

Female Announcer: “Oklahoma Horizon” is made possible by CareerTech – a job for every Oklahoman and a workforce for every company, with additional support from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” I’m Rob McClendon. Well, America’s history with its native people is often a difficult one, but it is a history where the final chapter is far from being written. Today, we’re going to explore what it means to be a native state, and we begin with the new found economic success of Oklahoma’s Indian nations.

Austin Moore: In 2004, Oklahoma voters approved the Tribal Gaming Compact and launched an arms race in casino construction. Today, 30 tribes in Oklahoma operate 124 gaming centers – none bigger than the Chickasaw Nation’s WinStar Casino and Resort in Thackerville.

Bill Lance: Gaming is our pillar business. I mean, it really is. When we focus on a lot of energy and effort on gaming, and we do a great job at gaming. We provide a great, entertaining venue for our customers.

Austin: Bill Lance is the secretary of commerce for the Chickasaw Nation. This one tribe operates dozens of businesses around the state, including lodging, retail and medical facilities. And that is what you find across these tribal nations. Casinos are a big, shiny focal point of the native economy, but they support a broader system – one with tourism, gourmet foods, banking, construction and the everyday needs of life. All of this comes together for an annual native impact on Oklahoma’s economy north of $10 billion.

Lance: A lot of what we have learned in management, technology and etc., is transferable to a lot of other businesses. So it’s really opened up a lot of opportunities because of the expertise that we have in accounting, management, technology -- I could go on and on.

Austin: Expertise forged in a rapidly growing industry. A recent report sponsored by the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association showed Oklahoma gaming garnered $4.2 billion in 2014, supporting more than 23,000 jobs. Nationally, tribal gaming revenues increased by 1.5 percent, but in parts of Oklahoma, the number was 7.5 percent. And nearly four out of every 10 visits to an Oklahoma casino started out of state.

Lance: That money flows into our state and benefits a lot of locally owned companies, and it really benefits all of Oklahoma. I mean, we are really focused on helping the state of Oklahoma, and we really have a preference on using Oklahoma-based companies.

Austin: A sentiment you hear echoed in southeast Oklahoma’s Choctaw tribe. Executive Director for Business Development T.R. Kanuch.

T.R. Kanuch: We really want to be community partners so not only does that financial returns, but it is something we call vision returns. So how can we put people to work? How can we better their quality of life?

Austin: Jobs – that’s where it all begins. So Kanuch focuses on impactful recruiting.

Kanuch: There’s plenty of $8 to $9 an hour jobs out there, but people can’t survive on that. We know we need to be in that higher, upper echelon. So anything we’re recruiting we’re looking for at least one and a half times minimum wage. So that’s that $11 to $12, maybe even $15 an hour job as a base starting point with some progression above that.

Austin: But companies need a ready workforce.

Kanuch: Is it welders, is it industrial workers, construction workers? Anything we can do to relocate and have a workforce that’s prepared to take those jobs is something that we want to do. Partnering with the institutions, OSU-Okmulgee, some of those organizations, uh, Kiamichi Vo-Tech, but then also our own career development organization really partners with all of our tribal members. If you have a skill set you want to go obtain, they’re willing to help you fund that. So whether it’s a CPA license all the way down to hairdressing, they’re going to be involved all throughout the process to get you certified.

Austin: Once again, the Chickasaw Nation’s Bill Lance.

Lance: We really want to partner with our employees and try to give them opportunities that they wouldn’t have unless really, that they worked for us. How do we help them achieve their goals that benefit us in the long-term? I mean, if we, if we’ve got a person that’s going back to school and like I mentioned, they want to be a school teacher, we’re gonna have a happier employee. They’re gonna work harder because they enjoy the direction in their life that they’re going. All that’s going to benefit the Chickasaw Nation.

Rob: Now, if you would like to learn more about the special relationship Oklahoma has with its Indian nations, I have several more stories streaming on our website, including my conversation with elder statesman and Chickasaw Gov. Bill Anoatubby.

Bill Anoatubby: We have our own tribal identity and we hang onto that identity. It’s part of us, but we’re also part of Oklahoma.

Rob: And a little later in our show, we have the story of the Oklahoman who’s broken down racial stereotypes, one laugh at a time.

