2004 State of the Nation Address

44th Annual Meeting
Governor Bill Anoatubby
10/2/2004 4:35:48 PM

2004 State of the Nation

My, oh my, what a great day. Good morning and welcome again to this 44th Chickasaw Annual Meeting. Have you enjoyed this morning? I hope you have enjoyed this week as well and I hope you enjoy the rest of the festivities throughout the day.

Let's recognize our 2004 Princesses first. They were very helpful early. The Princess for 2003-2004 please stand wherever you are. And then our new reigning royalty, our Princess for 2004-2005 please stand and let's recognize you.

And then we had a wonderful, absolutely wonderful, evening at Kullihoma on Tuesday. My guess is we had probably about 1000 people out there. That was a wonderful evening, people meeting others they hadn't seen in a while and experiencing some things they hadn't experienced before. And others just sharing with each other. That was a wonderful evening.

And then the Hall of Fame, two renowned Chickasaws were inducted. The honorable Tom Cole, our Congressman was inducted into the Chickasaw Hall of Fame. We call him our Congressman Dan because he's of Chickasaw decent and we hope that another Chickasaw will be elected Dan Boren, Dan stand up.

We also inducted into the Hall of Fame, William Paul who has a distinguished a career in a legal profession, also working as chief general council for Phillips Petroleum Company for 12 years or so.

We honored Geneva Holman with the Silver Feather award for her cultural achievements. Oh what an evening that was.

This week we've had a lot of cultural activities events on the Capitol Grounds. We had youth come from all over the Chickasaw Nation and they were able to enjoy the Chickasaw culture and heritage. And I'm really pleased about that. It's become a wonderful event. We're so pleased about it.

Dr. Pennington and Mayor Morrell - thank you so much for your cooperation and your assistance in this Chickasaw Annual Meeting and Festival.

I offer my congratulations to those who have just been re-elected to new terms in office. Congratulations and I look forward to working cooperatively with each and every one of you. We expect great things in the coming years. And I appreciate the cooperative relationship that we've received and that we've had with our tribal legislature and judicial department. And we want to continue that.

The great progress that this Nation has known could not have been done without all of the cooperative relationships we have been able to form within the Chickasaw Nation, within the legislative and judicial departments and outside the Chickasaw Nation.

Our court is growing and is becoming a greater player in our tribal government than it ever has been before. I congratulate you on that. And thank you all of the elected officials for your support and your assistance in all that we do.

Now, we issue a Progress Report each year. It is in a written form and it's mailed out to you. You should have received that earlier this year. It gets into greater detail about what we are doing and how we are achieving our strategic objectives, our strategic plan. Please read that carefully. Today we are going hit highlights; you've seen some highlights already.

Last year we talked about the Arkansas Riverbed Settlement. I wanted to give you an update on that. I also want to take time to appreciate our elected senators and congressional delegation for what they did to help make this a reality. If it weren't for Senator Inhofe and Senator Nickles, if it weren't for our congressional delegation, at the time it was Wes Watkins who was in that position, and we also had many other folks that contributed to that. We received first payment, of one of four on the Arkansas Riverbed. It has taken almost a year to get that first payment, but they tell me that it will start coming in a little bit more quickly now.

Our Capitol, we've talked about that each year for several years now, it's restored now. The historic Capitol of the Chickasaw Nation is restored.

We are gathered here to celebrate being Chickasaw and to review the accomplishments of the last year. What a prosperous and successful year this has been, more prosperous and more successful than probably any year in the history of the Chickasaw Nation.

You've seen the theme of this annual meeting is "the journey continues." There are many exciting projects underway or under development. Ladies and gentlemen, the journey of the Chickasaws continues.

You have seen this morning, the individual journeys of a few of our citizens. Like each of you, in your own way, they have struggled and successfully overcome obstacles with the help of tribal programs and services.

The journey of the Chickasaws never concludes, each ending brings a new beginning. Our success cannot be measured in any one single achievement. The success that we are experiencing today began in seeds planted long, long ago. It took many, many people along the way to make it happen.

Our mission statement is to "to enhance the overall quality of life of Chickasaw people." When we first started there were four key areas that we focused on health, housing, education and economic development. Each area impacts the other: health care leads to healthier, more productive lives; housing provides safety, security and a sense of pride; education opens the doors to new opportunities; economic development provides us with needed funds, improved communities and jobs.

We have met many of the goals in each of these focus areas and consequently, have been able to be successful in many others that we started anew. Meeting one goal only means we begin working on the next. The work of the Chickasaw people is never done and as our theme says "the journey continues."

Each October, we gather to reflect on the successes and share the plans for the future. Our vision must be kept strong, keeping sight of our goals, the goals of the Chickasaw Nation. The Chickasaw Nation has been blessed in many, many ways.

