2021 State of the Nation Address

A Virtual Gathering of Our People
Governor Bill Anoatubby
10/2/2021 10:00:00 AM

2021 State of the Nation

The transcription of the 2021 State of the Nation address has been edited for readability and clarity.


Welcome to the 61st Annual Meeting, and thank you very much for joining us today. Don’t you think that Lisa Billy does a great job with the emcee job? I think I teased her a little bit. I said Lisa maybe you ought to hang out a shingle; open up an office and start charging for your services. 

She does a great job and we appreciate her. By the way, she did do the emcee work for the opening of the First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City on Sept. 18. Wonderful job. We had thousands of people show up that day. A wonderful facility. So be sure to go to the First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City when possible. 

Well, I hope that you are very well, and I hope that everyone in your family is safe and healthy.

We have much to be thankful for, and much that has been accomplished. The Chickasaw Nation continues to develop programs and services to enhance the overall quality of life of the Chickasaw people. We continue to make service to the Chickasaw people our priority, and we continue to grow and thrive as a result.

We owe a special thanks to Congressman Tom Cole, Speaker Charles McCall and Mayor of Tishomingo Laura Wood. We appreciate your comments and well wishes, and all that you do for our communities both locally and for Oklahoma.

Having partners at all levels of government is critical to the Chickasaw Nation and we have some very good partners. It is crucial that people serving in these positions have knowledge about tribal nations and respect the sovereignty of tribal governments. We are very fortunate that so many of our partners are quick to seek opportunities to work together and to seek to find common purpose and understanding. 

We believe the March 15th confirmation of Deb Haaland as secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior is a meaningful step forward in inter-governmental relations with the United States. Secretary Haaland is an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo, and her confirmation marks the first time a First American has served as secretary of the Interior. The significance of having a First American lead this department is monumental, and we look forward to working more with Secretary Haaland.

We thank our tribal legislators and judges for all that you do. Congratulations to everyone reelected and sworn in during the oath of office ceremony.

And again let us recognize our new royalty, the Chickasaw Princesses. They are an important part of our culture and serve as ambassadors of the Chickasaw Nation. Thank you to all our princesses, both past and present, for all that you do.

Ladies and gentlemen, amidst much change in our world and our nation over this past year, I am pleased to report the state of the Chickasaw Nation is strong.

While yes, operations are still very different than in years past, and while we still cannot gather as we traditionally have, we have remained diligent to our efforts to develop and deliver programs and services that enhance the overall quality of life of the Chickasaw people.

We are pleased to announce that our financial position is excellent. We continue to build a strong financial base planning for the operations now and into the future.

As we do each year, our latest audited financial results are published in our annual financial report. Now the latest audited financial report is Sept. 30, 2020, and that is printed in a book typically handed out at the Chickasaw Annual Meeting. 

We have this available to you online so that you can access it there. And it will also be mailed out if you register. 

Also our fiscal year 2020 net position increased by approximately 12% over our FY 2019 position. That’s a number we are very pleased about, considering the circumstances.
For the same period, our net assets grew by 12.9%. This all added up to another good year.
Each year, we provide the most recent unaudited financial report, it’s typically inserted into the annual report, but it’s a statement of net assets for the current year through Aug. 31. That’s the latest numbers we can present. Let’s go over that a little bit. 

The report reflects a 31.5% increase in assets so far over Sept. 30, 2020. Our net position has increased by 17.4% since September 2020.

Our business income was down in FY 2020 due to the pandemic. You know we closed from March 17, 2020, through May 27, 2020. But it steadily bounced back in 2020 and in FY 2021.
Trust funds (money held by the U.S. government for our benefit) have continued to grow as well. Over the past five years, these funds have grown by $4 million. 

In FY 21, these trust funds increased by $140,000. Keep in mind that those funds are invested by the federal government in bonds, and bonds haven’t been doing very well, but at least we did have an increase of $140,000. 

Our financial outlook is strong which allows us to continue to develop new programs while at the same time expanding and adapting current service to meet ever-changing circumstances. 

We have continued to transition a number of programs to a virtual platform and have resumed in-person services in other areas. 

Over the summer, we operated a virtual archaeology program and virtual Chickasaw Kids Club events, which provided at-home cultural enrichment for our children and families. 
The Artesian Art Market was online for the second consecutive year, which had more than 20 First American tribes represented. 

