NewsNative America: Road to Recovery


Tribes working with Okmulgee to recover from the pandemic

Posted at 10:42 PM, May 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-25 10:45:04-04

OKMULGEE, Okla. — At Miss Mary's Market in Okmulgee, the lunch crowd is coming in, and employees are hard at work, but the pandemic did bring its challenges to the popular downtown store.

”It has been very tough. It’s caused us to be extra creative to learn how to pivot, to learn how to adapt," said Jill Rhodes with Miss Mary's Market. "This is our first time ever having a retail or small business. So, we were caught off guard, but we have a really supportive community."

For the last couple of years, Okmulgee tried to revitalize its historic downtown, and it has been dubbed "Okmulgee Rising."

The global outbreak of COVID-19 never hurt this town’s spirit to continue on its path to building back better.

”We really came together as a community," said Heather Sumner with Okmulgee Main Street. "We’re really good at that, and we take a lot of pride in that."

During the pandemic, the community grew together with its partners at the Muscogee Nation. Mayor Richard Larabee continues to hold weekly meetings with Chief David Hill.

"When you say all the CARES Act money they’ve pumped into the community, gosh, between the meat processing plant, a new GSA facility to store the first responder equipment, the PPE, you know that we like to call it, they have pumped so much dollars in,” Larabee said.

On top of those new projects, FX’s Reservation Dogs, directed by Native American filmmaker Sterlin Harjo chose Okmulgee to film the pilot and first season.

READ MORE: Extras announced for FX series Reservation Dogs

"When we first started hearing about this, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this could really have that same impact for our community,'"

It’s something small businesses are already noticing.

"From the very beginning, even when they were just scouting Okmulgee, they came in, asked about our business, wanted to know if we were a family business," Rhodes said. "They support local. When they found out myself was a sole owner and what our vision was, providing a job for our daughter, they jumped right on board."

"Even though it hasn’t aired yet, the financial impacts of them filming here, what they’ve done for our businesses, now most businesses are starting to get back to normal, so to speak," Larabee said.

"If they can use us for lunch, they will," Rhodes said. "If they can use us for gift baskets, they will, and that has been a lifesaver for us.”

The show is still filming on-location and is expected to air sometime this year.

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