2023 State of the Nation

A Gathering of Our People
Governor Bill Anoatubby
10/7/2023 9:00:00 AM

2023 State of the Nation

The transcription of the 2023 State of the Nation address has been edited for readability and clarity.  

Good morning and welcome to the 63rd Annual Meeting of the great unconquered and unconquerable Chickasaw Nation!

I think we have evidence today that we have Chickasaws from all across this country - and even foreign countries - that are gathered here to celebrate our culture through events, demonstrations, competitions and fellowship.

We have a lot of friends joining us today and have joined us throughout the week. And we have a few special guests this morning we would like to recognize.

You saw a video from Mayor Laura Wood from Tishomingo. Is Laura in the audience this morning? Let us give her a round of applause.

We also have President Tim Faltyn from Murray State College. Would you please stand and be recognized?

Both Tishomingo and Murray State College are longtime supporters of this Annual Meeting and Festival, and we appreciate your hospitality and it has been a number of years.

And we try to return some of that hospitality this year. They have allowed us to use their auditorium for I cannot remember how many years now. And this year, Murray State College had their graduation right here!

This year, Tishomingo High School also had their graduation here. So, we are trying to be good partners to the community.

We have many of our current and former elected Chickasaw officials here. First, we are going to recognize again the Chickasaw Legislature.

With their help, with the partnership that the executive department – the Governor and Lt. Governor – we are able to see a lot of good things happen. I would like for you to stand up and be recognized, all the legislators.

You heard quite a story about what is happening in criminal justice from the Lt. Governor, and those things do not just happen. There is a lot of work that goes into it and it does not hurt to recognize people more than once.

So, we are going to again recognize the judicial department and all their staff. Please stand and again be recognized for the work that you do.

These folks are tremendous. We have great leadership. We have a great effort going on and we should not forget Debra Gee and her team. Debra, are you in the audience? If you are, you and your team please stand too and be recognized.

We are always pleased to be joined by our friends in the government, the state government. We have several here today and we are really thankful for your being here.

I want to again recognize the speaker of the House of Representatives, the Honorable Charles McCall. Would you please stand again?

And then within the house, we have Cody Maynard, state representative and representative Josh Cantrell.

We have representatives from the Senate and I am going to start with Jerry Alvord. Jerry, would you stand?

And no, Senator Kidd, I have not forgotten you because I want to reintroduce you, the Chickasaw! The Chickasaw in the state Senate, the Honorable Chris Kidd!

We are thankful to all of you for coming to this Annual Meeting. We are thankful for the relationships we have been able to build in both the House and the Senate.

And we are thankful for the work that you accomplish, the challenges that you face. And we know it takes a lot of work to get your job done, so thank you very much.

I want to take a privilege here myself and introduce the Chickasaw Princesses for 2023 and 2024, please stand again and be recognized.

You saw a video on the constitution. There are some people here, at least I know one person that was involved in that constitution commission that helped put together this constitution that we live under today, a wonderful constitution.

And if you participated in the process and you were part of the folks who actually put the constitution together, I would like for you to stand and be recognized.

Let me just say thank you for the work that you did.

Forty years ago, four decades ago, this was really a pivotal moment in our collective history when the voters ratified our 1983 constitution. This event was a culmination of years of debate and hard work by many Chickasaws to determine the direction of the Chickasaw Nation.

At the time it was being drafted, I think everybody understood that we needed a constitution that meets the needs of Chickasaws in this evolving world, this rapidly evolving world that we were in, and we are in today. We really needed to affirm our right to self-governance and to ensure service to the Chickasaw people.

After this deliberation on this constitution and it being ratified, it reestablished our government's three departments: the executive, the legislative and judicial.

The 1983 Constitution enables us to more effectively exercise our sovereignty and pursue self-determination on behalf of the Chickasaw people.

Under this written testament to our values and vision, our tribe has flourished in ways we could only have imagined.

In the ensuing years, we strategically expanded our economic endeavors to provide the foundation to meet the mission that we set, and that’s to enhance the overall quality of life of Chickasaw people.

Through the hard work of thousands of dedicated employees that were committed to our mission, today the state of our nation is incredibly strong.

And much of our strength is a result of our durable economic strategies and fiscal responsibility.

And as always, we try to have as much transparency as possible. And so each and every year, we produce the annual financial report, which was in your packet this morning.

And this is from the audited financial records of the Chickasaw Nation. And it is displayed in a way that is easily understandable.

We talk about program revenues, we talk about other revenues, expenditures and so on. It gives you a comparative statement from years passed up until today.

