2017 State of the Nation Address

A Gathering of Our People
Governor Bill Anoatubby
10/7/2017 9:00:00 AM

2017 State of the Nation

Good morning everybody! Oh what a glorious day it is!

It is great to be here today among our tribe, the Chickasaw people. Chokma!

Welcome to the 57th Annual Meeting of the great, unconquered and unconquerable Chickasaw Nation!

Lieutenant Governor talked about the great week of events and festivities that we’ve had, starting last Saturday. A lot of the folks that are in the audience today, I’ve run into you at many of these activities.

As always, the Annual Meeting and Festival has reconnected us with our culture and reunited us with fellow Chickasaws.

Many friends of the Chickasaw Nation have joined us here today, and we are really thankful for your presence. We have a couple people from Tishomingo that have really shown hospitality. We have Mayor Tom Lokey. Let’s give him another round of applause. And President Joy McDaniel, President of Murray State College. We welcome you to your own place, but we thank you for being here among Chickasaws. It is really, really, important! You are so gracious. You are wonderful hosts, both of you. We appreciate the hospitality that they show, particularly during the week of Annual Meeting and Festival, but it doesn’t stop there. These folks do it year round, and we are thankful.

We have our elected officials. Some you saw take their oath of office. Well this is the second time they have taken their oath of office. They took it also on Monday, the constitutional oath of office. We appreciate those who are either newly re-elected or newly elected, then we have those that have already been seated in office and have been working hard. We really appreciate all of you! Let’s recognize all the legislators and judges for the work that they do!

We have a lot of other officials here today, and they have all been introduced. I think the best thing I can do is thank you for being here and being part of this celebration that we have every year. Some of you have been here before, and we thank you. I hope that the reason you are back is because you had a good time and you enjoyed the meeting. Let’s give all of our guests who are elected officials, from the state, city and the county, another round of applause for being here.

You know these princesses. We are so proud of you. We really are thankful that you stepped up and became part of the pageant. Performing in front of a large group, you have to have courage to be able to do that. You have to have poise, and they have started out that way already. Just think, during this next year, there is a lot of growth that will take place. We are going to be depending on you to represent us. I hope that doesn’t make you frightened or anything. We will be there not only with great expectations, but we will be there to support you and help you grow in these jobs. These princesses are our ambassadors, and we do appreciate all of them.

It is great to be here in Tishomingo, Oklahoma! Thank you everyone that is in this audience today for being here. Those who are in the tent, one day maybe we can all get in the same space, but we do have the overflow, and we do appreciate everybody that is present in this audience today, whether you are in here or out there. Lisa Billy mentioned that we are on the internet and that is special.  People, no matter where they live, on the internet, they can actually see what is going on and hear what is going on. Then KCNP radio, that is the Chickasaw community radio, and we have two stations. One that serves the northern part of the Nation and one the serves the southern part of the Nation, but they have the same programming.

They are not only hearing this on the radio this morning, but it is also being streamed online. Of course, they can listen to KCNP radio anytime, and it is always streamed online.  Our people, no matter where you live, you have an opportunity to hear about what is happening within the Chickasaw Nation and also the people who are around us.

It is really amazing to see the growth of this event. It started with very humble beginnings. That was nearly six decades ago. It was at Seeley Chapel and then it went to a weekend gathering at Byng School. Some of you may have been at Seeley. I know a lot of you went to Byng School three decades ago. I was there. It has grown into what we have now. A week of festivities that fill the streets, the parks, the historic places of Ada, Emet, Kullihoma, Sulphur and Tishomingo.

Even more remarkable than the growth of this event is the outstanding growth of this great Nation of ours over these last several years. The growth in our citizens, both in the terms of numbers and the level of success Chickasaw citizens have attained. The growth of our tribal businesses, both the growth of the number of businesses and the growth in the level of success those businesses have achieved. And the growth of our government. Most people say growth in government is not good, but in our case it is good! We now employ more than 13,500 people. We are growing in size.

But you know what is more important? The growth that is reflected in how responsive our government is to the needs of the Chickasaw people. A growth seen in the programs and services designed and operated to enhance the overall quality of life of the Chickasaw people. In terms of numbers, since 2001, more than 17,000 Chickasaws have enrolled as citizens of the Chickasaw Nation. As we have grown, it has been increasingly more important for us to stay connected. So we focused on bringing our people together to communicate, one with the other.

