2006 State of the Nation Address

Governor Bill Anoatubby
10/7/2006 4:11:49 PM

2006 State of the Nation

Today we mark the 46th Annual Meeting of the Chickasaw Nation and the 18th Chickasaw Festival; but we also celebrate 150 years since our first constitution! A little more than one month and 150 years ago, our grandfathers, grandmothers, great grandfathers and great grandmothers gathered on the banks of Pennington Creek to establish the first constitutional government of our great nation. They were taking the first steps down the road to self-government, and that is the path that we continue to follow today.

Since that day, the Chickasaw people have not only benefited from the foresight of our ancestors, we have added to and built upon that foresight to become the great nation that we are today!
Without the dedication of our ancestors to make sure that the Chickasaw Nation continued to exist and to grow, we would likely not be meeting here today to review our accomplishments.

It is that spirit of our forefathers which continues to fire our souls to this very day. And it is in that spirit that we continue the traditions of the past, traditions such as this Annual Meeting.

Before we begin the report this morning, there is something that needs to be done. This past year, we have lost two members of our legislature, close family of members of our legislature, and, just this week, one of the legislature's former members (Mitch Sperry, Mooniene Ogee and Jessie Lynch).

While these losses have hit hard, there are many of our Chickasaw families who have been similarly affected through the loss of loved ones. I have asked Jay Keel to offer a special prayer. Thank you, Jay.

Thank you for the honor of standing here before you to report on our progress. Thank you, once again, for the privilege of making this report.

Each year that we have visited about our progress, it has grown increasingly difficult to report to you how well we have done in such a short report. We simply cannot acknowledge every one of the Chickasaw Nation's accomplishments in the time allotted. Our progress in every area continues to excel, sometimes beyond our expectations. I feel grateful and honored by that progress.

Each year we set goals and objectives which are designed to serve the Chickasaw people. The key word is "serve." We, whom you have selected to serve, are honored to be of service. It is our goal to help every Chickasaw in every way possible.

To help make it easier to find those services which can help you, we have provided you with a guide. This guide is being mailed to every registered voter household.

Each service listed in the guide tells you what is provided and what the requirements are. It gives you contact points with telephone numbers, addresses and even email addresses. Please use this book as your personal reference to services offered by the Chickasaw Nation.

Last year I announced that we would designate $10 million in funding specifically for services to be provided to our Chickasaw brothers and sisters living at large. This fiscal year, which began this past Sunday, we are implementing those services and have expanded many other services to include our entire family of Chickasaws. Many of the expanded or new services will be mentioned today.

The programs we currently provide have been designed to provide special services to our young, our elders, and all the families in between. We do this through concentrating our efforts in four major areas: education, health, housing and employment.

We all know the value of a good education. We have been working diligently to emphasize the benefits that an education brings. By emphasizing education, we assure that future generations will have it better than previous generations. During the past fiscal year, we have issued more than 2,100 scholarships to students attending colleges and universities, totaling more than $3 million, with all but around $200,000 of that money coming from tribal funds.

Through tribal funds generated by our businesses, we have increased the amounts of higher education scholarships, allowing students to receive funding based on the type of college or university they attend. For full-time college or professional students, up to $2400 is allowed per semester for those attending research institutions such as OU or OSU. Those attending regional colleges will have up to $1500 per semester available and those going to community colleges will have up to $1200 per semester available.

In addition to the expenses of school itself, this past year we gave clothing grants at $200 each and also made them available to part-time students, something which had not been done in the past. Another of our newer programs makes additional grants available to help students pay for their books. Other educational initiatives were created to encourage not only studying, but excelling in those studies.

Besides providing scholarships and other funding, we believe it is important to recognize students for their accomplishments. Chickasha Holitoplichi (hoe-lee-toe-PLEE-chee) recognizes Chickasaw students who have earned a 3.0 GPA or higher each semester by providing lapel pins. This honors program also makes available graduation stoles for those Chickasaw students graduating from their college or university. Beginning next year, a graduation watch will be provided through the honors program for students who graduate with a bachelor's degree or higher, who have a cumulative GPA of 4.0.

We also assist students wishing to obtain their GEDs through our Adult Learning Program. GED preparation is also available on Fast Track, which means that Chickasaws may prepare for their GED test through an on-line Internet service. This service helps pave the way for those who want to finish their high school education and maybe even pursue a higher education.

The education system also includes our elders, who are provided computer training through our 11 elders' centers. That's right, even our elders are now on the Information Super Highway! In this past year, we also increased, by $500, the amount of scholarships provided to our students who enter vocational-technical schools, making it possible for those students to receive up to $3,000 in scholarships each year.