In addition, the last audited statement was Sept. 30 of 2022, it is important we provide as much of the information as we can. There is not enough time to give you a Sept. 30 report so we give you an Aug. 31 (update), which is 11 months instead of 12.

But we will give you all the information that you need to see where we are, and as far as our statement of deposition is concerned. It is there for you, so please browse through that and find out how the tribe is doing. Of course, I’m going to tell you some more about it today.

This audited report shows that our business revenue has increased to more than $1.5 billion. And governmental revenues remain a very strong source of income, and they account for $600 million.

Our net assets grew 11% from last year. And our trust funds are always something we talk about because they are the dollars that were put in trust for us over the years and we operated from those trust funds at one time.

In 1987, when we first started this administration, we had $447,000. Now, to the average person that sounds like quite a bit of money but for a tribe and a government to operate it was not a lot.

We had a $200,000 budget, so you can see how, if you are operating out of that fund, it just would not work well. Now that does not count federal funds.

And today, despite a decline, we have discontinued utilizing those funds. The decline in the market, and I think everybody who has a 401(k) knows that the market may be bouncing back a little bit, but we haven’t made it back yet.

But we do have a reliable long-term source of stability in these trust funds, at the amount of $23 million. So we have seen an increase in our trust funds several times over.

You know, as this world economy that we are in, the markets ebb and flow. We strive to guarantee the continued robust fiscal position of the Chickasaw Nation regardless of these outside influences.

For this reason, for these changes that take place in the market, it was important for us to develop a sustainability fund we set aside for future costs and future programs.

This fund is really important to the future of the operations of the Chickasaw Nation.

Just as we are actively planning to meet the needs of Chickasaws today, we are also working hard so that we are prepared and ready to meet the needs of Chickasaws in the future for many generations to come.

So that our families in the future can still receive the programs that we have and still receive the benefit of being a Chickasaw. And so, we are working at it. We are preparing ourselves for the future.

Our businesses achieved record-setting revenues again this year.

The recent opening of West Bay, which was mentioned earlier, and the addition of key amenities at WinStar, ensures continued growth in the south Oklahoma and north Texas markets.

The Chickasaw Nation Industries, which is one of our early businesses that we started, continue to grow, and their revenue continues to go up and their profitability continues to rise.

We are excited by their purchase of Washington Business Dynamics, a well-established consulting firm that expands our client base.

That is part of our diversification strategy. We are diversifying into different areas. When you have your investments in different areas, you have a greater strength.

Because if one market may decline, you still have another one maybe that is not. So, we also have another investment that we made as part of our diversification strategy, it is an anchor investment in Good Springs Capital LLP that was done this year. And it promises to be a critical step in facilitating future economic diversification.

The incredible success of our businesses enables us to accelerate the execution of our long-term, economic diversification plans and will result in increased funding for tribal programs and services.

Key areas, such as housing, are continuing to grow.

You saw the Hilltop Meadow Addition in Ada. We completed 59 homes and have an additional 27 lots that are available for future construction.

Also in Ada, we began construction on two new homes that are temporary housing for families that may be displaced by emergencies or natural disasters. And we have plans to construct six new homes for Chickasaw veterans, strictly for Chickasaw veterans.

And, of course, we have future plans. We have things we want to do in the future. We are currently selecting engineers to design a 13-acre subdivision in the north part of Ada.

And we have additional funding to build 15 homes throughout Pontotoc, Carter and Murray counties.

A great deal of work and coordination goes into home construction and improvements, including the work that needs to go on in streets and sidewalks and critical infrastructure.

Through partnerships with the state and various counties and municipalities, our roads program continues to excel at delivering these improvements.

This year, we built, repaired or improved more than 42 miles of roadway serving nine different facilities across eight different counties.

An additional 15 roads and bridge projects are in the design or planning phase.

These road and bridge projects are a great opportunity for us to collaborate with other governments to improve entire communities.

Earlier you heard from Lt. Governor about our various partnerships with local, county and state law enforcement. We cannot understate the value of these partnerships when it comes to public safety and the exercise of our sovereignty.

Last year, we discussed the enormous task we undertook in developing a criminal justice system that would effectively meet the new responsibilities that came with the federal court decision of McGirt and the state court decision of Bosse.

This is possible because of the hard work of our judicial department, our department of tribal justice administration and our Lighthorse Police Department.

Thank you for the work that you do and your commitment to public safety.

These partnerships and cross-deputations are an example of how governments can work together successfully for the betterment of the people that we all serve.

We work to be good partners. And we will continue to be good neighbors and good partners with those who are willing to extend the hand, reach understandings and work together to achieve shared goals. And there are many other partnerships we have that accomplish this.

