'Finding America' on NPR

Always Home

Producer: Allison Herrera

With a population of just 5000, Holdenville, OK may be small to some, but Brownie Harjo makes it seem larger than life. Today, he teaches martial arts at a small studio in one of the oldest buildings in town. Like many people living in small towns across America, the day-to-day can be a balancing act of difficult economic realities. To Brownie, it will always be home.

  • Aired on Jan. 18, 2017.

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Producer Allison Herrera with Brownie Harjo

Lead producer Allison Herrera with Brownie Harjo.

Brownie Harjo with one of his martial arts classes

One of Brownie's martial arts classes. 

The welcome to Holdenville sign off of Oklahoma state Highway 48

The welcome to Holdenville sign off of Oklahoma State Highway 48.

Main Street in downtown Holdenville. Brownie remembered how he and his friends used to "drag main every Saturday night" They'd go up and down the block in their muscle cars.

Main Street in downtown Holdenville. Brownie remembered how he and his friends used to "drag main every Saturday night" They'd go up and down the block in their muscle cars.

Main Street in downtown Holdenville. Brownie remembered how he and his friends used to "drag main every Saturday night" They'd go up and down the block in their muscle cars.

Another old building in town. Brownie said it used to be a bank.

A plaque on Brownie's building declaring it the oldest building in town.

A plaque on Brownie's building declaring it the oldest building in town.

A sign for Harjo's Martial Arts on Broadway in downtown Holdenville.

A sign for Harjo's Martial Arts on Broadway in downtown Holdenville.

Brownie and his son Tre practice while during an non-busy time in the studio. Tre commutes from Tulsa, about an hour and 1/2 drive, take classes with his dad.

Brownie and his son Tre practice while during an non-busy time in the studio. Tre commutes from Tulsa, about an hour and 1/2 drive, take classes with his dad.

Brownie and his son Tre after practice. Tre said he'd like to one day help run the place with his dad.

Tre says he would like to help run the place with his dad one day.


One of Brownie's students throws a back kick during his youth class.

One of Brownie's students throws a back kick during his youth class. 

A young student at Harjo Martial Arts in Holdenville throws a kick during practice.

A young student at Harjo Martial Arts in Holdenville throws a kick during practice.

Brownie says that he trains kids to have, "strong minds and strong bodies." This young student takes it seriously by sporting a superman suit to class.

Brownie says that he trains kids to have, "strong minds and strong bodies." This young student takes it seriously by sporting a Superman suit to class.

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