2022 State of the Nation Address

A Gathering of Our People
Governor Bill Anoatubby
10/1/2022 9:00:00 AM

2022 State of the Nation

The transcription of the 2022 State of the Nation address has been edited for readability and clarity.

Chokma! Good morning! I add my welcome to the 62nd Annual Meeting of the great unconquered and unconquerable Chickasaw Nation. 

Welcome to our historic capitol of Tishomingo. It is a great place to be. Welcome to Aiitafama' Ishto. It is a new home of our Chickasaw Annual Meeting.

Welcome home.

As we are all here together in this wonderful facility, we are thankful to all those who worked diligently together this past year to make this a reality. 

I am going to name a couple of names. You know, construction folks work diligently. We have a director of construction, he is actually the under secretary of construction. Ken Smith, and all of his team, work diligently. And we have Timberlake Construction who work diligently, too. In the last few weeks, they were working seven days a week, and I cannot say 24/7, but they were working very late into the evening. Let us give them a round of applause, along with our team who works with multimedia. 

Do you think this is grand? I mean, this a fantastic, just everything is so … I am at a loss for words, for the way things have come together. And we owe it to all of our team, having this facility. Sheilla Brashier and Jody Teeter both put this whole Annual Meeting together, along with a lot of help. They had a lot of folks working with them, they did a great job, too. So, let us recognize them.

We are here to reflect on the progress we have made not only here, but the Chickasaw Nation as a whole. You know, from those initial meetings we hear about — and there are a few people still in our audience who attended those meetings — they attended those meetings at Seeley Chapel, which is located just north of Connerville … to the weekend events we had at Byng, we have come a long way and there has been a lot that we have achieved since then.

We have built a very strong foundation throughout this last 35 years, but we have only just begun. We still have a long way to go. And fellow Chickasaws, and friends and neighbors, acquaintances, we are standing on a strong foundation. And we look forward with confidence into a future of great possibilities for the growth of our tribe and for the progress of our people.

And we have had a lot of help along the way, and I would like to recognize some of those folks, friends and neighbors. They have joined us here today. I just want you to know that we appreciate you, and we appreciate the support that they have given us along the way.
Some of these friends and neighbors, like I said, are in attendance, and we are going to recognize them as an official thanks to those people that have joined us today from the state, and United States governments and the local officials. 

I’ll start with the Speaker of the House of Representatives honorable Charles McCall. Let us thank him again for his support and oftentimes guidance. I know that working your way through state government is, I mean you have to have some experience and we have certainly had some guidance there. 

And we are pleased to welcome our new senator from Ardmore, Senator-elect Jerry Alvord, please be recognized.

We have Cindy Byrd, State Auditor and Inspector, and we are very pleased that you are here today to join us in these festivities.

It always helps to have a Chickasaw at the helm, and down at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area we have had Bill Wright who is the superintendent there for a number of years now. And we wish him the best. He is planning to hang it up, I think, at the end of this year. He is a good leader and, of course, he has done a great job with the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.

And President Tim Faltyn, thank you very much. Murray State College was the home of the Chickasaw Annual Meeting for years. We could not have had a better friend than Murray State College. And those of you who attended our Annual Meeting there, I think you can attest to that. And as we have left that behind us, we certainly do appreciate all those years that Murray State College provided us a place. And we appreciate your hospitality. We appreciate … go ahead, go ahead and give him a round of applause … but it is not over yet. We still have some things that we are working on. We are working on the dormitory that housed Chickasaws back in the early days and we are working together to create something special there. And so we look forward to continuing working with you. 

And many of our elected Chickasaw officials are here. And let me just say this, the Chickasaw government is a great government. It is working. It is working well for the people, and that is because we seek to do what is right for the Chickasaw people. 

You know, we are not going to try to compare with anyone else. We are going to deal with what we do. But you can see a great deal of progress, and you can see a great deal of hard work that goes on to serve the Chickasaw people. And all these elected officials, the legislators, and most recently, because of the increased activity having to do with our new status that came about because of the McGirt ruling, the judicial department has stepped up. They saw the need to step up and they did. And they have done a great job with that. And they are continuing to do a great job. 

And our legislators stepped up and they took care of any issues that we had in the code. So, it has worked well. And the people in the Chickasaw Nation have great law enforcement service, criminal justice system. We appreciate each and every one of you, whether you be in the judicial department, whether you be in the legislative department.