Our health system is undoubtedly one of, if not the best, health care available in Indian Country. Last year, we had more than 300,000 patient visits to our health system.

In March, we celebrated the opening of the Diabetes Care Center located on the campus of the Carl Albert Indian Health Facility. This Diabetes Care Center offers the most comprehensive diabetic care in all of Indian Country.

Our diabetes program has been so successful and instrumental that the Chickasaw Nation diabetes program was asked to participate in the National Diabetes Education program. The focus of which was "The Power to Prevent Diabetes." The Chickasaw Nation received national recognition for participating in this effort.

In June, we opened the Family Life Center and Wellness facility in Ada. The family life center provides opportunities for Chickasaws and their families to participate in wellness activities. Martial arts, aerobics and weight training all contribute to the overall well-being of an individual. We have begun construction on a similar facility in Ardmore, which should be complete in the spring. We have plans to open centers in Tishomingo and Sulphur.

The strategic plan for the health system calls for health care within 35 miles of every Chickasaw citizen. We are one step closer to that goal. Next week, we will open the Purcell Health Clinic, providing much needed health care to citizens in the northern regions of the Chickasaw Nation. The Purcell Clinic joins the clinics already established in Ada, Tishomingo, Durant and Ardmore. Chickasaws, our health system is strong and is getting stronger.

Tribal health programs, available to Chickasaws, only to Chickasaws, continue to grow as well, including the denture, elder prescription, eye glass, hearing aid, medical assistance, medication assistance, moccasin trail and wellness program.

Preventative health care is an important goal. The health system has implemented several new programs designed to increase awareness of certain preventable diseases. For instance, the health system began a new tobacco cessation program that has had much success, 21 classes have been offered and 76 percent of those completing the course have remained tobacco free.

The Chickasaw Nation is also impacting health care on a global level. In July, Carl Albert Indian Health Facility hosted eleven health care professionals from several countries in Africa and our staff shared their knowledge and expertise with them. We were the only Native American health facility visited while they were in the United States.

And its not over, the health system will continue to grow and to change as we strive to improve the availability of services as we learn what health care needs are not being met. The future is bright for the Chickasaw Health System.

Many plans are in the works, including a pharmacy refill center which should speed up the refills of medication for our citizens and the hope of a health care facility in the Marlow/Duncan area. We are exploring options and planning on how we can best proceed in the future.

Now more than ever, education is the key to our children's future. And, education is a high priority. Education provides opportunities, it opens doors. Education lends itself to self-sufficiency by giving us the tools that we need to succeed in life.

From FY 2003 to FY 2004, the tribe's education budget increased by 36 percent. We are investing into the development of the future leaders of this tribe.

More than 1,500 scholarships and grants were distributed last year. Scholarships, grants, GED testing and ACT testing vouchers are only a part of what the education division provides to our citizens.

Student of the Month, academic competitions, Governor's Honor Club, Leadership Camp, Elder's Computer Literacy Program and our Aviation and Space Academy are other educational programs that we provide. These programs are phenomenal and offer great opportunities throughout the year, but, they are seasonal. Many of our students have needs year round.

Last year, we discussed the Chickasaw Children's Village in Kingston and how it would replace Carter Seminary. We are pleased to announce it is open. It's been very successful during its first year of operation. Four of the students were selected as students of the month at Kingston Public Schools. There has been significant scholastic achievement since the move to the Children's Village. Two additional cottages will be added later this year. This will allow accommodations for 100 children.

It is never too early for us to begin instructing and preparing our children. Last year, 151 students graduated from our Head Start program. Here, students are introduced to the basic skills, but our program is special. We have language programs, cultural activities and historical tours. This helps us preserve our heritage through our children.

So many of our young people do not know the proud history of the Chickasaw Nation, of their nation. Soon, we hope to restore that missing link in a very exciting way. For many years, we have discussed, planned, dreamt and hoped for a place all our own. I am honored and I'm pleased to announce that dream is becoming a reality. Thursday, we broke ground on the Chickasaw Cultural Center.

Also good news, just this week, in the U.S. House of Representatives the land exchange legislation passed which transfers 29 acres along Rock Creek in Sulphur to the Chickasaw Nation for this Cultural Center. We should be proud that our own Congressman Tom Cole authored that legislation. The bill is expected to move through the Senate in the very near future.

Things are happening and we are moving forward. I am so excited about this project. The cultural center will be a place for Chickasaws to learn about themselves.

We have a vibrant history; you've only seen part of that in this morning's presentation.

Throughout time, Chickasaws have always overcome. We have struggled, but we have triumphed. So many of the stories have almost become lost. Many do not know of the hardships and of what has been endured. I do not say this so we can feel sorry for ourselves because we don't. I say this because we're proud. We are strong and each time someone or some group or some government has taken away from us, we have come back stronger and more prosperous than before.