This year, we conducted five community gatherings across the United States. Attendance was outstanding. Chickasaws, no matter where we are, want to get together, and we went to several states. Much was learned and shared at these events, and they were successful. In addition to this year’s five large gatherings, we held more than 160 community council and citizen connection group meetings for Chickasaws all across the United States. Currently, we have 34 citizen groups serving Chickasaws across 17 different states. These opportunities to gather with each other and share information are extremely important, because we want to hear from you. Of course, we want to share information with you as well, but more importantly we want to hear your ideas. Many of the successful programs that have been developed over the years are based on ideas received from Chickasaw citizens.

The Chickasaw Nation continues to commit to technological innovation when it comes to communicating with each other and cultural preservation. We are doing that with the release of several applications, including the new Chickasaw.tv Apple TV app. Now we have been watching and looking at Chickasaw.tv on the small computer screen for quite some time, and it has been rewarding. It has been good. This application allows you to stream your favorite Chickasaw.tv videos and programming and watch live Chickasaw Nation events directly on your television at home.

It is exciting to see Chickasaws everywhere connect to the language. We have talked about Rosetta Stone. Do you like Rosetta Stone? I have talked to many people who have indicated that they are accessing the language through Chickasaw Rosetta Stone. We have Chickasaw Level 1 that is already been download by 4,300 users and is now available via the Advanced Languages App on Apple and Android devices, and Chickasaw Level 2 will be released this winter. Rosetta Stone is important. The first level has been accessed by many people, and people are learning Chickasaw as a result. Chickasaw Level 2 will take those who finish Level 1 on to the next level.

We are also excited about the AYA App. It is a Homeland journey. It is a new application that is coming soon and will further connect us to our history and our culture, while also improving our fitness. Now fitness is important, right? This interactive mobile walking application will be available for iPhone and Android and will encourage us to walk in order to unlock cultural and historical content, which include: historical character episodes, traditional Chickasaw prayers, locations of cultural interest and Chickasaw words. We are always looking for ways to share the language, and we are always looking for ways to improve fitness.

Ladies and gentlemen, we stand together more than 66,000 Chickasaws strong! We are proud to say Chikasha Poya, We are Chickasaw! 66,000 Chickasaws! Wow! That is a lot of Chickasaws! Today, we have the greatest number of Chickasaws ever. More Chickasaws than ever before take a great deal of pride in being part of the great Chickasaw Nation. More Chickasaws than ever before are engaged with our culture. More Chickasaws than ever before are united in working together to move our Nation forward. More Chickasaws than ever before can stand together and celebrate, because today, the state of the Chickasaw Nation is stronger than it has ever been before!

Both our business and governmental operations are successful and fruitful. We built our house on a strong foundation, and we take comfort in knowing that we can weather the storm, and we can keep moving forward to even a more prosperous future. We are fortunate that we enjoy unity as a nation of people. We are blessed, very blessed, as a nation. We are blessed that our executive, legislative and judicial departments are united. We are united in our commitment to work together and are dedicated to the mission, to enhance the overall quality of life of the Chickasaw people. In order to best do that, we must be mindful and engage with our lawmakers around us. We are thankful for those who have come here today to join us. It is also important that we engage with other officials at the local, state and national level.

It is important that we work with each other for the betterment of all our lives. It is important that we represent the needs of the Chickasaw Nation and the Chickasaw people. We are invited from time to time to join with different levels of government. On several occasions recently, we were invited to Washington D.C. to become involved with some of the things having to do with Indian Nations with the president’s administration. The kinds of things that we talk about are important to Indian country and the Chickasaw Nation, things like economic development, health care and many other issues. We do our best to work with everyone, and we appreciate these opportunities to share what is important to us, to have a seat at the table, to find areas that we can come together to promote the common good of our people and to move our Nation forward. Part of our moving forward involves looking for new opportunities in economic development. We have had some success there.

The Chickasaw Nation has been blessed in finding new ways to improve our financial standing, year after year. By leveraging past success to push forward growth, we are witnessing unprecedented progress.

We do this every year, and you have comparisons that date back many years now. In your packet, you have this financial report, and we share that with you every year. It is derived from the latest audited financial statements. Now I put that audited because that gives it further credibility. We have an independent CPA firm that comes in and reviews our records to determine if they are presented fairly. We have not had questioned costs. Our opinions have been clean. We have had financial reports for decades that have not had questions. So the information you get, you can rely upon. I rely on it. I need to rely on it in order to determine where we need to go.  So it is valuable information for you. And what this comparison does, this one goes back thirty years, and it shows how the Chickasaw Nation has progressed during that time. It has gotten to where we have to have three pages instead of two. I hope you take time to review it. It is important on the financial side, not just because I am trained in the field of accounting, but it is important. That is how you capsulize the financial progress of the tribe.