[Excerpt from Seinfeld TV Show: You mean like an Indian giver? I’m sorry, I’m not familiar with that term. (Laughter)].

Rob: But when we return, a program that helps native and non-native businesses alike benefit from Oklahoma’s Indian heritage.

Female Announcer: You’re watching “Oklahoma Horizon” with Rob McClendon – weekly insight into your changing world.

Rob McClendon: Well, altogether 67 Native American tribes are represented in Oklahoma, including 39 federally recognized tribes headquartered here. And with many federal incentive programs designed to help underserved groups and underserved areas, a organization called OBAN helps Oklahoma businesses benefit from them. But as Blane Singletary reports, when you go beyond the dollars and cents, what you find are companies like Cherokee Data Solutions, whose story is one of never giving up, no matter what life throws your way.

Blane Singletary: You might not notice it at first, but on this quiet street in Claremore is a rapidly growing business.

Chrystal Antao: It’s a small, woman-owned, family-run company started in 2001 by my mother. We do primarily business-to-business sales focusing on government enterprises, Native American tribes and other local businesses.

Blane: Chrystal Antao is the CEO of Cherokee Data Solutions. This company helps other businesses and government agencies big and small get the technology, supply and promotional products they need to succeed. And Cherokee Data’s story and its founder Pamela Huddleston Bickford is one success as well.

Antao: We were tired of moving. She was tired of following a job out of state, she wanted to be home – this is home, and she wanted the impact of her work to be here. She didn’t want to be putting money in the pockets of people abroad anymore. And she started with a garage sale desk, you know, in the corner of her bedroom and just started reaching out to people and grew from there.

Blane: It took blood, sweat and tears to grow this company and all the more so recently. Chrystal’s father passed away three years ago, and Pamela, last March.

Antao: It’s been overwhelming and awesome – it’s been a difficult transition from, you know, being a stay-at-home mom and just being with my kids all the time to transition back into being a working mom. It’s been complicated, but it’s an honor and a blessing to carry on the vision and the driving force that mom had to carry, to run with her dream and know that they didn’t die with her.

Blane: In many ways, Chrystal inherited that fighting spirit from her mother, who started this business as a stay-at-home mom herself. We spoke to her back in 2010.

Pamela Huddleston: When I started the business, I had no credit history. None. Hence therefore, I couldn’t get a debit card, actually. Not even, like, a loan. And so I had to work a night job to fund the business. And that’s what I did until the distributors began giving me lines of credit.

Blane: Pamela started Cherokee Data to be closer to her family, and that’s been the idea moving forward with the next generation, as her children have taken key positions as the company restructured.

Antao: Several people here are directly related and closely related, you know, myself and my brother, Ross -- you know, it was our parents’ company. Ross’s wife, Jenny, works here, you know; we have Uncle Scott, who’s recently moved back from Texas to join our sales team. And then we have P.C. as our IT tech salesman, and he’s pretty much grown up with the company. Whenever you say “family” to a Bickford, it’s an inclusive term, it’s not exclusive.

Blane: And that’s led them to many networking and growth opportunities, especially through state and federal government contracts. A lot of that is thanks to OBAN, the Oklahoma Bid Assistance Network. Angela Cash is the regional coordinator out of Tulsa Tech and has worked with Cherokee Data for many years.

Angela Cash: Our whole goal is to help companies, help small businesses, to be able to compete in the government contracting arena. There are a lot of registrations out there. There are a lot of consultants that charge a lot of money to provide the services that we provide that our clients’ tax dollars pay for.

Blane: Whereas some large companies might be able to hire a team full-time to manage their government contract work, OBAN provides that extra legwork to businesses like this one, who wouldn’t otherwise be able to do it with their limited staff and limited capital.

Cash: It’s a whole new language when you’re learning about contracting with the government. Another thing that we do that’s very important for them is to help them find their competitive edge in the marketplace.

Blane: Case in point, most government agencies set aside money for certain business categories, like those owned by women or businesses in economically disadvantaged areas. OBAN helps these companies navigate the red tape that comes along with getting certified in these areas.

Cash: So we help them drill down, help them get the maps of where the employees live and help them ensure that everything is ready to go, so that when they sit down and do that online application, it’ll be streamlined and most likely get approved.