And there is a group here that I work with each and every day and I want to be sure that you get to see them and you get to recognize them. And they are the members of the cabinet of the executive department. If you are a member of the cabinet, would you please stand and be recognized?

Just remember that when they say Governor did this or Governor did that, just think of this. I have to lean on these folks to get these things done. But I really do not have to lean on them, they know what to do. They know how to do the job and I really do appreciate the work. Thank you very much.

And thanks to our princesses. You know, we had a group of princesses that were selected during the pandemic, so they never were recognized at an Annual Meeting. I want to be sure and say their names and recognize them for what they did over the last year. Little Miss Chickasaw: Nannola Wallace. Chickasaw Junior Princess: Jayla Underwood. Chickasaw Princess: Faithlyn Seawright. Thank you very much for representing us well. Again, thank you. The princesses that were serving when the pandemic started, they actually got an additional term and they continued to serve. And then, this group, they had a virtual ceremony. It was a ceremony, obviously, but it is so good to have you here and see you face to face. That is wonderful.

So, and then of course our new royalty. We went to the princess pageant Monday night and it was a great pageant. They are a very talented group. And, of course, I have not seen too many people that are selected princess that have not shown great talent. They did a great job and I want to offer my congratulations to our new royalty as well. So please stand again and be recognized.

So, this is my official opportunity to say we expect great things from you during the year ahead. So that is your charge. Thank you very much. They always do a great job.

And so we have this wonderful space. And I remember, and those of you who attended prior to this year, you will remember that we filled up the auditorium. And then we had a tent outside and we would fill the tent up outside. There is a group of people that never made it even to the tent. And they are hard working people. They are employees of the Chickasaw Nation. If you are an employee of the Chickasaw Nation, please stand, and let us recognize them, too.

And so, you know that things do not get done unless you have good, hardworking people to make it happen. We started with a small group and we’ve continued to grow and now we have over 13,000 people that work with us. And we could not be where we are if it were not for our hard-working, dedicated employees. And so we are so thankful for all of these people. They are a member of the team. It takes a team to get the job done. We have a great team.

And so now it is your turn if you are not an employee … thank you to everybody that is here attending this meeting. I am just so thankful for that. And for the people who are listening on KCNP or really the Chickasaw Community Radio Network. We have our own network, and we have these four stations, and they stream everything online. And then, of course, we have the miracle of technology which allows us to stream this over the internet to anyone, anywhere that has an internet connection. So, we are thankful for everybody, wherever you may be, for attending this meeting.

We have seen a lot of growth. We have seen a lot of growth in the last three and a half decades. And the strength and resilience of our people is actually what has kept us moving ahead. In many ways the growth of the Annual Meeting and Festival reflects the growth of our nation. 

We have grown and advanced our programs and our services. We have advanced our businesses and grown more self-sufficient. And we have seen the lives of so many people enhanced and bettered through many of the programs that we operate. Through education, and other programs. And then, those people who are employed and those that we are supporting in their effort in entrepreneurship and the new opportunities that we have worked to create for our people. 

So all of us together have helped us be where we are. No matter what the obstacle has been, we have all joined together. And we have joined together to overcome these challenges that we faced.

In the last four years alone, our numbers have grown. We have grown from 68,000 citizens to more than 76,000 citizens. And that is greater than 10% and we continue to see that growth occur.

We are always seeking new ways to adapt and expand our more than 200 programs and services that are intended to meet our mission, and you have heard that mission over and over again. Most every employee I know can quote it back to you. And that is to enhance the overall quality of life of the Chickasaw people. In order to achieve this, we have long developed a diverse portfolio of businesses that continue to supply the nation with the necessary funds to maintain the growth that we have been able to achieve. 

I am pleased and excited to announce that our financial position is very strong. 

We continue to build a solid financial base, planning for operations today, and into the future. We strive to be visionary, forward-thinking, building on our successes. In the last five years, we have continued our economic progress, and enhanced our financial stability by more than doubling our financial resources. 

We created reserves just in case there are hard times. And it came in handy in a time when many other organizations were unable to continue operating. Our reserves allowed us to continue operations and continue delivering services during the height of the pandemic.
As we do each year, we provide our audited financial report. A few of the many highlights from the fiscal year 2021 audited financials include our net position between fiscal year ’20 and ’21, which is the latest audited report, increased by approximately 27% which is a very good number. And for that the same period, our total assets grew by roughly 38%. We try to keep those liabilities down to practically nothing. Of course, we have the normal business where we do liabilities for short-term liabilities, but we keep those long-term liabilities to a minimum.

