A group of researchers from Ivy League universities and the U.S. Census Bureau recently put out a report that looks at how your neighborhood can play into a child's success. Out of mountains of data from over 70,000 neighborhoods nationwide, they found the Native American population in Green Country really stood out.
"Besides training them here for the fighting on the mat, but also for the fighting we do in life every day," says Thomas Longacre.
Thomas Longacre owns Thunderkick Fitness. The former MMA fighter also takes classes at Tulsa Tech and works at AVCO roofing. Longacre is a Muscogee (Creek) Nation citizen, who also has Euchee and Shawnee blood. His family and his heritage are never far away.
"I've always had cousins around me growing up that always helped me on the school buses," Longarce says.
Cherokee citizen Brian Cooper grew up drywalling with his family. He started his career building housing for his tribe.
"I really, really enjoyed it. I told my wife, I said, 'I think I can do this,'" says Cooper.
He eventually started his own business, Cooper Construction.
A recent, first-of-its kind study by the U.S. Census Bureau and Opportunity Insights shows Cooper and Longacre are far from exceptions when it comes to Native Americans' financial success in Oklahoma. The study used tens of thousands of Census boundaries, to figure out how much of an impact neighborhoods have on a child's future income.
In Eastern Oklahoma, the Native American population on average moved from low-income growing up to middle-class as adults in their 30s. Study leaders say more research is needed to figure out why this is happening, but outgoing Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker has several ideas.
One is geography.
"That's the Cherokee way," says Baker. "If you want to pass on culture, heritage, history, language, morals, you put a kid close to grandma and grandpa."
Baker says that's how he grew up. He believes by supporting their citizens in specific ways, the Cherokee Nation can help those making minimum wage stretch every dollar.
"No medical expenses whatsoever. The tribe helps with educational opportunities," Baker adds. "If you get a new home from the Cherokee Nation, it's $350 a month including taxes and insurance."
But perhaps most import of all, is that everyone we spoke to agrees that positive role models can set up a child for success.
"Being able to tell them how to get there - yeah, giving them the opportunity to get there," says Cooper.
"The Chief that runs all of this is a Cherokee citizen and he grew up just down the road from where we grew up," adds Baker.
"I wanna grow my mindset and my business even more because my daughters are my priorities now," agrees Longacre. "I'm trying to set the stage and set the foundation for them."