2016 State of the Nation Address

A Gathering of Our People
Governor Bill Anoatubby
10/1/2016 9:00:00 AM

2016 State of the Nation


Good morning to everybody. We have quite a gathering here in Tishomingo. It’s here at the auditorium, Fletcher Auditorium, and at the tent, and Lisa mentioned we have folks listening on KCNP radio, and we have some watching on the website. So hello to all of you, everybody here, everybody out there, wherever you may be. Welcome to the 56th Annual Meeting of the great, unconquered and unconquerable Chickasaw Nation!

It’s been another great week. We have a lot of events, a lot of festivities, and so it’s a great time for us to gather for the competitions that we have and for the fellowship that we enjoy, and to deepen our connection with each other and our culture.

There were a lot of introductions early, so I’m going to abbreviate some of these comments, but it’s so wonderful to have all these friends and neighbors of the Chickasaw Nation in attendance today. Mayor Tom Lokey, thank you very much. President Joy McDaniel, thank you very much. You know, we have a great partnership with both the city of Tishomingo and Murray State College, and there are opportunities for even more partnerships in the future.

Congratulations on the improvements that have been made in Tishomingo, and President McDaniel, congratulations on all the improvements that you made here at the college and the progress that this college has made. We appreciate both the city of Tishomingo and Murray State College for being such gracious hosts to all of us for this Annual Meeting and Festival. Thank you for your hospitality!

We have Secretary of State Chris Benge. Mr. Secretary, thank you very much! We have worked with him since he’s been appointed in his job, and it’s been really a wonderful experience. [He’s] someone who understands Indian tribes and also has the benefit of the state government.

The senators that we have here, Senator Paddack, we appreciate the work and the relationship we’ve had with you. It’s been a great one! She’s helped us with water at the state legislative level, along with many other issues.

Education has always been important to our citizens, and we have Senator Frank Simpson. I met him earlier when he came in, and Senator Loveless. They’re both here. Thank you, again, for your dedication to improving the State of Oklahoma and the area that you serve. We appreciate you being here today.

Todd Thompson, you do great work. We appreciate you.

Lisa Billy served 12 years, representing her district well, and we knew we could always go to her on issues we needed to work on, and she’s done a fine job and we appreciate that work, but you saw her take the oath of office here. We appreciate your dedication to not only state government, but now your dedication in serving the Chickasaw people in another elected capacity, and congratulations on your election. Thank you!

Chickasaws serve in all kinds of jobs, including many different branches of federal government.   There is a Chickasaw right now who is the area director of Indian Health Services through Oklahoma, Rear Admiral Kevin Meeks. Congratulations on your being an Admiral! He would have been just about a year now of being a Rear Admiral and is also assistant to surgeon general, so we appreciate the work that he does with Indian Health Service.

And then we have our ambassador at large, Neal McCaleb, who’s done an outstanding job. He continues to do an outstanding job. Former Congressman Dan Boren and former Speaker of the House Danny Hillard, who have joined us.

Lieutenant Governor Kennedy Brown served the nation well and has been a really dedicated servant to the Chickasaw Nation. We appreciate Kennedy and his wife, Richenda, for being here today. Thank you, Kennedy.

T.W. Shannon—former Speaker of the House. We appreciate you coming.

We have a great working relationship with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. We appreciate the work that you do, and they’re our connection within the federal government, to the government, and let’s recognize Eddie Streater Area Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, again.

And Ashley Large. Ashley runs the Chickasaw agency in Ada. She does an excellent job, and we’ve seen a tremendous amount of progress with the local agency, and we appreciate the work that you do, Ashley. Let’s give her another thank you.

You know Commander John Herrington. He’s not only commander and astronaut. Now, he’s Dr. John Herrington. So, let’s congratulate him.

Now, I probably missed somebody. I apologize, but I’m going to recognize a group as a whole and that’s your elected officials. We have three Supreme Court justices and we have 13 legislators, and they all work hard for you. Much of the progress that we have here wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for the comradery and the relationship that we enjoy within the Chickasaw Nation among the different branches of government. I’m going to ask that all of you, if you’re an elected Chickasaw official, please stand, and let’s recognize them. Lieutenant Governor, stand as well.