When you look at it, you can see that it shows tremendous growth in both the business and governmental sectors. This last fiscal year during the time where this audited statement cuts off, business income increased by seven percent, and non-commerce governmental revenues grew by more than four percent. The net assets of the Chickasaw Nation grew by ten percent during that period. Trust funds, how many people know trust funds are? These were the funds that we actually relied upon until we were able to create additional revenue. In 1987, those funds were valued at less than 500,000, and they have grown now to nearly $23 million. So we have seen progress on those. We haven’t touched those dollars. That is one reason they continue to grow.

It is kind of interesting because in the first part of this administration, I used to guard that. I would say, please let’s not use that; let’s generate our own income aside from that. They began to believe me, and then after a while, they said you can’t touch it. So I think I made my point. That’s not the most up to date information, however, the 2017 fiscal year ended September 30. So we devised a way to provide information to you by giving you another financial report. It is also in your packet. It ends on August 31, 2017, and you can look at the growth and see the progress also for that period. Now keep in mind that is not an audited statement, but it is signed by one of our finance people to say, this is what came from the books of the Chickasaw Nation.

We are really pleased that each year we have seen growth. We have seen growth in assets, and we have seen growth in our net income for our businesses. We have seen growth in the number of programs we operate. Successful economic development and business diversification offers the opportunity to add jobs and create new employment opportunities. Having the ability to develop and diversify our business portfolio to create new jobs and fund many of our own programs and services is an advantage. It enables us to better serve Chickasaw people. It is an advantage we have been working towards for many years now.

Just like all nations, the history of the Chickasaw Nation has been marked by times of great challenge and hardship and other times by tremendous health and vitality. Each generation faces new challenges head on and works toward higher levels of success. Together, we have been working hard for many years now and have been enjoying a time of continuous growth in our tribe. Many have used ingenuity and innovation to develop the many programs and services that enable us to realize new opportunities for success. Programs and services that only a short time ago were ambitious goals and we were working to achieve have become a reality. Our tribe has made incredible strides in recent years.

When I was first employed by the Chickasaw Nation in 1975 I as the health director of the Chickasaw Nation, we had fewer than 30 employees. We had meager financial resources that we had access to, and they actually came from the federal government. We did not have a lot of our own money that we could utilize. It came in the way of funding programs and services. Believe me, we were extremely thankful for that funding. But it always came with limitations on how it could be used. While we did our best to offer the services that were made available through those means, those limitations drove us to strive for something better. We knew that developing our own programs would depend on creating our own sources of funding. We had to develop ways to raise revenue through commercial activities, through commerce.

When you first so graciously elected me governor in 1987, we had a few businesses in place. We employed 250 people, and our operating budget had grown to $11 million. We were still reliant, however, on federal money. We really lacked the flexibility to use our funds in a manner that truly met the needs of Chickasaw people. So, self-determination became our goal. We recognized that we must run our businesses better in order to generate the revenue we needed to grow and become self-sufficient. So we made investments in new businesses, diversified our portfolio and re-invested in established businesses to stimulate growth. As an example of this diversification, there are businesses like Chickasaw Nation Industries, Bedre’ and Bank2. Since acquiring Bank2 in 2002, assets have grown steadily. Bank2 is now the top source of Native American home loans in the state of Oklahoma, as well as one of the top lenders nationally. Just recently, Bank2 advanced their goal to serve Chickasaw people. They added exclusive banking services for Chickasaw Nation citizens and employees. To tell you a little bit more about those services, there’s information about Bank2 and these special services in your packet that you picked up this morning.

Other businesses like Chickasaw Nation Industries and Bedre experienced excellent revenue this last year. In the case of Bedre, we enjoyed a sixty percent growth in sales over the previous year. That sixty percent growth is really important. Net profits from all of our businesses are the highest ever in our tribe’s history. As these businesses have grown and generated more revenue, we have been able to develop new programs and services and expand existing ones as a result. Today we operate more than 200 programs and services meeting the needs of Chickasaw people and making opportunities available. Opportunities to attain a higher education. Opportunities to live healthier lives. Opportunities to raise our families in a safe, secure home, one that they can take pride in, all in effort to enhance the quality of life of the people we serve.

