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Miko Gary Batton

Looking Back on 2021 - January 2022


As the final days of 2021 drew near, I couldn't help but smile and reflect on the many accomplishments made by our tribal members this past year.

One of the first successes was the opening of the Choctaw Cultural Center after more than a decade of research and work. It was a proud and significant moment for our nation because it is a symbol that perpetuates the Choctaw culture and serves as a place for the Choctaw proud, our allies and partners to share and celebrate our many unique traditions.

The Choctaw Nation also opened resident and nursing duplexes in Talihina, the Hugo Central Laundry facility, and the Durant Child Care Center located across the street from the entrance to CNO Headquarters. Additionally, we saw the opening of the Choctaw Casino & Resort Sky Tower expansion in Durant.

Another 2021 win was the Choctaw Nation's ability to use the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars to assist our tribal members nationwide who had been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was truly an honor to have our in-person Veterans Day Ceremony. It's important to show our Choctaw veterans how much we appreciate them, but it was an even greater privilege and honor to hold Joseph Oklahombi's Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame induction on our Choctaw Capitol Grounds.

The Choctaw Nation truly demonstrated the Chahta spirit in 2021. I'm excited for what 2022 holds in store for us and how we can be a blessing to our tribal members.

Yakoke and God bless!


Native November - December 2021


November is a month of spending time with family and giving thanks. November is also special because it's Native American Heritage Month.

On November 14, 1990, President George H.W. Bush declared the month of November as National American Indian Heritage Month to honor the hundreds of Native American tribes in the United States.

Native American Heritage Month makes me think about our Chahta ancestors, and how they laid the foundation for who we are today.

The sacrifices they made and the struggles they endured, motivate me to protect our sovereignty and perpetuate our Choctaw culture.

Our culture is what makes us unique and defines who we are as Chahta people.

I encourage you to take some time and reflect on who we are. Channel the Chahta spirit not only during Native American Heritage Month, but every day, so that we can leave a legacy for our children.

Yakoke and God bless! 

Future Strategic Goals - November 2021


It's October and the start of a new fiscal year for the Choctaw Nation!

As we embark on a new and exciting year, I wanted to take the time and share with you our strategic goals and strategies for fiscal years 2021 through 2025.

Our first goal is to support service delivery to improve quality of life. Enhancing the well-being of tribal members is very important. We'll do so by advocating, allocating resources, and remaining committed to improving quality of life and tribal member self-sufficiency and independence.

The second goal is to strengthen financial growth and economic stability. We want our businesses to grow, to reduce our costs, and to strengthen local economies.

Our third goal is to protect and promote Choctaw culture and exercise sovereignty. The Choctaw Nation will assert, defend, protect, promote and exercise our rights as a sovereign nation to improve the economic, environmental, social and cultural prosperity.

The fourth goal is to become the employer of choice. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma wants to attract, retain and support professional growth to develop a diverse workforce for the Nation and our local communities.

Our fifth and final goal is to achieve digital transformation. We want the Choctaw Nation to be strategically positioned in the digital economy through access to broadband, adoption and implementation of systems, workflows, analytics, and innovation.

We want our tribal members, associates, and local economies to thrive, and we feel that these five strategic goals will lead us to success. Yakoke and God bless!

American Rescue Plan Act - October 2021


I am excited to bring you this update regarding the America Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

As of September 10th, we have received 115,194 applications for the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) programs, and 93% have been approved.

Under the ARPA programs, elders 55 and older receive $200 a month for groceries, and $1,000 per year for the next two years. Tribal members 18 and older receive $1,000 per year for two years; while those tribal members 17 and under receive $700 per year for two years.

This means that our tribal members nationwide who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic are receiving assistance.

In looking at the data it showed that nationwide earnings had declined for our elder population (55 and older) and that they were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. We also wanted to help all our other age groups so we looked at how we could assist the 18-54 and under 18 populations.

We hope these dollars assist you during these difficult and trying times. We encourage tribal members to stay updated on ARPA programs via https://www. .

Yakoke and God bless!

Casino Expansion - September 2021


The Choctaw Nation continues to thrive - with the grand opening of the Choctaw Casino & Resort - Durant expansion!