Let’s give our princesses another round of applause. Our princesses are really an important part of the preservation of our culture. They’re our ambassadors, and they represent us at many events. I thank you. I thank you in advance, those who are new princesses, for the work that you’re facing, all the many trips that you’ll have to make. We have others who are former princesses that may be in the audience today. If you’ve been a Chickasaw Princess, or Junior Miss, or Little Miss Chickasaw, I’d like for you to stand and be recognized, as well. And we employ a lot of the Chickasaw Princesses after they have finished their educations. They have great value not just for the work that they do, but the experience and the knowledge they have about the Chickasaw Nation, so it’s really beneficial to us.

Thanks to everybody for being here today for this year’s Annual Meeting. This historic gathering of our people reaches back some 50 years to that first meeting at Seeley Chapel. And at that time, our people came together with a vision for the future, a vision of self-governance and self-determination, a vision of a thriving culture and a united people. And with that vision for the future in mind, they took those very first bold steps towards asserting, reasserting our sovereignty and assuring our future progress. For many years now, we’ve talked about this progress, about the growth, and about the future. Today, I’m pleased to report that the state of the Chickasaw Nation is strong! We continue to grow and prosper, and we remain vigilant in the protection of our lands, our culture and our sovereignty, so that our children, and our grandchildren and our great grandchildren, for many generations to come, will always be proud to say, “Chikasha Poya.” We are Chickasaw!

One of the ways we preserve our culture is through the revival of our language. You may remember that last year we signed a contract with Rosetta Stone, the world’s top language learning software. I’m happy to report that Chickasaw Level One, a set of 40 interactive lessons will be available very soon. It should be ready by the end of the year.

It’s taken a lot of people to make it happen. Our language team has been working diligently to produce these lessons, so that Chickasaws everywhere will benefit from Rosetta Stone’s proven language immersion model. There were a lot of things that went on behind the scenes, a lot of work to make this program possible.

Along with our actors, we had a team of elders that were working to make this possible, as well. Day after day, these elders translated scripts. They reviewed videos, and they developed the language material. Thank you very much for your commitment and your long hours to make this project a reality.

Every citizen will have full access to the internet-based Rosetta Stone program. A physical audio CD version, and there’s something in development, it’s the mobile application, and it will be released sometime in December of 2017. So, we have a lot of the basics covered, and all will be offered to citizens free of charge, as with all the updates and future lessons.

Now, our production team—they’re already planning Chickasaw Level Two, and that’s the next set of 40 lessons, and our hope is that it will be released in the fall of 2017. We’re excited about this and other projects designed to make Chickasaw language more accessible than ever, ensuring the state of our language remains strong for many generations to come.

To fund important projects like this, we continue to pursue proven business models, to diversify our portfolio and to be good stewards of tribal resources. By strategically utilizing these resources, we continue to see substantial gains in tribal assets and yearly revenues. As we’ve done every year, for many years now, we’ve included as a part of your registration packet, an annual financial report. The report is taken from, is derived from the Chickasaw Nation’s latest, audited financial statements. The report shows a comparison of the years, beginning in 1987 and ending in 2015.

We have continued to show growth in both business and government sectors. Business income increased by almost 7 percent and non-commerce governmental revenues grew more than 4 percent in the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015. Assets of the Nation grew by about 10 percent during that same period, while liabilities grew by about 5.25 percent.

Now, let’s speak a little bit about liabilities. You may remember in 2007, we issued $90 million worth of bonds and invested that, plus $60 million to build a brand-new medical center. Now, that $90 million is now down to $7 million. And for those who are financial people, or maybe you’re not, but there’s a sinking fund that has been set up, and that sinking fund will retire the entire debt by December of 2018. That’s 14 years ahead of schedule. The folks in finance and our treasury department tell me that we would have done it sooner, but the bonds, the indenture says we can’t, so we have to wait to pay it off. So, otherwise, we would have that debt already taken care of, thank the Lord.

