2018 State of the Nation Address

A Gathering of Our People
Governor Bill Anoatubby
10/6/2018 9:00:00 AM

2018 State of the Nation

Chokma! Good morning and welcome to the 58th Annual Meeting of the great, unconquered and unconquerable Chickasaw Nation. We thank all of you who are here and those who are in the tent and those who are watching on video, those who are listening on KCNP or KCNP.org - hello everybody.

Lt. Governor mentioned last Saturday’s events and we have had events throughout the week; they were a lot of fun, weren’t they? Getting together and seeing people we have not seen in a long time and meeting new people and embracing our culture, our history and our heritage. It has been a wonderful week with people from all-around. Lisa mentioned a list of states where people have come from to this annual meeting.

Today is a great day, and this week has been a great week and we have a lot of friends here. It is a time for us to connect with other Chickasaws and celebrate. We celebrate our culture and honor our history. I appreciate very much the friends who are here with us today, friends from other governments. We have former state legislators and current state legislators, we have the Speaker of the House, the Secretary of Native American Affairs and the list goes on and on. They are friends. We have universities represented here today. We are thankful for everybody. We are very thankful for our relationship with Murray State College and our relationship with the city of Tishomingo.

Mr. Mayor, we appreciate the city. We appreciate the work that you and Murray State College do. They roll out the red carpet for us and they help us make this annual meeting and festival a success. They are just wonderful hosts. We all come back together, and we appreciate the service of all the folks who have come back to join us.

This is always an important time for us to get together. This is really a special time and some may be aware of it and others may not - this year marks an exciting milestone for the Chickasaw Nation: 35 years ago, we ratified the current, official tribal constitution. That was in 1983 and allows for a three-department system for our government. We reaffirmed our sovereignty and our self-determination through ratification of that constitution.

Those people who served on the Constitutional Commission worked diligently to ensure that the new constitution would fit the needs of Chickasaws living in a modern society. We have experienced remarkable growth under that constitution. In the years following ratification, we turned our focus to economic development and business diversification while, at the same time, maintaining education, health care and housing as well as other priorities right at the top. In so doing, we have further supported our mission of enhancing the overall quality of life of the Chickasaw people.

Today, the state of the Chickasaw Nation is strong! Through hard work and commitment to the Chickasaw people, we who serve you, have worked hard to provide more opportunities. We have more opportunities now than ever before.

Through all these efforts, efforts of raising revenue, efforts of providing services, these are what it is all about. Our businesses continue to grow and our financial standing is better than it has ever been.

We are able to use the revenue from these successful businesses to expand programs and services.

In your packet every year is the annual report. That report goes through a number of things from number of employees to total assets. This financial report is based on the most recent audited financial statements of the Chickasaw Nation. Audits are important to show that the records we have are reliable and the information we provide to you is accurate and that we meet the standards that are set for the industry when it comes to accounting. You can see in this report, again that the state of the Chickasaw Nation is strong financially.

One thing in the packet you will find is a single sheet that is the statement of net assets for Aug. 31. Obviously, Sept. 30 was just a week ago, so we are unable to provide an audited statement for that period so we try to give the information that is most up to date.

We need to talk about the differences between tribal government and the state government, city government and federal government and how we raise our revenues. Other governments raise their revenue through taxes, fees and such. In our case, we do not have taxes. We do not tax our people. We do not tax things. We raise our revenues through business activity. The businesses are very important to the Chickasaw Nation and the revenues we derive through those businesses. We have worked hard over the years to diversify our businesses so we can fund programs and services.

We have successful businesses in many different areas including gaming, hospitality and in chocolate. Also in tourism, banking, manufacturing and other industries, as well. This past year, we experienced record revenues and profits. We continue to look for opportunities to expand into new markets and into new industries. A number of key partnerships through Global Gaming, Bedré, Chickasaw Nation Industries and other businesses have helped enhance our growth.