The cultural center will become a Mecca for Chickasaw studies and culture. The cultural center is above all else, a place for Chickasaws to learn and enjoy. But, we hope that by visiting the cultural center, others will gain a better understanding and appreciation for who we are, and what we are, and what we have, and how we have changed throughout the years.

It has been said that when you want to understand what is happening today or try to decide what will happen tomorrow, look back to what has happened before. The cultural center will serve as a vital key to our future as well. We train our children to preserve our Nation; they will know and understand what has happened before. They will understand who they are.

Our youth, our youth are living in times like the Chickasaw Nation has never seen before. Never before have we had so many enrolled in institutions of higher education. Never before have we had the quality of health care that we now enjoy. It is exciting, our children have the opportunities that some of us only thought or dreamt about.

With our success, however, we have responsibilities. We have a responsibility to our youth, to protect them, to teach them, to prepare them.

In 1995, the Chickasaw Nation formed the division of youth and family services. Since that time, many programs for children and families have been established. Some programs have even achieved national fame. Working with our youth is so rewarding. We witness remarkable changes in the lives of these young people as they participate in youth councils, leadership groups, sports camps, martial arts and many other activities.

Formal education is only a part of what is needed to be successful in life. Knowing this and believing this, we host football camps, golf camps, softball camps, tennis, baseball, basketball, cultural and leadership camps. It is equally important for our youth to learn the skills developed at these camps: teamwork, dedication, diligence, discipline and the value of competition.

The word "family" has a strong meaning with the Chickasaw people. Family is something to be cherished, to be preserved. Many programs have been implemented to strengthen our families. The PREP program and our new family initiative are designed to increase the skills we need to keep our family units intact.

You saw the video on our seniors, isn't that wonderful? We learn a lot from our senior citizens. We value our seniors. And, don't you think we have one of the better senior programs in the United States?

Our senior program experienced growth this past year as well. In May, we celebrated the opening of our newest senior site located in Purcell.

The senior sites are special places. These sites are more than buildings; here our elders can gather at a place all their own. They can share their time with friends, play games, make crafts, e-mail, that's right, e-mail. We have a thriving elder's computer literacy program.

Our seniors are one of our most important treasures and we will continue working to provide for them, as they provided for us in the past.

Later this month, another senior site will open in Pauls Valley. Future plans include moving westward to Marlow and Duncan. You've seen our campus like environment at Purcell we want to replicate that campus like environment on this new site.

The aging division will continue to grow. We will continue to help our seniors.

Another important component helping us fulfill our mission is our housing division. Quality, affordable housing is vital to the growth of our nation. A home provides us with a sense of security, a sense of pride in ownership.

This past year, more than 85 homes were constructed and another 47 are currently under construction.

The Chuka Chukmasi program which is featured in the video is a home loan program. It was honored and received national recognition from the Harvard University School of Government as one of the eight most effective and significant tribal government programs in the country.

Within the next few months, you will be able to access the new construction loan program that's in association with the Chuka Chukmasi program. The loan program will provide a significant cost savings to Chickasaws who wish to build a new home.

Another successful and very well-received service has been our storm shelter program. To date, 579 storm shelters have been installed. That is an impressive number and storm shelters are very important to the feeling of safety and security, especially in Oklahoma. But storm shelters are underground, for some they can be difficult to access. So now we just implemented a safe room program. The safe room provides protection for those who can't climb down to a storm shelter. All Chickasaws should feel safe and secure. These programs and services provide great benefit to our people.

Building communities is important. It is vital to enhance not only our own nation, but the surrounding communities. You heard Dr. Pennington and Mayor Morrell talk a little bit about partnerships. By improving and building better communities within our boundaries, we build a better nation for ourselves. Our children attend public schools, we drive on public roads, we utilize community resources. It is only fitting that we partner, that we share, and we do. We help local charities. We help local governments. We help with building bridges and roads. We work to improve all of our communities.

Economic development and the success of tribal businesses are important to the opportunities that we provide. The revenues generated from business entities provide us with much of the needed dollars that fund the programs and activities we have discussed here today. Self-sufficiency is important.

Inherently, we strive to make our own way, we have always provided for ourselves. Sixteen years ago, the tribal budget was more than 99 percent funded with federal dollars, today, our budget is only 34 percent funded with federal supplements.

Chickasaws, this is our goal, self-sufficiency, confidence that we can provide for ourselves long into the future.

Tribal businesses are allowing us to prepare for that day. This past year has been marked by the greatest economic growth our nation has ever seen. Profitability has increased; the number of people employed has grown. Today, the Chickasaw Nation employees very close to 5,500 people.