Other things are doing well. The trust funds have continued to grow. When you review that report, you’ll see that in 1987, those trust funds were less than half a million dollars, and today, they are valued at 23 million dollars. And so that you can be kept up to date, as close as we possibly can.

As you can see by these reports, the financial state of the Chickasaw Nation is the strongest that it’s ever been! Growing revenue and assets, however, is only part of the equation to that continued financial success. Not only have we balanced our budget every year since 1987, that budget has provided additional program funding each and every year, so that programs and services can be delivered to you, the Chickasaw people.

A very important part of the equation, however, is making the most of the dollars we have. Our employees across every department are continually engaged in the conservation of tribal funds and expansion of stewardship initiatives. We call it responsible stewardship. Tribal resources are put to work in very visible ways. Right here in Tishomingo, within the next couple of months, a half dozen construction projects will be completed. Five of these projects are collectively located on the campus of the 6th Street service facilities. A new and improved community center, senior center and Head Start center are nearing completion. A remodel of the old clinic will result in a new Tishomingo Area Office and a youth club, so we have five new places for you to visit. We’re really proud of Tishomingo, our historic capitol. We want visitors to the Chickasaw Nation to explore our history. For this reason, an information center is being built here in Tishomingo, and it’s nearing completion.

At WinStar in Thackerville, we recently completed a 65,000-square-foot convention center. Many of you have seen it. It’s spectacular. This convention center will usher in a new era of international conference and convention hosting that will draw more people to Chickasaw country than ever before. It also creates more than 50 additional jobs.

I’m sure many of you’ve noticed the commercials and the billboards highlighting exciting places and events along I-35. These are part of the Adventure Road campaign and continues drawing visitors to Chickasaw country, to places like the Artesian Hotel, which has had more 180,000 visitors since it opened just three years ago, and to the Chickasaw Cultural Center, which reached a milestone this year of half a million visitors since it’s opening.

We’re also nearing completion of a bridge that will connect the cultural center and the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. This bridge will be an important symbol of the partnership and connection between the park and the tribe and will become a destination in its own right.

In addition to tourism, we’ve experienced outstanding growth in a number of industries and businesses. Despite the downturn in Oklahoma’s energy sector and overall economy, our primary markets remain strong. Expansion of our core businesses and selective diversification into new markets has resulted in higher-than-forecasted growth and unprecedented commercial earnings.

Diversification is an integral part of our business strategy. For several years, we have been working to diversify our business holdings, and we are now involved in a number of industries: manufacturing, energy, health care, media, technology, hospitality, retail and tourism. For example, Chickasaw Nation Industries was established 20 years ago as a part of our efforts to expand and diversify our business portfolio. More recently, Sovereign Medical Solutions was established to expand our health care services to the larger community.

We celebrate another year of growth, progress, success and diversification, which generates revenue for the expansion of our services we offer Chickasaw people, such as the addition of the Duncan Nutrition Center this April and the expansion of the Purcell Health Clinic, which is now nearing completion. Next to the expanded Purcell Health Clinic, construction will soon be completed on a new wellness center with a large swimming pool. And the new Purcell Area Office will be finished soon, as well.

We have eight area offices located throughout the Chickasaw Nation, and one in Oklahoma City, to connect citizens to programs and services. Many of these programs and services are designed with our youth in mind. Our children and grandchildren are the future, and we want to ensure they succeed. For that reason, we continue to build early childhood education and child development centers. Soon, a new child development center will open in Ardmore. The building is complete. They are in the process of furnishing it now, and it will bring 70 new jobs to Ardmore.

We continue to promote early education, so that our youth will be prepared for their education journey. Earning a college degree or developing trade and technology skills opens up a world of possibilities for our students. We are happy to report that more Chickasaws are pursuing higher education than ever before. You know, this is a legacy that has been handed down to us. Education is something that our people, our leaders, have raised high on their list of priorities.