A few of our camps and clinics went virtual as well, while others, including golf and tennis camps, were able to provide in-person instruction. 

We are also currently providing in-person instruction at the Chickasaw Institute of Technology, which was founded in 2016 to provide career training opportunities to Chickasaw citizens in four technical trade programs: construction, electrical, HVAC and medical coding. 

Currently there are 35 students enrolled at the  Institute, and 60 Chickasaw citizens have already graduated from a career training program this year. 

We are adding an additional 1,600 square feet of space to the existing 5,000-square-foot Chickasaw Institute of Technology facility. 

Starting in the summer of 2022, this additional space will be used to train Chickasaw citizens in plumbing.

In June of this year, we welcomed elders back to our senior centers to once again offer a space for them to safely fellowship with one another.

Prior to that, while our senior centers were closed due to the pandemic, our employees delivered curbside meals to our elders. 

Area offices also provided curbside services during the pandemic and have adjusted their hours and implemented safety precautions since reopening to serve Chickasaws in-person.
Our nutrition services sites also modified services during the pandemic and offered curbside delivery to help keep participants safe. 

This year, our Impa’chi (program), I know a lot of people have probably heard Impa’chi means “let’s eat,” so the Impa’chi program shipped more than 1 million meals to more than 3,000 Chickasaw children living within Oklahoma.

Through a partnership with USDA, the Chickasaw Nation hosted 18 drive-thru food distribution events called “Farmers to Families” in all 13 counties within the Chickasaw Nation.

These events allowed the distribution of more than 500,000 pounds of food in our communities. Yes, I said 500,000 pounds. 

In 2021, the food distribution program fulfilled more than 18,000 curbside grocery pickup orders at our five nutrition centers.

This year, community health representatives provided nearly 84,000 services to nearly 2,700 Chickasaws. 

The Chickasaw Nation Department of Health pharmacy and the pharmacy refill center filled more than 1.7 million prescriptions this year. 

We expanded virtual visit capability across the department of health and developed plans to continue to offer high quality health care throughout the crisis and beyond.

Through help from virtual visits, the department of health saw more than 46,000 patients from the safety of their homes.

Education continues to be a top priority. This year, nearly 4,900 Chickasaw students were awarded $26.3 million in higher education grants and scholarships.  

In a few cases, we were able to reopen some of our youth and education facilities to deliver programs and services in the traditional fashion. 

This included the child care centers in Ada and Ardmore, the school-age summer program and the Chickasaw Youth Clubs in Sulphur and Tishomingo. 

While these programs were postponed, we worked to make our facilities safe from the spread of COVID-19 by installing Genesis Air filtration systems throughout all child care facilities, along with disinfecting and sanitizing machines for all classroom materials. To minimize the spread of COVID-19, all staff members were fully vaccinated. 

To provide assistance to Chickasaw citizens who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19, we established the Chickasaw Nation Emergency Citizen Support Program. The program provided two types of assistance: direct payment assistance and direct service assistance. 
Direct payment assistance was paid directly to the Chickasaw citizen and was available to all citizens nationwide for assistance with the purchase of PPE, distance learning needs and telework needs. 

Direct service assistance was available to Chickasaw citizens nationwide who experienced loss of income, unemployment, furlough, a reduction of hours and compensation or layoff due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. 

In total, the Chickasaw Citizen Support Program assisted more than 15,000 Chickasaws with millions of dollars. 

To provide an overview of the measures taken by the tribe to combat COVID-19 and assist in community response and recovery efforts this year, please welcome back Lt. Governor Chris Anoatubby. 

Lt. Governor Chris Anoatubby

Thank you, Governor. And, thank you all, once again, for joining us.

As we are all aware, unfortunately COVID-19 is still very much a part of our reality. Much of this year has been spent on our campaign promoting immunity within our communities. 

And to date, we have administered more than 68,000 total doses of vaccine.   

This includes citizens, employees and anyone else who wanted a vaccine, regardless of tribal affiliation.  

Vaccines are still available at our drive-thru site in Ada at the Emergency Operations Facility, as well as by appointment at many of our clinic locations.

We are very thankful that many of our employees received their vaccinations to protect both themselves and those we serve. And we are happy to report that just over 80% of our employees in total have been fully vaccinated. 

Because of this, we have been able to continue offering vital programs and services as safely as possible.

To aid us in testing and providing vaccinations to the community, we remodeled or built a number of new facilities using funds provided by the CARES Act. 

