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From the Desk of
Miko Gary Batton   

Chief Gary Batton Delivers Virtual 2020 State of the Nation Address - October 2020  


In the time since our last Labor Day Festival, the world-for now-has certainly become a much different place, as you can clearly see.

Rather than celebrating together as we always have, to keep everyone as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, a gathering this year is simply not an option.

But the Choctaw people are no strangers to adversity. We have persevered through difficult times before because our faith, family and culture ground us. I am so proud to see how our generosity and courage are also carrying us through this difficult time.

While we are not physically together this year, we are certainly connected in spirit.

I call that the Chahta spirit, and in that spirit, I am honored to present to you the progress of our Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

When I first took the oath of office in 2014, I said as long as we stand together united, there is nothing that will hold us back. Six years later, I still believe that.

Our ancestors knew how important it was to stick together, and that's what helped them survive the Trail of Tears and prosper here in their new home.

There's no doubt this year has been challenging. We've seen our sovereignty attacked by the governor over our gaming rights; we've mourned the loss of our family and friends due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But every time we've faced a difficult situation, we've worked together to do what's right for Choctaws and our communities.

I'm so proud of the relationships we've built and continued over this past year.

Choctaw Nation Associates donated over 18,000 units of blood for the Oklahoma Blood Institute, potentially saving tens of thousands of lives right here in southeastern Oklahoma.

Our Emergency Management team traveled all over the ten-anda-half counties to help local communities with storm recovery, search and rescue missions and emergency preparedness.

And we've worked with city officials all over the Choctaw Nation to strengthen infrastructure and small businesses.

We're also making responsible financial decisions. We have become less dependent on federal dollars. Most of the money the tribe takes in is returned to the Choctaw people through programs and services like healthcare, education, and housing.

Education has always been very important to the Choctaw people. In fact, Choctaws built the first schools in Indian Territory. Sadly, there is a noticeable achievement gap between Native American students and their counterparts. Because we understand how important it is to get a good education, and we want to narrow that achievement gap, we have developed several successful programs to support our students' educational goals.

Choctaw sovereignty is having the ability to choose what is best for our people and our resources. That's why we've worked so hard to protect our gaming compact as well as our hunting and fishing compacts with the State.

Thanks to the hard work of our Tribal Council, the Choctaw Nation also made huge strides toward our Housing goals this year. We built almost 300 LEAP homes and over 200 independent elderly housing units. We also saw great success in our affordable rental program.

Another way we exercise our sovereignty is through our judicial system. Our tribal courts work closely together to make sure Choctaw tribal members are treated with respect, and their voices are heard.

Making sure our culture, language, and traditions are preserved and shared is crucial to the survival of our tribe. On the first Monday of each month, we hold Heritage Day at headquarters, highlighting our culture through food, fellowship, and faith.

We are also working hard to increase the number of Choctaw language speakers through our Anumpa Aiikhvna school.

Using the resources and culture keepers we have within the tribe, the Choctaw Nation has built a state-of-the-art Cultural Center in Durant to highlight our Choctaw history, traditions, and ways of life. I can't wait for everyone to see it. It will truly be an amazing experience.

Just like our ancestors over a century ago, we've found ourselves in unfamiliar territory once again. The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred us to create new and inventive ways to meet the needs of our people.

Throughout the global pandemic, I'm proud to say that we experienced no gaps in services to our tribal members. The Choctaw Nation was able to continue operations without laying off or furloughing associates.

I'm also proud to say that our workforce continues to grow, despite the current economic downturn. Our recruiting and workforce development teams are putting people to work every day in the Choctaw Nation, and with the casino expansion coming soon, we'll open even more positions.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities. Although the entire country is struggling with a recession right now, small business owners all over the Choctaw Nation are showing that resilient "Tvshka Spirit."

In last year's State of the Nation address, I said the strength of our Nation is measured by the strength of our people. We've faced some difficult challenges this year, but each time we've faced a tough situation, we've shown that our Chahta Spirit is even tougher. Our resilience comes from generations of Choctaws before us who persevered in the face of so many obstacles.

I'd like to close with a line from one of my favorite poems: "We are clay people; We are a people of miracles."

Yakoke and God bless

Eventful Summer - September 2020

The Supreme Court's decision in the case of McGirt v. Oklahoma was truly one for the ages. Now we must figure out exactly what it all means. It's often the case that the court will release a decision, and it then takes years to figure out what it means. Sometimes the lower courts must get involved before we gain any clarity.