On August 6, the resort expansion opened. The expansion features the 21-story, luxury Sky Tower Hotel; an expanded gaming experience plus elevated amenities; restaurants; lounges and entertainment options; and a world-class collection of Choctaw art.

I'm excited because this expansion means 1,000 new jobs, revenue that funds much-needed services for tribal members, millions in economic growth for Oklahoma, and additional dollars our tribal government invests in education and infrastructure improvements for all Oklahomans.

A lot is happening around the Nation, including students going back to school. The Choctaw Nation has always valued education. We offer a variety of programs to assist tribal members, regardless of where they are on their educational journey.

From the Partnership of Summer School Education (POSSE) program, the High School Services Program (HSSS), to the Higher Education Program (HEP) and career development program, the Choctaw Nation is able to provide these needed educational services to our members, with the dollars gained from expansion projects like the Durant resort expansion.

For more information about our educational services, visit

Yakoke and God bless!


Cultural Center Opens - August 2021


This is an exciting week for the Choctaw Nation! After more than a decade of research and work, the Choctaw Cultural Center will officially open on July 23.

The Cultural Center is such a significant project, because it perpetuates the Choctaw culture. It's a place for the Chahta proud, our allies and partners to share and celebrate our many traditions.

The Cultural Center is also important because it is a place to instill pride in who we are, to learn the stories of our ancestors, and a place to learn how to live out the Chahta spirit.

Our Choctaw culture means everything to me. It is the foundation that our ancestors have built for us, and it is our responsibility to carry on into the future for our youth. Our culture is what makes us unique and defines who we are as Chahta people.

We have so many unique traditions, from our language, to stickball, to our social dances. They all have impacted me and are deeply rooted in our history to live out our cultural values.

I encourage our elders, tribal members and the Chahta proud to visit the Cultural Center and reflect on what Choctaw culture means to you.

Yakoke and God bless!

Cult Center

CNO Launches Initiative to Consider Tribal Membership for Freedmen - July 2021

The Choctaw Nation recently announced the launch of an initiative to consider tribal membership for Choctaw Freedmen. Changing the tribal membership requirements will require a Constitutional amendment, which will require a vote from tribal members. To be successful, we'll have to tell the story of why we believe this is necessary and listen to tribal members' input. This initiative will engage Choctaw Freedmen, the Department of Interior, existing tribal members, our elected officials and membership department officials, and other Choctaw proud in listening sessions to present findings and a recommendation to Choctaw elected officials.

I respectfully request that you take a moment to read this open letter and learn more about how we have arrived at this critical juncture in both tribal and American history.

Our mission is, "To the Choctaw proud, ours is a sovereign nation offering opportunities for growth and prosperity." Our vision is, "Living out the Chahta spirit of faith, family and culture."

Our tradition of oral storytelling brings Choctaw history to life, and has long been one way we educate young Choctaw people.

When I first learned of the US government's plan to withhold promised funding unless we changed our Constitution, I was frustrated. As you might imagine, there is a lot of baggage in the relationship between Native Americans and the US government. As chief, protecting tribal sovereignty is one of the most sacred honors and responsibilities entrusted to me. In this moment, I was focused on a threat to our sovereignty - that's all I heard. The story of Choctaw Freedmen deserves our attention and thoughtful consideration within the framework of tribal self-governance.

I, along with the Tribal Council, have meditated on the words of our mission and vision. We have reflected on the stories our elders have shared with us about the experiences of their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. We have unpacked some of the baggage and remember that while today in 2021, part of our tribal sovereignty is being able to determine tribal membership; that right was also tarnished by the federal government 125 years ago.

The Dawes Rolls. Early in the 1830s, nearly 125,000 Native Americans lived on millions of acres of land in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and Florida. Land our ancestors had called home for generations. Among them, thousands of enslaved people were forced to provide manual labor along the way and after arriving in what is now Oklahoma. The Trail of Tears left an indelible scar on Choctaw people and on African American people among us.

In 1887, the US government, led by Senator Henry Laurens Dawes of Massachusetts, passed the Dawes Act to take the land of Native American people, break up our tribal governments and assimilate us. Like many other times in Native history, the US government did not honor its treaties.

