2014 State of the Nation Address

Honor. Tradition. Courage: Our People
Governor Bill Anoatubby
10/4/2014 9:30:00 AM

2014 State of the Nation

Good morning Chickasaws and greetings to the great unconquered and unconquerable Chickasaw Nation.  Well isn’t this a beautiful day?  We need to thank Representative Lisa Billy for doing such a wonderful job this morning.

It’s great to be Chickasaw and it’s great to be here for our Chickasaw Annual Meeting and Festival.  It’s really been a great week.  I hope you have enjoyed all of the events and festivities. You know this week is a really special time for us. It is good to make our way back home.  We have folks here from all over the country.  It’s good to be here among fellow Chickasaws.  You know, some people we haven’t seen in a long, long time. Then others maybe it’s been since last annual meeting.  Whatever the case, it’s really good to see our friends.

Here we are again in Tishomingo, our historic capital.  It’s really important today that we recognize the hospitality of Murray State College President Joy McDaniel and Tishomingo Mayor Tom Lokey.  Let’s give them another round of applause.  You know, without fail, these two folks and their institutions, always give us a warm welcome.  We appreciate the partnerships that we have with Murray State College and Tishomingo.

Wow! We have a lot of dignitaries that are here today.  I really appreciate everybody being here.  Congressman Cole, we’re glad that you came here today.  Governor Fallin, thank you so much for being here today.  We appreciate your outreach to tribes and we appreciate you being a friend to the Chickasaw Nation.  Secretary Benge, it is good to see you too.  And TW (Shannon), wow, good to see you. It is nice to see you have your family with you today.  We are thankful for all the folks who have joined us today.

Annual Meeting and Festival festivities began a week ago.  At the Kullihoma stomp dance, we had 300 people there. On Saturday, we had lots of folks that came to the fun run and Jr. Olympics. The golf tournament had about 90 folks that participated.  I went by and visited with some of these folks and they were having a great time.  That’s a big part of what this is about, getting together and enjoying our fellowship, one with the other and renewing acquaintances. We had the inter-tribal event, which is the corn stalk shoot.  It’s a traditional event - a game that we just started up in recent years. This is a competitive event.  We had folks from the Creek Nation, the Cherokee Nation and I dropped by and there was a real intensity in the air.  They were really taking this seriously but they have fun too and there is a lot of fellowship.

You know we have a wonderful princess pageant.  They did a very good job, great talent and we look forward to them serving for this next year.  Let’s recognize our princesses again.

And on Thursday evening we had the cultural evening. About 1,000 people that showed up for that event. On Wednesday we had the official constitutional oath of office and we had the folks that you saw on the stage take their oath of office then. I congratulate you and wish you well and look forward to working with all of you. 

It takes all of us, the folks in the different branches of government, to have progress for the Chickasaw Nation.  So let’s recognize, again, our entire Legislature and Judicial Department for their work that they do. 

When we did our cultural awards on Thursday night we had the Dynamic Woman of the Year that was introduced, Karen Goodnight.  For our Silver Feather award, Virginia Bolen was recognized.  Let’s give her a round of applause.  Virginia was one of the ladies on the language committee. That was her primary purpose of getting the Silver Feather Award is continuing our language, which is so very important.  Then we had the winners for the Southeastern Art Show and Market.  We had several winners that were announced that evening and congratulations to these folks, the winners at the SEASAM event.  We have an important goal and that is to preserve our culture and traditions. I thank all of these people who have contributed their time and their talents towards us meeting that goal.
I am really pleased to report today that the Chickasaw Nation is blessed with another successful year. That success is only achievable through the hard work of a lot of people. The tribe’s progress continues to allow us to offer new opportunities to you – the citizens of the Chickasaw Nation. Our future IS exciting - the state of the Chickasaw Nation is strong and thriving!

