Oklahoma legislator learning the language of his constituents

Tuesday, September 5th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- In an age where many politicians struggle to even connect with voters, one Oklahoma legislator wants to do it in the native language of his constituents.

Rep. Kenneth Corn, 23, is taking a Choctaw language class at the University of Oklahoma where he is a political science major.

Although Corn, from Howe, is not a member of the Choctaw tribe, he said many people in his southeast Oklahoma district are.

"It's important for me to learn their heritage," Corn said.

"It gives me a better understanding of the development of Oklahoma.

"I don't think there is a large population that speak (Choctaw), but at the Choctaw Learning Center at Poteau they are teaching it."

He said he thinks he got a perfect score on his first Choctaw vocabulary test last Thursday.

The Choctaw class is diverse, Corn said, containing anthropology students, Choctaws and others who simply wish to learn about the cultures of Oklahoma.

Taught by Leroy Sealy, a professor of anthropology and Native American studies, Corn said the class teaches the basics and that he plans to take two more language classes to become more fluent.

"Some of my constituents who are Choctaws are thrilled I am taking it," he said. "A guy I know in Le Flore County who is Choctaw helped me go over my vocabulary."

Among many things he said he has learned about the language is that it has two distinct dialects -- Oklahoma Choctaw and Mississippi Choctaw.

Corn, a freshman legislator, will return for a second two-year term in the Legislature without opposition.

Corn, who has 37 class hours left to take, said he has promised his constituents in House District 3 that he would get his college degree.

"I think they want to make sure I complete my education," he said.