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Miko Gary Batton

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.



State of the Nation Address Highlights Growth, Encourages Sustainability - October 2019

By Kellie Matherly

On Sept. 2, Chief Gary Batton addressed the Choctaw Nation in a speech that highlighted growth and progress in several areas, including elder care, healthcare, education, employment, and government.

This year's State of the Nation address closed out the 2019 Labor Day Festival and began Chief Batton's second consecutive term in office.

Batton began his address by acknowledging all the people who work together to make the Choctaw Nation successful.

He then shared graphs showing where the Choctaw Nation gets its money and where the money goes. "We are making our own way. We are proud to be the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma," Batton said.

According to the most recent reports, 54% of revenue comes from tribal businesses, 30% from grants, 13% from Medicare and third-party insurance, 2% from general government sources, and 1% from housing.

Chief Batton emphasized the fact that the Choctaw Nation spends nearly 80% of the money it receives on services to tribal members, while the rest helps fund investments, sustainability initiatives and capital projects.

"The success of our nation is measured by the strength of our people," Batton said.

One way the Choctaw Nation ensures that strength is through elder care and other healthcare programs. Last year, 62,770 meals were provided to Choctaw elders. In addition, farmers markets were established for seniors to ensure they have access to healthy food.

There was also considerable growth in the healthcare system last year, including 999,000 visits to healthcare facilities and 1.5 million prescriptions provided to tribal members.

Chief Batton praised council members for removing age restrictions on eyeglasses, dentures and hearing aids so that all Choctaws nationwide have access to them. Last year, the Choctaw Nation provided over 14,000 eyeglasses, dentures and hearing aids.

Another area of growth was education.

Nearly 10,000 Choctaws went through education programs designed to help people finish their college degrees or certificates. Programs offering summer employment, on-the-job training, and internships had 1,146 participants. The Choctaw Nation also has programs for students who attend trade schools. Chief Batton shared the story of Jeremy Gray, a Choctaw tribal member who has found success with the help of the reintegration program, which helps people who have been incarcerated.

Gray's desire to own a house brought the address around to a discussion of progress in housing and home repair.

Over 5,000 people received assistance ranging from home purchases, rental homes and independent elderly homes to home repairs. At least 200 new homes were built for lease or purchase last year and over 1,200 repairs to existing homes were made.

"That is like quadruple what we've done in the past," Batton said as he gave credit to the Council for the achievement.

Chief Batton went on to discuss gains in employment.

Currently, the Choctaw Nation employs 10,868 people and has 421 positions open online. "We've got a job for you if you're interested," Batton said.

Job for the Day is one of the employment programs available. People who participate in this program are given a job working for the Choctaw Nation for up to eight weeks. Some participants are able to get permanent positions.

The past year has seen many changes in governmental operations.

Chief Batton praised the Choctaw Nation judicial system as "one of the best, if not the best within the United States."

He also highlighted the efforts of the Council, Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr. and Rep. Markwayne Mullin in getting vital legislation passed, including amendments to the Stigler Act, which prevents Choctaw families from being taxed on land allotments they have inherited.

Batton credited the Assistant Chief with successes in negotiations on the fish and wildlife compact and Chahta Sia Hoke car tags, which saved tribal members 12 million dollars.

Before closing, Chief Batton made a point of emphasizing the Choctaw Nation's position on the proposed changes to the state's gaming compact with Oklahoma tribal governments. Governor Kevin Stitt has sought to renegotiate the compact in a way that would cost the Choctaw Nation and other tribes a considerable amount of money.

Batton noted that 30 tribes in Oklahoma came together to sign a resolution stating no one would act unless everyone acted together.

Tribal leaders have argued the existing compact will automatically renew in January. The governor has the right to submit a proposal prior to the end of the calendar year, but if tribal leaders do not agree on the proposal's terms, the Choctaw Nation "will continue to function just like we think it should," Batton said. "We believe we are on the right side."

As the State of the Nation drew to a close, Chief Batton turned his attention to the future of the Choctaw Nation.

In the interest of sustainability, Batton's 2020 budget will include more dollars going into higher education programs and services for elders, including the possibility of new lawn mowing and handyman services.