We have a great team and our team continues to work hard to be good stewards of our resources – to be creative, innovative and to use sound judgment and wisdom when making decisions. We have seen growth and achievement on all fronts. Our businesses have continued to prosper. Employment opportunities continue to grow … Together, we are One Tribe, One Mission – Working Together to Serve Chickasaw People. This year’s prosperity and strategic planning has directly contributed to our ability to create and enhance more than 200 programs and services that directly benefit Chickasaws!  The Nation is doing very well and we have a lot to be thankful for. Regardless of how well we do we should always work to be better though. We are consistently revisiting our mission and looking for ways to improve everything that we possibly can.

Tribal businesses enable us to meet our mission by providing employment opportunities and funding for our many programs and services that we offer.  The Chickasaw Nation’s businesses have continuously performed well. It seems that every year our net income has exceeded the previous year. This year is no exception. Because of our businesses, we have not needed to draw on our trust account for many, many years. That account has now grown from about $500,000 in 1987 to nearly $22 million today. That increase and the growth of all the Chickasaw Nation assets, along with other valuable information, is presented in the Annual Report that you got in your packet today. Be sure to pay attention to the graphs and charts that are there because it will provide you with the information you need to make your judgment on how well the Chickasaw Nation is doing financially.  Thanks to sound financial management, creative thinking, diversification efforts and a strong team of employees, we have seen tremendous economic growth. We've had another tremendous year. To better explain our finances, I have asked Holly Easterling, secretary of treasury, to share more information about the financial state of our nation.

Following are comments from Holly Easterling

Thank you, Governor.

I am pleased to report that our audit of fiscal year 2013 again resulted in an unqualified opinion. An unqualified opinion is better known as a “clean bill of health” of our finances and financial reporting. It means that the auditor has no reservation as to the accurateness and completeness of our financial statements and also means our internal controls are sound. The Chickasaw Nation’s financial management practices have been consistently affirmed in our annual audits. We hold firm to Governor Anoatubby’s philosophy of maintaining the highest standards of financial management and stewardship of tribal resources in our daily accounting and finance functions. The annual financial report Governor referenced is for your knowledge and review. You will find that our finances are reflective of our progress as a Nation. Our net position continues to steadily increase year over year. We reserve ample working capital to reinvest in business and economic development opportunities that will provide additional revenues to fund programs and services for Chickasaw people.

Our long-term investments sustain us through economic downswings and lapses in federal funding which are beyond our control. Everything we have generated financially is invested. It is invested in programs and services, in economic development or invested for our sustainability as a thriving tribal government for generations to come. The results of the 2013 audit should provide to you assurance that your tribal government has amassed a strong foundation for future growth. We have seen incredible growth since 1987. Our combined net assets were $9.3 million dollars and now have increased well over two hundred fold. Total program expenditures were $7.6 million and today are in excess of $400 million.  And combined, federal and tribal budgets have increased more than $364 million and continue to climb.  We always report to you the results of our last official audit.  To keep you up to date, we also provide the most current financial report which is loose in your folders.  Fiscal year 2014 has just drawn to a close, and as you can see from the results of August operations, we’ve had another great year and improved our financial condition materially.  Total assets increased over $82 million while our debts and liabilities decreased $23.7 million.  The resulting overall increase to net position of $105.9 million is after all program costs, expenses and transfers.  Governor, the current financial position of the tribe is strong and our outlook is bright!

Governor Anoatubby resumes his comments

Thanks Holly.

In addition to the annual report, we have the progress report for 2014, you’ll find in here more information than we are able to report today plus there are things that will expand on what we’re talking about.  Thanks to a focused effort to minimize our expenses and maximize our revenues, we continued to see greater returns.  Another positive item that I need to report to you today has to do with the hospital bond issue.  We issued bonds in 2007 and we did that to construct the new medical center.  That allowed us to have our medical center sooner than having to save the funds to be able to construct it when they were available.  At that time we agreed that we would retire that debt just as soon as we possibly could.  We continue to make considerable progress retiring those bonds.  Of the original $90 million in bonds issued we now only owe $14.5 million. This strategy to pay the bonds off sooner than required will save much interest for the Chickasaw Nation.