One example is our department of health’s partnership with Oklahoma Christian University, which helped nearly 40 employees to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing while continuing to work for our department of health.

Another partnership with the nurse residency academy led to the formation of a nurse residency program, attracting nurses to our facilities.   

Our nursing program also provides clinical rotation agreements with nine different colleges.

Through these partnerships nearly 200 nurses and 13 nursing instructors received student orientation at our health facilities.

This year, our department of health had more than 1 million patient visits and filled nearly 1.5 million prescriptions, including 600,000 by mail. That is quite a feat.

Now, something very good too is we had almost 1,000 babies born at our medical center, and our pediatric clinic had about 19,000 patient visits.

Our nutrition services maintain many beneficial partnerships.

A partnership with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma facilitates our Packed Promise Program providing monthly boxes of food to nearly 1,700 Chickasaw children.

Partnerships with 465 schools and many churches, public libraries, community centers and parks aid in programs just like Impa'chi Meals for Kids, and they fed nearly 134,000 meals to children this summer. That is a good number too.

And in the interest of enhancing the quality and convenience of our women, infants and children program called WIC, which served more than 4,000 eligible women, infants and young children in the Chickasaw Nation this year, we partnered with Prime Time Nutrition and Custom Data Processing to launch an online WIC shopping service, and that’s the very first one of its kind in the whole United States.

And you may have seen an article in the newspaper recently where we had, I think it was an assistant secretary that came to the Chickasaw Nation to have a look at it. They are wanting to replicate this program throughout the United States.

When you concentrate on doing your best to the serve the people, you come up with these kinds of ideas, right? And so, our people are working hard.

Various partnerships with local, county and state governments have made it possible for us to provide sustainable water resources and technical assistance and planning to our communities within the Chickasaw Nation.

Every community relies on clean and sustainable water to foster economic growth and ensure community resilience.

We are committed to working with our communities to prepare for tomorrow’s challenges.

Community water evaluations and planning activities have allowed the Chickasaw Nation to utilize the ARPA funds that were given to us by the federal government – we used these funds within our communities.

We have a lot of other projects, but we were able to use some of this money to help with water infrastructure improvement where it is needed. 

The ability to strategically stack funding – we have a variety of funding with different sources and an array of partners – drives water resource activities with a strategic focus on future generations.

Now we have one cooperative project that is in Sulphur, and we really appreciate speaker (McCall) for working with us on this. This is within his district and it is within our district, so it allows us to work together with him. Not as a speaker but as a representative of the people within his area.

The projects in Sulphur are designed to ease the water demand on the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer, and you know that is the principal drinking water source for tens of thousands of Oklahomans in south-central Oklahoma. And this will allow the aquifer to be used sustainably.

Our sustainability projects will save millions of gallons of water providing relief for the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer and reducing groundwater demand in that area. 

This work highlights commitment and shared vision to work together with local, state and federal partners to shape a brighter future for all who call the Chickasaw Nation home, many of which are Chickasaw.  

We are also collaborating to bring water sustainability and infrastructure to the towns of Tishomingo, Mill Creek and Lone Grove. 

Here in Tishomingo, there is basically one source of water. Now we appreciate their ingenious approach that they have taken. I know some of you may have seen what looks like a fire hose. It is running along the north part of Tishomingo.

They were about to go into water rationing and so they put that particular line in. But we want to work with them here in the community. We are working with them to not just have one water source but have an alternative water source. And so, we’re partnering with Tishomingo to access a water source which is the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer.

So, we are able to reduce the amount of use in one area by a cooperative project and we are able to access needed water in another which allows both communities to have the water supply that they need.

And so, we are thankful for the hard work of the community and the effort they have put forth. And this project is going to improve watershed health and it will provide for growth to occur in Tishomingo and Murray State College.

A lot of things we are doing is just really exciting. We could not get everything in here. But we wanted to touch the topics that we could.

Our education department has always worked hard to form new and strengthen existing partnerships.

We signed a memorandum of understanding with Mid-America Christian University to provide Chickasaw students and employees with a 30% discount on tuition.

Thanks to President Faltyn and Murray State College and the U.S. Economic Development Administration, we are partnering to renovate Chickasaw Hall. This dormitory was initially built back in the early 1900s, 1917 I think, to house Chickasaw and Choctaw students.

The renovations will transform the building into a boutique hotel for the students to learn the hospitality management program.

And with the partnership, the first floor of Chickasaw Hall will house our Chokka Kilimpi' Recruitment and Retention Program here on campus, and that improves the resources that are available to students here on the Murray State College campus.