Business income was up by 43% in 2021. This was actually driven by the pandemic, during this continued recovery from the pandemic. And you say, well why would that be? Well, you know, our market has been Texas, a large part of our market. And they closed a lot of the entertainment venues. And so we were able to maximize our income as a result. So we cannot always expect that number to continue to go up that rate. We will still grow and are continuing to grow. It is due to the pandemic, but it is also due to management. You know, we have a great management team that work in our department of commerce and also in our government to not only help maximize the income but also help keep the expenses to a reasonable level. So, a lot of resources, a lot of management, and great results.

Also included in the packet is a most recent unaudited financial statement, it is as of Aug. 31, because we could not get a financial statement for Sept. 30, since that was yesterday. But, we do that every year and you can see where we are based for the past 11 months through Aug. 31. A few things will be changed. You always have the year-end type activities and adjustments that take place, but you can count on that Aug. 31 report. And this report, if you look at what 2022 might be, it is reflecting a positive year for fiscal 2022 as well.

Revenue has continued to grow. For our health system, our third-party revenues, which are used to help fund our health operations, actually increased by 33%. And now, I will stop here just a moment to explain a little bit about how that health system has improved over the years. 

You know, when we first compacted for the health system, there were very few third-party revenues that were being collected. So, they were dependent primarily and almost exclusively on the compact that we have with the federal government. Now that flow of money, we appreciated that but we really wanted to do more things. So as we began to increase the amount of third party, we were able to put money into new programs. And that is how our health system has continued to grow. I really do appreciate the work that they do.

The Aug. 31, 2022 unaudited report reflects 13% increase in total assets. That is so far in fiscal 2021. And our net position has increased by 14% since September 2021. Now there is one part of our assets, and we appreciate Eddie Streater for helping us from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to do the oath of office, but the government still has a thumb on us in a few areas. We have tried our best to break away and we have done a pretty good job. But there is one area, the trust funds, they really are historic dollars. 

I remember in 1987, we had a little less than a half a million dollars in our trust funds. Today, that has grown considerably. And this money is held by the United States government in trust for us. And they have continued to be a stable resource. They are there. We do not access them, but they are there. But over the past five years, they have continued to grow. 

The current market value, which we owe the stock market to some probable decline because they are not doing quite as well as they have before, but we have $23.8 million as of August 2022. We appreciate the Bureau of Indian Affairs. I’m kind of giving Eddie a hard time, but we appreciate them and the partnership that we have with them and the trust funds, we do in fact appreciate their management. 

Also, we had an increased federal grant activity. This was due to COVID-19 during the fiscal years ’22 and ’21. We put together a team to manage that. We had a committee, but they are, as far as I am concerned, a team, who managed this distribution that we received from the federal government and how those funds were applied. 

And they really are important sources of federal funding because there was some really difficult economic situations that were occurring in our communities. And to explain how these funds, which they were done under the American Rescue Plan Act and also what is called the CARES Act, Lt. Governor was overseeing that operation and I would like for him to come forward and share with you what happened with those funds. Lt. Governor Anoatubby.

Lt. Governor Chris Anoatubby

Chokma! Thank you, Governor.

For the last couple of years, the Chickasaw Nation has diligently worked to mitigate the effects of the global health pandemic. And while it has been a challenge, we have overcome it by holding to the values that have kept our tribe strong for generations – unity, determination and resilience.

During the pandemic, as Governor mentioned, Congress passed several key pieces of legislation that helped greatly in our efforts to prevent, respond and recover.

We received beneficial funding through the CARES Act, Consolidated Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan Act.

Financial stewardship and responsibility are, and will continue to be, of the utmost importance as we represent the Chickasaw Nation. In response to the CARES Act, Governor Anoatubby formed the first ever Chickasaw Nation COVID-19 funding rules committee. This committee is charged with making sure we utilize the funding according to all the federal rules, regulations, and we meet all the strenuous reporting requirements.

To put things in perspective and to elaborate a little more about the work of the committee, I would like to share a few interesting details. In total, the three pieces of legislation I mentioned, created more than 2,600 pages of federal statutes, more than 270 pages of federal guidance and frequently asked questions, and more than 30 other documents providing various guidance and reporting requirements.