I have another matter that I would like to share with you, you know several years ago the internal revenue service began an initiative to examine tribal programs. They generally started with some of the smaller tribes and they were actually looking for a way to tax some of the services provided to citizens.  There seemed to be no end to their effort.  Originally, they started with health care.  Heath care provided by the federal government was naturally nontaxable, but everything we do on the tribal side would be subject to taxation. Other things, like education and other tribally funded services, were on the table for them.  In one instance, the distribution of backpacks and school supplies were targeted as well as trips that were made by tribal elders. Tribes all across this country looked to their congressman to help. And hats off., a little more than a week ago, congress passed a bill and it was signed to law which recognizes tribes' rights to provide for its people. The name of the act is the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act.  We really appreciate the work of Congressman Tom Cole, who co-sponsored the legislation.  Let’s give him a nice round of applause.  Also, Congressman Mullin co-sponsored. Let’s send our regards to him as well.   The law’s intent is that tribal services will not be taxed by the Internal Revenue Service.  This is a victory for tribal governments and all Indian people because it recognizes and affirms tribal sovereignty in a very real and tangible way. The bill recognizes the right of Indian tribes to provide for the general welfare of their citizens and, therefore, it protects you.

As noted before, our businesses are continuing to perform well.  They are earning above estimated projections and we expect to see continued growth into the future.  Business diversification has long been an important component of the Chickasaw Nation’s economic development strategy.  While it is important to reinvest in our established business and this allowed them to maximize their growth potential, it is also essential to carefully build a diverse business portfolio.  Currently, our businesses include entertainment, tourism, manufacturing, medical technology, medical services, government contracting, banking and communications among others initiatives.

I would like to focus today on our tourism activities.  Tourism is an important segment of the economy.  We are pleased to report that tourism in Chickasaw Country continues to grow.  Earlier this year, we opened a new tourism office, art gallery and gift shop in Oklahoma City’s Bricktown.  Our endeavors in Murray County have experienced a good deal of success.  The Artesian Hotel, which opened in August of 2013, has now had more than 51,000 guests and an average 84% occupancy rate. Now that’s pretty good!  Shortly after the Annual Meeting last year, we opened the Chickasaw Visitor Center and ARTesian Gallery and Studios adjacent to the Artesian Hotel.  The area is complimented by the newly designed Gateway Park, featuring artwork by Chickasaw Joanna Underwood.  Sulphur is also the site of the ARTesian Arts Festival. We had our first one and 4,000 people from the area showed up. I’m sure they left a few dollars around Murray County. This festival featured many Chickasaw artists, musicians and performers – we’re looking forward to making this an annual event.
The Chickasaw Press is working diligently to capture our history and culture in print.  Following tradition, the Press launched two new titles this week: Chikasha the Chickasaw Collection at the National Museum of the American Indian by Joshua Hinson.  The Early Chickasaw Homeland: Origins, Boundaries and Society by John Dyson.  Also the Chickasaw Press launched a brother publishing company – White Dog Press.  White Dog Press allows the Chickasaw Press to expand their mission by publishing works and creative projects from genres outside the realm of research and scholarship mission of the Chickasaw Press.  The White Dog Press released its first novel, Anompolichi: The Wordmaster by Phillip Caroll Morgan and a new children’s book: C is for Chickasaw, by Wiley Barnes. The White Dog Press also formally introduced the Chickasaw Journeys Activity Book, and currently has two titles now in e-book format on Amazon: Dynamic Chickasaw Women, I’m sure the dynamic women will like that one, and Chickasaw Removal. Each is a valuable new addition to our collection.

Our language is very important it is a key component of our culture and our shared heritage.  Preserving our language is vital.  We continue to enhance our language programs in order to protect our language and allow it to thrive.  Online language resources had more than 10,000 visitors this year.