Gov. James, I know you can remember when we had one employee, but I can remember a time when we had only 30. Gov. James saw it grow substantially too. We've had such an increase. With this trend we are experiencing now, we will accomplish our goal of a diversified, self-sufficient tribal economy.

We're constantly exploring new fields and industry. As you saw in the video a few minutes ago, in February, Chickasaw Nation Industries purchased the Siemens Dematic Manufacturing plant in Marietta. This acquisition has been an extraordinary success for the tribe.

We have many exciting projects under construction or on the horizon. The business in Thackerville continues to grow and do well. A new hotel, restaurant and 1,600 seat theater are under construction and will open soon. Future plans include a golf course, children's fun area and even more accommodations. These businesses are creating jobs, to date, more than 800. We hope that this will be a destination point. That's why all these other facilities are being added.

In Marlow, we are building a new entertainment center and restaurant. We are also creating jobs and additional revenue.

Bank2 has expanded outside the Oklahoma City area and opened an office in Tulsa, expanding our banking presence and increasing our financial opportunities.

The Lazer Zone Family Fun Center in Ada is the first in a series of business ventures like this. It houses laser tag, bowling, arcade games and skating. More importantly, it provides a place for children and their families to enjoy safe and fun activities. I tried not to emphasize this one too much, but I love that place. It's going to be great for our kids and will also be a revenue producer.

Treasure Valley Hotel and Restaurant in Davis just opened. The hotel not only provides jobs and revenue for our tribe, but also serves as a training ground for Chickasaws that might be interested in the hospitality industry, its an opportunity for our people to advance and enter new careers.

Chickasaw Enterprises is growing and thriving. Economically we are strong. To maintain this level of economic growth, we must continue the search for new markets, for new opportunities. New training programs are being implemented for young people or for those who wish to learn a new skill.

This morning when you registered you received the Chickasaw Nation annual report. That's our financial report. You also received an insert. It is an annual report, an audited report as of Sept. 30, 2003. The August 31 report 2004 brings it up to date within a month ago.

Financially, we are in a unprecedented period of growth. In just one year, we have increased our employment from 4,078 to 5,500. The number of Chickasaws increased by 11 percent. These numbers will continue to grow as new programs and new businesses are developed.

There has been much progress. We are able to do things that we could never do before. We continue to follow a philosophy: create jobs, create services, provide opportunities.

Tribal assets have grown this past fiscal year. In the audited report that I mentioned, total assets grew through September 30 by more than $50 million. This past year was even better folks. In the unaudited report August 31, 2004, you received that this morning. If you compare those figures with the 2003 figures, you see an increase of $90 million.

We must be mindful, however. Economically, we are in the early stages of our growth.

We have seen the tangible results of this growth by the increase in the programs and services we provide and I'm going to repeat that. We have seen the tangible results of this growth by the increase in the programs and services we provide.

There is a direct correlation between the revenue that we receive and the programs we provide. We have seen evidence in the improvement of our health system, the activities provided for our youth, the senior sites for the elders, a state-of-the-art cultural center. These things would have been unattainable just a few short years ago.

The growth that we have seen, especially over the last few years, will one day stabilize. We will reach a point where the expansion will slow and we can turn our thoughts to other things. But, for now, our vision is focused on growth and improvement of the Chickasaw Nation, the Chickasaw Nation as a whole.

Growth is a phase. The revenue that you see in the annual report is obligated. It is not in excess. It is not money on hand. It's not dollars that are lying around. These dollars are working for you. As it should be, these funds are dedicated to health, to education, to the future development and expansion of tribal enterprises. These funds are dedicated to our youth, to our elders, dedicated to strengthening our tribal government.

We are preparing for the future. We are also preparing for a rainy day. Cash reserves are being established, but we are not near where we need to be. We should be careful. We have responsibilities, responsibilities to our citizens, to our nation.

The revenue you see is being used for the betterment of the Chickasaw Nation. And as the businesses grow and thrive, so do the programs and services provided. Our nation is poised to become even greater, even stronger and more prosperous.

We, all of us, are writing history each day. We are working to provide for our future. This past year has been one of growth, one of prosperity. We are rich in pride, pride in our nation, in our people, in our history and for our future.

Our work is not done. Our growth has not reached its peak. Achieving new success will require boldness as we steer our way on our course. We must not let our confidence in past successes cause us to become complacent. We have much left to do. The next year will bring greater things for the Chickasaw people. And you will help us make that happen.

Our nation has always been one of great opportunities. Our nation has continuing responsibility, responsibilities to protect what we have and provide for the future generations of Chickasaws.

Together, we will write the future of this Nation and its people. Chickasaws, the state of the Chickasaw Nation is strong. Thank you.