One of the highest determinants of health, success and quality of life, is education. Today, the Chickasaw Nation provides more than 5,000 Chickasaw students with financial and other forms of support each and every year. We constantly evaluate how to best serve our students. You have heard about the chokka kilimpi program on the video.

We have also been paying close attention to the rise in tuition costs in recent years. We have decided to increase the funding for educational scholarships and grants for the next fiscal year. Starting in January, the second semester this year, we will raise both the amount of scholarship money for tuition and increase the total number of credit hours that we will fund. We know too that the cost of books continues to rise. So starting in the fall semester of 2018, we will increase the amount provided for the textbook grant. We feel blessed to be in a position to increase these grants and scholarships.

Just a few decades ago, facilities like our child development centers and services like the camps and academies for the arts, athletics, STEM and robotics, were only dreams. We understood the need for education opportunities for our people. We knew that education was integral to the future success of our people, and we understood that education at an early age is one of the best investments that we can make. So we established head start centers to place our children on the pathway of success. By 1990, we had added two head start locations, and by 1992, we had two more.

Continuing to add new programs, develop existing services and build relationships with schools, we opened our own child development center in 2002. Since opening, our child development center has served more than 1,700 children and received multiple awards for technological innovation and architectural design. You would almost have to see it to believe it. The child development centers are wonderful. If you have an opportunity, you should visit one. You need to see what it is they are doing with the young children. And this year, we have completed the construction of a second one in Ardmore. It has opened up new opportunities to people in that area. I think we may even have a waiting list now, so we are going to have to enlarge it.

While we have been working to improve the level of educational opportunities for our youngest students, we also understand that educational opportunities are important at all stages of life. The Chickasaw Nation promotes life-long learning and provides resources for Chickasaws from birth through post-graduate school, as well as internships and employment training. You saw an example of that on the video. In 1996, we established vocational rehabilitation services, and in 1997, we implemented the Chickasaw Honor Club. We have continued to develop a wide range of education programs and services. Just this year, we opened two new Chickasaw Youth Clubs, one in Tishomingo and one in Sulphur. We also opened up a much larger and improved head start facility right here in Tishomingo and are currently building another head start center in Sulphur.

It was mentioned by the lieutenant governor a little bit earlier about the individuals that work for the tribe. I must honor them and appreciate them for all the hard work and dedication, the great ideas they have and helping us move forward, meeting these educational goals and all the other goals of the Chickasaw Nation. Let’s give them a round of applause. They work tirelessly to meet our mission, and you can go to most any person and you can ask them, what is the mission of the Chickasaw Nation? And they will tell you what it is. Sometimes they get a word a little different, but it still means the same, to enhance the overall quality of life of the Chickasaw people. Today, we have more than twenty educational programs and services, and they offer a multitude of opportunities for people to grow and to prosper.

Like education, the state of our healthcare is strong today. We are always looking for new ways to improve our health programs and services. Like the Native and non-Native spouse prescription program which benefits the whole family. Over the years, we have learned to take a dual approach to improving health care. A lot of time the function of health care is to treat people who are ill, but we offer a wide range of health care treatment services as well as a variety of preventative health care services. Just this year, we expanded our Purcell clinic, adding 14,000 square feet and remodeling the existing area to create a 24,000 square foot facility that will provide the highest quality health care. This expansion will enable us to serve 17,000 additional patient visits there on the Purcell campus. Because much of our health relies upon healthy living and the prevention of disease, we also continue to enhance services that include nutrition and encourage active lifestyles. As one example, we recently opened a new 15,000 square foot wellness center on that same Purcell campus. At the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center, we have added a new 10,000 square foot EMS building, emergency medical services building. We are currently constructing the Apila Center, which will house hospital administration staff, allowing us to expand the actual medical services within the hospital itself, within that medical center. So we are going to have more space to provide direct care. We have worked to improve the quality of our healthcare over the years.

Many of us may remember the Carl Albert Indian Health facility and the satellite clinics. Indian health services did the best they could with the money and staffing they had, but we believed we could do a good job of taking care of our own people. So in 1994, we decided to do something big. To compact with the Indian Health Service to operate the Carl Albert Indian Health Facility and our satellite clinics. That was our entire health system. For those of you too young to remember, it was a huge step toward self-determination. We were the first tribal nation to take responsibility for our own entire health system, and there were some folks that were a little fearful. They thought we might fail, but we were confident. We were confident we would be able to develop services that would meet the needs of our people because we understood the needs of our people.