About 120 community members took part in the community language classes. The process is slow, but great efforts are being made to preserve our language. Since opening in 2010, the Chickasaw Cultural Center has welcomed nearly 300,000 visitors. That’s a lot of folks. We have enjoyed increased visitation each and every year since we opened.

In 2013, we had about 64,000. We had a banner year in 2014. We had more than 92,000 visitors at the Chickasaw Cultural Center. We had visitors from all over the world, from Germany and France, Australia, Congressman Cole brought some folks from Great Britain, South Africa and just many places throughout the world.

It provides us the ability to learn more about ourselves, and our nation, but also to share who we are – to share the rich, vibrant heritage of the Chickasaw people and our great nation with others. The cultural center, like the Chickasaw Nation, is ever-evolving and ever-changing: frequently adding new exhibits, activities and programming.

In addition, we are diligently working to educate ourselves, and others about the Chickasaw Nation in our traditional homelands. Our Chickasaw presence in our ancestral homelands of Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee did not end with the removal of our people into Indian Territory in 1837. While our people were removed, our deep connection remains. We have many activities underway, and I have asked Lisa John, secretary of culture and humanities, to deliver a report to us today. Lisa.

Following are comments from Lisa John

Yakoke Governor.

Today I am excited to inform you about the great progress and continued presence we have in our historical homelands.

The department of culture and humanities, and more specifically our homeland affairs team, is constantly working to preserve and promote our Chickasaw history and culture in our homelands. Yet, these working relationships are nothing new.

For many years we have began to preserve the Chickasaw presence in the homelands. More recently, we have been working to revitalize and expand our footprint. Governor Anoatubby and tribal representatives have made frequent trips to the homelands to meet with key representatives that are essential to building our presence there.

The Chickasaw Nation in collaboration with the Natchez Trace Parkway for future development and construction of a Chickasaw Heritage Center in Mississippi. The state of the art center will provide interpretations and educational resources and, it is our hope that it becomes a point of interest to visitors and Chickasaw people who want to visit our historic sites in Mississippi. Our staff at Chisha’ Talla’a’, our Chickasaw preserve in Tupelo, Mississippi, works hard to improve this historical and culturally significant site making it a destination point for people to enjoy.

In April, 2014, the Chickasaw Inkana Foundation was created. The word Inkana translated is “friends”. The Foundation provides an avenue for our friends in the southeastern part of the United States to help us preserve and educate people in their local communities.

Governor, the department of culture and humanities continues to make every effort to preserve and protect our Chickasaw culture and history to ensure we do our part to meet the Chickasaw Nation’s mission: “To enhance the overall quality of life of Chickasaw people.”

Governor Anoatubby resumes his comments

Thank you, Lisa.

On another front, we have begun many new developments and I would like to share some of those with you. In June, we broke ground on a Child Development Center in Ardmore. The expected completion date is the early part of 2016. This new child development center, and the one in Ada, they are more than daycare. They provide a learning environment for young Chickasaws where they are taught the Chickasaw language, the importance of good nutrition, being active and much, much more.

Likewise, our higher education program served more than 4,100 students this last fiscal year. Applicants pursuing a higher education were awarded grants, scholarships and incentives totaling more than $16 million.

Access to a quality education is one of the foundations of a successful future. It also prepares individuals for entrepreneurship. In today’s competitive world of business, this foundation can make available many new opportunities. These opportunities are essential to a successful future, for the individual, as well as for the Chickasaw Nation.

Safe and quality housing is vital to our quality of life. That is why our homeownership opportunities have continued to receive priority. This year, the Chuka Chukmasi Home Loan Program, Chuka Chukmasi means beautiful home, served 44 Chickasaw families in the amount of nearly $5.5 million.