To date, the reports filed by our teams have totaled more than 3,100 pages, with many, many more to come in the future. 

And with all of this, the rules committee has been pivotal to our approval process and continues to meet regularly to evaluate and monitor all the COVID-19 funding related programs.

The committee also has a great amount of technical support which ranges from legal counsel, grant support to reporting and management. Also, let us recognize and thank our great technical support team for their hard work as well. Thank you so much.

With this new funding, we have received a great amount of collaboration from all of our departments, support to create beneficial programs for our Chickasaw people. We implemented new processes and technologies that allowed us to continue operating vital programs and services without interruption. We also added new relief and assistance programs to aid Chickasaws around the country.

With CARES Act funding, we created the COVID-19 Citizen Support Program to help address some of the financial impact resulting from the pandemic. This program introduced many different resources and assistance packages, including purchasing PPE or devices needed for distance learning, homeschooling and telework packages, and support for Chickasaw citizen-owned businesses.

In all, the program assisted more than 15,000 Chickasaws and over 116 Chickasaw-owned businesses.

Using CARES Act funds, we also built several new facilities needed to assist in combating the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We constructed the Chickasaw Nation Alternate Care Site on our Ada South Campus, expanding our ability to provide testing and critical staff training. We converted a building that we already owned into an Emergency Operations Facility, which has served as a drive-thru testing and vaccination site, and as a unified incident command center. The site continues to serve as a base of operations for emergency management activities among local, state, tribal, federal and other emergency management systems.

We expanded several areas at the medical center, including the laboratory, the inpatient pharmacy and storage for medical supplies. And we installed nine Chickasaw Caring Cottages near the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center to assist with quarantine needs and the housing insecure.

All of these facilities continue to serve our communities very well.

The American Rescue Plan Act has been instrumental in funding additional assistance programs. To assist Chickasaws experiencing negative economic impacts due to the pandemic, we implemented the Economic Assistance for Citizens and Households, or EACH, program. This program provides direct monetary assistance to eligible citizens. More than 64,000 Chickasaws have been served by the program. 

In addition to EACH, Governor Anoatubby approved emergency pandemic assistance for our social services division. And more than 1,000 Chickasaw households have been helped with essential needs, such as food, rent and utilities. 

Technology assistance provided through CARES and the ARPA funding has assisted more than 10,000 students with laptops, internet and other items related to distance learning.
And as we know, PPE and COVID-19 testing kits became essential household items over the last couple of years. We created both a PPE care package and a COVID-19 test kit program to distribute these necessary items.

To date, we have distributed nearly 85,000 PPE packages and just over 26,000 COVID-19 at-home test kits for our citizens and employees.

Another program created to assist Chickasaw families was the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which served nearly 3,000 Chickasaw households.

And in June of this year, we launched the new Homeowner Assistance Program to provide assistance to eligible Chickasaw homeowners who have experienced hardships associated with COVID-19.

We really look forward to the impact this new program will have on Chickasaw families.

Through these efforts, we have remained united and continue to serve the Chickasaw people. It has been an honor to share just a portion of the progress and developments we have made over the last couple of years.

We are excited to spend the day celebrating the Chickasaw Nation and our people and are very thankful we have the opportunity of doing so in person again. Thank you! And thank you, Governor.

Governor Anoatubby

You know, with the help of ARPA and the CARES Act, along with some careful planning and implementation, you can see that our financial outlook is outstanding. This has allowed us to develop new programs and to expand and adapt current services to meet the future circumstances. We meet them with confidence, and to assure that our future generations really are more secure.

That is a lot with finances and I think that is important and we want to be accountable to you and accountable to the rest of the Chickasaw people on how funding is utilized. There are some program activity that I would like very much to go over now.

We have long understood the need to integrate mental wellness in our overall health care and continue to increase the depth and breadth of mental health services and elevate its importance in our lives. With the Chikasha Anokfilli’, which means “Thinking Chickasaw,” initiative, we emphasize the importance of mental wellness and reducing the stigma associated with receiving mental health services.

The initiative also establishes a strong foundation of prevention and early intervention. Two outpatient treatment facilities are in the planning stages, one in Ada and one in Purcell. Each of these will replace the current facilities in these locations and offer comprehensive outpatient mental health therapeutic services. 

