2013 State of the Nation Address

Coming Home
Governor Bill Anoatubby
10/5/2013 9:30:00 AM

2013 State of the Nation

Welcome to the 53rd Chickasaw Annual Meeting and thank you for being here today!

People are listening on KCNP and watching on the Chickasaw.net website.

It’s great to be together again right here in our capital of Tishomingo, and on the campus of Murray State College, of which I’m an alumnus.

We appreciate the hospitality of both the city and the college.

Thanks to Mayor Tom Lokey, the city council and the residents of Tishomingo for their helpfulness.

Also, thanks to President Joy McDaniel and the Board of Regents, of Murray State College, for your support and your assistance.

The support of these fine institutions and their leadership makes the Chickasaw Nation Annual Meeting and Festival.

We had a lot of activities this week.

We had the golf tournament, the softball tournament, the Junior Olympics and the cornstalk shoot.

Let’s congratulate Little Miss Chickasaw Jacee Underwood, Junior Princess Faithlyn Seawright and Chickasaw Princess Savannah Burwell.

And congratulations to our elected officials who took the oath of office.

We appreciate Mary Jo Green, Linda Briggs, Tim Colbert, Beth Alexander and Justice Mark Colbert.

We look forward to continuing our work with you.

We had the Senior Olympics on Wednesday.

It was a really great time and it was well attended. I enjoyed being there for the opening ceremonies.

Thursday we had the Cultural Evening. The turnout was exceptional.

One of the activities included the Arts and Culture Awards. Dr. Shannon Speed was honored as Dynamic Woman of the Year and Mr. Jerry Imotichey received the Silver Feather Award. Congratulations to them and all the artists and writers who received awards at the Arts and Culture ceremonies.

Also, at the Cultural Evening, the Chickasaw Press released three new titles:

“Riding out the Storm: Nineteenth Century Chickasaw Governors,” by Dr. Phillip Carroll Morgan, “Chikasha Stories, Volume Three”, by Glenda Galvan, and illustrated by Jeannie Barbour, and “Footprints Still Whispering in the Wind” by Margie Testerman.

The Press has really been successful in its work, and we appreciate what they do to preserve that which is Chickasaw.

We sincerely hope you enjoyed this week, and we encourage you to enjoy the rest of this day’s activities.

It’s good to come together to discuss the progress of this great Nation, and to catch up on the happenings and accomplishments of the last year.

The Chickasaw Nation had another successful year.

We had advancements in services, commerce, tribal government and finances. 

The Chickasaw Nation has never been in better shape and the state of the Chickasaw Nation is the best ever!

In February, a new 53,000 square foot health clinic was opened right here in Tishomingo.

Many new services that weren’t offered are now offered at the clinic.

Staffing has increased from 26 at the former clinic to now 82 employees.

Overall in the health system, we saw growth

We had over 500,000 patient visits at the health system last fiscal year.

The pharmacy filled more than 1.2 million prescriptions during this last year.

Some services are unique to our area. 

The medical center is the only rural hospital that offers cardiac CT.

This valuable service is really important and it has been available at our medical center since November.

Also on the campus of the medical center is the Chikasha House, it opened in July. 

These units were designed to relieve families who live outside the area of costs related to travel and lodging.

There are two 2,000 sq. ft. housing units and they accommodate up to eight families of four.

Since opening, 19 families have utilized the houses.

The summer food program, is also operated out of the health department it’s under nutrition services, they served over 20,000 meals during the summer. 

This program provides nutritious meals to children at various locations throughout the Chickasaw Nation.

We still celebrate our new medical center in Ada.

You may remember, in order to build the medical center, we issued $90 million in bonds and invested another $60 million in tribal funds

This allowed the Nation to improve health care services, but we didn’t have to wait to accumulate the funds needed for construction, equipment and fixtures.

At the time when those bonds were issued we pledged that we would retire the debt as soon as possible.

We have taken that pledge seriously!

This year, when an opportunity presented itself, we were able to retire another $27,830,000 of those bonds.

The balance owed on the bonds now is down from the original $90 million to $16,690,000.

These early payments have saved the Chickasaw Nation considerable interest.

Our education division has continued to add new activities for our Chickasaw students.

This year, the division established the Chickasaw Summer Leadership Academy. 

Activities within the education division always revolve around providing opportunities for students.

Higher education provided scholarships and other forms of support in the amount of $15 million to more than 4,000 students.

This division engages in many beneficial activities supporting the education of our people.

One way our department of family services assists families is by promoting wellness inside the family.

Overall wellness requires attention to the whole person: the complete person.

Addictions and other emotional illnesses are barriers to good health, just like heart disease, diabetes or cancer. They should be treated with the same vigor as other health concerns.