It is on the campus that is on the south and west side of Tishomingo. But we congratulate you, Mr. President and Murray State College on this achievement. It did not just happen. He had to work hard to make this happen and we are very pleased to be a small part of this endeavor.

Plans are also underway to expand recruitment and retention services for Chickasaw students at several campuses.

We are collaborating with the First Americans Museum to develop a publicly accessible online curriculum for K-12 educators.

Our department of education continues to provide children with quality instruction and development opportunities.

Our early childhood centers provided nearly 350 young students with exceptional early childhood education.

Now when you go to our day care or child care centers, it is a step forward, a little bit more than that for us. These are educational places. Places for the kids to learn.

So, our child development centers, our school-age after-school program and Chickasaw Youth Clubs provided support for nearly 1,000 students and for nearly 1,400 students during school holidays and summer breaks. So, we are thankful for them.

Now this is a new one. I think you may remember I reported on it last year. The Chickasaw Institute of Technology (CIT) continues to grow and is providing training in several different fields.

Since being established in 2019, the Chickasaw Institute of Technology has graduated 187 students, 87 of whom now work at the Chickasaw Nation.

More than 90% of the graduates from this academy have found jobs in their particular fields. So, we are thankful for that too.

The Chickasaw Nation Higher Education and Career Technology programs awarded $29.3 million in financial support to more than 5,500 Chickasaw students.

An additional program introduced this fall is the Student Support Program.

Now, we had conducted an informal survey to find out from the students what we were missing in our program. And this is what they suggested to us that we might be able to do.

A student support program which offers financial assistance to college and career technology students – it is based on their need – for household cost such as rent, utilities and so forth.

We also offer youth clothing grants, which we served more than 18,000 youth this year.

And our youth support reimbursement program provided funds assisting nearly 3,400 youth to participate in various events, clubs, leagues and other extra-curricular activities.

This summer, we offered 40 camps, clinics and academies serving thousands of youths.

And more than 800 Chickasaw youth received career development training though our Toksali SMART program, which received an outstanding program award at the 43rd National Indian and Native American Employment and Training Conference.

Just as our youth are the link to our future, our elders are the link to the past. We so much appreciate our elders.

They are a vital part of our community, and making sure they have the resources to meet their needs is crucial.

This year, more than 1,500 home maintenance services were provided to more than 500 Chickasaw elders.

Our 12 senior centers served more than 120,000 meals and provided more than 13,000 units of over-the-counter medications for our seniors.

In addition to providing resources at senior centers, we also provide many at-home services, such as our supplemental lawn mowing program, which assisted elders with more than 10,000 lawn services this year.

Our chore program serves elders with housekeeping services, as well as pick-up and delivery of medication and groceries.

Our elderly energy assistance program provides heating and cooling to elders during the winter and summer months.

And nearly 500 seniors joined together in fun and fellowship during our annual Elders Conference. And you know, there may be something else that our elders will think up. We will keep our ears open. We are working hard to serve our elders.

Also, this summer, more than 300 Chickasaw veterans gathered at our sixth annual Chickasaw Veterans Conference.

Several Chickasaw veterans serve in the Chickasaw Honor Guard. This marks 30 years of service by the Chickasaw Honor Guard.

Now 30 years ago, the newly formed Chickasaw Honor Guard presented the colors and attended the parade at the very first event, which was our 1993 Chickasaw Annual Meeting and Festival.

They are an extremely committed and dedicated group of men and women.

The nation supports the honor guard program and helps provide for all service-related needs for our honor guard members and we built them their own facility to conduct meetings and store their uniforms and just a place to call home.

Our honor guard has 16 active members who provided services to nearly 150 events this year.

I would like to recognize anyone who has been a member of the honor guard or is a member of the honor guard now. So please, let us know by standing or waving. We appreciate you.

We expect to see the honor guard remain active in our community for many years to come.

The honor guard actually started because one person saw the need and asked the question: Why do we not have an honor guard?

We get those things consistently in many areas. But this is an example of the power of one person, one citizen, asking the question that changes the whole course of our tribe’s history, and that same power actually is in every one of you.

We believe in the power of the people and the power of the people to guide the course of this nation.

We have seen this process play out time and time again – a simple question or comment is often the catalyst for a new program or service.

Some of the folks in the audience may think this is a familiar thing. I carry my calendar around with me in my pocket. When we go to meetings, I put notes on this calendar. On the back, there is a place for notes. And so usually I fill this up when I go to a meeting.

That is where we get our ideas. We get them from you. We have a few, but you know, we need to know what is on your mind. And so that is really important to us.

