A few months after she had she turned 90 last Dec. 22, Houston resident Mozelle McKinney routinely checked her mail.
Among the letters and other items was a large rectangular blanket. On it was the Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and the word “wisdom.”
In the bottom left corner of the blanket was a woven replica of the signature of Choctaw Chief Gary Bratton, the 47th leader of what is now the third largest tribe in the U.S.
McKinney had received the gift recognizing her as a Choctaw elder. It’s a traditional tribute to Choctaw Nation members who reach the age of 90.
“To me it was out of the blue,” McKinney said. “I didn’t know anything about it before, but they have everyone’s records and I guess they knew I turned 90. I don’t have to do anything – it’s just sort of an honor.”
McKinney lived as a child in the southeast Oklahoma town of Durant (where the Choctaw Nation’s headquarters is now found). She came to Texas County at the age of 16 when her father opened a business near Fort Leonard Wood, and spent her senior year at Houston High School before holding several different jobs in the area.
McKinney is 1/8 Choctaw. Her mother was 1/4, her grandfather was 1/2 and his mother was a full-blooded Choctaw. Her grandfather, Leon Bohannon, and his brothers David and Edward were all law enforcement officers in the former Indian Territory, which is now part of Oklahoma.
“We’ve always been proud of our heritage,” McKinney said. “So many people are ashamed of it, but in Oklahoma, it was different. We were proud.”
All three Bohannon brothers were killed in the line of duty when they were in their 30s. McKinney has a 100-year-old plus picture of the trio of lawmen.
“I’m lucky to have it,” she said. “My mother’s cousin had it for years in Oklahoma, and when she died it was given to my mother, and she gave it to me. Of course when I die, the kids will probably fight over it. They all have reproductions.”
McKinney recently did a presentation and shared the blanket at a meeting of the Texas County Genealogical and Historical Society. She stays busy as a member of groups including the local Red Hat Society chapter.
“I love Houston,” McKinney said. “I think the people here are really friendly and I have so many friends here.”
“We’ve always been proud of our heritage.”
– CHOCTAW NATION ELDER MOZELLE McKINNEY