We will drive a lot of what happens next, or at least that's my hope and intention. We've identified five broad categories of questions we see arising from McGirt: law enforcement, judicial, taxation, regulatory, and Indian child welfare. I've formed a Choctaw Nation McGirt Task Force to begin looking at these five categories. Each of the five categories includes lots of questions. At this point, I'm still of the belief that there is no rush to move towards federal legislation. This decision will impact our tribe and its members from now on. I want to make sure we assess every opportunity to maximize our sovereignty and protect our citizens while being good neighbors.

We now live in a culture where we want and expect answers fast. That's probably not going to happen here. I want to make sure we don't somehow reverse any aspect of tribal sovereignty. Have you seen some of the beautiful quilts and handcrafts on display at Tvshka Homma on Labor Day? This situation is like one of those quilts. It takes different threads and colors to assemble a pattern. Pull just one thread, and you unravel the quilt. We'll have to tread carefully.

I also want to give you an update regarding the CARES funds we have received. These dollars came from the federal government for our use in responding to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. We're pulling together data and hope to have it for you soon. As a reminder, we already have existing programs to assist you with your rent or mortgage payment, put food on the table, continue your education and learn more about how to keep your businesses afloat during these challenging times. We're working as fast as we can to get disbursements out. So, apply today!

We were also recently informed that the federal government will close out the 2020 U.S. Census a month early. It was scheduled to end on Oct. 31 but will now conclude on Sept. 30. The Census Bureau says it will still achieve an accurate count, but I'm not sure that's possible. The 10.5 counties of the Choctaw Nation are considered hard-to-count areas because they are mostly rural. Because the Census Bureau can't tell us the number of Choctaw tribal members who have filled out the Census (we won't be able to find this data until after the Census closes), we're surveying our tribe to see how many people say they have.

As of this week, approximately 33,000 of our tribal members say they've done so. That's out of a total tribal population of over 200,000. Have you filled out your 2020 census yet? Please let your voice be heard by filling out the Census. You can fill it out at or call 844-330-2020. I encourage everyone to complete their Census as soon as possible, as time is running out!

McGirt Decision - August 2020

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma is important for the Creek Nation and the other members of the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma. This landmark decision made national headlines and has sparked both concern and interest. The reality is sovereign Indian nations with treaty rights and land-based treaty territories-yes, reservations-have existed long before Oklahoma became a state in 1907. The McGirt decision affirms that those reservations still exist today and upholds the Major Crimes Act regarding crimes committed by Native people in Native territory.

What does this mean for the Choctaw Nation and southeastern Oklahoma? First, remember that this decision directly addresses the Creek Nation's reservation and criminal jurisdiction. Nothing has immediately changed for the Choctaw Nation or southeastern Oklahoma.

The McGirt decision does not change individual property ownership, business taxation or any citizen's responsibility to uphold the law. Please visit for a list of answers to frequently asked questions.

The Choctaw people have been governing our land base and exercising sovereignty since the 1830s. The McGirt decision supports tribal sovereignty. The decision was a refreshing commitment to the actual law, upholding treaty obligations and rights, which have an unfortunate history of being ignored by both the federal government and the State of Oklahoma.

When I think about the future of the Choctaw Nation, we want to explore all avenues to enhance our tribal sovereignty for our tribal members and the communities in which they live. It reminds me of the Scripture, "See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for both yourself and for all." (1 Thessalonians 5:15)

The leaders of the Five Tribes will continue to work to bring clarity to any significant jurisdictional issues raised by this Supreme Court decision. I am proud to be Choctaw and to work with other tribal and state leaders for solutions that pursue what is good for all.

Moving Forward - July 2020

So far, this year has been a year of ups and downs. It has been a time to reflect on our past, enact change, listen to each other and grow. The past few months have been difficult for so many. My heart goes out to everyone who has been affected by COVID-19. This pandemic is far from over. I urge you to continue to take precautions, wash your hands, wear face protection and continue to be mindful of your surroundings. As a nation, we must move forward, mindful of our mission and taking care to keep ourselves and others safe.