Bedré Fine Chocolate continues to experience steady growth while maintaining its reputation for the highest quality chocolate. As part of our growth strategy, Bedré developed partnerships with the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University. We have a bar for both of those fine institutions. We are also in the early stages of a licensing partnership with the Dallas Cowboys.

Aligning the Bedré brand with such high-profile partners is a key to continued growth. As part of a similar strategy, we recently developed a partnership which makes WinStar World Casino the official casino of the Dallas Cowboys. This partnership between one of the world’s largest casinos and one of the world’s most valuable sports franchises will benefit both the Chickasaw Nation and the Cowboys organization.

We continue to expand business endeavors and partnerships across the country. Chickasaw Nation Industries, also called CNI, continues to see remarkable growth. Several CNI subsidiaries are leaders in their respective industries. CNI’s engineering subsidiary, Corvid Technologies, is working on a number of projects with large defense contractors. Corvid’s predictive modeling capabilities save these companies millions of dollars in research and development costs. Corvid is currently expanding its headquarters and expects to add more than 350 new jobs in the coming years.

Another CNI subsidiary, Filtra-Systems, recently launched a state of the art water filtration system. This new system will filter up to 10,000 barrels of water per day, helping preserve water resources and our environment. This system is perfect for the oil and gas industry.

Our business ventures grow each year, and through these economic development efforts we are able to generate the revenue needed to develop, expand and enhance programs and services. Economic conditions have improved in several markets. Efficient stewardship and investment of tribal funds continue to play a key role in the success of Chickasaw Nation business endeavors. We work hard to maximize returns on every investment. Our diversification strategy is producing strong financial results. This financial success allows us to add and improve programs and services because that is what it is all about.

Education, for instance, is an area we constantly evaluate. It is essential to offer the financial support that is often needed to earn a college degree or other types of higher education. This past year, we provided close to $20 million in scholarships, grants and other forms of financial support to more than 5,200 Chickasaw students.

We have increased the amount in scholarships; we have increased the tuition amount and the number of credit hours we will help to fund, as well as the amount we grant for textbooks. A lot of us have seen the bills for higher education. While tuition and books account for a large portion of the cost of college, fees can equal or often times eclipse these costs. We are exploring ways to assist with the expense of fees in the coming year and expect to offer additional assistance next fall for fees.

Early education is vital to the success of children. We recently opened a new Head Start in Sulphur, further investing in development opportunities for our youngest students. We expanded the number of classrooms and staff to serve more children in the area.

Like education, health and wellness are areas where we continue to look for ways to improve. Many of you recall what health care delivery was like prior to the early 90s: long wait times, language barriers between patients and doctors and unexpected medical bills.

Indian Health Service was maintaining, basically, a flat budget so there was no room for the growth and improvements that were needed. IHS did the best they could, but there were many areas that needed attention. Therefore, we took responsibility for our own health care services by compacting for management and operational authority. We were then able to steer our own course, to determine our own priorities, to take care of our own people.

We moved forward one-step at a time. We had ups and downs over the years, but we stayed the course. As improvements in services continued, more patients came – so many that we outgrew the Carl Albert Indian Health Facility. We built the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center in Ada, built new clinics in Ardmore and Tishomingo and expanded our clinic in Purcell. Over the years, we have added a number of services at our clinics, such as optometry and dental. And this year, for the first time, pediatrics is available in all Chickasaw Nation medical facilities. We have achieved incredible growth.

Today, our Department of Health operates a state-of-the-art hospital, four clinics, eight pharmacies, a diabetes care center, emergency medical services, four nutrition centers, eight WIC offices and five wellness centers. This year, the Chickasaw Nation Department of Health had more than 930,000 patient encounters, delivered more than 1,200 babies, filled more than 1.8 million prescriptions, served more than 60,000 meals to children and welcomed more than 177,000 visits at our wellness centers.

Yet, we still have a distance to go. We know improvements are still needed. We want you to know we are working each day to be better at what we do. We are committed to improvement. We focus on quality health care to better serve you. Becoming better often means developing new programs and services and building new facilities to meet your needs.

