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News > Press Releases > Press Release

Press Release

Release Date: May 20, 2020

by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

  • Silas is a new walking partner recently introduced to the AYA walking app. The app combines walking with learning about Chickasaw history and culture. Silas is a character based in pre-statehood days, when Oklahoma was Indian Territory.

ADA, Okla. – With its latest update designed to keep users moving while learning about Chickasaw history and culture, the AYA walking app introduced a new walking partner kicking off a whole new series now available to download on iPhone and Android smartphones.

“Silas introduces the walker to what life was like during our pre-statehood days when Oklahoma was Indian Territory, what it was like for Chickasaws during this part of our journey. Though this time period was just a little more than 100 years ago, life has changed drastically,” said Dr. Judy Goforth Parker, Commissioner of Health Policy for all of the Chickasaw Nation.

Dr. Parker is one of the original minds behind the app and still works with a team guiding its development. She said one of the goals for AYA is to encourage Chickasaws to improve their health. Over time, it also became apparent how effective the app is at introducing people to the Chickasaw culture, language and history.

The Chickasaw word “AYA” means “to go” or “to journey.” Using step-tracking technology, the interactive mobile walking app rewards users as they move throughout their day.

Voice actors tell a historical story through walking partners, fictional Chickasaw characters living during important periods in Chickasaw history. Their stories unfold as users unlock new chapters with their steps.

Still available original characters include: Mah Wah Ta, voiced by Monica Peoples; Eliza, voiced by Cameron Mitchell; Solomon, voiced by Ace Greenwood; Akanowa, voiced by Virginia Bolen; and Hikatubby, voiced by Vincent Baptiste. LaDonna Brown voiced the narration over points of interest. Jerry Turner joins their ranks as the voice behind Silas.

“AYA uses prompts such as language, prayers, history and the Chickasaw story to encourage the reader to continue walking,” Dr. Parker said, signaling how important both learning and moving are for the app.

The recently released Silas is the first new character from AYA’s “Cattlemen” series, which will set users down new paths full of fresh points of interest.

“Chokma, I’m Silas. I live in Tishomingo, the capital city of the Chickasaw Nation, deep in the heart of Indian Territory. I’m a constable. Friends call me Si, but outlaws call me trouble. I was not born in Tishomingo, but in our original Homeland near Tockshish, Mississippi, in 1827.” the character greets users. “I’m not much on books, but if you’ll take a walk with me, I bet you can learn something. I have plenty to say on the cattle industry, life on the wild frontier and all the adventures of a country boy turned constable.”

With the “Cattlemen” series, paths are plotted out in Indian Territory, before Oklahoma statehood. It was a more rugged time filled with settlers, cowboys, bandits and fur traders. The “Cattlemen” series lets users take a step back in time and explore.

With the original roster of walking companions, users and characters walked along the same route Chickasaw ancestors walked during Removal to Indian Territory, a path that is reversed for the app from current-day Oklahoma to Mississippi. Along the way, users can still get acquainted with historical sites and landmarks. These experiences are still available in the app.

Motivation to maintain momentum appears as educational unlockable content, which consists of items like traditional prayers, hymns, locations and Chickasaw words. Silas bolsters what users can find in the app and comes with his own path, story and unlockable items.

Other new features include a healthy tips section, updated and improved group challenges, deeper notification settings, new items to discover, as well as performance and stability improvements.

The healthy tips section is a simple area to learn more about what users can do to improve their overall health. The goal is to expand on how AYA helps users on their personal health journey.

With group challenges, AYA users can team up and challenge others to a step challenge. The step challenge is averaged (from three days of user activity) and then normalized so, for example, a group of 10 people can challenge a group of 20 people and still be able to compete. Groups can now challenge up to three other AYA groups. Once in a challenge, members have a few ways they can interact with partners and challengers, including taunts, pokes, and encouragement.

“I just recently completed a challenge with a group of Chickasaws in California,” Dr. Parker said. “We have never met but we reached out through the app and walked out a challenge for over a week, sharing encouragement, teasing and kudos along the way. What a great way to improve the overall health of the Chickasaw people.”

She said this new feature, group challenges, is just one more way AYA fulfills its original mission: to reach out to all Chickasaws, bring them together wherever they may live.

There is more to come with AYA.

“We will be adding two more characters to this series who will share a different perspective on pre-statehood,” Dr. Parker said. “And we are already working on another series called “The Lawmen” which will compliment a book recently authored by Michelle Cooke.”

The app is now available for download in the Apple App Store and with Google Play, with more than 38,000 app downloads made so far. Thousands of users are currently unlocking cultural and historical insight in the app. AYA syncs to step counters in Fitbit devices or directly to phones with Apple Health kit.

AYA also syncs to an Apple Watch or other step tracking devices connected to Apple Health or Google Fit.

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