The Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) honored Tewanna Edwards, a Shawnee Chickasaw elder, in recognition of her service on the OHCA Board for Diversity and Inclusion.
She has been with the OHCA since 2014 and connects tribes of Oklahoma with scholarships and programs to help people in assisted living situations regain access to a more independent life.
Ms. Edwards currently serves as the liaison officer for the Money Follows the Person (MFP) Tribal Living Choice program for long term service and support. It is a federal program that aims to bring people with disabilities and long-term illnesses from the institution back to their home in the community.
OHCA presented Ms. Edwards with a Certificate of Appreciation on July 28th during an event called “Celebration Looking Back, Looking Ahead”.
OHCA administers Oklahoma’s SoonerCare and Medicaid programs. It was developed by the council in 2020 with the aim of creating a fear-free culture within the agency. The council focuses on messaging and metrics, attractiveness and recruitment, inclusion and retention, and community partnerships.
Ms. Edwards has been a member of the council, known for its legendary leadership, since its inception.
Kevin Corbett, CEO of OHCA, said at the beginning 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 ensure the quality of our care is successful to make it available to our diverse members. “
The work of Ms. Edwards and others on the Council guides the organizational development of a more diverse culture and inclusive environment.
Their mission statement is:
“To create an environment that supports diverse talents, life experiences and perspectives and at the same time inspires innovation. The OHCA culture must be one in which all employees and members are treated absolutely equally. We are committed to creating an environment that welcomes everyone and is a safe space to express your concerns, criticism and experiences. “
Ms. Edwards’ responsibility on the council is 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 took part in a working group to improve public relations and develop partnerships with agencies. Ms. Edwards made contact with AARP and moderated discussions on culture.
Ms. Edwards has continued to serve her tribe in her role as peacemaker at Chickasaw Nation Court since its inception. She said peacemaking provides a path to inner positive peace and peacemakers seek long-term sustainable growth for their people so that their circle will be closed.
The Chickasaw Nation Peacemaking Court is a forum for resolving conflicts based on the traditions, customs and culture of Chickasaw as the basis for peace-building in resolution. The Peacemaking Court is a division of the Chickasaw Nation District Court.
She is among her other accomplishments serving on the Chickasha Human Relations Committee for the city’s mayor, telling films and documentaries such as Our Mothers Cried, serving on the Oklahoma AARP Executive Board, and receiving the first Indian AARP Honorary Award of Oklahoma AARP received in 2009.
One of her fondest memories was preparing young high school First American students for the Oklahoma Native Challenge Bowl, where they had the opportunity to learn about the history of their tribes. Between 2008 and 2012, their teams achieved more than seven podium places, including a first place.
“It was great to see her self-esteem blossom with pride in her accomplishments against many teams,” she said.
Modeled on her mother’s educational pursuits, Ms. Edwards earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in counseling.
Mrs. Edwards’ parents were Jeanette and Edwin Eugene Anderson. Her grandparents were David and Martha Quincy, role number 2401 Chickasaw contenders. She had 12 siblings with two adoptions and said she was proud of her large family.
She said members of her family attended boarding schools at some point during her 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 in the Chickasaw Cultural Center.
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