We began Phase III of our reopening process. Our casinos, tribal headquarters and various other facilities are now open with continued emphasis on social distancing and health precautions. We are still monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely, and the health and safety of our associates, tribal members, visitors and vendors is still our top priority.

COVID-19 isn't the only issue facing our nation and country today. America is a nation of the free, but it struggles with unity and is fractured by a lack of mutual respect. Now, more than ever, we must remember to love and pray for one another and to remember that together we're more. Equality comes from God, not man. Let's allow our faith to guide us, build strong, resilient families and maintain a culture that is respectful of one another as well as those beyond our tribal affiliations.

Today, we must stand on the right side of history. We can make a difference and positive changes for the future. There is still so much to be done. Allow the Choctaw Nation values to guide your actions. Our foundation is built on faith, family and culture. These are our strengths. Upon this foundation are the values of responsibility, honor, accountability, servant leadership, teamwork and integrity.

Nation Announces Recovery Plan - June 2020

Halito. I hope you all are doing well and staying healthy. My thoughts and prayers are still with anyone who has been directly affected by this pandemic.

The past few months have been a time of learning, reflection and preparation for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. We announced our COVID-19 Recovery Plan on May 5. The health and safety of our tribal members, associates, vendors, entertainment partners, guests and communities have been our top priorities throughout this process. We have continuously monitored the situation by staying up to date on the latest information provided to us by local, state and federal health officials. This is why we decided to take a public health-focused and data-driven approach as we reactivate our operations in phases. CNO's health and emergency management professionals have designated trigger points for key indicators that CNO will use as a base standard to either move into a new phase or stay in the current one. The key indicators are based on hospital and ICU bed utilization in the 10.5 counties and the states of Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas. We will continue to review medical data and key indicators rigorously, and we will only move to the next phase if the data suggests it is safe to do so.

We began Phase 1 on May 15. In alignment with our priority of health and safety, we implemented enhanced safety protocols and other guidelines at CNO operations and facilities. Approximately 25% of the CNO workforce returned to their onsite workstations. During Phase I, several health functions began to reopen with limited services at the Talihina Hospital and CNO medical clinics. Wellness centers and CNO Chili's dinein reopened with limited capacity, enhanced sanitation protocols and social distancing considerations. Phase 2 is set to begin on June 1. As I stated earlier, we will continue to monitor the key indicators and prioritize health and safety. Social distancing will continue to be encouraged to protect our associates and guests. Our target date for reopening all Choctaw Casino operations is June 1. We have developed a comprehensive plan for reopening. Operations and amenities will be limited at first. We are optimistic but cautious about reopening. We have implemented numerous safety protocols and measures to help protect our associates and visitors. Once we have determined that everything is going to plan and that the key indicators suggest it is safe to do so, we will move into Phase 3. During Phase 3, all operations will return to working order.

COVID-19 and the situation surrounding it is ever-evolving. By the time this information reaches you, there will most likely be additional updates, information and changes. To stay up to date on all CNO operations and recovery information, please follow us on social media or visit

I wish everyone health and safety during this time. God bless you all.

Sense of Community Essential During Global Pandemic - May 2020

As you all know, a lot has changed in the world over the past few months. COVID-19, a new and highly contagious virus, has changed the way we live our daily lives. The global pandemic has forced leaders around the world to make difficult, but necessary, changes to protect the health and safety of everyone.

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has taken numerous steps to respond to the ever-evolving situation. Our top priority has always been the health and safety of our tribal members, associates, guests, vendors, entertainment partners and local communities. Choctaw Nation has been closely monitoring the situation based on the latest information from local, state and federal officials. We feel that we have an obligation to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

On March 16, we decided to temporarily suspend operations at all of our Choctaw Casino & Resort locations as a health precaution. Soon after, we closed all of our wellness centers, community centers and administrative offices. We've also had to make the difficult decision to cancel or postpone many of our events, including our annual Trail of Tears Walk. We began issuing work from home orders for associates who are not mission-critical and able to do so. Even though our doors may be closed, our programs are still working remotely to make sure our tribal members get the services they need during this uncertain time.

On April 21, leadership announced the extension of pay and benefits to all employees through May 16. We will reevaluate the situation as that date approaches. We make these decisions knowing we must balance health and safety with the tribe's long-term financial sustainability and the economic needs of our tribal members, associates and communities.