Construction will continue on new homes, cultural centers, and the ongoing casino expansion in Durant. The growth and progress in the Choctaw Nation not only benefits Choctaws but all Oklahomans, and Chief Batton is proud of the positive impact the tribe has had.

In the final moments of the address, Batton reminded the audience to "remain strong and who we are as the Choctaw people." He emphasized the importance of inspiring the next generation and maintaining spiritual unity. "If we ever forget that, we'll fail to exist as a nation," he cautioned.

In addition to the swearing in of Chief Batton and the State of the Nation address, ceremonies included the swearing in of six tribal council members: Thomas Williston of District 1, Tony Ward of District 2, Eddie Bohanon of District 3, Ronald Perry of District 5, Perry Thompson of District 8, and Robert Karr of District 11.

The entirety of the event was streamed live and is available on YouTube.

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Choctaw Nation cares about all Oklahomans - September 2019

If you've been paying attention to Oklahoma news lately, I'm sure you have heard about Governor Stitt's plans for the tribal gaming compacts in Oklahoma.

The leaders of 31 tribes throughout this great state and I strongly disagree with Gov. Stitt.

Yes, we are sovereign tribes, but we are also citizens of this great state. The name Oklahoma comes from the Choctaw language. We are the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and all of our members have roots in this state. This is our home. I graduated from Clayton and that is where I still live today. I love the people who live here and want every Oklahoman, tribal and non-tribal, to succeed. I'm sure that is a shared sentiment of all tribal leaders. The fact that Gov. Stitt suggests otherwise is honestly disappointing.

I recently released an op-ed in the Journal Record, explaining my thoughts and feelings on this matter. I want to share this letter with you, because I think it is essential that you all know how much we genuinely care for the people of Oklahoma.

The point of this letter isn't about bragging about what we do. Our ancestors taught us to stay humble but to have a servant's heart. Like the donation our ancestors made all those years ago to the people of Ireland, we are descendants of generous and loving people. That's is why it is so important to help everyone, not just the Choctaw people.


Enhanced technology providing easier access - August 2019

Technology is an ever-evolving tool. In a recent report, Cisco predicted that by 2020, there will be nearly 4.1 billion internet users around the world. More and more people are gaining access to the internet and using technology each day. With that in mind, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has made steps to increasing our online accessibility and exploring new technological endeavors.

With this increase of internet users, the Choctaw Nation has taken steps to help our tribal members access our programs and information online in a more user-friendly way.

Our new Chahta Achvffa member portal launched this summer. This technology platform was created to transform online interactions between the Nation and tribal members. Currently, members can set up profiles and have access to four programs. Programs on the portal at the moment include the 2019 Hunting and Fishing program, Student School Activity Fund, College Clothing Allowance, and name change requests. We plan to add more in the future and are excited to see how this benefits our members.

Our social media presence is also growing each day. One of our goals is to share with you all news and information as quickly and accurately as possible. Our social media team works hard each day to share with all of our followers information and news as it happens in real-time. You can keep up to date with us in all major social media networks.

Our online communications team also works diligently to keep our website up to date and share information through text and email alert systems. We want everyone to have access to news, information and programs at their fingertips. It is great to see and interact with our followers, and to watch our social media presence grow.

Our health services are also taking steps into the future with virtual visits. The Choctaw Nation Virtual Medical Visit service enables healthcare access for patients not able to travel to the provider for specific non-life-threatening injuries and illnesses. This service is a video appointment with a healthcare provider that is available to patients with specific symptoms.

To be eligible, patients must have a CDIB and have a current consent to treat on file. Patients must also reside in Oklahoma and be 5 years of age or older. This is a great service for individuals with minor conditions and saves them a trip to the clinic. For more information on the Virtual Medical Visit service, please call 580-916-9231.

The Nation isn't just making technological endeavors online, but in the physical sense as well. In 2018, we were named one of 10 Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program sites by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Nation has partnered with the Noble Research Institute to conduct research on the typical rural and agricultural community applications of drone technology. This is an exciting program and our researchers are hoping to discover information that can help our communities in the future.