Between the higher education and career tech programs, more than 5,000 students are receiving financial and other kinds of support from the Chickasaw Nation. We continue to foster partnerships with institutions of higher education. The Chokka’ Kilimpi’ Recruitment and Retention program, for instance, works with the University of Oklahoma, the University of Central Oklahoma and Oklahoma City Community College, to assist Chickasaw students with finding funds, developing strong study habits and attaining employment after graduation.

A partnership with Oklahoma State University has produced the Center for Sovereign Nations, which just had its one-year anniversary this summer. The Center for Sovereign Nations promotes the success of Native American students by connecting them to scholarships and resources, and promotes the understanding of sovereignty with monthly Sovereignty Speaks luncheons. Our very own Chickasaw Ambassador-At-Large, the Honorable Neal McCaleb, was the very first speaker for Sovereignty Speaks.

Oklahoma University President David Boren recently announced the Native Nations Center. This center will provide a hub for Native American research and scholarship, student leadership initiatives and engagement with tribal nations. Chickasaw citizen, Dr. Amanda Cobb-Greetham, who’s here with us today—raise your hand Dr. Cobb-Greetham. She’s in charge of this initiative on the university campus, and she’s the Chair of Native American Studies, where she promotes curriculum in tribal governance, indigenous arts, and Native language, history and culture. That’s quite a thing to work on, Amanda. We appreciate that work.

We are also excited about the foundation of a Chickasaw Nation Native American Law Chair at the University of Oklahoma College of Law. This is the first Native American Law Chair to be held by a permanent faculty member at any law school in the whole United States.

In addition to providing education opportunities for youth, we also offer active learning environments after school and in the summer. We are expanding the facilities and service of two youth clubs: one in Sulphur and the other in Tishomingo. The youth clubs provide after-school programs for our students. We also continue to develop camps, clinics and academies that inspire our youth and provide them the opportunity to pursue their interests and develop important skills. This year, more than 2,000 youth attended 26 different camps and academies. There, they learned a diverse range of skills, from business entrepreneurship to athletics, and from art to the sciences. In addition to these camps, our youth programs have witnessed great increases in participation. For instance, participation in our school-age summer youth program nearly doubled this year. As more and more people continue to participate in these camps, academies and programs, and continue to engage, learn and grow, we are confident that our people will do greater things than we could have ever have imagined.

The strength of our youth is the result of the strength of the generations of Chickasaws that have come before us. We celebrate and honor our elders. Dozens of programs are designed to benefit and assist Chickasaw elders in meaningful ways: chore services, over-the-counter medication and many others, but just as important, opportunities for elders to gather. Our senior centers offer our elders a place to get together for meals, activities and fellowship and travel. We currently have 11 senior centers across the Chickasaw Nation. And this summer, we broke ground on our 12th senior center and first to be built outside of the boundaries of the Chickasaw Nation. Next to this senior center in Oklahoma City, a community center is also under construction. It is exciting to see these two facilities coming to Oklahoma City for the benefit of the Chickasaws who live there.

There is much work being done to protect and preserve our historic homeland. This summer, 10 Chickasaw students and four adults participated in the Black Prairie excavations as part of the Chickasaw Explorers Program. The archaeological survey in the Black Prairie of Mississippi is a partnership between the Chickasaw Nation, the universities of Mississippi, Florida and South Carolina and the Florida Museum of Natural History. The goal is to find and preserve the site of Chikasha, where Hernando De Soto and his Spanish army wintered and battled with Chickasaws in 1541. Dozens of new sites have been found as a result of this ongoing work. And the largest collection of 16th-century Spanish metal artifacts ever found in Mississippi has been recovered. The Chickasaw Nation Heritage Preservation Division is diligently working, locating, stabilizing, interpreting and preserving many Chickasaw sites around Tupelo, Mississippi, and we just recently partnered with the city to preserve the site of the 1736 Battle of Ackia.