While many of our facilities have been closed since mid-March, our mission-critical facilities have remained open to help serve our communities. Our healthcare facilities have remained open to bring vital care to our tribal members. Travel plazas, Choctaw Country Markets and food distribution facilities have remained open to provide necessary services to keep our communities going.

We are still able to feed our seniors through our nutrition program and deliver Mealson-Wheels to our communities, thanks to our associate volunteers. I'm so thankful and proud of our associates and how they have handled this situation. I want to give a huge shout out to everyone who has volunteered to prepare or serve meals, work in our refillcenter or stock shelves in our Country Markets. Yakoke to our health workers who are putting their own health on the line to provide care to others. Yakoke to our Country Market and travel plaza employees who are on the front lines working tirelessly every day to provide food and other essentials to our communities. Yakoke to our tribal police and security officers who are protecting our communities and facilities every day. Yakoke to all of our associates who are working onsite or from home. I want you all to know that your hard work and dedication are not going unnoticed.

This is a difficult time, but we will get through this together. As Chahta people, the blood in our veins is that of our strong and resilient ancestors. They endured hardships, sickness and suffering. But they were strong-willed and determined. They overcame everything that was thrown at them. We can draw from the strength of our strong Chahta ancestors to overcome our struggles today.

The COVID-19 situation is constantly changing. By the time this message reaches you, I'm sure there will be many more updates. But one thing is certain: we must continue to help each other, and keep our faith. Things will get better in time. We must do our part to help our communities until they do. I encourage you to call your families, check on your neighbors and support local businesses. We will get through this together as a community.

One thing I wanted to ensure through all of this was clear communication. On March 24, we began releasing COVID-19 special reports on social media. On March 26, I began releasing my daily COVID-19 reports to show the numbers of cases and testing in our area. For more information on closures, postponements and Choctaw Nation COVID-19 updates, please visit, and follow us on Facebook.



Choctaw Nation Takes Necessary Precautions During Pandemic - April 2020

There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. I want to assure you that the Choctaw Nation's top priority is the health and safety of our tribal members, employees, the public and patrons of tribal facilities and businesses. We are working closely with the Oklahoma State Department of Health, as we monitor the impact of COVID-19.

The state and federal governments are monitoring this situation closely. The Choctaw Nation and our emergency management team are in contact with state and federal health officials, and we will all work together to figure out what is best for everyone.

The information we have on COVID-19 is changing by the minute. By the time this column reaches you, things will most likely have changed. Please follow our social media accounts, as this is the quickest way we can share vital information. We have established webpages to help better communicate with everyone. Please visit for up-to-date information on COVID-19 and its impact on the Choctaw Nation.

Our top priority is the health and safety of our guests, associates, vendors, entertainment partners and individuals in the communities in which we are located. Choctaw has been closely monitoring the constantly evolving situation regarding COVID-19, and based on the latest information from local, state and federal health officials, we feel it is our responsibility to do what we can to help reduce the rapid spread of this disease.

As a public health precaution to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma decided to temporarily suspend all Choctaw Casinos & Resorts operations effective at 11:59 p.m. on March 16, 2020, until further notice. This includes casinos, resorts and concert venues. All gaming inside Choctaw Travel Plazas was temporarily suspended as well.

All concerts at the Grand Theater were postponed through April 3. Please check the Choctaw Casino & Resort events page for new dates. If you purchased tickets through Ticketmaster and prefer to receive a refund now, you must request one by calling Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000. We encourage you to hold on to your tickets, though, as they will be honored for the rescheduled date. Ticketmaster is the official ticketing agent for the Choctaw Grand Theater. All other ticket sellers are considered third party agencies. Third-party ticket sellers may have a different refund policy. You will need to reach out to that company directly for more information regarding refunds for postponed or rescheduled shows.

Casino Events & Promotions are temporarily suspended. This information will be made available on the Choctaw Casinos promotions page at

All hotels will be closed until further notice. If you already had plans to visit in the upcoming weeks, please contact, 888-652-4628 where a guest service representative will work with you to accommodate your needs.

All venues and related events and activities at The District are closed effective March 17. This includes the District movie theater, bowling and arcade.

The health of our tribal members, employees, the public and patrons is always our top priority. We have enhanced cleaning and sanitation actions at all of our properties to ensure that everyone is safe.

We are reminding employees through multiple channels about the importance of frequent hand washing. We are talking to them about it in daily meetings, posting signage in key employee areas and providing additional hand sanitizer dispensers in employee areas.