There are many other ways that the Nation is using technology to help our tribal members grow, learn and access information. To find out more about the programs I have mentioned and others, please visit http://


Resilient spirit of Chahta ancestors paved the way - July 2019

This year, springtime brought with it a pretty crazy storm season. It has been one of the wettest years on record, bringing flooding to not only Oklahoma but also the entire Midwest as well. Tornadoes and severe storms have been devastating to our region. Many of our tribal members have been affected by this weather and natural disaster.

With that in mind, we had to prioritize the safety of our tribal members and postpone the Trail of Tears Walk from its original date to June 1 due to the threat of inclement weather.

June 1 turned out to be a beautiful, sunny day, so many of you showed up to take part in the walk to honor our ancestors. It is always such an amazing and humbling experience. It is hard to fathom what the Chahta people went through and the atrocities they faced. On May 24, our Trail of Tears Bike Team returned from their 500- mile journey along a portion of the route our ancestors traveled from Philadelphia, Mississippi, to Oklahoma. Biking just a few miles can be grueling, but our team travels 500 miles to honor and connect with our ancestors in a spiritual, physical and emotional way. Even though biking 500 miles is a challenging feat, it still doesn't compare to the real Trail of Tears.

During our commemorative walk, we only cover 2.5 miles on a modern road. Our ancestors weren't afforded that luxury. They trekked over 700 miles, facing the elements, disease, hunger and exhaustion. They didn't have the opportunity to postpone for the safety of their people like we do today. They were forcibly removed from the safety of their homes and required to leave or face certain punishment. Today, we have tennis shoes to protect our feet from the terrain. We also have planes, trains and cars to get us from one place to another, shielded from the elements as we travel. Our ancestors didn't have anything to truly protect them on the journey. Many of them perished on the trail from exposure, disease and exhaustion. We will never honestly know what horrors they faced, and I can only imagine how traumatizing something like that would be.

So, when we walk in Tvshka Homma or ride with the Trail of Tears Bike Team, we aren't pretending to know and experience the real struggle our ancestors felt. It is a way for us to honor them and their memory, remembering the sacrifices they made for future generations to prosper. When they left, they had no clue what they were walking into. They had no clear vision of what would happen once they arrived in their new home. But they persisted. The resilient spirit of our Chahta ancestors is what paved the way for our prosperity today. So, when we take part in these events, we are saying yakoke for their strength, for giving us the foundation to rise to where we are today.

We will never forget the strength, resilience, and sacrifices of those who came before us, and what makes us the proud Choctaw Nation that we are today!



Choctaw Nation Judicial Center opening a historical event - May 2019

Springtime has proven to be one of the busiest times of year for us here at the Choctaw Nation. We have held numerous groundbreakings and ribbon cuttings for projects such as the Choctaw Country Market in Boswell, and the Choctaw Travel Plaza/ Rustic Roast in Talihina. The Nation currently has 17 active construction projects in progress. The growth of the Nation has been nothing less than amazing to witness. We have come so far as a nation, and we continue that growth every day. It is an honor to bring our services to all of our tribal members.

We held a ribbon cutting ceremony on April 25 for the Choctaw Nation Judicial Center, located at 2250 Chukka Hina, Durant, east of the Wellness Center. This 15,389-sq.-ft. state-of-the-art facility houses two hearing rooms and one ceremonial courtroom "Ishahli", meaning main, superior, better, principal, and sovereign greater. Additional offices will accommodate three justice chambers, the Judicial Executive Administration, the Court Clerk Administration and the Probation Division of the judicial branch. The new building is the first Choctaw courthouse to be built since 1883.

The history of the court system is plentiful. In the 1830s, our ancestors traveled the Trail of Tears to a new home full of uncertainty. They set up their own threebranch government, which implemented the Judicial Branch Courts, and paved the way for our Nation's judicial system today. Our tribe is still governed by the Choctaw Nation Constitution, which was ratified by the people June 9, 1984. The Constitution provides for an executive, legislative and judicial branch, operating as three separate powers of government, under one nation.