The Hina Chokma, which means good path, Men’s Recovery Center is also in the planning stage in Ada, which will replace the current in-patient facility. This center offers First American men treatment for substance abuse issues. 

Knowing that counseling and therapy can often be beneficial to our overall wellness, we offer medical family therapy services. Medical family therapy is a unique approach to health that is based in traditional Chickasaw values of caring for the whole person. This approach addresses the biological, psychological, social and spiritual health of patients and their families in a medical setting.

This year, medical family therapy made nearly 16,000 in-person patient contacts and provided more than 3,400 virtual visits. 

For decades now, we have improved upon the overall health, wellness and nutrition programs. Our department of health has achieved an outstanding level of quality as a result of that.

The monthly publication, Becker’s Hospital Review, recently published the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Overall Hospital Quality Star Ratings for 2022. For the second year in a row, the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center received a perfect five-star rating. We are proud of you. What we are proud of more than anything is that level of quality that you provide, the services. This puts our hospital in the top 16% of the more than 3,000 hospitals nationwide. Now these are not just IHS, this is everyone.

And through the years, we have greatly expanded our health care offerings, to provide services in preventative medicine and nutrition. This year, at meal location sites throughout the Chickasaw Nation, our Impa’chi … anybody know what that means? Impa’chi, let’s eat! This program served more than 88,000 meals directly to children and shipped nearly 680,000 snacks and meals to Chickasaw youth.

Our Packed Promise Program served more than 1,600 school-aged Chickasaw children each month and shipped a total of 466,920 pounds … I should have said almost 467,000, right? But they shipped that to their homes. Now that is a lot of food!

Through our Seniors Winter Fruit and Vegetable Program, more than 4,000 Chickasaw seniors received more than 13,000 bags of fruits and vegetables at Ada, Ardmore, Duncan, Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

Our department of health continues to serve First Americans in a variety of ways. This year, we are on track to have 1.2 million patient interactions at our hospital and clinics. Our pharmacy continues to serve our people, filling 1.4 million prescriptions on-site and mailing nearly 600,000 more across the country. 

In 2022, nearly 1,000 babies were born at the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center. Now that’s pretty cool. And many have taken full advantage of our expanding pediatric services. You saw in the video about the drive-thru pediatric services with nearly 30,000 pediatric visits this year.

Just as we are proud of the recent progress of our health system, we are equally excited for the future.

On our Ada South Campus, near the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center, we are planning a facility to complement the variety of clinics and treatments already offered at the medical center. This new complementary medicine building will focus on outpatient and physical therapy as well as speech and occupational therapy. These forms of therapy can include a chiropractor, behavioral health and muscle therapy and are a part of our efforts to decrease patients’ use of opioids.

We are also planning a new, separate facility dedicated just to pediatrics. And so this will replace the current pediatric clinic within the medical center and provide more space and a better integrated, exclusive location for our pediatric, for children and youth.

A few other projects in the works include a new administration building, a parking garage, and a renovation of the current surgery area that is going to increase the capacity for surgery by 50% and allow an increased number of surgeries that they perform at the medical center.

Now I am excited about this, too. There is just so much that is happening within our medical center. 

In Newcastle, just southwest of Oklahoma City, we are taking our next major step in providing health care to First American residents in the metro area. We are currently in the planning phase to build a large, new hospital there. 

The new hospital will offer numerous outpatient and specialty services and should directly employ as many as 3,500 people. We are currently in the early planning stages, we are in partnership with Indian Health Service as we have before, on how to best utilize the facility and serve our First American population in the area.

This new hospital, like the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center, is a joint venture with Indian Health Service. We are excited about this new hospital, what it is going to mean for the future of our health care system, a future that will soon offer our fellow citizens and Chickasaws in the Oklahoma City metroplex, it will be more convenient, and they will have better access to our world-class health care. 

We are also looking forward to the future of our education system. We have educational resources to assist students of all ages and in all phases of life. 

Our early childhood and Head Start programs do a fantastic job of preparing our children for the next step on their educational journey. Higher education grants, scholarships and incentives offer assistance for students to start and complete — now that is a keyword, complete — their post-secondary education. 

This year, we assisted more than 6,000 Chickasaw students with $28.8 million in higher education grants and scholarships.

At the risk of taking a little longer, I remember in 1987, we were able to serve a little over 100 students. That’s a big jump. And we were using primarily federal funds. In this case, these are tribal funds that we generate to serve our people.