I reported to you last year that we were embarking upon plans to build a new $135 million hospital on tribal property just south of Ada. Those plans have continued, and (cross your fingers) we plan to have a groundbreaking ceremony for our new, state-of-the art healthcare facility in the spring of 2007!

In the past year, the Chickasaw Nation Health System has continued to increase services provided to patients. In this past fiscal year, our healthcare facilities had more than 336,000 patient visits at our ambulatory clinics, including more than 15,000 at the dental clinics and almost 9,000 at the optometry clinics.

And here are some impressive numbers: Nearly 600,000-- more than a half-million-- clinic tests were administered for our patients this past year. And, just under 800,000 prescriptions were filled by the pharmacy. That's just the beginning of what our pharmacy will be doing. The new pharmacy refill center will make filling prescriptions easier and quicker for all patients. Also, there were 438 births at the hospital!

There are numerous services provided through our health system, including early prevention programs designed to give our children protection from substance abuse. Our diabetes clinic has been very aggressive in making not only state-of-the-art treatment available, but also to provide education designed to help prevent diabetes altogether. The CHRs, working in the tribe's oldest continuous program, provided health care services to more than 35,000 people during the last year.

In service to our elders, Chickasaw Elders Energy Assistance, for Chickasaws 60 and older, helps pay summer cooling and winter heating bills. More than a thousand households were helped through this program, which also provided air conditioners to Chickasaw families who had elders living with them. We also initiated a new assisted living program for our elders. Our senior nutrition sites have also experienced growth.

Home maintenance for our elders has grown so much that we have added staff with more experience and skills to perform needed home repairs. We have also added new vehicles, new tools and necessary equipment so that more repairs may be done. The services now include home repairs, car care, weatherization, firewood delivery and lawn mowing.

We expanded the Over-The-Counter Medications program to mail those medications to our elders, no matter where they live. Our transportation program drove nearly 373,000 miles, transporting more than 7200 clients to area offices, clinics, hospitals, dialysis centers and various other locations.

We are also very proud of the accomplishments of our law enforcement division, the Lighthorse Police Department. The LPD now has 25 full-time officers, six reserve officers and seven support personnel. This past year, nearly 2/3 of the LPD's budget was funded directly by the tribe, with only about 38% of its needs provided through federal funds. The department now has three dogs, two trained in drug-detection and one in explosives detection.

Since the tribe assumed the law enforcement functions of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, police manpower in Chickasaw Indian Country has increased by more than 315%, and the average response time to calls has decreased by about 2/3, meaning the LPD responds in an average of about 35 minutes, compared to the previous response time of over 90 minutes. As part of its efforts to reduce crime, the LPD provides school and community programming, including its new Drug and Alcohol Resistance Education (DARE) and the Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) programs.

As I mentioned earlier, much of our efforts are focused on our young. Part of that effort is provided by the department of child support services. This tribal agency provides mediation to families in peril regarding child support disputes.

The tribe's child care service, part of the education division, also grew last year. The child care development department is licensed to serve children aged six weeks through the sixth grade. This department focuses on the total development of children physically, intellectually, emotionally and socially. Child care assistance provides services to Native American families by paying for child care services, along with a small co-payment made by the family.

We have also begun construction on a sick child day care center, which will allow parents of children who are not seriously ill to be able to continue to work while our staff cares for their sick children. This is one of the first such centers of its kind.

Our Head Start program continues to expand its services. The Reading is Fundamental grant was awarded to Head Start again this year. With more than 750 books given to Head Start students and more than 4,000 books being read during the year, it is no wonder that our children are truly being given a head start in their education!

Our housing division has also had an exceptional year! Besides helping to make families home-owners, 125 storm shelters have been installed. Through Chuka Chukmasi, mortgage home loans were provided and some families were helped with down payments and closing costs.

The Elders Driveway Program is a new addition to our services. We provide repair and/or construction of private driveways for Chickasaw elders aged 62 and over as well as to families which have special needs. The grant program that provides up to $3,000 in down payments and closing costs, the low income home improvement grant program and the storm shelter program have all been expanded to serve our fellow Chickasaws no matter where they live.

While the services we've talked about so far this morning are important parts of our four major effort areas, we have many other services designed to help our families and others. Among those is roads and bridges construction. Projects are made possible, which are not already funded with federal, state, county or municipal funds, including replacing dangerous bridges and building new intersections and roads. By building roads and bridges, which make it safer for our Chickasaw families, we are also making it safer for all of our neighbors and friends who travel those roads.