This past year, we broke ground on a 32,000-square-foot pharmacy, on the Ada South Campus. Pharmacy services will expand to include hypertension, asthma and immunization clinics. In February, we broke ground on a new Ada Wellness Center. The new Wellness Center will be more than 25,000 square feet, nearly doubling the size of the current Wellness Center.

This past year we have launched two new initiatives. For those who reside in Oklahoma, Virtual Visit allows us to “visit” a doctor without having to leave home. For certain illnesses and injuries, patients can see a doctor, receive a diagnosis and even medication using a smart electronic device like this cellphone, or iPads as well, and online through your computer. Likewise, Health Outreach is a tool designed to better assist with meeting health care needs. Health Outreach will connect you with current tribal resources and assess existing programs for improvement. Our goal is to ensure that all Chickasaws have access to quality health care.

The health of our nation includes being part of a community, having a purpose, being fulfilled, finding your passion and making an impact. We work to provide these opportunities for Chickasaws of all ages – for our youth, for our elders, for our veterans and for our entire Chickasaw community.

We operate 12 senior sites where elders gather to share a meal, fellowship and participate in activities, classes and travel. Our seniors like to travel.

The Chickasaw Warrior Society is more than 1,500 strong, and we continue to enhance services for veterans.

The youth are our future; you have heard that over and over again. It may seem trite, but it is true. This past year, Chickasaw youth explored the visual, performing and culinary arts, explored science, technology, engineering and mathematics though CNASA, archeology, environmental camps and robotics. They explored athletics through golf academy, football, basketball and soccer clinics and experienced our culture and language through cultural camps and immersive language programs.

Today, dozens of Chickasaws, ages 1 through 17, are learning our stomp dances through the Chickasaw Young Dancers program which began in January. More than 75 youth carry on our tradition of playing stickball on the Chikasha Bak Bak stickball team. Youth of all ages gather daily in youth clubs across the Chickasaw Nation. Through the Chikasha Pelichi Ikbi leadership program, Chickasaw youth are preparing to be the leaders of tomorrow and more than 450 Chickasaw youth earned valuable work experience and education through Toksali SMART this last summer.

In August, we celebrated the opening of a Senior Center and a Community Center in Oklahoma City. Also, we recently broke ground on a new community center in Achille, which should be completed in the fall of 2019. We have continued to travel the country hosting community gatherings and dinners and more than 160 Chickasaw community council and citizen connection meetings took place across the United States. These gatherings are an opportunity to meet with and hear directly from you on how we can better serve.

Housing was one of our earliest services. Our first housing project began more than 50 years ago, not far from here, in Fillmore. After passage of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act, or NAHASDA, which allowed tribes to receive and control the use of HUD funds directly. We immediately went to work conducting needs-assessment meetings to determine what building programs and services would most benefit Chickasaw families.

From these meetings, among other things, we discovered that nearly 60 percent of the home loan applications being submitted by Chickasaws were being turned down by lenders. That is not good. We wanted to address this issue, so, the Chuka Chukmasi Home Loan Program was developed. In the 20 years since Chuka Chukmasi was established, it has facilitated nearly $155 million in loans to more than 1,400 families, setting them on the path to home ownership.

Of course, we have developed programs that assist with everything from home improvements, to down payment cost, and from counseling services, to installing storm shelters. It is really important in Oklahoma, particularly.

In addition to creating new programs, we also continue to build service-providing facilities that further our mission to enhance the overall quality of life of the Chickasaw people. Two such facilities – the Women’s Recovery Center and the Violence Prevention Center – will open soon on the Ada South Campus. The programs administered in these buildings will safeguard and serve women and their children, protecting families from physical and substance abuse. Moreover, establishing the Women’s Recovery Center allows us to expand services of Healthy Lifestyles, which was the existing alcohol and drug treatment center, and focus that facility on the treatment of men.