Through our Homeownership Program 15 additional homes were constructed for Chickasaw families this year. Quality, affordable housing is essential to one’s quality of life. Housing will continue to be a priority for us.

Our elders will always hold a special place at the Chickasaw Nation. We raise you up - we support you, just as you have supported, encouraged and guided us. Your determination, your creativity and community has helped build the Chickasaw Nation to where it is today.

We now have 12 senior citizen centers across the Chickasaw Nation. At the centers, more than 167,000 meals were served this last year. Health screenings, wellness classes, and we have other resources available and most certainly social activities are available. Our seniors are very social people. They like to make trips, they like to do things together, and this is a very important place to do that. We provide meals, and they provide the fun and the fellowship. It’s a great opportunity for us to be supportive of our senior citizens.

Health care continues to be - and will always be - a priority.

The Chickasaw Nation Department of Health had another year filled with incredible results: We had more than 587,000 patient visits to the health system. The pharmacies filled more than 1.2 million prescriptions.

The wellness centers had more than 164,000 participant visits, thousands of immunizations for children. We had tens of thousands of dental visits and optometry visits. Quality health care and access to quality health care are important to all Chickasaws and we will continue to work to meet this goal. Research tells us that one of the most effective ways we can prevent disease is by staying physically active. We have made it a goal to provide more opportunities for wellness activities. That is why we have developed wellness centers. In addition, sport activities help our people to stay active.

The gymnasium behind the tribal headquarters in Ada has received a complete facelift. Many Chickasaws have spent countless hours participating in this new facility. The softball complex that opened last year continues to host hundreds of teams and individuals for league, tournament and individual play.

Opportunities for our youth take a high priority. The Chickasaw Nation camps, clinics and academies have continued to grow. This past summer, hundreds of Chickasaw youth from across the United States participated in 24 different camps, clinics and academies. These are opportunities for our youth to learn, to explore new ideas and ways of thinking, to find their passion and for us to support them in what they want to do.

Places to gather together are also important. Family and fellowship are part of who we are. In July, we opened a new Community Center in Ardmore. This facility provides more than 15,000 square feet of space and includes two kitchens, a large banquet room and a stage, also a state-of-the-art audio-visual system and two additional meeting rooms. We know many Chickasaws will enjoy this facility for years to come.  And now that’s four community centers that we have constructed across the Chickasaw Nation.

When there are Chickasaw citizens living in every state in the nation, in nine countries on four continents around the world, one very important thing is communication. Our team continues to seek innovative ways to communicate and share information - no matter where a person may live.

We continue to add new educational and entertaining videos on Chickasaw.TV. Do you think videos are a good way to share information?

Sometimes, we’ll see the videos here at the annual meeting and it seems that there is so much learning that can take place. I know it’s education, but it’s up to us to do the learning. There is just so much that can be presented in a visual form this way, and I think it’s the day, the age of video. And it’s important that we use that mechanism for communication.

The official website of the Chickasaw Nation has been completely re-designed based on feedback we received from you.

KCNP – Chickasaw Community Radio - can be heard on the airwaves locally, but more importantly, it is streamed live, 24 hours per day, via the Internet. Many of you are listening on KCNP right now or watching our meeting online. So, hello out there! We are having a good time; we hope you come to visit Tishomingo sometime.

In addition to utilizing available media, we also understand the importance of fellowship and interaction. Chickasaws from across the country meet regularly in Chickasaw Community Groups. There are now 21 active community groups in 12 different states. We continue to seek new ways for our Chickasaw family to stay connected so that you may share with us and we may share with you. Communication is a two-way street, right?

Film is a unique communication tool. It’s a form of video that has a way of entertaining as well, and it’s a great way to convey the message of who we are as a people. That story goes beyond recounting history, or sharing accomplishments or even the progress report. It is a story of the indomitable spirit, that of the unconquered Chickasaw people.

Whether it is the story of a young athlete such as Joshua Turner, the accomplishments of Congressman Tom Cole, or the experiences of a Chickasaw aviatrix or storyteller, film enables us to convey the full depth of our experiences.