One of the first things we did was institute an appointment system so that you could see your doctor at a certain time of day. We also remember the high turnover rate of doctors and how we felt fortunate if we got to see the same doctor on a regular basis. We wanted more than that. We still do! We wanted people to get primary care from the same person and develop a long term relationship. So we worked toward that, and we made it happen. We have a lot of hard working people that made that happen.

For many folks, you may remember when you went to one of the satellite health clinics in the 80s and 90s, we lacked many of the basic services that we really needed. But step into one of our clinics today, and that is different. A lot of things that were previously unavailable are now available right there in that clinic.

We knew we had to resolve the wait times, too. That was worked on. Being able to get specialty care or medical tests was important, so we looked at bringing more specialty care services in house. One example is the orthopedic services and other specialty services that were brought in house. And you know diabetes was an area we saw that we needed to work on. That’s really important. We knew, and we know today, that education, nutrition and exercise are key to prevention. So the diabetes care center was developed, and it opened in 2004. They had this philosophy in mind, to head off diabetes and prevent it. We have invested over the years also with institutions who say they want, and believe it is their genuine mission to cure diabetes. We hired dieticians and endocrinologists, and we built wellness centers across the nation, because we wanted to fight the diabetes epidemic from all angles.

As improvements and services continued, more patients came as a result. In fact, so many patients came that we outgrew the Carl Albert Indian Health Facility. We started plans for the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center that opened in 2010, a state-of-the-art facility so advanced that nothing like it had been built by an Indian tribe before. After this, we set about expanding our clinics and adding services such as pediatrics and dental. It has taken decades to reach the level of health care and wellness service that we enjoy today. We still have much work to do, but we are thankful for where we are today.

Another remarkable achievement is the growth of housing services. This has happened over the last twenty years. For instance, since we started the chuka chukmasi home loan program, we have issued loans to nearly 1,400 families, totaling more than $145 million. More than 2,700 families have received down payment and closing cost assistance grants and that helps them purchase a home. More than 2,500 families have used the home rehabilitation program to repair and improve their homes. More than 4,300 families have had storm shelters installed on their property to protect them from inclement weather. Overall, thousands of families and tens of thousands of individuals have benefited from housing programs and services since we took responsibility for administering our own housing programs in 1996.

Although the Chickasaw Housing Authority had already provided Native American families with more than 3,000 homes all across the Chickasaw Nation, there were still Chickasaws living in unsafe and insufficient housing. With the passage of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act, or NAHASDA, we took control of our housing services and went to work conducting assessment meetings to determine what building programs and services would benefit Chickasaw families. From these meeting, we developed a set of new housing specifications and a number of new programs. We increased the size of the houses and began installing such things as central heat and air, carpeting, garages and driveways, some of the things we consider essentials. For the first time, our families had the chance to select their paint colors and design elements. Overall, we improved the quality of construction, and families can make their house a home.

As we experienced success in key areas such as business, health care, education and housing, and as our businesses began to make more money, we looked for opportunities to expand our efforts, to branch out into other areas that are important to our people. Areas like community, our elders and our veterans. For many years now, we have been building community centers and senior centers and developing programs and services with our elders and veterans in mind. Just this year, we finished brand new community and senior centers right here in Tishomingo. Construction continues on community and senior centers in Oklahoma City, to serve the Chickasaw community and elders there. We are also very pleased to announce that just this week, we cut the ribbon and opened our new 14,400 square foot veterans lodge, located on the campus south of Ada. This will be a great place for our veterans to gather and to fellowship or to find assistance for counseling or other services.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have come very far. It took many partners to make it to where we are today. Growth and progress were not achieved alone. We needed you. You helped us. The progress we have had, a lot of it has been in economic development, and the benefits of economic development are not just felt by us. There are other people that feel those changes. We have had a lot of helping hands along the way, those who wanted all of us to succeed, for our communities to succeed, together. I remember when we searched for a place to build our headquarters, the City of Ada stepped up. They were very generous with the location for us to build. In the early years of housing, the Department of Housing and Urban Development guided the housing authority through the process of building homes. County commissioners and city officials have been consistently supportive and were some of our earliest advocates. Our relationships with the Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs have grown and flourished over the years. And Tishomingo, you graciously invited us to host the Annual Meeting and Festival here 25 years ago.  And before that was Seeley Chapel. When it would no longer handle all the people attending, Byng Public Schools provided us with facilities for our Annual Meeting.