Now Chickasaw Youth Clubs provide a safe and enriching environment for youth to learn and thrive and it is after school and during breaks. The youth clubs provide access to health and nutrition, career development and life skills, also art, sports and fitness and some Chickasaw history and culture has to be built in, too.

This past summer, we broke ground on our newest Chickasaw Youth Club in Ardmore and construction is underway. 

For those in the Chickasaw Nation that are unable to utilize one of our child development centers, we also have the child care assistance program. Since inception, we have been able to assist more than 10,000 children. We offer this assistance because we understand the need and expense associated with child care. 

We also know that child care is more than simply finding a place for children to stay. Rather, it is an opportunity to learn and grow and connect to our culture. We continue to find new ways to expand our cultural offerings and incorporate them into the everyday life of our youth.

We were excited to once again host our youth camps, our clinics and our academies in person this year for the first time in a couple of years. These camps range from sports clinics, including golf, basketball and archery, to CNASA — that is the Chickasaw Nation Aviation and Space Academy, and it is our space camp. All the way to the arts to STEM. Each offers great enrichment and unique learning opportunities. In total, more than 1,600 students participated in camps, clinics and academies this summer. It is important that we offer these invaluable opportunities for our youth to learn, grow and develop in a safe and positive environment. 

We also seek new ways to assist Chickasaws on their educational journeys and career goals. 

The Chickasaw Institute of Technology was founded in 2016 to provide career training opportunities for Chickasaws. The institute now offers six technical trade programs: Electrical, Heating and Air, Construction, Plumbing, Medical Coding and Applied Business Technology. This year, we added space to the Institute of Technology to accommodate new and growing trade programs. 

Currently, there are 53 students enrolled at the Chickasaw Institute, and 33 Chickasaw citizens have already graduated from a career training program this year. 

Chickasaw Employment Access is an entire division that is dedicated to equipping citizens for the workforce. As early as age 14, students can begin their future career development with the Toksali SMART program. By matching our youth with local businesses, this program encourages our young people to develop productive work patterns and behaviors in real-world environments.

This year, more than 500 youth participated in this program, and maybe some of you have seen them working at some of the local businesses. This program strengthens our partnerships with local businesses and provides great opportunities to our youth. And every summer, we have youth who work hard, make a great impression and are offered positions at their worksite even after the summer program ends. This teaches our youth the reward for great work ethic and also helps bolster the workforce for our local businesses. 

Career development services is a workforce development program. It’s designed to remove barriers to entering the workforce. From lack of transportation, maybe to a need for training, career development services supports citizens through removing those barriers and connecting them to training and services they need to become employed. In total, more than 2,100 hours of classroom training were provided to 50 Chickasaws.

The Chickasaw Business Network is one way in which we help our Chickasaw entrepreneurs. This year, we were awarded a grant to create a small business incubator program to assist First Americans. Through this grant, the business network will promote the success of First American startups and existing businesses by providing culturally tailored incubation services, workspace, funding opportunities, as well as mentoring and training. This program is expected to be operational soon.

Now we were able to get something started back that we suspended during the pandemic. In the last few months, we have been hosting community dinners across the Chickasaw Nation. Along with a meal and fellowship, it is a real opportunity for us to share information we have on new programs and services, upcoming events and plans and projects they have in that particular area.

The community dinners have been well attended with more than 1,000 Chickasaws combined joining us at events in Sulphur, Ardmore, Ada, Oklahoma City and right here in Tishomingo.

These community dinners have been a great way for us to connect — and in this period of time, reconnect — and to hear from the community maybe what we are doing right, as well as areas where we need to have some improvement. Believe me, we do listen if we need improvement. And we have our first at-large, and this is a term we use for people who live outside of the Chickasaw Nation territory, we are planning for the first at-large gathering and we would expect to see more in the coming year.

Since the last time we gathered for Annual Meeting and for our Festival, we have experienced a great deal of growth in our emergency management, criminal justice and law enforcement responsibilities. 

As our criminal justice duties expand, we continue to develop mutually beneficial agreements and partnerships with our local, county and state law enforcement and emergency management agencies. For instance, our emergency management has made more than two dozen new agreements with partner agencies just the last year. These agreements formalize many longstanding relationships with emergency management agencies across Oklahoma and strengthen cooperation the Chickasaw Nation maintains with numerous city, county and tribal emergency management agencies, both within and outside the Chickasaw Nation.