The judicial branch and system are structured to diligently interpret the laws and to provide justice, as well as to develop and sustain the integrity of the courts. The Court of General Jurisdiction consists of the District Court and the Court of Appeals, with the Peacemaker Court utilized as an Alternative Dispute Resolution resource. The Choctaw Constitutional Court is the highest level of Court, seating the Chief Justice of the Judicial Branch, and two Tribal Judges, with exclusive jurisdiction to hear disputes arising under any provision of the Choctaw Nation Constitution, any rule or regulation enacted by the tribal council, and any other matters on appeal from the Court of General Jurisdiction. The judicial branch also consists of an Executive Administration, Court Clerk Administration and the Probation/Community Service Division.

In 2015, our legislation enacted the Tribal Law and Order Act. Our Nation has taken advantage of this authority by not only providing justice to victims, but also focusing on rehabilitation and sobriety for the offenders. Non-violent offenders often receive probation or community service and are often given the opportunity to work off court costs and fines by reporting to the Judicial Probation Division.

For more information on the Judicial Branch and Court System, please watch for the future website now being constructed at


Signs of Spring Bring Thoughts of Rebirth and Regrowth to the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma - April 2019

It is finally springtime here in the Choctaw Nation. Spring is a time of rebirth, regrowth, and resurrection. I love seeing what looked dry and dead after a long, cold winter turn green and full of life. The grass is growing and the flowers are blooming. Springtime is a glorious event.

One of my favorite things about the season is having the opportunity to celebrate Easter. Easter is a time of love, hope, and celebration. Easter is one of the important holidays we celebrate as believers. We get to rejoice in Christ and his blessings. Jesus gave the ultimate gift, the hope of everlasting life. What an excellent gift that is. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." - John 3:16. Jesus died on the cross for our sins, so that we may be forgiven.

If you are looking for a way to celebrate Easter a little early, I invite you to join us for the 2019 Chief Gary Batton Easter Celebration April 13. The event kicks off at 10 a.m. and is always such a fun time for everyone in attendance. We would love to see you all there. There will be a worship service led by Olin Williams, stickball, cultural demonstrations, bunny pictures, and lunch. Of course, there will be Easter egg hunts for our young ones and elders. Who will find one of those sought-after prize eggs? A full list of events is located on Page 4 of this month's Biskinik.

It is always fun to see everyone have a good time and fellowship with fellow tribal members. Whether it be at the Easter celebration, wild onion dinners, cultural meetings, the commemorative Trail of Tears Walk or Labor Day, it is great to have the opportunity for Chahtas to get together. These aren't just events; they are celebrations of our faith, family and culture. When we gather together as Chahtas, we are honoring our ancestors and their struggles. Without their hard work, love and faith, we wouldn't be able to fellowship as a nation of Chahta people.

No matter what religion you practice or if you practice a religion at all, we are all Chahtas. We strive every day to live out the Chahta spirit of faith, family and culture. A part of our culture is that we are a tribe and that every member has a calling to live out their purpose within the Tribe. A greater calling if you will, and we need to strive for that daily. Faith, family and culture can mean many things; you can decide that for yourself. It is important for you to live out the Chahta spirit in a way that reflects who you are and that would make our ancestors proud. We were all born with a purpose. It is okay if you haven't found that purpose yet. Just know you have one. So, during this time of rebirth and regrowth, I hope you take some time to reflect on the past and push toward the future with a fresh spirit.