It is important that we tell our story. You saw the titles of the Chickasaw Press and the covers on the screen today, so Chickasaw Press is doing just that, telling our story. To expand and to enhance access to our culture and language, we continue to utilize the latest technology. Earlier this year we released level two of Rosetta Stone Chickasaw, bringing the number of available language lessons to 80. We are not through yet! Forty more lessons will be released this next spring!

We are pleased to introduce AYA, a walking and fitness app that integrates Chickasaw history, language and culture. AYA is available for the first time today.

You saw where we released the Choctaw Hymns app this year featuring the songs in the traditional printed version of the Choctaw Hymnal.

We keep our traditions alive through language, culture and song, as well as through the games we play. This year, for the first time, we sent our own Chickasaw team to the World Series of Stickball in Mississippi.

Investing in our culture is a high priority – the young dancers program, youth and adult stickball teams, language lessons, making traditional bows, flutes, beaded collars or corn husk dolls – all of these are important to who we are. Our culture and our language, our indomitable spirit, they make up who we are.

We work to ensure that generations from now, Chickasaws will know who they are and that we are unconquered and unconquerable.

As we continue to grow and strengthen and protect our culture, we are evaluating a number of important issues that have the potential to impact the Chickasaw Nation for years and generations to come. At times, it is necessary for us to be involved in other issues, issues that affect us and will affect the Chickasaw people. We are here to protect the interests of the Chickasaw people.

One that has gained considerable attention lately is the opioid epidemic that is devastating families across the country. You have all heard about it. We, along with Choctaw Chief Gary Batton and Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, announced we have filed lawsuits against the makers of opioid medications.

These medications are highly addictive and pose a very real risk to the health of those we serve. We are standing together to hold these companies accountable for the devastation they have caused our families, our tribes and our state. In addition, we are also working with our own health systems to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions. We will work together to help support those individuals recovering from the effects of these highly addictive drugs. It is important that we stop the devastating impact of these drugs on our Nation and we are committed to doing our part.

Another issue that has been in the news in Oklahoma is the passage of State Question 788. We have been carefully evaluating how this new state law regarding medical marijuana could impact the Chickasaw Nation. We have found that the state law is in direct conflict with federal law, which still classifies marijuana as a schedule 1 controlled substance, which means it is still illegal to possess or use marijuana under federal law.

Indian Health Service officials have made it clear that prescribing, recommending, possessing or distributing marijuana is against federal law and violates IHS policy. For these reasons, and others, it is business as usual for the Chickasaw Nation. We will continue operating in accordance with federal law.

On another matter, we continue to build on the success of our water settlement agreement. We have a vital interest in the sustainable management of the water resources of our region, and that management must benefit not only our people, but all Oklahomans. Our historic water rights agreement was a major milestone on our journey toward bringing Oklahomans together to develop and implement a sound and sustainable plan.

Just last week, we launched the Chickasaw Nation Natural Resources Office. We brought together in this place many of the things we are already doing. They will do the hard work of bringing the science and policy together in support of our water resource planning efforts. That is just the start – our commitment is to stewardship of our natural resources for the long-term benefit of the Chickasaw people and our region. The Natural Resource Office will be the home for those efforts as they continue to grow.

Another issue in the news this year is the Murphy case. The case is now before the United States Supreme Court and a decision will likely be out by next summer. Regardless of the outcome of this case, we are confident the tribes and the state of Oklahoma will continue to work together to support law enforcement and ensure public safety. We will do so through our Lighthorse Police, through our cross-deputation and other agreements, and through the rich intergovernmental relationship we have built over the past several decades with the state of Oklahoma. In the meantime, we will advocate for Chickasaw Nation and tribal sovereignty – something that is critical to our survival and health as a people. Tribal sovereignty has also served to help Oklahoma and all Oklahomans be stronger. We are thankful for that, and are hopeful the Supreme Court will act to protect tribal sovereignty in this matter.