Blane: Thanks to OBAN, Cherokee Data has been able to land government contracts all across the country, all while staying rooted and growing right here in Claremore. And while they boast plenty of awards across their walls, it’s the next generation that Chrystal says she’s most proud of.

Antao: That is the vision, and that was, you know, Mom wanted a legacy. She didn’t want, you know, money to put in her pocket. This company is, it’s founded on her dreams, and her dreams have always been family, you know. She wants her family close. And this is a great way, you know, for them to stay close, and it will be theirs someday.

Blane: And in the hands of this family and their extended family, this company will keep on rolling, just as Pamela would have wanted.

Pamela Bickford: Life is life. Things are gonna come along right when you least expect it, but those challenges happen, and you’ve gotta have a plan to keep going. Because if you stop, you fail – if you don’t stop, you never fail.

Rob: Well, things are looking up for Cherokee Data, as they plan to expand their offices and spin their promotional products business into its own company.

Female Announcer: Still to come on “Oklahoma Horizon,” breaking social stereotypes with a smile, but first, the Indian Country Business Summit.

Rob McClendon: Well, it pays to live in a native state when it comes to government contracting, and you don’t have to be Native American to benefit from it. Earlier, the head of Oklahoma’s Business Assistance Network joined me in studio to talk about an upcoming summit that can show you how you can get involved.

Rob McClendon: So, Carter, tell me: Exactly what is the ICBS Show?

Carter Merkle: This is a conference, a business conference that we began 10 years ago that just is a way to come together for businesses to learn and to network with each other to find opportunities. We called it Indian Country Business Summit and called it that for many, many years. Very recently we changed that to ICBS Show, in part because we were hearing from people that they did not think they were qualified to come because they were not Indian. But given that we wanted to make sure that people knew that they were welcome no matter what their ownership was, in government contracting, especially in federal contracting, there is an importance to state your ownership as to minority-owned, disadvantaged-owned, which can even be geographical areas such as a HUBZone Program, which encourages more business in areas that were historically underutilized. And all of our Indian nations, all of our former Indian lands are designated as HUBZones. So there’s a lot of significance related to doing business in Indian Country and doing business with native nations. There are many advantages just in combining or teaming with a native business, so there was a lot of significance in that and the two organizations putting this on wanted to emphasize that in the beginning.

Rob: In general, talk to me about what type of money we’re talking about when it comes to government contracts.

Merkle: Well, government contracts, the marketplace is in the billions. The federal government alone spends something like $5 billion just out here at Tinker. And so it is a huge marketplace that includes everything from manufacturing airplanes, which not very many companies do, to managing buildings and parks and all kinds of services. So it’s a big field, and there’s not very many businesses in existence that doesn’t have some opportunity there.

Rob: So have there been some success stories that have come out of this conference?

Merkle: Absolutely, a year ago, actually two years ago now, we have a client in Duncan, a manufacturer, Duncan Machine Products, who was unable to come to the conference but whose OBAN coordinator came and had them in mind and what they do, and they were questioning where they could sell, where they could sell because they were, like most manufacturing, most machine shops in Oklahoma, they relied heavily on the energy industry, and they knew that was a little unsafe. So their coordinator talked to a prime contractor at our show, BAE Systems, who she knew was ramping up to build a tank down at Elgin. And they said, yes, we are looking for some local manufacturers who can do what they call rework – they get parts in, and they’re not quite right, and they need someone to finish the product. And so she got them in touch with them, got the two together, and within about six months they were getting orders from BAE Systems and turning them around in a matter of a few days. BAE Systems was quite impressed with that, and they have been successful at that ever since.

Rob: Certainly, certainly, and again, if someone wants to register for this show at the end of August, that’s, and then they can find out more about the OBAN group at

Merkle: That’s right.

Rob: All right. Carter, thank you so much.

Merkle: Thank you.

Female Announcer: “Horizon” is at your fingertips – join us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to catch the segments you may have missed and our latest new content as it happens.