Chahta Ohoyo Celebrated During Women's History Month - March2019 
March is National  Women's History  Month in America. The  Choctaw Nation has a
rich history, filled with  powerful Chahta ohoyos,  who have helped shape  the Choctaw Nation into  what it is today.
Throughout our history,  the Choctaw people  have held women in high  regard. They were recognized  as givers and supporters  of life. One of  the most sacred places  for early Choctaws is  named nvnih waiya,  the Mother Mound. The  site plays a central role  in the origin story of the Choctaw tribe and is referred to as the heart of the  Choctaw people.
For many of us, our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers played  an integral part in keeping our families together and traditions alive. We look  back fondly on time we spent with them, and are thankful for the lessons and love they bestowed upon us. I lost my mother in May of last year and she had  a huge impact on my life and who I have become. I want to say yakoke to all of  the mothers who sacrificed so much to give us love, life and shelter.
Historically, Choctaw women have held positions of great respect and power.  Traditional Choctaw society was a matriarchal one. Women owned property, assisted  in harvest and produced the majority of the food for their families. They  accompanied men on diplomatic missions and served as motivators for their  communities. Today, Choctaw women are still serving as leaders and motivators  for our tribe. The Choctaw Nation currently employs 5,761 women, 176 of  those serving in leadership positions. These women are leading the way for younger generations of Choctaw women to be the future leaders of the Choctaw  Nation of Oklahoma.
In this month's issue of the Biskinik, you will be introduced to several young  women who are doing great things and accomplishing so much in their lives.  Nine-year-old Madison Bradshaw of Anadarko won a silver medal in the 50-meter  freestyle swim during the Winter Special Olympics. Shay Hill of Talihina  was recently awarded the Dennis Hemphill Hustle Award and Scholarship for  her hard work on the basketball court and in the classroom. Chahta Sisters  Harley and Charlotte Hopper and their Walden Grove High School dance team  recently went viral for their Harry Potter dance. They've made appearances  on Good Morning America and Season 13 of America's Got Talent. And finally,  Anna Hoag was recognized as Engineer of the Year for the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Reclamation. These young women are among the countless Choctaw women who are out there representing the Choctaw Nation  in amazing ways. I want to encourage these young ladies to dream big and aim  high. You can accomplish anything you set your mind to if you work hard and  push yourself. Use the stories of the powerful Chahta ohoyos who came before you as guidance and inspiration. Remember their strength and resilience.

Staying Informed Essential to Sovereignty - February 2019

As tribal members, we have the unique situation of being members of two nations. Even though we belong to a sovereign nation, legislation at the federal level can change the very essence of what tribal sovereignty means.

Being a sovereign nation means we have a governing responsibility to our citizens and our geographical area. Our sovereignty is an inherent right and the critical component in keeping the Choctaw Nation thriving.

I urge you, as tribal members, to stay informed on legislation affecting not only the Choctaw Nation but Indian Country as a whole.

Here are a few things going on at the federal level that affect the Choctaw Nation right now.

Congress unanimously passed the Stigler Act Amendments of 2018, which became law Dec. 31. This law overturns the blood quantum requirements that have been an injustice since 1947. This legislation is a tremendous win for members of the Five Tribes. Native people will be able to protect tribal lands and maintain generation-to-generation ownership of lands, which have been passed down to us from the days of the original enrollees.

Another case to be aware of takes place in a Texas courtroom. In October 2018, a federal judge declared the Indian Child Welfare Act unconstitutional. The ICWA, created in 1978, addressed the predatory adoption of Native American Children and prioritized the placement of Native children with family, tribal or Native Homes. The federal judge ruled that the ICWA violates the 14th Amendment by treating Native children differently because of their race. Sure, we are Native by "race," but that doesn't mean we get "special" provisions just for being Native. We have these protections because the U.S. made agreements with our tribal governments to protect our tribes for generations. Because of this, the relationship between the United States and the Choctaw Nation is a political one, and not one based on race.

The ICWA was designed to protect the best interest of Native children and to safeguard the stability of Native culture, tribes, and families for generations to come. Our children are the future of the Nation. We will continue pressing for a positive outcome, and we hope you do the same.

The Carpenter v. Murphy case will soon make its way before the U.S. Supreme Court. In this case, a plaintiff from the Muscogee (Creek) Nation argues that Congress never extinguished the Five Tribes' rights to administer their nations. He suggests Oklahoma doesn't have jurisdiction over its eastern half, and that the Five Tribes remain the legally constituted governments in their regions. While we don't believe a ruling in the plaintiff's favor would produce the drastic changes some pundits suggest, the Choctaw Nation would find itself newly empowered in certain respects. We at the Choctaw Nation will be monitoring this case closely, and I encourage you all to do the same.

There are many other cases, bills and pieces of legislation that could potentially impact our nation. I encourage you to seek out information and stay informed. Our ancestors worked extremely hard for us to have the ability to not only be members of a sovereign nation but to be voting citizens of the U.S. as well.