As part of our efforts to ensure public safety, we added a new K-9 team, which will save valuable time locating missing persons during rescue efforts. These canines, along with the four in the Lighthorse Police Department, will serve as a great benefit to law enforcement and emergency responders in the communities in which they serve.

The well-being of Chickasaw families is important. During times of emergencies and natural disasters, we actively reach out to Chickasaws impacted in these areas. From wildfires in California to flooding in Texas and most recently to hurricanes along the East Coast, we have reached out to more than 3,000 Chickasaws this year in those affected areas.

We will continue to work with those who need assistance. In all times, especially in times of crisis we are here for Chickasaws and their families.

Both in challenging times and in good times, the Chickasaw Nation relies on the coordination of its employees, which now number more than 14,000 strong. In order to continue progressing at our current rate, we consistently evaluate our systems and processes to maintain operations at their peak effectiveness. We focus on what we call a system check to continue our practice of strong internal controls. The Chickasaw Nation succeeds by having a common goal for all employees. That goal is our mission, and you have heard it: to enhance the overall quality of life of the Chickasaw people. Our mission is supported by our core values, which serve as our guideposts as we make decisions about operations – how we manage our resources and how we serve. We are committed to perseverance and selflessness. We work for the betterment of the Chickasaw people and to preserve our cultural identity. We focus on servant leadership, trust and respect, practicing responsible stewardship with honesty and integrity. Our team works with a can do attitude and loyalty to our mission.

We have a great team. Much has been done by our team. There is much we are doing and still much, we plan to do. Preparing Chickasaws for viable, sustainable careers is one of the cornerstones of our plans. For this purpose, we have created a new division, Chickasaw Employment Access. This new division will assist Chickasaws in removing barriers to employment and identifying and obtaining the necessary training and placement needed for employment. Program navigators will assist Chickasaws to identify the programs and services offered by this new division that will best meet their needs. We are excited to offer these programs, which help Chickasaws attain individual success and contribute to the overall success and health of the Chickasaw Nation.

We are also pleased to announce that we have a number of upcoming construction projects. This year, we will begin construction on a nutrition center, as well as a gym here in Tishomingo. We plan to kick off construction on a record number of homes this coming year and we have other projects in the development phase. In the coming months, KCNP Chickasaw Community Radio will expand its coverage area with a broadcast license right here in Tishomingo. This is going to give us the coverage we were looking for in the early days when we started KCNP. KCNP provides important programming about Chickasaw news and services, and important public safety information during times of inclement weather. We are continuing to search for new ways to share information with you. Keeping everyone apprised of important information is a high priority.

It is a real honor for us to be of service to you. There has been a lot that has been accomplished and we did that together and we have much more that we need to do. We are excited about the future of the Chickasaw Nation, and look forward to being part of it. Each day, we who work for the Chickasaw Nation strive to make positive decisions with our mission and your well-being in mind. Geographic location may separate us in distance but we are still connected through our shared history and heritage.

We were Chickasaw in our Homeland. We were Chickasaw in Indian Territory and today, regardless of where we live, Chikasha Poya. We are still Chickasaw!

You are the reason we are here to serve you as we continue to work toward our mission. In the coming year, we will engage in discussions about how we can better serve you. Learning what programs and services have benefited you thus far and where there is room for improvement. We have come far and the future is filled with the promise of even greater progress. Be certain, the Chickasaw Nation today is strong and getting stronger!

These things do not just happen accidentally. This strength is the result of a solid foundation and long-term, ongoing, strategic planning process. We are a Nation of successful and united people, with a strong cultural identity, who, 35 years ago, developed and ratified our modern constitution. We affirmed our right to self-governance.

Together, we built today’s Chickasaw Nation. With continued planning and a commitment to the Chickasaw people, we will prosper far into the future. Ladies and gentlemen, the state of the Chickasaw Nation is strong!

May God bless you as He has blessed our Nation!

Chokma’ shki - Yakoke!