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Press Release

Release Date: August 19, 2021
by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) honored Tewanna Edwards, a Chickasaw elder from Shawnee, in recognition of her service on OHCA’s Council for Diversity and Inclusion.

She has been employed by the OHCA since 2014, connecting Oklahoma tribes with grants and programs so individuals in assisted living situations can regain access to more independent living.

Ms. Edwards currently serves as liaison for the Money Follows the Person (MFP) Tribal Living Choice Program in long-term service and support. It is a federal program designed to transition individuals with disabilities and long-term illnesses from the institution back into their homes in the community.

OHCA presented Ms. Edwards a certificate of appreciation July 28 during an event called the “Looking Back, Looking Forward Celebration.”

OHCA administers Oklahoma’s SoonerCare and the Medicaid program. It developed the council in 2020 with the goal of creating a fear-free culture within the agency. The council focuses on messaging and metrics, attraction and recruitment, inclusion and retention, as well as community partnerships.

Ms. Edwards has served on the council since its founding, which she said is known for its legendary leadership.

Kevin Corbett, CEO of the OHCA, said at the onset of the council, “While it is crucial for our employees to feel safe at work, it is equally important for our agency to be diverse in order to successfully improve the quality of care we provide our diverse members.”

The work of Ms. Edwards and others on the council guides the organizational development of a more diverse culture and an inclusive environment.

Their mission statement is:

“To create an environment that supports diverse talent, life experiences and perspectives, while continuing to inspire innovation. The OHCA culture must be one where all employees and members are treated with absolute equality. We are committed to establishing an environment that welcomes all people and is a safe space to express your concerns, criticisms and experiences.”

Ms. Edwards’ responsibilities on the council are to promote equality and inclusion, create a free environment, collaborate with others, attend meetings, learn new skills and contribute to positive change.

As part of her duties, she participated in a workgroup to enhance community outreach and build agency partnerships. Ms. Edwards linked up with AARP and facilitated conversations related to culture.

Ms. Edwards continues to serve her tribe with her role as peacemaker at the Chickasaw Nation Court, and has done so since its founding. She said peacemaking provides a road for inner positive peace, and peacemakers seek long-term sustainable growth for their people, for their circle to be complete.

The Chickasaw Nation Peacemaking Court is a forum for resolving conflicts using Chickasaw traditions, customs and culture as the basis for finding peace in the resolution. The Peacemaking Court is a division of the Chickasaw Nation District Court.

She lists among her other accomplishments serving on the human relations committee of Chickasha for the city mayor, narrating films and documentaries such as “Our Mothers Cried,” serving on the executive council of Oklahoma AARP, and receiving Oklahoma AARP’s first Indian Elder Honor award in 2009.

One of her fondest memories was prepping young high school First American students for the Oklahoma Native Challenge Bowl, where they had the opportunity to learn the history of their tribes. Between 2008 and 2012, her teams earned more than seven podium placements, including one first place position.

“It was awesome to witness their self-esteem blossom with pride of their achievements against many teams,” she said.

Following the example of her mother’s educational endeavors, Ms. Edwards obtained a bachelor’s degree as well as a master’s in counseling.

Ms. Edwards’ parents were Jeanette and Edwin Eugene Anderson. Her grandparents were David and Martha Quincy, roll No. 2401 Chickasaw enrollee. She had 12 brothers and sisters, with two adoptions, and said she is proud of her big family.

She said members of her family attended boarding schools sometime during their lifetime. They also regularly attended stomp dances and First American church services.

She has four children, Sonja, Elisha, David and Polly, with many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Her great-uncle, Otis W. Leader, was a Choctaw Code Talker and war hero. She said his medals and documents have a home at the Chickasaw Cultural Center.