The Chickasaw Nation finds creative ways to make itself thoroughly visible outside of its traditional pre-statehood borders of south-central Oklahoma. Whether it’s through the nation’s television advertising campaigns featuring successful tribal members or through growing economic impact, the Chickasaw Nation is making itself noticed. Therefore, when the Chickasaw Nation distributed Governor Bill Anoatubby’s State of the Nation release the afternoon of October 6 stating that there was an overflow crowd, it should be at no surprise.
The address, delivered on the Murray State College campus in Tishomingo, Oklahoma featured seven primary talking points that make the state of the Chickasaw Nation “strong, and growing stronger,” said Anoatubby in the release. These include business diversification; tourism; health care business; general health care; education; housing; and senior services.
The first, business diversification, includes more than 50 Chickasaw-owned businesses in addition to gaming, which range from entertainment, government contracting, communication and banking. The release cited a study by Oklahoma City University that showed the Chickasaw Nation’s economic impact on the state of Oklahoma to be more than $2.4 billion.
“Business diversification is a vital component of our long-term economic development strategy,” Anoatubby said. “While it is important to reinvest in our established businesses to maximize their growth potential, it is also essential to carefully build a diverse business portfolio.”
The second point of the release discussed the growth of the Chickasaw Nation’s tourism industry. The hub of this specific area of economic development is the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma. The Chickasaw Nation plans on adding to its success with developments such as the Artesian Hotel, also in Sulphur, as well as tours of the tribally owned Bedre Fine Chocolates factory near the Davis, Oklahoma exit on I-35.
With health care being a growing concern throughout Indian country, the Chickasaw Nation has placed emphasis not only on expanding its medical facilities for tribal members, but also for non-Native personnel employed by Chickasaw Nation. One of their health care efforts has been the creation of Sovereign Medical Solutions in 2011, which is a private family practice clinic in Ada, Oklahoma with a branch about to be established in Norman, Oklahoma.
For tribal members and other Natives within the Chickasaw Nation service area, the release stated that medical center in Ada has seen at least 500,000 patients and over 1 million prescriptions filled this year alone, with additional clinics being opened in Ardmore and Tishomingo, Oklahoma.
Chickasaw Nation stated that it is also in the process of building Chikasha House near its Ada medical center. These are houses that would provide a place to stay for families whose members have been admitted for an extended stay.
Education is addressed within the release in terms of higher education, vocational training and literacy programs. According to Chickasaw Nation, over 21,000 college scholarships totaling nearly $16 million were distributed in the last year. Furthermore, job training for junior high and high school students totaled nearly 700 youth. Additionally, more than 10,000 books were distributed to tribal members ages five and under.
Housing needs of tribal members was also addressed by Anoatubby, with assistance options ranging from home loans, down payment and closing cost assistance, and grants for home repair, storm shelter installation and landscaping. The release stated that the Chickasaw Nation helped more than 1,000 families with home loans totaling over $105 million.
The final category is services to senior tribal members. These include the opening of the Chickasaw Elder Living Apartments in Ardmore, whose apartments are within walking distance of a health clinic, senior center, nutrition center and wellness center. This is in addition to elder centers in 12 communities that are open throughout Chickasaw Nation.
“We raise you up,” Anoatubby said about Chickasaw elders. “We support you as you have supported, encouraged and guided us. Your spirit of determination, creativity and community has helped build the Chickasaw Nation.”
One issue that has been at the forefront of statewide news in Oklahoma has been the Chickasaw Nation’s water rights case against the Oklahoma state government, where the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations are both plaintiffs. Yet, the water rights case was noticeably absent from the news release issued by Chickasaw Nation.
When asked by Indian Country Today Media Network about its absence, Chickasaw Nation provided federal court documents concerning the ordered mediation between these parties. According to the original order filed on January 5, 2012 and with an extension filed on September 19, 2012, all parties with this mediation are forbidden to speak about the mediation process. However, all parties involved are allowed to speak strictly on their position or any public comment directly made by the opposing side.
“…no party may make any public statement, media release or other comment for public broadcast regarding the status or conduct of the Mediation or the characterization of any party’s position therein without prior leave of the Court,” said the order of U.S. District Judge Lee R. West. “This provision shall apply only to the Mediation and mediation process and does not prohibit any party or their counsel from making any public statement, media release or other comment for public broadcast relating to that party’s factual or legal position or another party’s public statement.”
At press time, the mediation process between plaintiffs Chickasaw Nation and Choctaw and named defendants Governor Mary Fallin, R-Okla. and the members of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board was still pending.