According to Dawes Act language, Native Americans could apply to receive their due allotment of land. White people also applied for the Dawes Rolls to get "free" land, at times using bribes to federal agents to be selected. History shows us that over 250,000 people applied for tribal membership and land, and a little over 100,000 were approved. Over half of the applicants were "rejected, stricken, and judged to be doubtful." The approved received an allotment of land. Some Native Americans did not trust the US government and did not apply in an attempt to protect their families from additional harm. For 10 years after Dawes left the Senate, he worked to dissolve tribal governments and managed to take 90 million acres of treaty land. In 1928, just 23 years after the Dawes Rolls closed, President Calvin Coolidge's administration studied the effects of the Dawes Act and found that the Dawes Act had been used illegally to deprive Native Americans of their land rights. And yet no changes were made.

Today our tribal membership is based on the Dawes Rolls - a poisonous legacy from 125 years ago that took root and caused a myriad of membership issues for tribal nations, including Freedmen.

The CDIB Card & Blood Quantum Law. The US government's Bureau of Indian Affairs issues a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood, commonly known as a CDIB card. According to the US government, "it provides a blood degree by tribe." These degrees are based on the Dawes Rolls. I respectfully ask you to take a moment and reflect on that. This is a federal construct that has fueled division and racism. To receive a CDIB card, a person must trace their "blood" ancestry to the Dawes Rolls. At this time, the US government also does not recognize Freedmen in its CDIB enrollment process. This systemized measuring a person's "degree of Indian-ness" is fundamentally flawed, has heavily influenced modern-day tribal membership and should change.

This moment in Choctaw Nation history calls for courage and bravery. It is a moment to live out the Chahta spirit of faith, family and culture. We know that by calling for these reforms, we are peeling away layers of scar and are exposing a deeply painful wound for tribes across the US. And we know it is the right thing to do.

Today we call upon the US government to also consider its moral and legal obligations and review the CDIB process for Freedmen. CDIB enrollment for Freedmen would mean automatic access to critical programs like tribal health care, housing programs and more.

Today we call upon the Choctaw proud to open dialogue on the issue of Choctaw Freedmen. Ours is a sovereign nation offering opportunities for growth and prosperity. Our stories, Native American, African American, are inextricably linked with European Americans, and with one another. Let us not be bound by an artificial construct of those who sought to take our lands, culture and dignity hundreds of years ago. Let our sovereign nation reclaim what was taken 125 years ago - the ability to determine tribal membership.

Today we reach out to the Choctaw Freedmen. We see you. We hear you. We look forward to meaningful conversation regarding our shared past.

McGirt Misconceptions - June 2021

The United States Supreme Court's landmark decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma has made national headlines and sparked great concern and interest among local and tribal citizens, media outlets and law enforcement agencies. Because of the impact this decision has had on southeastern Oklahoma, I want to make sure that we dispel some misconceptions you may have heard:

What is the McGirt Ruling

• The Supreme Court's ruling in McGirt is specifically about the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and clearly establishes that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation's treaty territory is a reservation.

• The McGirt decision affirms that sovereign Indian nations with treaty rights and land-based treaty territories, reservations, existed long before Oklahoma became a state in 1907.

• The decision upholds the Major Crimes Act of 1885.

• On April 1, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals' ruled in the Sizemore decision that the Choctaw Nation's 1866 reservation boundaries were never changed, and our reservation remains intact today. As a result, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals' decision in Sizemore will apply the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling regarding criminal jurisdiction in McGirt v. Oklahoma to the Choctaw Nation reservation.

Who will prosecute crimes that occur within Choctaw Nation

• No person within the Choctaw Nation, whether they're a tribal member or not, is above the law.

• If either the victim or suspect is Native, then the jurisdiction for the prosecution of the crime falls to the Federal Court and/or Tribal Court.

Federal Sentencing

• Under the Federal Violent Crimes Act, a list of several violent crimes committed on Reservation lands is under the sole jurisdiction of the FBI to investigate and the U.S. Attorney's Office to prosecute.

• The U.S. Attorney's office can also prosecute all other felonies, misdemeanors, and even adopt State Law to prosecute if there is no specific Federal Statute for a particular crime.