To that end, the Chickasaw Nation is elevating the capacity of mental health services.

We believe that the family systems approach of addressing mental health is the Chickasaw way of thinking.

We seek to include the entire family in finding treatment solutions.

Additionally, treatment methods are culturally competent and provide aftercare in our communities.

The Adolescent Transitional Living Center, in Pauls Valley, opened in February. 

This 24 bed facility, provides substance abuse and low intensity treatment for youth aging from 14-18.

An outpatient services clinic is located next door to the living center.

The program employs 23 people.

Since April, 80 individuals have been served.

We are making plans, and are committing resources, to expand adult substance abuse treatment and to establish a comprehensive program to assist with more intensive, urgent mental health circumstances.

The departments of family services and health are working together to develop a model that addresses this vital area.

We opened a softball complex in July. It is located in Ada and includes two regulation-sized softball fields and one youth-sized field.

The fields have bleachers, dugouts, warm-up areas and are lighted for evening games.

In addition, it has a half-court outdoor basketball area as well as a playground area.

It was created to complement on-going community wellness efforts that we’ve made over the years.

The Chickasaw Nation’s business portfolio continues to expand.

In December, we opened the Salt Creek Casino. This business is located nine miles north of Chickasha. 

Nearly 200 jobs were created. The business is already meeting our expectations.

In November, the new production operation of Bedre’ Fine Chocolates and the Chickasaw Welcome Center were opened at the junction of Interstate 35 and Highway 7. 

These two operations work hand-in-hand to promote tourism in the Murray County area and throughout the Chickasaw Nation.

The Chickasaw Travel Stop, located just north of Highway 7 at the Davis exit, also opened in July. 

This adds to the chain of CTS (Chickasaw Travel Stop) stores that the Chickasaw Nation operates.

The Artesian Hotel, Spa and Casino, in Sulphur, opened with fanfare in August. 

Much like the original, it is a grand hotel that was located on that site, it is already becoming popular to the casual and the business traveler.

We broke ground on the Sovereign Clinic at Riverwind in November. 

This facility will primarily serve the employees of Riverwind, but will also be open to the general public.

We had another great Hall of Fame induction ceremony in May with record attendance.

We congratulate inductees: Colbert Latimer “Bud” Baker, Betty Ruth Kemp, Gene “Nashoba” Thompson.

We also congratulate the families of Thomas Benjamin Thompson, Sr. and Benson Pikey who were inducted posthumously.

We appreciate the work of these Chickasaws who contributed to the progress of our Nation. Their images are enshrined in the Honor Garden at the Chickasaw Cultural Center.

There has been a tremendous amount of activity within our programs and services this last year.

It would be quite time consuming if we tried to go over all of those today so we will just hit the highlights this morning.

To be responsive to the needs and wants of the Chickasaw people, we must be willing to change the structure of this organization that serves you.

This willingness and flexibility to change will assure you the most effective and efficient tribal government possible.

We have just completed the first phase of an organizational regrouping.

Eight upper level departments are now responsible for day to day operations.

The departments are: health, treasury, commerce, family services, communications and community development, interior services, culture and humanities and community services.

Eight secretaries oversee these departments.

Departmental secretaries in the auditorium, please stand and be recognized.

We appreciate them and the talented leadership that they provide.

In May, tornadoes caused great devastation in several parts of Oklahoma.

While the tribal government sustained some damage, the devastation suffered by many of our citizens and employees who lived in the affected areas was traumatic.

Many Chickasaw Nation employees went to work quickly to aid the affected families.

They worked alongside others in helping the disaster victims.

Our employees are absolutely the best. Let’s give them a round of applause for doing that!

Besides the many volunteers who physically helped people in need, through a disaster relief fund, the Nation was able to assist families with basic necessities and shelter.

We thank all who have contributed to that fund. All proceeds are used to directly assist the people affected.

There were hundreds of Chickasaws living in the disaster area.

Watch the screen for one family’s story of tragedy and determination.

Summer and Addyson Roberts and family from Moore are here today. Please stand and be recognized.

Our hearts go out to you.

We know that the job is not done, and we intend to work until it is.

We talked about the rules that have been developed by IRS and that they’re intended to be guidelines and how they will apply.

This year we are a little closer to a conclusion. 

Chances are, based on the reports that we received most of the services and benefits will only require some tweaks to our existing system. 

However, others may require some changes and some a complete overhaul. 

So be assured, we will work to protect all we’ve done that has taken decades to create.

We will certainly keep you posted on it.

The progress of our pending litigation seems to move rather slowly.  That’s the nature of the legal system.

Mediation continues in the water rights case. 

All parties continue to meet regularly in hopes of reaching a conclusion. Much effort has been invested in this, and we hope for a positive outcome.