Rob McClendon: Holocaust survivor Simon Wiesenthal once said, “Humor is the weapon of the unarmed. It helps people who are oppressed to smile at the situation that pains them,” – a fitting quote for our next story. Kimberly Norris Guerrero is a Native American actress from Idabel, Oklahoma – a small town girl, who’s made it big out in Hollywood. But it’s one of her early roles, more than two decades ago, that focused our attention on the subtle racisms that still linger.

Rob McClendon: For a TV show described as being about nothing, Seinfeld used humor to often broach some serious subjects.

[Seinfeld TV Show: Jerry, I really need it back. It is mine. But you can’t give something and then take it back. I mean, what are ya a?].

Rob: In the episode “The Cigar Store Indian,” Kimberly Norris Guerrero made her prime-time debut as Jerry’s Native American love interest, an iconic role Kimberly says she was born to play.

[Seinfeld TV Show: You mean like an Indian giver? I’m sorry, I’m not familiar with that term (laughter)].

Kimberly Norris Guerrero: Comedy is my wheelhouse. That’s what I love. Anybody that’s been to McCurtain County, and I think in Oklahoma in general, I think humor is an aspect that defines us Oklahomans and for sure Native American Oklahomans. I mean, you can’t be with a native person in Oklahoma and not be laughing hysterically within five minutes.

Rob: Adopted at 5-1/2 months, Kimberly grew up in the Oklahoma hills of Idabel.

Kimberly: There was always a sense of being very, very loved and very protected and very included just as you would if you were a biological child. But I grew up in time of like the “Sesame Street” era where there was this little like song they would sing on Sesame Street, “One of These Things is Not Like the Others.”

[Sesame Street kids singing: One of these things is not like the others].

Kimberly: It’s always kind of felt like, oh, yeah, I’m the, I’m that one, I’m the different one. But it was never in a bad way. It was never in a way that made me feel less than or made me feel unloved or as an outsider. It was just other.

Rob: An idyllic childhood made all the richer by her Native American heritage.

Kimberly: Mom told me when I was, it was brilliant the way she, she presented it to me, I was 3-1/2 or 4, and I know it was definitely before I started school, and she said, you know, she explained to me that I was adopted and what that meant and how much they loved me. And she even had a book because there was, uh, my biological mom had put the information about my tribal heritage with my birth certificate. In this book it says that my great-grandmother Christine George was the granddaughter of Chief Seattle and they actually called her an Indian princess. And so that was there perception was that, you know, if you’re a chief’s daughter you’re an Indian princess. They tell a 4-year-old that [laugh], so I’m like, OK, I’m an Indian princess. I have responsibility to the world, to my people, to all people. And at 4 years old it was like OK, I can do this. And then at the same time, my father served on the orphanage board. It was an, it was primarily Choctaw kids that were there, and so we would go out and my dad had a department store growing up, a little, you know, country store in Idabel, and so we would take out jeans and coats and things like that in the winter. And so I went with him this one day, and it was still before, probably around that time, and it shook me to my core when I’m sitting in a nice warm station wagon with my dad on a Sunday afternoon right after Thanksgiving, and we’re dropping off all these nice clothes, and I saw all these kids that looked just like me. That looked just like me. And they’re just sitting out on the front porches of, you know, essentially these like group homes, and that’s really when it hit. It was like, there’s, I’m no different. Like, that is me. That was, you know, preschool age for me, that’s kind of what I hooked on to. It ended up being, you know, just kind of this like, this drumbeat to my life of like how do I serve? How do I serve humanity? How do I serve our indigenous people? How do I serve the people around me that I love?

Rob: And so began her interest in her native roots – taking her all the way to Los Angeles to study Native American history and follow her other passion.

Kimberly: I remember exactly the day that I decided I wanted to go to UCLA and I, watching, you know, being a good Oklahoma girl I was obsessed with college football with everybody else. And we were watching a UFC-UCLA game that happened to be on that weekend, and I saw this beautiful pom-pom girl, Barbie doll of a human being, with UCLA on her chest and the blue and gold pom-pom, and I just went, that’s what I’m gonna do when I grow up.

Rob: Which you did.

Kimberly: And I did. I mean again, it was like this illusional thing, and I’m like, that’s what I want to do.

Rob: And from that time on the sideline came Kimberly’s big break.