We continue the effort to create and provide employment opportunities for Chickasaws. As of this month, the Chickasaw Nation provides employment for 10,570 people! In order to expedite the hiring process, a new computer system allows job applicants to apply online 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But our efforts go beyond just putting Chickasaws to work with the tribe.

Our human resources department worked with outside companies, such as IRT, a call center company in Ada, which needed 50 more customer service employees, and with the Wal-Mart Distribution Center at Pauls Valley, to help Chickasaws find employment. Also, we provided summer employment for 542 Chickasaw youth. Job Club also helps provide help with employment opportunities and helps people gain skills in interviewing techniques, filling out job applications, and proper attire, as well as teaching good job performance skills.

We have numerous other opportunities for our families, including martial arts which has an average monthly enrollment of 1,236 students, a 20% increase over last year!

The horticulture department has grown. This department produced more than three tons of produce that went to farmers markets and to our senior sites. The horticulture department also operates a career development/REACH initiative which helped more than 50 people explore career choices by developing their own plan for personal growth and empowerment.

The landscaping department alone has 54 Chickasaw employees in the Ada area and 50 more Chickasaws are being employed in the Ardmore area. They have worked on community service projects, like building wheelchair ramps and landscaping public buildings, in addition to studying trades like plumbing, roofing and air conditioning systems.

Drug court support services were initiated in Pontotoc and Carter counties, with services being developed in other counties in this new year.

Our students at the Chickasaw Children's Village near Kingston had a total grade point average of 3.0, a wonderful achievement!

Family services through the Office of Strong Family Development have been expanded into the Purcell Area and are beginning in the Oklahoma City area.

Vocational rehabilitation served Indian people with disabilities in gaining or maintaining employment.

Preserving and promoting our great culture and history have also seen a successful year. The restoration of the Chickasaw White House, the home of Governor Douglas Johnston, has been completed and is magnificent!

Our plans continue to develop for the interpretive center to be located in Lee County, Mississippi at Cedarscape. This center will teach visitors about the Chickasaw village of Chi-cha-ta-la and provide insight into the ancient and recent history of the Chickasaws in the homelands.

As you may have heard, we have acquired the old Burney Institute, which was also known as the Lebanon Orphans Academy, and are working on a plan for its restoration.

We are in the process of creating a new division, the Division of Historical Research and Scholarship. This division will operate the Center for the Study of Chickasaw History and Culture and the Chickasaw Press, as well as administer the Chickasaw Nation Publications Awards and the Chickasaw Nation Hall of Fame. This new division will coordinate and operate many tribal activities designed to further Chickasaw culture.

Our division of arts and humanities has also been busy. The division helped with the world premiere of the original play, "Te Ata," which was written by a Chickasaw, Judy Lee Oliva, and presented at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha.

The division also helped in producing the book, "Chickasaw, Unconquered and Unconquerable," a magnificent picture book with photography by the world-renowned David Fitzgerald. This book, the first publication of the Chickasaw Press, is being launched during this year's Chickasaw Festival.

The Mike Larsen Elders Painting Project was completed, and planning is now going on for a major exhibit of his paintings and the production of a book to accompany the exhibit.

The Arts in Education program provided cultural arts instruction and projects with regional Girl Scout troops. Monthly cultural arts programs were presented at the Chickasaw Boys and Girls Clubs in Sulphur, Chickasha and Tishomingo, and special programs presented at area schools.

The division's work, which promotes the arts and humanities, is funded entirely with tribal money. There are many other services provided by the division, including Clemente humanities college courses at East Central University; the Chickasaw Living History Performers, the Chickasaw Theater Company and the Chickasaw Children's Choir.

No discussion of our achievements is possible without talking about the tribe's businesses. Our business success continues to grow and our strategy of diversification is being implemented. An example is Chickasaw Nation Industries, Inc., (called CNI), which has developed 12 companies, seven of which have been granted 8(a) minority business status by the U.S. government. The list of clients for CNI is impressive and includes: the U.S. Department of Justice, IBM, Titan, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Indian Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, USDA, NASA and the U.S. departments of Interior, Energy, Health and Human Services, the Army and the Air Force and the Office of the Special Trustee. CNI provides services to those clients which include things like business support, records management, document imaging, building operations and management, environmental consulting and services in the fields of energy, construction and manufacturing.