One of these new facilities was our 40,000-square-foot Emergency Operations Facility in Ada, just down the road from the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center. 

This facility currently functions as our department of health emergency command center, a drive-thru testing and vaccination site, and a medical supply storage facility.

It has 16 drive-thru lanes to maximize efficiency when needed for increased vaccine and testing periods, for times such as right now.

Looking beyond the current public health emergency, this location could be a future site for coordination among local, state, tribal, federal and other emergency management teams.
We also completed the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center laboratory expansion this past spring.

The expansion greatly increased our lab testing capacity as well as our storage for medical supply inventory, and much needed space for our inpatient pharmacy. 

And, near the medical center, we opened our Alternate Care Site, which added 48 new beds to isolate and treat COVID-19 patients during the pandemic surges.

Recently, we began operating an infusion center at the alternate care site, where we conduct antibody treatment to COVID-19 patients in an effort to further reduce the risk of severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths.

Moving forward, the alternate care site has the capabilities to be converted into a space to educate and train our health care teams.

We also completed the nine caring cottage units near the medical center this year. The initial intention of the cottages was for quarantined patients who received a positive COVID-19 test, and we have used them for this purpose.

But, we've also been able to use them for much needed temporary shelters for Chickasaws facing housing instability. 

And, due to a winter storm in February, the caring cottages were also used as emergency shelter for medical staff, allowing them to continue providing care to patients without interruption. We've greatly appreciated having these units available for many different needs during the pandemic. 

The dedication and hard work of our health care professionals has been tremendous. Thank you to all of you who work at the medical center, EMS or at one of our many health care facilities. Your commitment to the health and wellness of Chickasaws and other First Americans is truly exceptional.

And, thank you to all our employees for the work they have done and continue to do. 

Also, it's important to mention some of the negative economic impacts the pandemic has caused within our communities.  

Funding provided through several pieces of federal legislation provided the opportunity to develop additional programs to directly address some of the adverse social or economic effects of COVID-19.  

One of these programs is the Emergency Rental Assistance Program or what we call ERAP. The Emergency Rental Assistance Program provides rent and utility assistance to eligible households who’ve experienced financial hardship due indirectly or directly to COVID-19.
Through this program, we've assisted more than 2,000 citizens thus far with more than $4.8 million in past due rent and utilities. You can find more information on the Emergency Rental Assistance Program and apply on our website. Funding is still available.  

Thank you to everyone doing their part to assist in the continuous mitigation measures. We will continue to do our part to ensure our citizens, employees and communities are safe.
Now, we welcome back Governor Anoatubby for the continuation of this year’s State of the Nation address. Thank you.

Governor Bill Anoatubby

Thank you, Lt. Governor. 

Recently, the American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law in March of 2021, has helped us fund these and other vital programs. 

In response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, we implemented a new program to assist Chickasaw citizens living in households experiencing negative economic impacts.

The EACH program began Sept. 15 and aims to offset negative economic impacts by providing direct monetary assistance to eligible Chickasaw citizens.  

In the first 10 days, 35,194 citizens qualified for $70,388,000 in funding; another 10,699 applications are in process; 11,000 checks have been mailed; and we intend to mail, as needed, up to 2,000 checks per day. The program will operate through Sept. 30, 2022.

I’d like to point out something. You probably or should have received a mailer at your home. It was mailed to all Chickasaw citizens and it describes how this particular program operates. 

And it’s likely that many, many people will continue to qualify but you must apply. It indicates on the card citizens that do not meet the above eligibility requirements may still qualify for the program. Well, the only way you can find out is if you apply, so please apply.

We continue to invest in infrastructure and developing quality, affordable housing because it continues to be a priority.

Currently, we are developing the Hilltop Meadow addition in Ada. It has 86 lots for homes, and there are 60 homes currently under construction.

Living area of these brick homes will range between 1,200 to 1,580 square feet, with ceramic tile and carpet flooring and energy efficient windows.

The homes will also have fenced yards, storm shelters, storage buildings, oversized parking spaces and 5-foot sidewalks all around the block. Our roads department has already constructed a concrete road to this site. 

When completed, this housing addition will greatly reduce the waiting list for houses in Pontotoc County, and will provide the opportunity for many Chickasaw families to purchase a new home.

Just this year, through a partnership with HUD, we also completed an additional 15 houses across four counties.  

