Nestled in the southeast corner of Oklahoma lies a town of 1,100 people. Talihina was born in native culture, long forgotten railroads, and a deadly plague. Surviving from the late 1800s, Talihina bears many miles of old railroad and bandit memorabilia. Before those times we were Tʋlihina meaning “Iron Road” in Choctaw.
Our own name and our very existence traces back to our roots in Indian country and the great steel horses that ran through these mountains. Our community formed around industries that over time lost their way as the Iron Road left, but our identity is still that of a frontier town. Another cornerstone of our mountain town, long forgotten and often hushed is something that could have ended us forever.
Consumption. The White Plague. Phthisis .
Tuberculosis ravaged the nation, particularly the poor and under developed areas like Oklahoma. Talihina became home to two sanatoriums which bore dozens of buildings for occupancy between them. The Eastern Oklahoma Tuberculosis Sanatorium and Choctaw-Chickasaw Tuberculosis Sanatorium would over time care for hundreds of thousands of men, women and children. Both had many separate wards for different types of patients with capacities in the hundreds. Many of these facilities were state-of the art, the children’s building for a time was even accredited as part of the Talihina Public School System. Most of these buildings stand today as reminders of our long and notable history.
Our town was and continues to be a medically-oriented area. Both sanatoriums have facilities that still operate today. The EOTS became the OSS over time, then the Talihina ODVA in 1975. The Choctaw-Chickasaw Sanatorium became the “Old Indian Hospital”. Its doors finally closed in the late 1990s. Medicine and healthcare have always been in our blood. Currently we are home to the first completely tribe-financed hospital in the US, Choctaw Nation Healthcare Center.
It’s a secret to none that our town is largely held together with direct help and infrastructure from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Throughout the years they have remained a main staple for medical care, jobs, revenue, and development for our town. It should be no surprise that according to 2020 records, over 70% of our student body are Native American. Our town is very nested in its native identity and its wild west aesthetic plastered over almost every business and mural we have.
Talihina predates Oklahoma and bears a fierce identity that sets it apart in many ways from surrounding historic areas.