• On January 13, 2020, Choctaw Nation Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Cory C. Ortega was appointed to serve as a Special Assistant United States Attorney (SAUSA) for the Eastern District of Oklahoma to serve under U.S. Attorney Brian J. Kuester. The goal of the SAUSA appointment is to increase the likelihood that every criminal offense occurring within the Choctaw Nation is prosecuted in tribal court, federal court, or both.

The Choctaw Nation has a shared commitment to maintaining public safety and longterm economic prosperity for the Nation and Oklahoma. We have 69 cross-deputization agreements among federal, state, and local officials in place to ensure that emergency response will continue to be handled the same way, and those committing criminal acts, whether they're tribal members or not, can be arrested by law enforcement to maintain law and order. Police protection and emergency response will continue to be provided for all.

Sovereignty Following the Sizemore Ruling - May 2021

On April 1, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in the Sizemore decision that the Choctaw Nation's 1866 reservation boundaries were never changed, and our reservation remains intact today.

This decision was long-awaited after the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark ruling in the McGirt v. Oklahoma case, which was decided in July 2020. McGirt initially only applied to the Creek Nation's criminal jurisdiction, but we have been prepared for the ruling to be extended to the Choctaw Nation as well.

As you may know, the McGirt ruling determined that Congress never disestablished the Creek reservation when Oklahoma became a state in 1907 and that Jimcy McGirt, a felon convicted by the state, should actually have been prosecuted in federal court. This argument is based on the 1885 Major Crimes Act, a federal law dictates that major crimes involving Native Americans in Indian Country be prosecuted in federal or tribal court.

In anticipation of the Sizemore decision, the Choctaw Nation prepared more than 125 cases to be filed in the District Court of the Choctaw Nation as soon as the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in the Sizemore case. In a historic move, the Choctaw Nation filed 125 cases the same day to prevent any criminals from being released from custody.

We have been preparing for the shift in criminal case jurisdiction for well over two years. I am grateful for the work of our Public Safety Department, Tribal Prosecutor's Office, our Judicial branch, court clerks and the Sovereignty for Strong Communities Commission to protect public safety and to offer individuals a fair and efficient trial.

In anticipation of the change in jurisdiction, the Choctaw Nation Tribal Prosecutor's Office has met with all District Attorney Offices within the Choctaw Nation reservation boundaries.

To date, the Choctaw Nation has reviewed more than 500 cases involving self-identified Native American defendants from the State of Oklahoma, with a focus on incarcerated defendants. Those cases have been provided to the Choctaw Nation Department of Public Safety (DPS) for investigation.

This coordination has allowed the Choctaw Nation to identify the cases impacted, gather information to charge individuals in the District Court of the Choctaw Nation, and will help maintain public safety.

The Choctaw Nation is and always has been a reservation since the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek between the Choctaws and the U.S. Government.

We, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, strive to be good neighbors. Our goal is not only to take care of our people, but our communities as well. It's about working together to protect the health and safety of every person living within the Choctaw Nation. That will never change.

There will be many updates and news to share with you regarding this ruling. To stay up to date on all things related to our tribal sovereignty, visit www.

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American Rescue Plan Signed Into Law - April 2021

President Biden signed the U.S. government's second coronavirus relief package, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act, into law on March 11. While some U.S. citizens might have already received direct payments from the U.S. Treasury, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and other tribal governments will have to wait.

We know the relief bill includes $20 billion for tribal governments, but we don't know how the U.S. government will allocate those funds. My hope is that tribal citizen enrollment data will be more of a determining factor than outdated funding formulas that resulted in funding inequities in how CARES Act relief was allotted. These inequities were highlighted by an informative Harvard University study.

The U.S. Treasury Department has up to 60 days to make that determination and distribute funding to tribes, and we expect them to take the full 60 days. While we wait, the cross-functional committee that led our CARES Act efforts is fully engaged in planning and discussions about the potential of ARP funding.

Not long ago, we held a planning meeting with Tribal Council and identified key categories the Nation could fund with ARP monies. We intend to extend and re-open application periods for successful programs provided by CARES that benefit our most vulnerable tribal members (like addressing food and housing security) and initiatives that support public health. I encourage tribal members who have already received reloadable food cards to keep those cards. We also plan to renew programs that align with our mission of providing opportunities for growth and prosperity like education, child assistance, and small business support.