This year, our roads program finished more than 3 miles of reconstruction projects, and is currently reconstructing more than 5 miles of county roads, city streets and state highways.

Using maintenance funds, 42 miles of roadway across 11 counties and 35 different facilities have been improved or repaired.

Although this year’s Annual Meeting and Festival is virtual, we look forward to being in person with you again next year. 

In preparation for future events, we are constructing a new event center for the Annual Meeting, just northwest of the Chickasaw Capitol in Tishomingo. 

This new event center will have comfortable seating for more than 2,400 Annual Meeting attendees. It will also have a large stage and backstage area and an expansive lobby.

Clearing and dirt work on the site have already begun, and we look forward to meeting with you there in person in the coming years.  

Infrastructure development and growth are important to our economy, but just as important is the continued protection of our natural resources. 

The Chickasaw Nation Natural Resources Office is engaged in coordinating our water unity agreement with the state of Oklahoma, and ensuring that every community within the Chickasaw Nation has sustainable, high quality water. 

They also work with local landowners on developing best land management practices for the health of local watersheds. These partnerships are key to sustainable management of our shared water resources.

Current initiatives aim to augment local water supplies, improve water and wastewater infrastructure, mitigate water quality problems, restore watersheds, and strengthen data collection.

Through our cooperative tribal water planning program, we also conduct hydrologic research and studies that support the long-term activities of local water planning organizations.

The Chickasaw Nation places a high priority on maintaining law and order while ensuring the safety, security and individual rights of our citizens.

Prior to a historic United States Supreme Court decision in July of 2020, our primary criminal justice responsibilities included only 3.5% of the Chickasaw Nation treaty territory.

Since that ruling, an Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals decision made those responsibilities now include all of our treaty territory. That is an almost thirty-fold increase in geographic area. 

Within the executive department, these duties have fallen primarily to the Lighthorse Police and the office of tribal justice administration. 

We also continue to work closely with the legislative and judicial departments of Chickasaw Nation government to ensure proper implementation of the tribe’s responsibilities.

Collaboration with state and local governments is also important. A recent ruling by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals means that convictions that were final on the date of the Supreme Court ruling will remain final. 

That eliminates a concern that convicts may appeal cases that had been tried many years before. That is no longer a concern. Our team is doing incredible work protecting public safety and maintaining law and order. 

While much remains to be done, we will continue to focus on developing solutions to challenges that arise while seizing the opportunities presented.

The Chickasaw Foundation celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The Chickasaw Foundation is perhaps best known for providing a variety of scholarships in a variety of areas, but the Foundation has also greatly assisted Oklahoma communities by funding disaster relief, food pantries, emergency services, charitable organizations, scholarships, fellowships and cultural opportunities.

The 1970s were a crucial time for the Chickasaw Nation in reasserting tribal sovereignty. Though there were some tribal programs and services, there was still a need to offer opportunities to Chickasaws that our tribal government could not at that time. 

A small group of Chickasaws had a vision for a nonprofit to serve Chickasaw citizens and their communities. The vision turned into reality when the Chickasaw Foundation was established in September 1971.

We thank those founders of the Chickasaw Foundation for their vision and work to serve Chickasaws and our communities. And we look forward to 50 more years of the Chickasaw Foundation’s continued growth as they continue promoting the general welfare and culture of the Chickasaw people.

Another organization that has reached a recent milestone is our Chickasaw Community Bank, which broke ground on a new headquarters in June.

For more than two decades, Chickasaw Community Bank, formerly known as Bank2, has helped Chickasaw families buy homes, save for their children’s college tuition, build businesses and develop the financial freedom to follow their dreams.

At nearly 33,000 total square feet, this new Chickasaw Community Bank will make an impressive addition to Oklahoma City and help us better serve our existing customers and aid in building new relationships.

Yet another facility we are excited about is the new Chickasaw Honor Guard building. This new 1,848-square-foot facility was designed to match the look and feel of our existing veterans lodge. This building provides the Chickasaw Honor Guard with a dedicated area of their own and offers a new level of support for the important work they do.

We are proud of our honor guard and grateful to them, and to all of our veterans, for their service. To this end, we have decided, beginning this Veterans Day, to offer a virtual Chickasaw Veterans Wall.

This will be a dedicated webpage to publicly pay tribute to all Chickasaws who served in any branch of the armed services. Family, friends and loved ones can submit names and information of Chickasaw veterans, which will then be displayed on the page.