We are working on a number of historical and contemporary documentaries and shorts that will help share the story of our wonderful heritage with you and with the world. We have entitled these works the Chickasaw Heritage Series. The Heritage Series is designed to inform, educate and entertain to Chickasaw citizens, to Chickasaw families, and students and also the public about the resilient and persevering spirit of the Chickasaw people. The first installment of the Heritage Series … is First Encounter.

[First Encounter video trailer shown]

Wow! You have the full length version of the “First Encounter” DVD in your registration packets. I hope you enjoy that.

Filming for the feature film Te Ata is underway. Many of you have been involved on the set as an expert on language or dance or as an extra. We are excited to tell Te Ata’s story and preserve her legacy. Te Ata served as a messenger of American Indian heritage and culture, sharing her gift with audiences across the United States, Canada and Europe. The goal for this film is to continue the message of how artistic expression can change hearts and minds in a way that brings diverse cultures together. The film has a talented cast of award-winning actors.

Q’orianka Kilcher will portray Te Ata. Gil Birmingham will be play Te Ata’s father Thomas Thompson. Te Ata’s mother Bertie will be portrayed by Brigid Brannagh. Mackenzie Astin will play Dr. Clyde Fisher. Mackenzie is here with us this morning. Mackenzie, please stand and be recognized. Oscar-nominee Graham Greene will play Chickasaw Governor Douglas H. Johnston.

[Video from Graham Greene shown]

Te Ata has been filming for a few weeks now and will conclude the filming next week. We have several members of Te Ata’s family with us today. I would like for you folks to stand up and be recognized.

This year has given us much for which to be thankful. Our teams have worked hard to provide excellent service and quality programs designed for you. There is much to celebrate. But there is still much to be done. We have a few plans for the future that I would like to share with you.

After many years we have received requests from Chickasaws to have our own car tags. I am pleased to announce that soon that will become a reality.

We are developing a plan right now and hope to have it in operation the first quarter of 2015. We are working on schedules to finalize all the details of the compact. It is really important that we approach this carefully, primarily because we didn’t want to damage any of the revenue flow to some of very important initiatives in Oklahoma.

One is public schools. The car tags supply a considerable amount of money for the public school system, and transportation as well. And these are all funds that are dedicated before they ever get to the State Legislative for procuration. So these are important initiatives and we approached it carefully. The agreement that we have negotiated will not have a negative impact on the school systems nor transportation.

Most of the people that I have visited with over the years, the main reason that people want an automobile tag with Chickasaw on there is for the pride in Chickasaw Nation. So we will be able to have that pride, put that license plate on our car and drive and say we are Chickasaw. It’ll be our own tag with our own number and so forth.

Under the agreement, though, there will be a little added bonus for Chickasaws. A portion of the registration fees from Chickasaws who purchase these tags, will be forwarded to the Chickasaw Nation, and we will turn right around and issue a rebate directly from Chickasaw Nation to the citizen. All of the details will be available after the plan is complete and the compact signed, but one added bonus is that the tag may be purchased locally, at your local tag agent. You don’t have to go to a central location to acquire it. We are really pleased about that and we are thankful that we are able to come to terms and we look forward to implementing the new car tag program.

Tishomingo seems to be in a bit of a transition, wouldn’t you think? And it’s a transition towards better things for Tishomingo. It’s our historic capital and it’s undergone a lot of improvements in recent years. Of course, you can look around you and you can see what Murray College is doing right here on this campus and improving the campus,. I think that’s something to be proud of, madam president. Fletcher Auditorium has been a great place to have our meetings each year and we appreciate you accommodating us.

I’m sure that you noticed when you were driving down Main Street, that there are a number of new businesses there. Downtown is just really looking great, Mr. Mayor. I congratulate you! We’d kind of like to hitch our lasso to that and be part of that growth and that improvement and things that are happening right here in Tishomingo. We want to be part of the positive developments and we want to help showcase those things that this area has to offer.