Hand-washing signage is located in public areas like bathrooms and restaurants for all of our guests.

Additional liquid hand sanitizer stations have been installed throughout our properties in high traffic areas. We have also increased our supply of hand sanitizer, so it is available for our guests and associates for an extended period of time.

In addition to purchasing more cleaning and disinfecting supplies, Choctaw is increasing the number of times per day we clean high touch surfaces throughout our properties including restaurants, bars, fitness centers, public restrooms, hotel rooms, elevators, slot machines and table games.

To ensure proper cleaning and disinfecting, we have provided additional training for employees.

I want to reiterate, that as of March 19, when this paper was published, we had no reports of cases of COVID-19 connected to associates at any Choctaw Casinos & Resorts Properties or related businesses at this time. Further updates with additional details will be provided as needed.

We ask that our guests follow the precautionary measures outlined by medical authorities to help ensure everyone stays safe.

• The CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before eating, after using the bathroom, after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, and before and after caring for a sick friend or a family member.

• Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.

• Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

• Staying home when you are sick.

• Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throwing the tissue in the trash.

To keep up with the latest and most accurate health information, please visit the World Health Organization's website or the Centers for Disease Control's website html.

If you have a question about coronavirus (COVID-19), including testing criteria, there are call centers available. The CNHSA coronavirus call center can be reached Monday - Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. by calling 866-536-2766. The Oklahoma State Dept of Health coronavirus (COVID-19) call center is available Monday - Friday 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. by calling 877-215-8336. The CDC information line is now open 24 hours, 7 days a week for questions related to coronavirus (COVID-19) by calling 800-232-4636.

I encourage all of you to follow the recommendations of the CDC and the World Health Organization. If you are ill, please contact a medical provider and practice social distancing. We will make it through this by working together and doing our part to flatten the curve.

Capture 19

Choctaws Count in 2020 Census - March 2020

The 2020 U.S. Census will be conducted this year and I am asking you on behalf of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma to participate. It is crucial for our members to be counted and their voices to be heard.

The census is conducted every 10 years, as required by the U.S. Constitution. The census collects important data from every person living in our country. Census numbers help to decide how an estimated total of $880 billion a year in federal funding is distributed. These federal dollars are distributed for schools, roads, public services, and tribes through grants. Those dollars also are used by emergency responders during natural disasters. The census also helps determine the number of congressional seats and Electoral College votes every state gets. The census is more than just a survey; it is a vital tool. It is essential that our tribal members complete and correctly identify themselves in the census.

The Choctaw Nation is partnering with the U.S. Census Bureau to increase participation and help clarify how to accurately identify your Choctaw citizenship. The information you provide helps put money back into your communities. It helps support important services like emergency management, roads, schools and healthcare.

During the 2010 census, only 24,000 members of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma correctly identified themselves on their submissions. There are roughly 200,000 members of the Choctaw Nation. That means approximately 80% of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma wasn't counted in the last census. So show that our ancestors are not forgotten by standing up and being counted. Let everyone know that we are 200,000 Chahta strong!

If you want to help ensure that all of us are counted, there are multiple things you can do. For the first time in the 230-year history of the U.S. Census, participants will be able to respond online and by calling 1-800 numbers. Paper forms will still be available, and census workers will make door to door visits to rural areas. Households who haven't responded by April will be visited by door knockers who will conduct interviews and collect responses by smartphone. Please complete the census by July 24, 2020. When you reach the "Tribal Affiliation" section, please write "Choctaw Nation." This is the only way for your response to truly count toward the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. If you only write "Choctaw," it will not count.

Make sure your voice is heard in this year's census and remember that Choctaws count.


Choctaw Nation Gives Back Through Community Partnership Fund - February 2020

Community is an essential part of our Chahta culture. I'm so honored and humbled to be able to represent the Chahta people and be a part of this great community. With current events and what is happening with the Oklahoma Gaming Compact, I have realized that many people are unaware of the impact our tribes have on the State of Oklahoma. Sometimes we get so caught up in what we are doing for the Chahta community that we forget to share all the things we do for our local communities as well.