Most of you know that historians give the Chickasaws credit for the United States speaking English rather than French, right? Well, this particular battle was certainly important to that. They are also working with the Chickasaw Inkana Foundation to permanently preserve a 66-acre parcel believed to be a part of the sacred Chickasaw town of Fala’ Cha’. We are also partnering with the National Park Service, City of Tupelo and the Chickasaw Inkana Foundation to plan and construct the Chickasaw Heritage Center in Tupelo.  This heritage center will educate people about our early history in the southeast and provide a place for Chickasaw people to reconnect with our homeland.

In more recent history, the Chickasaw Housing Authority turned 50 years old on February 23. Go ahead, let’s give them a round of applause. And because the history of the Chickasaw Housing Authority is very important to us, overall, thousands families and tens of thousands of individuals, have been helped through housing programs and services since we secured the right to manage our own housing programs.

It is important that we share who we are, so that we can educate ourselves and others on the vital contributions that Chickasaw people have made to the world. One way we do this, is though documentaries and feature films. One of these films is Te Ata. Te Ata has played to sold-out audiences at several film festivals across the United States and will be showing at seven more film festivals this month. A limited theatrical release of Te Ata will follow those festivals, with the film being released for home video shortly thereafter.

This week, we had showings for Chickasaws in Moore, at the Warren Theater, in Tishomingo, Sulphur, Ada and Ardmore. Anybody go? We’ve had great reviews from Chickasaws. Most everyone that I visited with loved the movie. Now, we have a little treat for you today, so please direct your attention to the screens to view the trailer of this inspirational film.

Wow, what a powerful story honoring the memory of a Chickasaw who made telling our stories and the stories of other tribes her very life. If you’re a relative of Te Ata, would you please stand and be recognized today, any relatives? It’s a story that needed to be told and preserved, and this movie, plus a documentary, does it justice. In addition, there were more than 200 Chickasaws that participated in the making of Te Ata. And we hope that in future film projects that many of these folks will continue to participate. So, thank you.

The management of land and water resources is at the forefront of sovereignty rights today. In August, the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations reached an historic agreement with Oklahoma City and the State of Oklahoma. This agreement resolves long-standing questions over water rights and regulatory authority over waters in the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations. It is a win for all Oklahomans because it is based on the common interests of the people. We serve as leaders of our respective governments. While we have been sovereign since time immemorial, sovereignty is something we should never take for granted. As tribal leaders, we have a duty to engage in this process and exercise our rights as sovereign nations to protect the interests of our people. Through this settlement process, we were able to find a way to preserve and protect the water resources essential to economic growth and quality of life in south-central and southeastern Oklahoma, while still providing water needed to meet the needs of the people of Oklahoma City, many of whom are Chickasaw and Choctaw.

Under this agreement, the state will continue to administer water rights throughout Oklahoma. However, as we move into the future, the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations will have a meaningful and active voice in the management of water resources in our area. This agreement is a win for the entire state because it provides a foundation for a deeper relationship based on engagement, collaboration and cooperation. It offers the best opportunity to manage those resources in a manner that will help ensure a strong economy and thriving natural environment for generations to come. Much has been done. While the settlement has been approved by the legislative bodies of the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nation, as well as the state and Oklahoma City, now, because the United States is also a party to the agreement and tribal water rights are a matter of federal law, we have submitted federal legislation that would approve the agreement and direct the U.S. Secretary of Interior to sign on behalf of the U.S. Our legislation passed the Senate on September 15, thanks to Senator Jim Inhofe and his work, and we are now working with the Oklahoma house delegation, particularly Congressmen Cole and Mullins, to obtain final passage. Obtaining final passage may take more than one congressional session, but we are determined to see it through.

In addition to water rights, we look toward the ownership and management of our lands as vital to the future of our sovereignty and self-sufficiency. Over the years, the Chickasaw Nation has re-acquired much of our land in Oklahoma. In 1987, the tribe owned just over 1,900 acres. This year alone, we acquired more than 800 acres, bringing our total land holdings up to nearly 13,000 acres.