Since recent court rulings reaffirmed our jurisdiction across the Chickasaw Nation, we have developed more than 70 cooperative jurisdiction agreements with county, federal and municipal law enforcement agencies. Additionally, we established a new office of detention administration to serve as a central contact point for county detention facilities that we have detention agreements with.

We are committed to providing public safety in our communities as well as a variety of quality programs and services. 

Now, I mentioned earlier about the strength and the growth of our judicial department. They got an increased workload. They adjusted, and it is just remarkable how well they made those adjustments. Of course, we knew they could do it.

We have these services that are dedicated to enriching the lives of our elders and our veterans. Our 12 senior centers provide everything from food and fellowship and social activities, to health monitoring, cultural classes, they have guest speakers and they have wellness programs. Some of you may have been to our senior centers and you got to experience that in person.

Our elderly energy assistance programs offer financial assistance for winter heating and summer cooling costs. Other programs serve our elders in the areas of health, nutrition, home maintenance and much more. 

Chickasaws have a long tradition of military service, too, which is carried on today by our brave men and women who serve in the armed forces. We honor our veterans, and our active duty military, for their service and the defense of our freedoms. If you are a veteran or active duty military please stand. Thank you very much.

Our department of veterans services continues to show our full support and our appreciation for our many Chickasaw veterans. In honor of our warriors, Chickasaw veterans are now eligible to receive reimbursement on car tag costs up to $50 for all across the United States. So we hope that helps out, too.

We have also created a virtual Chickasaw Veterans Wall, and it pays tribute to all Chickasaws who served in any branch of the armed services. We encourage veterans and family members of veterans to submit the information for inclusion on the veterans wall. We do that so we can honor the immense sacrifice and selflessness of those who have served. So thank you again, veterans.

As you have already seen with some of the activities that we talked about today, we continue to preserve and share our vibrant Chickasaw culture, providing a lot of opportunities for participation and for people to embrace all aspects of our collective history and our heritage.

In 2006, we established the Chickasaw Press to present Chickasaw authors and authors writing about Chickasaws an outlet for editing and publishing their important works. Since then, we have released 69 titles and sold more than 85,000 books, shipping to all 50 states and various countries as far off as Japan, Albania and New Zealand. 

With more than 7,000 books — 7,400 books to be exact — sold this year alone, Chickasaw Press titles are getting into the hands of readers from all around the world. 

We released three new titles just this last week, just this week. “Oka Holisso: Chickasaw and Choctaw Water Resource Planning Guide” by Chickasaw-Choctaw Regional Water Planning Team. “The Lost River: Anompolichi Two” by Phillip Carroll Morgan. “Capital City: History of Tishomingo” by Dr. Paul F. Lambert. These publications tell our unique stories.

We continue to embrace new technology and mediums to preserve and share our history and our culture. One of those is the Chikasha Emoji app, which features culturally centered, Chickasaw emojis, and it has been downloaded more than 4,700 times since its launch at the beginning of this year.

The Choctaw Hymns app was downloaded 1,100 times just this year.

There’s also currently under development one that’s called “Anompa: A Chickasaw Word Game,” which serves as a fun vocabulary builder. Anompa is based on Wordle, a popular word puzzle game, but Anompa words are in Chickasaw. Anompa will be released later this year. 

It is important that — as we look forward — that we look back, too. And our Homeland is where we look back to. We protect the memory of our people there. Prior to a 1990 federal law that provided for protection for First American graves, our ancestors were routinely removed from their resting place and sent across the U.S. to be studied. Researchers considered them specimens, but to us they are family, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, cousins from long ago. 

The Chickasaw Nation Historic Preservation and Repatriation team is tasked with caring for the remains of our Chickasaw ancestors and helping protect sacred places, like burials, in Oklahoma and in our Homeland. This year, we respectfully reburied 4,163 ancestors, and along with that there were 25,442 funerary objects that completed the largest Chickasaw repatriations in history.   

And we were recently awarded a federal grant allowing us to rebury an additional 905 ancestors and 16,425 funerary objects. 

Just as we show reverence to our loved ones who pass away now, we show that same care and respect to our ancestors who passed long ago. And repatriation is a lengthy legal process, but we remain steadfast in our goal to bring all of our ancestors home.