Keeping the Traditions of Our Ancestors Alive - January 2019

The new year is a time to reflect on the past and look toward the future. Our nation has achieved so much throughout our history. When our ancestors left our homeland they had so many questions about our future.

In the 1830s, the Choctaw people were forcibly removed. They were made to leave the only home they had ever known, to travel thousands of miles to a land unfamiliar to them.

Over 15,000 of our ancestors began the long, agonizing journey to Indian Territory.

The Choctaw people traveled more than 500 miles over the grueling terrain. Approximately 3,000 Choctaw people died of starvation, exposure and disease during the Trail of Tears.

I can only imagine the heartache and uncertainty of our ancestors as they arrived in their new home. Just think how hard it must have been to have hope for the future after experiencing something so horrific.

Yet the Choctaw Nation has always been a nation of strong, independent and hardworking people.

They were true tvshkas who fought to ensure not only a future for themselves, but also for generations to come.

I believe our ancestors would be proud of what the Choctaw Nation has become over the years.

We are a thriving nation with a working government, judicial system, infrastructure, medical care, services and tribal employees who strive to put the needs of tribal members first.

Our tribe has grown from the roughly 12,000 people who survived the Trail of Tears, to a booming nation of 200,000 and growing.

Thanks to the perseverance of our ancestors we are now able to live out our Chahta spirit of faith, family and culture.

I want to thank the elders who are still with us. Though you didn't travel on the Trail of Tears, your struggles do not go unnoticed.

You are a vital part of building the nation and passing Choctaw culture to your children, even when it wasn't easy to do so.

It is our duty as tribal members to keep our traditions, culture and language alive. I urge all of you to seek out any opportunity to learn more about our heritage.

Take a language course offered through our School of Choctaw Language. Join a beading class or one of the many other courses offered through our Cultural Services Department.

Attend your local Choctaw Community Center's activities or even join a stickball team. If you are a student, get involved in your school's Native American Student Association.

I look forward to the future of our nation and hope you all take the initiative to explore what it means to be Chahta. Our ancestors worked so hard to get us where we are today. Let's honor them by keeping their traditions alive.

Trail Of Tears _Image _7

During the Trail of Tears Walk at Tvshka Homma, tribal members reflect on the agonizing journey our ancestors were forced to make from the homelands to Indian Territory. The walk is held every year in May. It is one of many events throughout the year which give tribal members a chance to honor their ancestors and become closer to their culture and history.


Choctaw Nation Growth Continues into 2019

December - 2018

The Christmas season is a time of faith and family. Every year brings change and this is the first year our families will gather for the holiday without my mom and mother-in-law.

It is the first Christmas with the addition of our daughter-in-law. Change is inevitable. The memories of our mothers are always with us and we know there is hope for a bright future because there is peace as it is all in God's hands.

Other changes this past year have included the opening of the new headquarters. It opened in June and is providing much-needed services in a centralized location.

We have just announced a new expansion to the Choctaw Casino & Resort-Durant which will add 1,000 more jobs for people living in and near Bryan County. The economic impact is far-reaching because many of our tribal members and employees live in Texas.

Also among the highlights of the year is a new leaseto-purchase housing program providing homes in all districts of the Choctaw Nation with more to be added in 2019.

The LEAP program is helping families overcome obstacles to become new homeowners. There are also homeownership opportunities such as the Homebuyer Advantage Program and Homeowners Finance Service for tribal members who live anywhere in the United States.

The Storm Shelter Program age limits have been reduced to 45 years old or older to receive the full grant amount and tribal members 18-44 can receive half of the grant amount to have a new storm shelter installed.

The program is available to tribal members in the high tornado risk areas of Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas.

Among the health services available to Choctaw tribal members who travel to the hospital and clinics in the Choctaw Nation, the Eyeglasses, Dentures and Hearing Aid Program is now open to any eligible Choctaw to help provide eyeglasses, dentures or partials, and hearing aids.

We have had many unique celebrations this year. The Prime Minister of Ireland, Leo Varadkar, visited the Choctaw Nation during his trip to the United States in March. It was a wonderful cultural experience shared between our Chahta people and Ireland.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the group of Choctaw men who became the first Code Talkers, helping bring an end to World War I. We honored our Tvshka ancestors with a monument in Antlers, unveiling it on Friday, July 6. Bridges throughout Oklahoma were also named for the Code Talkers.