Negotiations on the trust case were not successful.

The value of our claim could not be agreed upon by the government and the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations. 

So, we have returned to the courtroom.

Counsel for the parties appeared before the judge to present their case and have filed all necessary documents.

And now we await the judge’s decision.

The theme of our annual meeting is “Coming Home: Sharing Our Stories.”

In keeping with the theme, we should take time to remember the changes that have taken place within our Nation.

So, let’s remember the story of the Chickasaw Nation.

In the long history of our Nation, our people have been focused, they have been resilient and they have been determined.

Even after European explorers disrupted our way of life, our tribe persevered and adapted to the changing times.

Even after we were uprooted from our homelands in Mississippi, we re-established ourselves and our Nation and set about making a life in a new territory.

Even when the territory we occupied and owned was broken up into allotments and an attempt was made to divest us of our government, we continued to hold our families together and wanted for something more.

For decades, attempts were made to acculturate us and destroy the bond that held us together.

We held on to our hope that one day we would again be self-governing and self-determined.

That hope changed to action in the 50s and 60s when community leaders fought for our ability to select our own leadership.

In 1970, it became a reality, and in 1971, we had our first gubernatorial election after Oklahoma statehood.

But, that was not enough for our people, our people wanted a constitution.

The elected leadership answered with an opportunity to create one, and one was established in 1979 even though it lacked the same authority that existed before statehood.

A landmark federal court decision changed the whole landscape, when it ruled that our 1867 Constitution was still in effect.

Then, a historic reformation process took place that combined the 1979 and 1867 Constitutions.

In 1983, thirty years ago, a new constitutional form of government was established by the Chickasaw people. Our sovereignty was affirmed.

We were in a new age: a time of self-determination, self-governance, a time to correct decades of paternalism and do for ourselves.

This was a time of change: a time to embrace our freedom, but more importantly, take responsibility for our future.

Our leaders took into account every difficulty, every problem the Nation faced and made each one a challenge for the future. 

A challenge to improve on what was, and, a challenge to dream of what could be.

During the years that followed, many advances were made in tribal government, commerce, cultural activities and the ability to control our own affairs…to affect our destiny.

Priorities were set. A plan was developed.

The same opportunities, the same rights and the same powers to select our own destiny were needed for our people just like the rest of society.

More educational opportunities were needed. Through education, we could have improvement in the prosperity of our people and of our Nation.

Better health care for Chickasaws was a necessity.

Opportunities for safe, decent housing were continued as a priority.

Employment opportunities were needed. Through employment, individuals could provide for themselves and their families, leading to greater self-sufficiency.

We are a spirited people.

Our heritage is a source of great pride in our Nation. Our culture, language and heritage bind us together and make us strong.  

Programs were needed to create a better understanding of our Nation’s values, history, language and culture.

Our tribal government needed to be placed on a firm financial base.

Our people needed to be unified.

All of these goals, along with others, would shape the direction of the Chickasaw Nation for decades.

Much was achieved in a relatively short period of time because of hard work and perseverance, and much was yet to be accomplished.

Let’s take a glimpse of the changes a person would find if they were “coming home” for the first time in years.

We’ll place some information on the screen behind me.

We’ll look at the past and we will look at where we are today based on some, certainly not all, comparative indicators of the status of this great Nation.

October 1, 1987 we had just experienced a $90,000 deficit. Deficit in our trust funds, the source of funding for our tribal budget. 

In August 1987 the trust funds were about $440,000.

But the very next year on October 1, 1988, we reported a surplus of over $22,000 bringing that account to over $460,000, reversing the trend of deficit spending.

The total assets were nearly $13 million.

There was success in increasing the number of federal programs and those budgets had grown to almost $8 million.

The tribal budget beginning the first of October 1987 was about $200,000.

We owned about 1,900 acres.

The Nation employed about 260 people and the Housing Authority employed another 100.

We had four businesses that transferred funds to the Nation during fiscal year 1988 that prevented another tribal budget deficit.

We opened a senior citizens site here in Tishomingo that year and that brought the total of the senior sites to three.

In addition to operating a health clinic in Tishomingo, a second clinic was opened in Ardmore. The Indian Health Service, of course a federal agency, operated Carl Albert Indian Health Facility.

Higher education funding was around $200,000 and provided scholarships to 157 students.

A Head Start center operated in Ada with 50 students.

The Nation received congressional approval of the Railroad Station Grounds settlement.

We continued work on the Arkansas Riverbed settlement.

We reached an agreement on the re-acquisition of the Chickasaw Capitol building in Tishomingo.

A community development block grant funded the major cost, but then what was left over to pay, we had to pay out in installments over a period of three years.

The Chickasaw legislative and judicial departments operated from the headquarters building in Ada and it was cramped. Space was limited.

