Values and family create leaders

By Tanya Lee,

Condensed by Native Village

Mississippi: Norma-Chaé Isaac, 18, is a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.  After graduation, she hopes to attend Oklahoma University to major in Native American Studies. “Their program is really fascinating to me," Isaac said.  "I’ve always been really big on Native American culture.”

Following college, Norma-Chae hopes to work at at the National Museum of the American Indian, a place she believes should have more display place for smaller tribes. 

Then, after a couple years, Norma wants to return home to become a teacher. Her goal is to teach Choctaw history at her high school.

“For me, it’s about keeping the culture alive," she said.  "I’ve done that by my traditional Choctaw beadwork, turning it into an art and doing something good with it.”

The “something good” has to do with Nicholas, her autistic 17-year-old brother.  When Norma-Chae goes to powwows, she sets up a table to talk to people about autism, a neurological disorder.

Isaac also raises money for Autism support groups by raffling or auctioning off her beadwork at powwows. One organization she helps is TEAAM, (Together Enhancing Autism Awareness in Mississippi.) TEAAM runs a summer camp for autistic youth, Isaac said. TEAAM sent her a letter saying their funds were low, so they could not provide enough activities for their older campers. “I wouldn’t want my brother to be bored if he went there," she said.”

At Choctaw Central H.S., Norma-Chae is a top student in the senior class. She is also an artist, fancy shawl dancer, soccer player, and involved in her school's robotics team. Norma-Chae has just finished her reign as Louisiana Indian Heritage Association Pow Wow Princess.

When asked for her idea of a strong Native women , Isaac named three women in her life:

Former Choctaw Indian Princess Tia Anderson. "She is the epitome of a strong Choctaw woman. She has this quality about her. When I hear ‘strong woman,’ I picture Miss Anderson. She managed school and her duties as a princess. She is preparing to be a lawyer. I see all these wonderful things that she’s doing and how she’s contributed.

Danielle Isaac, Cousin: . "She is more of a family type of Choctaw woman, wanting to be there for the family. I admire her very much.”

Her mother. “My mother is the most influential woman in my life. She reached a point in her life where she knew she could be strong, and she made me stronger. Everything my mother does makes me appreciate her more, makes me stronger. Even when I do mess up something, she’s always there for me. She is my rock, something I can just lean on when I’m at the lowest point or at the highest.

In fact, Isaac’s bond to her mother is celebrated within her name: Norma-Chaé Ishki Hoba Isaac. "Ishki Hoba"   means “look or be like mother,” Isaac explained.

Isaac offered a quote to explain a bit of her personal philosophy: “If you shoot for the moon and miss, at least you’ll be among the stars. Even if you don’t come close to what you are aiming for, you’ll still be up there, doing community work, or being with your family or even friends.”

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