One of the projects that we have is the development of a new visitor center and it is to be constructed at the south-west corner of Capitol and Main Street. That will be south of the Capitol building, just adjacent to the Chickasaw Bank. At this place, people can learn about the history of Johnston County, of course the Chickasaw Nation, as well as gain information about things that a person can do while they are in this area. Also, preliminary planning is being done as a feasibility is underway for the development of a hotel here in Tishomingo.

Several of our existing facilities in the Tishomingo area need replacement. Working with the city and the county, we have acquired additional property just south of the clinic, and as well as west of the clinic. We have plans to construct new buildings for our community center, our senior site and our Head Start on that property. We plan to break ground on these new facilities within the next 18 months or so. We are in the planning stages now and we are excited about being able to do these new buildings. Of course, new buildings are not the main thing, it’s the services that we provide out of those buildings that are important.

We’ve had some developments in the Purcell area as well, at a recent community gathering that we had there, we announced plans for several new facilities in the Purcell area. These plans include a new area office, a new wellness center, and a large expansion to the existing clinic.

Plans for the wellness center include plenty of room for exercise and exercise equipment, as well as additional spaces for various activities. We are pleased to announce that the plans will include a swimming pool. The folks in Purcell should be pretty happy about that. In the past, we have developed these wellness centers around, one here in Tishomingo, one in Ardmore, and of course one in Ada, and they didn’t include swimming pools. Inevitably, a swimming pool will be added. We decided to go ahead and go upfront with this one and maybe have a little efficiency to save some funds. The proposed area office will contain a large community room as well, and offices for our staff and a large conference room.

The clinic is expanding – in both space and services. The clinical services will add three to four exam rooms. In addition, this expansion will allow the clinic to provide several new services. These services include dental, imaging and physical therapy.

Also, plans are currently underway in another area, in Oklahoma City. We have a number of Chickasaws that live in the Oklahoma City area, and within the last year or so, we have opened up a new area office in Oklahoma City. We have several thousands of people who live in that area. We are planning a new senior site and a community center for Chickasaws in Oklahoma City. This is part of our effort to reach out and go beyond the boundaries of the Chickasaw Nation. Much like the various programs that we already offer, like health and housing and so forth. More to come…

All of these projects are scheduled to be within the next few years. The planning is also in the preliminary stages for a new senior site in Madill. Whatever we do, the intent is to enhance the lives of Chickasaw people. That’s the main purpose for being here, and that’s what drives us each and every day.

The theme of this annual meeting gives a bit of a nod to the courage of Chickasaw people, and when it comes to courage, our tribal veterans have embodied every sense of the word. I would like to take a moment to honor you. All veterans please stand and be recognized. We all owe you a debt of gratitude. Thank you very much.

For many years, our honor guard has represented all Chickasaw veterans at activities across the United States. They meet regularly and are continuously asked to attend funerals, events and other activities. We are pleased to announce that we are developing plans to construct a Veteran’s Center for Chickasaws.

The honor guard will have an area within the center and our veterans will have a place they can call their own. We are so pleased and honored to construct this facility. One more thing, we are asking all Chickasaw veterans to join together to create a Chickasaw Warrior Society which we are pleased very much to support.

The Chickasaw Nation has been greatly blessed! We have experienced much progress - but we have much work to do. We have plans for new developments and additional progress over the next few years. We will continue to work hard to ensure that our nation continues to thrive. I feel so privileged and honored to serve as your Governor.

Our team and I look forward to continuing to work toward the betterment of the Chickasaw Nation. Again, welcome home to the Chickasaw Nation. We hope that you enjoy this homecoming.

And ladies and gentlemen – I am proud to report that the state of the Chickasaw Nation is strong and getting stronger. Thank you – Yakoke, Chokma'shki