MUSKOGEE, Okla.- The Murrow Indian Children’s Home is hosting a brick fundraiser for their non-profit organization. The organization serves as an inter-tribal children’s home. The fundraiser’s initial goal is to sell at least 1,000 bricks.
Executive Director of the Murrow Indian Children’s Home Betty Martin (Cherokee) started the brick fundraiser project. It began when she decided to place bricks around the eagle sculpture on the mound outside the home. The sculpture was made by Native artist Parker Boyiddle (Kiowa/Wichita/Delaware/Chickasaw).
When it came time to add on to the statue with a brick pathway, the home needed to turn to someone who could create a design that would complement it. Kenneth Johnson (Mvskoke/Seminole) is a well known artist who came up with the layout and design with these bricks. Johnson has designed many Indigenous sculptures, jewelry, as well as arts and crafts that have been used during many events.
According to Martin, Johnson will be at the Murrow Indian Children’s Home in April to start the project. She is hoping he will be able to attend the dedication ceremony. Purchasing a brick is not only a great way to support the home, it is also a way to become embedded in the it’s legacy.
“Not only is it a fundraiser but those people will become part of history because down the road people will come and look at those. There will be all these names of people who helped support Murrow Indian Children’s Home,” Martin said.
When choosing where to place the bricks, Martin thought it would be a great idea to put them around the eagle sculpture in order to enhance it.
Bricks will be available for purchase until the end of December. Payments can be made online or by mail. For those that live locally near the home, donors are welcome to drop off donations in person.
“Our mission is to provide a safe and nurturing environment for American Indian children and provide a home placement. We provide them cultural experiences and spirituality,” Martin said.
The home takes in any Native child within the state of Oklahoma who are in tribal custody. Family placement is allowed if both parents are deceased. Placement within families depends on if a family member is available to take in the child, and if they can provide them with a safe home environment. According to Martin, the home currently houses 15 children, but they can serve a capacity of up to 30 children.
The home has two programs. One is for younger children who are in tribal custody, the other is called a transition program. This is for children who are about to age out of foster care.
Each child at the home attends a public school nearby. While the home is similar to a boarding school, Martin clarified its purpose is to provide a home for foster children.
The transition program is for children who are 18 years old, or who are about to turn 18 years old. The program helps direct them to lead an independent life. The home’s gift shop helps fund the transition program.
The transition program helps students find employment, become responsible in handling documents, budgeting, finding resources and making doctor appointments.
“To me budgeting is always a big deal because if you can’t budget, you can’t survive. Budgeting is critical to learning to live independently,” Martin said.
When the transition program first began it provided six bedrooms within each of its cottages. “In my opinion I believe that when the kids are transitioning, they should have their own space, they all need their own bedroom,” Martin said.
Overall Martin wants to see each child succeed, have fun and be able to live life independently.
While children stay at the home they take part in different activities in order to stay spiritually and physically connected to their culture. Some have been to a ceremonial ground, some have been to a powwow. The home tries to incorporate as much culture as they can into the lives of their tenants.
Before the Covid-19 Pandemic the home provided cultural activities taught by members of the community. One of those activities included crafting stickball sticks. Now post Covid, the home does not see as many people coming in to teach these activities.
One of the classes still provided includes a ribbon skirt class taught by a women’s group called Red Spirit. They currently have three girls involved, however Martin hopes to see them come back so that every girl at the home can learn how to make their own ribbon skirt.
According to Martin each child has different talents, whether it is beading, art, basket weaving, sports or playing in a band. “I always tell them you’re Native, every Native person has talent somewhere,” Martin said.
Martin recognizes the unique struggles within younger and older children. Regardless, she tries her best to make them comfortable and provide a place that feels like home.
“There are so many Native American children that are homeless, especially the ones that have been in custody and then they end up homeless. Well I just don’t want that to see that happen,” Martin said. “Also there’s a very high incarceration rate of Natives that has got to stop, we have to break that cycle.”
Making the Transition
After the children grow up and follow their own path, Martin tries to stay in touch. One former child from the home includes a young man who now works on a cruise ship, another, a young woman. They both call Martin to keep her up to date on their current whereabouts.
For children past and present, Martin wants them to feel that they are meant to be here, and are worthy to do anything they set their mind to.
“I know a lot of the kids, they just think well I could never be a nurse or I couldn’t be a doctor or things like that. But they can, they just got a slow start that’s all,” Martin said.
For more information about the Brick Fundraiser or about the organization, the Murrow Indian Children’s Home can be contacted at 918-682-2586. They also have a Facebook page, Murrow Indian Children’s Home (The Official Home Page).