The full virtual veterans wall will launch the week leading up to Veterans Day and will include all submitted names, photos and information of Chickasaw veterans including dates served and branch of the armed services.

It is important that we honor the memory of our people both here, in the modern Chickasaw Nation, as well as in our traditional Homeland.

For this reason, Chickasaw Nation Historic Preservation works with multiple agencies to conduct reburials on federally protected lands in Mississippi in hopes that they will never be disturbed again. 

This year, historic preservation completed numerous repatriations that will allow us to respectfully rebury nearly 5,000 of our ancestors and several thousand funerary objects.

These remains and funerary objects were repatriated from five museums, five federal agencies, six universities and one library. To date, two reburials consisting of the remains of 352 ancestors and 434 funerary objects were completed. 

Additionally, we have completed the repatriation process for 4,617 more ancestors and 37,222 of their funerary objects and will rebury the remains and artifacts in the near future.

This year, cemetery preservation continued clean up, identification, documentation and confidential mapping of abandoned Chickasaw family cemeteries within the Chickasaw Nation boundaries. The program currently maintains 100 properties, including 76 cemeteries and 17 historic sites.

Along with protecting cemeteries and important historic sites, we also strive to protect our living treasures, our speakers of the Chickasaw Language Committee. 

The language committee was organized in the 1990s and is comprised of fluent Chickasaw speakers. The group translates contemporary English words and phrases not originally represented in the Chickasaw language. 

Translating words into Chickasaw is an important function, so Chickasaw continues to be a living language, evolving in the same manner as other languages.

To that end, the committee has added more than 200 words to our language since 2008. The language revitalization program has also worked hard to stay up to date in the modern era of communicating.

Several culturally centered Chickasaw emojis have been developed which can be added to your smart device. They tell me these emojis will be released later this fall. 

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Chickasaw Press, which has published 62 titles since it was established in 2006. The press is releasing five new books this fall and has distributed more than 12,000 books to citizens, community organizations and the public this year. 

The press also publishes the biannual Chickasaw Historical Society journals and produces the biannual publication of Chokma Chickasaw magazine.

Our heritage series documentary team has finished editing and post-production work on a documentary about Chickasaw rancher, Montford Johnson. 

By the way, Montford Johnson was inducted posthumously into the National Western Heritage Hall of Fame on Sept. 18. And he was joined by actor Robert Duvall and George Strait, among pretty good company.

This documentary, entitled “An Original Brand” is set to release later this year. 

We have also completed filming episode one of our enduring nation series, which will eventually include three more episodes. 

A documentary about early Chickasaw leader Piominko is currently in post-production. And our documentary about Indian Territory is in the early pre-production phase. As you can tell, we have many exciting documentary projects to look forward to in the coming years.

Speaking of connecting, our community outreach team worked with Chickasaw Community Council and Connection groups via Zoom on an AYA Step Challenge this spring.

Different groups were formed in separate regions of the United States, and the total number of participants was 461. The winning team was the West Hashaakottola’ (Ha’-sha’-ko-ta’la’) team, which included citizens from 12 states located in the Western portion of the U.S. 

This winning team of 106 Chickasaws charted nearly eight million steps together, or nearly 3,650 miles, over an eight-week period. Congratulations to the West Hashaakottola’ (Ha’-sha’-ko-ta’la’) team and all the participants for finding a way to stay fit while connecting with our culture.

Fellow Chickasaws, the Chickasaw Nation is the strongest it has ever been – and is still getting stronger. 

History has shown us that our people and our nation have faced and overcome many challenges. We have always been a nation of strong people and, in turn, a strong nation because of our people. Today, we remain unconquered and unconquerable.

Through sound fiscal management, foresight and planning, we have been able to absorb and overcome current challenges. Our dedicated and hardworking employees are committed to our mission to enhance the overall quality of life of the Chickasaw people.

We are strong because of that commitment, a commitment to Chickasaws around the country, a commitment to providing a better nation for those that come after us. And a commitment to leading the Chickasaw Nation into a bright and flourishing future. 
Our nation is strong because we are a united people. Just as these bonds have served us throughout history, we can be certain they will carry us long into the future.

Today, as we celebrate our progress and look ahead to even greater heights, we can be certain the state of our nation - the Chickasaw Nation - is strong and getting stronger! Yakoke!