Kimberly: So a casting director came to the game and saw us and had myself and another girl come audition for an AT&T commercial. And I ended up getting that commercial, and I promise you, I think it was more just how goofy and how off the turnip truck I had just fallen. The guy said bring a headshot. I had no idea what a headshot was, so I brought my senior picture from Idabel [laugh], and I handed, I mean, you know, like the one that’s like the Olan Mills, like the really nice, you know, thick ones [laugh]. And so, I did my little audition and I said, and I had left the casting office and I came back and I said, “Can I get that back?” And they just fell out laughing. And so they made a photocopy of it, wrote my information down, and gave me the, and I got that part [laugh]. And that role got me with a national commercial, and it got me into Screen Actors Guild. And it also really, I made a lot of money on that commercial on it. I had no idea you made residuals, you know, so these checks kept coming in, and all of a sudden my parents I think were not so afraid of me going into the acting. That’s just, it’s a significant amount of money for one night of work.

Rob: Yet Kimberly stayed in school, earning her Native American studies degree.

Kimberly: I personally didn’t have any native professors in history at UCLA, which was fantastic program. But there were no natives teaching native history – I thought, how cool would that be.

Rob: But rather than fall back, Kimberly caught on.

Kimberly: A big role had just come out for a miniseries called “Son of the Morning Star” that ABC was doing and then it just kind of rolled from there. I went to work on “As the World Turns.” By the grace of God right after that, I got into “Northern Exposure,” and I played Ed’s girlfriend on “Northern Exposure.” And I got the Seinfeld – the epic Seinfeld job.

[Excerpt from Seinfeld TV Show: It’s late, I should probably just go home. I had no idea. (Knock, knock, knock) Hey Jerry, look what I got (Wha-wha-wha-wha-wha-wha-wha-wha) (Laughter)].

Rob: And from there Kimberly began playing predominantly native characters.

[Movie Excerpt: I was wrong. I feel endeared to the Lord].

Kimberly: I wasn’t the classic native maiden, you know, or I probably would have gotten a lot more work. But I just, it’s OK. I mean, I really, it’s beyond OK. I’m thrilled. I’m thrilled to have, you know, carved this path.

Rob: That led her to a favorite role – Oklahoma native and Cherokee Chief Wilma Mankiller.

[Movie Excerpt: I’m not considering running for deputy chief, I am running].

Kimberly: Talk about not stepping up to the plate – that was still, that even for me was a little bit, you know, overwhelming to think about trying to fill, you know, those shoes of such an iconic woman and leader and thinker and just an incredible human being. But getting to come back to Oklahoma, really, it gave me a lot of peace, and I know that I’m home, and this is one of our stories. Being able to take the two things that I love which is home, Oklahoma, and filming, I’m like, I’m happy it’s on a film set. So to have, to be on a film set in Oklahoma, you know, it was just, you know, the joy of my life. And to get to be telling Wilma’s story, and it was actually how I was able to connect with, how am I going to be, I, Kimberly, how am I going to be able to personify this woman that’s bigger than life? And Wilma herself said, she said at the heart, at my heart I’m a cheerleader. And when I heard her say that, I went, OK, we’re good, we’re good. Because in my heart, I’m a cheerleader, and so that’s where I started building the character from and just always remembering that shared common thing that we had about, you know, just cheering other people on and helping them be their best. And just to remember why I love this place I love so much.

Rob: And with those lessons learned, Kimberly’s life has started to come full circle. While still actively acting, she’s also producing now, currently shopping a reality TV series focused on native peoples, as well as working with tribal communities throughout North America as a public speaker and an advocate for personal and community development. Now, if you’d like to learn more about Kimberly, I have my full interview with her streaming on our website. Not only is she a delightful person, she has valuable insights well worth the watch. Just look for it under our value added section at

Rob McClendon: Is the next industrial revolution just around the corner? Next time on “Oklahoma Horizon,” we look at the maker movement and the new makerspaces popping up around the country.

Scott Charlson: These are people who are innovating in their garages, inventing. It makes the world a bit of a richer place.

Rob: Getting more Americans to use their hands as well as their heads, on Oklahoma’s show for the heartland, “Oklahoma Horizon.”

Rob McClendon: Thanks for including us as a part of your day. I’m Rob McClendon. Hope to see you back here next week.