In fact, some of the home improvement programs that we have, our utility assistance program, our prescription medication program, particularly the one for the non-Indian spouse, has come from our citizens.

Also, burial assistance and the Warrior Society and many more, they were developed in direct response to citizen input.

To continue to develop and improve programs, we recently hosted another one of our listening conferences. We had representatives come from our community connection groups that are throughout the United States.

At this two-day event, we engaged in productive listening sessions and learned a lot that will help us develop or improve the programs and services that we deliver.

So, if you were part of that, thank you to all those who contributed to this listening session.

And for those of you who are here, know that we made a commitment to you. Your feedback has already shown the need to evaluate many of our programs.

We know, for instance – and everybody has experienced this -- the increased cost of living. It affects us all, but some it affects more than others.

And so, we are assessing our services to determine how we can improve funding to properly meet those intended purposes.

We know several programs that require additional funding right now, and our team is working to optimize resources so we can meet those needs.

We plan to hold additional regional listening conferences throughout the next year to gain additional insight as to how we can improve the services that we deliver.

We continue to find ways to make our history and culture accessible to you, as well. We want to be able to work with you and we want to share this culture with the world.

This year, we developed and recently launched an online genealogy request portal. This portal allows those requests to be submitted online. This will help you regardless of where you live. You do not have to travel to the Chickasaw Nation to be able to access those resources.

And this winter we will debut Hushtola. It is a new art show and market to support Chickasaw and First American artists.

Also, the Chickasaw Press announced a new opportunity this year called the Leaning Pole Press.

This press is for Chickasaw authors who desire to publish a wider variety of content. We have some pretty strict guidelines on both Chickasaw Press and White Dog Press. This will loosen those up just a little bit so that Chickasaw authors can write about things that are different from what we would ordinarily write about.

Students in our Chikasha Adult Immersion Academy just completed their first year of a three-year journey toward proficiency in the Chickasaw language.

We also have a new virtual immersion academy where students from across the United States meet in two-hour sessions, five days a week.

And we received a lot of commitment from our communities at-large, and we are thankful for the work and your input and your being part of this program.

This year, we were able to resume our youth language club and our cultural enrichment family camp.

Another bit of information, the Chickasaw stickball teams played well again this year.

Our Bak Bak team consists of players that are aged between 12-17. They are back-to-back champions of the Choctaw Nation Stickball League.

And the Bak Bak players participated in this year’s World Series of Stickball in Mississippi as well.

Across our departments in the Chickasaw Nation, we are planning for the future.

This year, we developed a 10-year strategic plan that’s intended to maximize the positive impact of services for all Chickasaw people, and also considering long-term sustainability.

We are already hard at work implementing fiscally responsible strategies to enhance existing programs and increase the number of Chickasaws receiving these vital services.

The 40th anniversary of our constitution is a celebration of our foundation, the very foundation from which we have collectively built the modern Chickasaw Nation.

The stories shared today, and the numbers and statistics presented, were far more than facts and figures – they represent lives impacted, dreams achieved and goals accomplished.

The reason for the Chickasaw Nation's growth and success over the years runs deeper than our policies or even our programs. Rather it stems from deeply rooted commitment, passion and resilience of our people.

These successes are a testament to what we can achieve when we come together, united in purpose and committed to our shared goals of a better life for Chickasaws today and a brighter future for our children and grandchildren.

As we look forward to the next decade, with our strategic goals laid out before us, it is your dedication to the nation that is the fuel that propels us forward.

Let the story of success and growth of the Chickasaw Nation over the last 40 years remind us that each one of us holds the power to dream, to envision the possibilities and to sculpt the future of our great nation.

Let us remember this is our government created of the people, by the people and for the people.

And we thank you, all of you, for entrusting us with the privilege to serve and for being active participants in this remarkable journey.

Together, we have met the challenges of the past.

Together, we will continue to overcome obstacles, always remembering our roots, honoring our past and forging ahead with an unyielding spirit of Chickasaw determination.

A determination that will continue to elevate our tribe to unprecedented heights and will reaffirm to the world that we have been, and we will remain, great warriors, artists, innovators and leaders.

Our nation, now encompassing more than 80,000 citizens, continues to grow, and it does because of our collective strength and the potential that lies within each one of us to contribute to our nation's progress that will cause it to grow as well.

Together, we will continue to build a future even more promising than our present, ensuring that the Chickasaw Nation is, and will remain unconquered and unconquerable.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

Ladies and gentlemen, the state of the Chickasaw Nation is strong and getting stronger!

Chikasha Poya! We are Chickasaw!

Chokma'shki! Yakoke. Yakoke.