We have developed partnerships, important partnerships, along the road, that have helped us to get to where we are today. There are many people and so many organizations, really too many to name, who have become good friends of the Chickasaw Nation over the last three decades. As a result of sharing and working with others, we have all prospered.

Communities within the Chickasaw Nation have joined together, in one way or another. It is sort of like a circle of success. People working together and helping each other to succeed, with the accomplishments of each member of that circle giving benefits to all the others.

We can look around and see stores once boarded have now been remodeled and have new purpose. Main streets are now bustling, and established businesses are reaching new levels of prosperity. Unemployment, which in 1990, was seven and a half percent in the thirteen counties of the Chickasaw Nation, has dropped to four and three quarters percent today.

This is proof that working together helps create a rising tide within our communities that raises all boats. We cannot take the credit ourselves as the ones who did it. It was everybody working together. We have risen as a result of it.

As we rise we need to tell our own story. We need to tell where we have been, what we have done and also where we are going.  Telling our story from a Chickasaw perspective is what we do each and every day through publications from the Chickasaw Press. Other examples include Chokma Magazine and the Chickasaw Historical Society’s Journal of Chickasaw History. Daily at the Cultural Center, people live and experience our culture and history through interactions with our people and with the exhibits there. In fact, more than 620,000 people have traveled to the cultural center since we opened it in 2010.

We tell our stories through commercials. You have seen some on those of the air. They focus on individual Chickasaws and what they do and who they are. On documentaries, we are documenting Chickasaw history and culture. And we have feature films. How many saw Te Ata? Wasn’t she a wonderful lady? Didn’t she do wonderful things, and didn’t she carry forth the Chickasaw history and culture at a time when people were trying to push it down?  So she is a hero! And we tell that story so that other people can know she is a hero. When we document that in a way that people can connect with, they will remember it. I think there is an appreciation not only for her, but also for the Chickasaw Nation.

We have a new movie. It is called The Chickasaw Rancher, and we are working on that right now. It is in post-production and will explore the life of Montford T. Johnson. More than 200 Chickasaws participated in the production. Isn’t that cool! Montford Johnson was a Chickasaw who overcame a difficult childhood. He had numerous hardships in his life and he had a difficult time. But he established a vast ranching business in 19th century Indian Territory. 

Now if this story kind of sounds familiar, it should.

The story of Montford Johnson parallels the story of our tribe over the last thirty years. And like The Chickasaw Rancher, we have overcome, as a Nation, a lot of challenges. We have established businesses, and we have become prosperous. We have an indelible warrior spirit of perseverance. It is important that we know our own story and that we share this story with the world.

Throughout time, the Chickasaw have played a pivotal role in shaping this country. This was never more true than when a small number of Chickasaw warriors stood against a vast and powerful French Army in defense of our homeland at the Battle of Atkia in 1736. This one battle changed the course of history and laid the foundation for what would eventually become The United States of America. It is a story that should be told and told by us, the peoples whose ancestors accomplished remarkable feats in the face of great adversity.

Just like in Te Ata and The Chickasaw Rancher, we hope to have as many Chickasaws involved in the production as possible.  There are a lot of opportunities to be involved. We have developed a training program to provide an opportunity over the next year to prepare, training on how to handle our traditional weapons, acting workshops and a warrior fit program. We will provide specific details on how to get involved very soon.

Today, we define our identity. We write the narrative of our people, of our Nation. We do it through self-determination. There is still a lot of work to do and a lot of work we are planning to do. And these plans are guided by a commitment to serve the Chickasaw people.

As we move forward, let us lay to rest any outdated beliefs or misconceptions. If you are Chickasaw, you are Chickasaw. You are part of a family, one tribe, built on a shared history and looking forward to a bright future. This is a future where we will write our own story.

Fellow Chickasaws, let us stand up and tell the story of our people proudly. The story of how we overcame great obstacles and grew and prospered. The story of a tribe that invests in its youth and encourages them to find their passion in life. The story of people who honor, respect and give back to the elders and veterans. The story of a nation that is strong and getting stronger.

Thank you! God Bless you! Chokmas ki’ Yakoke!