Last November, the former Carl Albert Indian Health Facility in Ada got a new lease on life, as the new Carl Albert Service Center. Representative Albert’s name remains on this building in remembrance of his service to the Chickasaw Nation and Indian Country. And the words “service center” declare the building’s purpose to serve Chickasaw Nation citizens, our employees and the community. The Carl Albert Service Center provides education, training and career development for citizens and employees of the Chickasaw Nation.

This spring, we broke ground on four new service facilities on the south campus in Ada. That’s where the medical center is located. One of those was a new violence prevention center. Since 1994, the Chickasaw Nation Department of Violence Prevention Services has focused on helping families suffering from domestic abuse. In 2008, emergency shelters were added to violence prevention services, making it one of only three tribal shelters operating in Oklahoma at the time. The current shelter operates at full capacity for most of the year. At nearly 11,000 square feet, the new violence prevention center will increase emergency shelter capacity four fold, allowing us to shelter more families than ever before.

In April, we also broke ground on the Nittak Himitta’ Women’s Recovery Center, expanding the healthy lifestyles program. Like violence prevention services, the healthy lifestyles program is committed to helping and healing families, especially those dealing with substance abuse and addiction. New space for participants and their children will allow us to expand our treatment capacity. We have long realized that it is better for both mothers and children to stay together while treating substance abuse. The Nittak Himitta’ Women’s Recovery Center will keep families whole while they heal.

On May 11, we broke ground on another service building – one that serves our veterans. Located at the south campus in Ada, the 15,000-square-foot veteran’s lodge will provide our veterans counselling services and assistance finding programs and benefits. It will also be a place where our warriors can gather, relax and have fellowship with other veterans. We value our veterans, and we are grateful for the sacrifices they have made in the defense of our freedom. This veterans lodge is a testament to that gratitude, as is the veterans conference we hold in their honor. On June 27, more than 200 Chickasaw veterans and their spouses attended the second annual Chickasaw Veterans Conference. Important information was shared, some of it pertaining to the Chickasaw Warrior Society. Membership in the Chickasaw Warrior Society now totals more than 1,000 veterans.

Along with our veterans, we support all our servicemen and our women. This April, we broke ground on a new emergency medical services building to support the work of our EMTs at the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center. This new space will facilitate the training and housing of our EMT’s and ensure the highest-quality emergency medical services. A few months after breaking ground on the EMS building, we started construction on another health support facility, the Apila Center. This building will house administrators and staff responsible for organizing the day-to-day operations of the medical center. In total, more than 100 employees will move from the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center into the new Apila Center. Very beneficial, this shift will free up approximately 29,000 square feet of space in the medical center that will be used to expand medical services for our patients. Within the medical center, we will expand existing clinics and services, such as family practice, internal medicine, optometry, mental health and pediatrics. And we will renovate part of the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center to add a family medicine residency clinic, as well as other specialty care services.

We have been building medical support facilities and expanding medical services for good reason. Patient visits to the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center and clinics continue to increase. This year alone, we have already had more than 815,000 patient visits to our health care facilities. Nearly 55,000 of those visits were to the ER, 40,000 were for dental care and more than 900 were births. We also continue to add and update our medical equipment to maintain the highest quality of care. This year, we added new imaging equipment and personnel, making on-call ultrasound available through the ER and eliminating the need to transfer patients outside our system for such tests.

The total number of labs and tests performed at the medical center and clinics reached nearly 1.5 million this year. In addition to increases in medical care services, we also saw an increase in the volume of prescriptions filled. Including both pharmacy drive-thru pickups and deliveries by mail, more than 1.7 million prescriptions will be filled this year.

Ladies and gentlemen, fellow Chickasaws, we have been incredibly blessed. We have seen tremendous progress in every area. The hard work of thousands of employees, and with your support, this has been accomplished. But there is a lot more to do, and we are doing. And we work hard every day to enhance the overall quality of life of the Chickasaw people, all Chickasaw people! There is much to be thankful for, we should be thankful for, and we are truly thankful. The state of the Chickasaw Nation is the strongest it has ever been and getting stronger. Thank you, and may God bless you! Chokma’shki – Yakoke.