Most all services were delivered out of Ada.

We operated 33 programs but we were about 99 percent dependent on the federal funding for our programs.

The Chickasaw legislature passed numerous resolutions and enactments including the employee code, reprinting of the Chickasaw language dictionary and economic development initiatives.

The judicial department issued several decisions regarding the Chickasaw Constitution and helped provide clarity of the lines of authority and operation in tribal government.

All in all, the Chickasaw Nation was on a path of progress. The groundwork had been laid to move the tribe forward.

Much had improved on several fronts and more services were available to the people.

Tribal businesses were poised to provide funding needed to run the operation of tribal government and deliver services to the people.

Well the tribe established goals and they became important to the success of our Nation. 

The goals became a plan and then the plan became our vision.

Your tribal government has matured in the 30 years since the 1983 Constitution. 

It is more sophisticated, more effective and more professional in nature. It gets more done.

The Chickasaw legislature and judicial departments have established themselves and they’ve done it in a highly professional fashion, handling their own systems and their processes, employing professional staff and occupying their own buildings and offices. 

Each department functions well within the framework that the constitution envisioned.

The legislature established a tribal code of laws. The code is amended when necessary to accommodate new needs or to adjust for changing circumstances.

The goal of establishing a strong financial base for the Chickasaw Nation has been met and is continuing to get stronger.

Operation of the tribal government and services to the people are the highest priorities. 

Stability of the government, financial and otherwise, provides the platform for everything else that’s done.  But, most important are the resulting services.

Now the tribal trust funds were in jeopardy in 1987 but were managed to produce a strong backup for the tribe’s treasury. 

We no longer utilized the trust funds for the tribal budgets, the balance has grown to over $20 million.

Our assets have grown nearly two hundred fold and title is held to almost 12,000 acres of wholly owned land. 

It’s a stable holding and today we are on a strong financial base.

Services are our highest priority and the budgets from federal sources and tribal sources are now $170 million and $202 million respectively.

Included in those budgets are governmental costs and the many service programs that we operate.

On the screen in front of you are examples of those programs. 

Included are more than 4,000 students that received $15 million in scholarships, grants and other support for their education needs.

We now operate four head start centers serving 271 students.

There are now 12 senior sites that served 157,000 meals last fiscal year.

We compacted with the Federal Government and now operate the entire health system formerly under Indian Health Service. 

The system includes six health facilities and provided more than 500,000 patient visits and filled 1.2 million prescriptions during fiscal year 2013. 

We now operate a state-of-the-art medical center that replaced the former Carl Albert Indian Health Facility.

The Nation operates 216 tribal programs and 68 federal programs that assist Chickasaws in numerous ways. 

And we now have eight regional offices taking the services to the communities that we serve, one of which is in Oklahoma City. No longer do citizens have to drive to Ada to receive needed services.

The Chickasaw Nation now employs almost 13,000 people in various entities and this includes those employed within the tribal government and the more than 100 businesses that we operate.

Those businesses now provide 100 percent of the funding for our tribal programs and budgets.

We settled the Arkansas Riverbed court case and we retained the wetbed of the river.

A fabulous cultural center is now in place and a myriad of tribal cultural programs acquaint Chickasaws and non-Chickasaws alike with the rich culture, history and traditions that make up our wonderful and proud Chickasaw heritage.

When you look at the overall changes that have taken place, we are in a very good situation financially, and that status allows us to do more. It allows us to fund more programs, operate at a higher level and make a greater difference for our people.

We are more unified as a Nation and have greater participation in tribal governmental affairs.

Today, tribes in general, and our tribe more particularly, have risen to a place of prominence in the society around us.

There is greater respect for the institution of tribal government, inside and outside the tribe.

We are experiencing a true renaissance in almost every aspect.

The Nation has risen to a place of influence and the people around us are feeling the effects of that. 

Whether it be the effects of an individual citizen’s contribution or the tribe’s contribution as a whole, we are affecting things like education, government, the economy, health care, social welfare and in general, society around us. 

And these effects are positive, making our contribution one of great value to those around us - a dramatic change from 30 years ago.

Today, our people have every right to hold their heads up high and shout from the highest places “Chikasha Poya, We are Chickasaw!”

Ladies and gentlemen, fellow Chickasaws, the state of the Chickasaw Nation is great and getting better every day!

Without our service to you, the Chickasaw people, we would have no mission and without your support, we would go nowhere.

“Through the grace of God, perseverance and hard work has lead to success!”  We continue to work toward success.

There is still much more we can and need to do and we intend to continue to work the plan and strive to make things better!

Thank you for allowing me to be your Governor. It has to be the best job anywhere.

I hope you enjoy your day. May God bless and keep you.