Just as we work to preserve our history and culture, we are also stewards of our natural resources and wildlife. Chickasaws continue to pass down generational knowledge of hunting and fishing and the special role that it plays in our connection with nature. 

For this reason, we are pleased to enhance our commitment to culture and the careful management of natural resources by offering a Chickasaw Nation hunting and fishing license. Beginning this month, we are issuing this license to anyone within Chickasaw Nation boundaries who wishes to participate in this program. 

Chickasaws are eligible to receive theirs at no cost. With this lifetime hunting and fishing license, you may hunt and fish throughout the Chickasaw Nation reservation. You had not heard me use that term before, have you? Reservation. Once you have a Chickasaw issued license, you can legally hunt and fish within the reservation without need of a state issued license. Now we are firming up that agreement with the State of Oklahoma Department of Wildlife. So, that is going to be all worked out soon.

In the spirit of being good neighbors, of course, and in accordance with trespass laws, you need to get permission from the landowner. It does not give you the ability to just go on somebody’s land. So, be mindful of that. But, once you get that permission, that license serves you to be able to hunt and fish. You have the name, telephone number, and an email address that is showing on the screen. Make note of that if you would like to have one of these hunting and fishing licenses. A lot of this is going to be on the website as well. 

We have one more thing to add to this. This should make it better for Chickasaw sportsmen who are member of the Five Tribes, Five Civilized Tribes. We are jointly working on an agreement so that your Chickasaw hunting and fishing license would be recognized by the other four tribes, the Choctaw, Muscogee, the Cherokee and the Seminole Nations. And guess what? Their licenses are reciprocal, so their licenses will be recognized within Chickasaw Nation. More on that later. We do not have that agreement firmed up yet. We are working on it.

Despite the challenges of the last three years, we have continued to grow and prosper. It has been done through the exercise of our sovereignty. We continue to develop a strong economy. We do that through economic development. Using the revenue from our growing business portfolio, we are using that money to fund more than 200 programs and services.

And our spirit of self-determination has led us toward greater economic self-sufficiency. It has enabled us to continue to develop and fund vital opportunities for Chickasaws all around the world.

There are many economic development and construction projects underway throughout the Chickasaw Nation that will help us generate revenue for the future.

At WinStar, we are working on an expansion, a new event center, a parking garage and a new 15-story hotel tower. They are all scheduled to be completed by mid-summer of 2023.

We are also working on a new casino and resort to be named West Bay, it is on the site where some people may remember the Lake Texoma Lodge on Lake Texoma, near Kingston, and it is expected to open the spring 2023. West Bay will include a 40-room hotel, along with some cabins, a conference center, restaurant and gift shop.  

And a new hotel and casino are in development near Lake Murray in Ardmore. Much like that Texoma project, we will include a hotel, conference center and restaurant.

And many of you have heard of the development in Oklahoma City. And this work continues on the OKANA Resort & Indoor Waterpark near the First Americans Museum. The hotel will be 11 stories, contain more than 400 rooms and include an indoor waterpark, a family entertainment center, a First American Market … now artists, listen up. We are going to coordinate with the First Americans Museum on that. Then we have various dining, entertainment and retail locations. 

Once complete, we expect each of these development projects to generate a great deal of jobs in their communities and revenue, which we will use to fund and enhance our vital programs and services.

Chickasaws … everybody out here, all you Chickasaws out here, and those who are friends of Chickasaws, today we are here in this new state-of-the-art facility. 

And we are just a short walk from our historic capitol and the Chickasaw Council House, that is in our museum, where we operated a government by and for our people, just as we do today. We operated a government then, and we operate one today. And it is a strong government. 

Now we commemorate the Annual Meeting of our nation, which has its roots in the Seeley Chapel movement, where, only half a century ago, Chickasaw community leaders endeavored. They had their goal, they really wanted to have self-determination and they wanted the recognition of sovereignty — which we have today. We are truly blessed. Truly blessed.

We honor the many Chickasaws who came before and labored to bring their vision of a thriving and culturally vibrant Chickasaw Nation to fruition.  

My fellow Chickasaws, we have come very far. And I am happy to report that the state of the Chickasaw Nation is strong and it is getting stronger. 

We have momentum, and this momentum will propel us far into the future. We look forward to meeting that future with you. With sovereignty as our foundation, and careful planning and forethought as our guide, we are confident in our ability to adapt to any task and overcome most any challenge. 

Thank you. Yakoke!