CNI's growth has been exceptional. $1.1 million in dividends were provided in FY 2006, which help to pay for our programs and services expansion. We are encouraged by the success of CNI and expect great things to come. Be prepared for the employment opportunities throughout the United States provided by CNI.

Chickasaw Enterprises, an arm of the executive branch, currently operates 57 businesses and has 6,488 employees. The new Riverwind Casino, the largest in Oklahoma, opened its doors in July. This 219,000-square-foot facility includes a 1500-seat Showplace Theater which has already featured several concerts with well-known entertainment such as Jewel and The Temptations. Riverwind will also be the site for the U.S. Premiere of Mel Gibson’s feature film, “Apacalypto.”

At Newcastle, a 41,000-square-foot training center has been established for employees in the northern region.

The Chickasaw Travel Lodge, formerly known as the Chickasaw Motor Inn, was demolished this year, making way for the new Artesian Hotel. The new structure will be closely modeled after the Artesian Hotel which burned down more than a half-century ago. The hotel will have 84 guest rooms, a spa, retail store, cafe/coffee shop and prime restaurant.

At Thackerville, our newest business was opened, the Red River Sand and Gravel company, serving customers in south Oklahoma, north Texas and the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex. Another of our new businesses which also opened recently is the WinStar Golf Course, which has been called "one of the best golf courses in Oklahoma" by many of its golfers.

The Chickasaw Nation operates Microtel franchise hotels in Thackerville and Davis. In April of this year, we were named "Franchisee of the Year" at Microtel's national awards ceremony. We also had two employees nominated for the "Guest Services Hero Award," and one of them received the award. This is a singular honor, as the Microtel corporation only considers three candidates world-wide for this honor.

Our other businesses, Bank2, Bedre Chocolates and Solara, have also shown great progress. As you can see, our businesses have had a great year.

The revenues and resulting payments to the tribal treasury made by our businesses have enabled us to increase and expand services. We have been able to put more Chickasaws to work, to provide educational opportunities, to improve housing and other services, and to continue providing the very best health care possible.

It's hard to believe that most of our accomplishments have been made, not in the last 150 years, but in the last 35 years! Just 20 years ago, the Chickasaw Nation had around 250 employees. We had three health facilities, Carl Albert and the clinics in Tishomingo and Ardmore. The businesses in operation were the Chickasaw Motor Inn, two trading posts, a bingo hall and three smokeshops. The housing authority existed, but was run as a state agency, not a tribal one.

Twenty years ago, we knew what we needed: more and better services for the Chickasaw people; we knew we would need to develop our own tribal economy so that we would have the revenues to meet the growing and changing needs of our people. We took advantage of every available opportunity, including contracting for federal programs through Public Law 93-638, and then through the compacting process. Both gave us more say in how our services were tailored, and gave us the opportunity to put more Chickasaws to work. We became the first tribe in the United States to compact for and assume operations of our entire health system.

During the next six years, we expanded that health system and opened the Ada Family Practice Clinic, the Ardmore Nutrition Center, the Food Distribution program grocery store and the Purcell Nutrition Center. To make all of our programs more accessible, we opened regional offices in Ada, Purcell, Ardmore, Tishomingo, Sulphur and Duncan. By using some of the profits generated by our businesses, we expanded our business base, entered new fields with our businesses, continuing to grow what we already had, and worked to expand into other areas. Those profits also allowed us to expand our services and to add services that the Chickasaw people needed but which were not available, all the while employing new people.

With each new business, our revenue grew, and as that revenue grew, we took advantage of the opportunities generated by that increased revenue. In just the past three years alone, we opened the new diabetes care center, the wellness center in Ardmore, the health clinic in Purcell, a new nutrition center in Ardmore and new senior sites in Pauls Valley and Purcell. We expanded our language program and completed restoration of our capitol building and the Douglas Johnston home. Our new, state-of-the-art cultural center near Sulphur is well underway and scheduled for completion next year.

Already underway are the new pharmacy refill center, the new building for our housing programs, the Ada Community Center, the Sick Child Day Care Center, a wellness center here in Tishomingo, a community center at Enos and the new senior site in Duncan, not to mention the plans for a new hospital. It is amazing what has been accomplished in the last 20 years.

As our ancestors put us on the road to being the great nation of people that we are today, so we owe them a debt of gratitude. Their foresight and desire to make the future better have enabled us to grow and to prosper. As we celebrate our remarkable achievements, let us also celebrate those who came before us and made it possible for me to report to you that the state of the Chickasaw Nation has never been better!

It is with your support that these achievements have been possible. Thank you all, and have a great celebration!