The Chahta people have always strived to live their lives with servants' hearts. From helping each other during forced removal, to collecting a donation to send to the Irish people on the other side of the world, we as Choctaws have been taught to help not only our own, but our neighbors as well. We hear and see the phrase "living out the Chahta Spirit" often. We can do this in many ways. Being a servant leader and helping others for the greater good is a perfect way for us to live it out each day. We at the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma strive to uphold the values that have been passed down for generations in every decision we make. One of the ways we show this is through our Community Partnership Fund.

In fiscal year 2019, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma was able to put $1,613,300 back into southeastern Oklahoma. Thanks to our Community Partnership Fund, 26 counties and cities throughout the 10½ counties received funding for needed projects and equipment.

Though we are a sovereign nation, we recognize the impact and influences we have in the communities our members live and work in. This is our home, and most of us grew up right here in this area. We love and care about the people who live here, regardless of their race, religion or creed.

With funding from the Community Partnership Fund, the city of Durant chose to use its $232,500 for road repairs and improvements. McAlester combined funds with additional donations for a streetscape project that includes sidewalk expansions, bump-outs, decorative light poles and street signs. Pushmataha county used their funds, matched with federal grants, to purchase a new Sheriff's Department vehicle, make much-needed repairs to the fair building and upgrade the courthouse boiler system. Other cities and counties used their funds for street repair, building repairs, community beautification, city park upgrades and water projects as well.

We just started our second year for this program, and our funds will continue to help strengthen our communities, region and state. The Choctaw Community Partnership Fund is a voluntary distribution to cities and counties within the Choctaw Nation's 10½ county jurisdiction that operate Tribal non-gaming businesses. Together, we can make Oklahoma an even better place for our citizens to live and grow.


Tribes Still United in New Year - January 2020

In August, I released an op-ed that explained the facts of the Oklahoma Tribal Gaming Compact and its automatic renewal. It is now January, and my opinion on the matter still stands. Oklahoma tribes are rooted firmly in this great state, and we continue to help all Oklahomans every day. Tribal gaming continues to be a win-win for the state and tribal nations as it always has been.

Going forward, any threat to exclusivity could jeopardize billions in future dollars to the state of Oklahoma. In 2019, Oklahoma tribes paid the state $148.2 million in gaming fees. However, the overall economic impact of tribal dollars on Oklahoma is one of the highest on any state in the country. Tribes funnel billions of dollars into this great state outside of gaming fees.

We will continue to pay our fees to the state as agreed upon through the existing compact and continue to give back to the people of Oklahoma, exceeding what the fees require.

As stated in the compact itself, "Following the effective date of this Compact, the Compact shall automatically renew for successive additional fifteen-year terms."

Tribes across Oklahoma are united on the fact that the compact automatically renews, and we are all operating our casinos, "business as usual." We remain positive and united in our stance, and we will continue to do what is right for our people. We are not taking this stance out of greed or pride. We are doing this to protect the future of our tribe, our members and our state.

We have every right as a sovereign nation to take legal action, if necessary. It is our duty as tribal leaders to protect our sovereign rights and the well-being of our people.

Many of our people rely on tribal programs, which are funded through our gaming funds. Our ancestors fought to get our tribes to the position they are today. Tribal gaming is a way for us to earn dollars to put back into not only our tribes, but our communities as well.

We help build and pave roads that benefit all Oklahomans and allow them to travel safer. We recently announced our partnership with local governments to help Antlers, Talihina and the Sardis Lake Water Authority to improve their water systems. This partnership will help Oklahomans have clean and safe drinking water. One of the key objectives of this grant is to ensure our region attracts new businesses and residents. These businesses will create jobs.

The Choctaw Nation, in collaboration with the Oklahoma State Department of Health, provides vaccines for all who qualify for free. Tribal dollars helped fund over 18,000 flu shots across Oklahoma and North Texas to tribal members and non-tribal members alike.

Oklahoma tribes are constantly and consistently helping others. It is a part of who we are as a people. Our roots run deep here are longstanding and deep, predating Oklahoma itself, which we have taken pride in helping build. We have worked hard for decades to create a great relationship with the state. We would love to continue that relationship; we are open to negations, but we want this done in a fair way, respecting the existing compact language agreed upon by the state, tribes and Oklahoma voters


Faith, Family, Culture and Christmas - December 2019

I can't believe another year has flown by and it is once again Christmastime. Christmas is truly the most wonderful time of the year. It is a chance for us to share our faith, family and culture. Some of my most cherished memories have been made during the time spent with loved ones during the holidays. I'm truly thankful to have the opportunity to make those memories and hope you all have a blessed Christmas with your families.

Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I am so thankful for the blessings God has given me, and for the sacrifice Jesus made for all of us. He is the ultimate gift and true reason for the season.

The Christmas season also brings up memories of those we have lost. This year, we go into the holiday season with heavy hearts. We lost a great man, friend and leader, Chief Greg Pyle. I am so grateful for the time I got to spend with him, learning how not only to be a leader but also a better person. Please keep his wife Pat, children and grandchildren in your thoughts and prayers as they go into the holidays.

I love seeing all the signs of Christmas popping up around us with the decorations, music, lights and the spirit of giving. It is so heartwarming to see so many Choctaw people giving back to their communities. The Choctaw Nation hosts numerous events in the spirit of Christmas. Our annual Christmas in the Park is happening again this year. The event kicks off Dec. 6 and runs through Dec. 28. The free event is held at our historic capitol grounds at Tvshka Homma. Every evening, beginning at sundown, the park comes to life with festive lights and décor. I invite all of you to come and check out this wonderful display. It is sure to get you in the Christmas spirit. Our community centers are also once again hosting their annual Christmas parties. These events are a great way for our communities to come together. Having a strong sense of community is essential in keeping our culture and bond strong. I encourage those of you who can to attend these events. There is a list of parties in this month's issue of the Biskinik.

The spirit of giving and the Chahta Spirit go hand in hand. That spirit, to help not only each other but everyone who is in need, has been instilled in the Choctaw people for generations. It truly is the embodiment of the Choctaw Spirit. The Choctaw Nation held numerous food and clothing drives during the month of November. It is so heartwarming to see our people coming together and helping their fellow man. The Bible says, "And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased," Hebrews 13:16 NIV.

On behalf of myself, my family and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, I would like to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!



Celebrating Native November - November 2019

November is a special time of year. Not only is it a time to spend with our families during Thanksgiving , but it is also Native American Heritage Month. Native American Heritage Month, also known as Native November, is a time to celebrate our cultural heritage and share with others the history of our people. Native Americans were here long before Europeans made it to America. Our history is rich, and our culture is vibrant. Through hardships, struggles and turmoil we still managed to hold on to what makes us uniquely Choctaw.

At the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, we try to embrace our culture every day. We host Heritage Monday events at our tribal headquarters in Durant. During these events, visitors can take part in cultural and language classes, eat traditional meals and purchase Native American art. We also have year-round language classes that are taught online through our Choctaw School of Language. Our teachers, many of whom are first-language speakers, take pride in keeping our language alive. It is up to us to pass our language on to future generations, and our language department is doing a great job.

We are eagerly awaiting the opening of the Choctaw Nation Cultural Center in Durant. Construction is coming along, and we cannot wait to be able to share our story through its state-of-the-art exhibits. In this month's issue of the Biskinik, you will get a glimpse into some of the traditional artwork that will be displayed in the facility. Some of the artwork has been created in the spirit of long-forgotten art styles. For example, there are buffalo wool skirts and a turkey cape, which was last documented centuries ago. This is just a small glimpse into the fantastic array of curated pieces that will be on display. I cannot wait to see the finished product next year.

Another great resource on Choctaw Culture is the Choctaw Capitol Museum in Tvshka Homma. Housed in the historic capitol building, which was built in 1907, the museum is full of history. It houses numerous exhibits that depict life before colonization, the Trail of Tears, Choctaw life in Oklahoma, code talkers and much more. If you ever have the time to visit, I highly encourage it. It is a fascinating place to visit, and you are sure to learn more about our culture.

I also encourage you to visit the Hina Hanta Project website, hinahanta.choctawnation. com. This website allows visitors to view curated Choctaw artifacts and art pieces. This is a great resource to use while we wait for the Cultural Center to open.

This month I hope you take some time and get in touch with your Choctaw roots and share with others what it means to you to be Choctaw. You don't have to travel to Oklahoma to do this. You can attend a Native November event in your area, wear a piece of traditional clothing or jewelry, tell a story about your heritage, or even simply wear a Choctaw t-shirt. Be creative and be proud of what makes you a Native American and of the Choctaw blood that is running through your veins no matter the month on the calendar.


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