Right now, we only have projections to work with as we await the full details of the funding amount Choctaw Nation will receive and the federal rules and regulations that come with it. I encourage you to stay tuned to Choctaw Nation's website at and our social media channels for the latest news and updates on relief funding.

Remembering Those We've Lost in 2020 - March 2021

Now that 2021 has begun, I have had a chance to reflect on the past year. Last year was challenging in many ways. One thing that has been weighing heavy on my heart is how many of our Choctaw tribal members we've lost.

My heart and prayers go out to each and every one of you who has experienced loss and grief this past year. Losing a loved one is always painful, and sometimes that pain seems to be more than we can bear. We at the Choctaw Nation want to do our best to help you during this time. I want to let everyone know there are many resources available to help in times of grief. I have felt the impact of grief this year as well. I have lost numerous friends whose memory I will treasure forever. Many of those were our tribal elders and culture keepers.

These were people who I looked up to and admired. I'm honored to have had the opportunity to get to know them, build friendships and learn from their wisdom over the years. When we lose our elders, we lose another connection to our culture and our history. Of course, we didn't just lose tribal elders; we lost tribal members of all ages. In their own way, each person contributed to our cultural heritage, our traditions and our story.

In honor of those lost in 2020, I have decided to set aside February 18, 2021, as a National Day of Remembrance across the Choctaw Nation. I call on the Choctaw people to solemnly commemorate and pay respect to all those who have passed on.

Until we get this virus under control, we must protect each other. We can do this by washing our hands, wearing masks, getting vaccinated and practicing social distancing. I know that spending time with family and socializing is a big part of our culture. However, we must take steps to protect each other now, so we can spend time with those we love in the future.

I know this is a difficult time in our lives, but we must keep our faith in our Creator and our people. We are descendants of strong and resilient Tvshka Chahta, who passed down that resilience to us. Our ancestors endured many hardships and came out of each one even stronger than they were before. We will make it through this new hardship together thanks to our faith and Chahta spirit. It is up to us to ensure our culture and stories last for generations to come.

For more information on resources on coping with grief, and a special tribute to those we lost in 2020, visit

A Big Yakoke to CNO Employee Volunteers - February 2021

We are fast approaching the one-year mark for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The health, education and welfare of the Choctaw people are the primary focus of the Choctaw Nation. The needs of our tribal members and our communities will always take precedence. Our goal has been to help our tribal members and surrounding communities during the pandemic through our programs and services. I want to take this opportunity to thank each person who helped serve the Choctaw people during this time.

During the pandemic, a large part of our workforce was sent home. However, several programs continued to provide vital services to tribal members. For these operations to continue, there was an urgent need for volunteers to ensure these services were still available. A total of 716 staff members volunteered 5497.8 hours (about 7 and a half months) in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Employee volunteers helped keep the shelves stocked at travel plazas and country markets. Others helped at our community centers serve essential meals to tribal elders. Other employees volunteered to help answer phones to assist with the higher volume of calls. Volunteers also helped our clinics and Poteau Prescription Refill Center by cleaning and packing prescription orders for patients and employees. Employees helped at food distribution centers by filling food orders for clients and delivering curbside meals to ensure those in need had plenty of food during the shutdown.

Additionally, 13 staff volunteers assisted over three weeks at McAlester, Poteau and Broken Bow distribution centers. The volunteers provided food delivery to tribal elders by helping package groceries or delivering food to elders waiting in their cars. During the pandemic, Walmart donated thousands of pounds of fruits and vegetables to the Choctaw Nation for its tribal members. Over 100 staff members volunteered to distribute the donated food to impacted communities within the Choctaw Nation.

These are just a few examples of the ways our employees helped during this time. I am so thankful for the dedication and selflessness our employees have displayed during these uncertain times. Our employees are the backbone that keep our Nation going.

As the pandemic continues to rage on, Choctaw Nation employees continue to rise above the call of duty. They have continued to step up and volunteer because they genuinely care about our tribal members and communities.

I want to thank our employees for always putting the needs of others before their own. They truly exemplify the Chahta spirit in all they do. If you are a Choctaw Nation employee reading this, I want you to know that you are appreciated. Your dedication has not gone unnoticed. Without your hard work, we would not be the strong nation we are today. Yakoke.

For more highlights from our programs and services, check out our 2020 Year in Review at   

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