Jasha Lyons Echo-Hawk
What ideas do you have to better the lives of Oklahoma’s children?
I am most particularly interested in not only preserving Soonercare, but would wish to expand on sustainable funding for health care. Thirty-five percent of Oklahomans have skipped necessary medical care because they cannot afford it and I think about that impact on expectant mothers and working parents. This all influences the impact on children. I am also particularly interested in the health outcomes of children of incarcerated parents. With the world’s highest incarceration rate per capita, many of the women in our prison systems are mothers (85%) with a little more than half having been a single parent before imprisoned. Mass incarceration is, if not beginning to, look like a historical trauma event and is certainly a public health issue when we can look at the impacts that it has on the children. True criminal justice reform would reflect on the consequences of the current justice system’s impacts to Oklahoma children. The womb-to-prison pipeline cannot continue to sustain Oklahoma.
What have you done to support children prior to this election?
I am a former early childhood educator and it was within this work that prompted my initial interest in policy work. Having been hands-on in seeing how little funding and respect this field of work gets is at the detriment to the early learnings of our Oklahoma children. As far as volunteer work, I maintain a position as youth coach for softball, but have also coached youth basketball. Access to sport and opportunities within the sport are incredibly important to me to determine both positive physical and mental health outcomes of children. I would seek out sponsorships and fundraising efforts to offset the cost of uniforms, tournament, team photos, and league fees to ensure that all players could successfully participate. I have also volunteered with the office of the Osage/Pawnee CASA program and this has influenced my advocacy to recruit more advocates especially Native parents to foster Native children. I have also held a volunteer position with the Title VI Indian Education Parent Committee and have help raised money for the children within this program as well as given time to help with program coordination of cultural significance. Last, I volunteer with various programs of the Pawnee Nation, such as the Pawnee Seeds Preservation Project and the youth programming from the Education department. I firmly believe in the value of our youth and the need to create or showcase the thriving opportunity that our Indigenous teachings can offer to the contemporary world.
What will you do to support families in your new role, if elected?
We have a quality of life issue here in Oklahoma. We have made so many cuts to core services looking for a surplus, that is neither sustainable nor logical, because it comes on the backs of Oklahoma families. I am a mother of young children and I am also the product of a working parent home in which, when services are at being implemented at top-level, the program and the people succeed. I am in overwhelming favor of criminal justice reform. That is an emergency issue that the state must deal with. I would support the restoration of the Earned Income Tax Credit. I am for fiscal policy revisions for child-related programs, such as childcare assistance, so that they are restored and sustainably maintained. We have to think about these services not as a hand-out, or even as a hand-up, but rather as an investment in our people, in our families, in our community.