Another Choctaw soldier, one who gave the ultimate sacrifice, has finally been brought home to rest. On Thursday, Nov. 1, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced the remains of one of our Choctaw warriors, Army Pvt. Charles G. Kaniatobe, would be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Pvt. Kaniatobe was declared missing in action Monday, July 10, 1950. His remains were among those of 164 Americans recovered on Friday, Oct. 6, 1950, and were finally identified in September of this year.

We honored the family during our Veterans Ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 10. It was a standing ovation for Pvt. Kaniatobe and his family.

Faith, family and culture keep us united-strong families, good citizens and caring people who strive to put the needs of others first are what this time of year is all about.

May you have a blessed Christmas and happy New Year.


                         Dec 2018 Chief

Veterans' Advocates Make A Difference - November 2018

Our Choctaw veterans are courageous warriors-tvshka-who have defended this land through centuries of battles.

There are approximately 1.3 million men and women on active duty, with 200,000 of them stationed overseas.

Reports also show that 140,000 Native Americans are veterans, with 31,000 active.

Native Americans have the highest percentage of veterans serving post-9/11 than veterans of other ethnicity.

Many of our country's veterans have sacrificed much on foreign soil and at home as they face disabilities and hardships.

Some of these men and women who were once pillars of strength may occasionally need to borrow from our strengths as issues arise.

The Choctaw Nation Veterans Advocacy program consists of a small group of dedicated associates who focus on assisting veterans.

Senior Director of Community Services Kevin Hamil, Deputy Director of Veterans Advocacy Roger Hamill, Harlan Wright, Michael Robbins and Samantha Johnson administer an array of services for men and women who are currently serving, or have served our country in the military.

The department assists with Veterans Affairs claims, applications and referrals. Roger, Harlan and Michael are accredited through the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs which gives them quick access to much-needed information from the VA.

The team also sends care packages quarterly during the year, mailing to any soldier in an IRS designated war zone. They assist family members who bring care packages to the Veterans Advocacy department, shipping them at no cost to the family. That soldier is then added to the Veterans Advocacy mailing list.

Another way we can help those who are currently in combat is to donate our old cell phones to Cell Phones for Soldiers.

The no-longer-needed mobile phones can be dropped off for recycling at the Veterans Advocacy office at the Choctaw Nation headquarters in Durant.

Since 2004, Cell Phones for Soldiers has recycled more than 15 million cell phones, reducing the impact on landfills and providing soldiers more than 300 million minutes of free time for talking to loved ones.

The Choctaw Nation Color Guard, another service of Veterans Advocacy, consists of veterans who take part in ceremonies and events around the United States.

They have participated in 101 events so far this year, including funerals, pow wows, tribal events and commemorative ceremonies.

The Color Guard will post colors, provide a 21-gun salute and play taps during the Choctaw Nation Veterans Ceremony, Saturday, Nov. 10, at Tvshka Homma.

The annual ceremony is one of my favorite events of the year. It gives us all a chance to show our respect as we honor our Choctaw veterans and say, "Yakoke" for their service.

Veterans Advocacy will also be presenting gifts to the Choctaw veterans attending the ceremony. This year, they are giving away a vest and beanie for the cooler weather.

Two of the Veterans Advocacy associates, Harlan and Michael, are also veterans and members of the Color Guard.

Since he was a little kid, Michael wanted to be in the Army because his grandpa, dad and uncle were. He joined in 2008 and was stationed in Kentucky, Colorado and California as an M1A2 Abrams (tank) crewmember. While in Iraq, Michael was on mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles.

November Pic 1
Deputy Director of The Choctaw Nation Veterans Advocacy program Roger Hamill, left, Harlan Wright, Michael Robbins and Samantha Johnson fill care packages for soldiers in active war zones.

One of Michael's most memorable moments was Christmas 2010. The whole platoon ate together that morning because they were the only people scheduled for missions.

They ate, then returned to the tents to open gifts. They were limited on what they could get, but Michael says it wasn't really about the gifts.

It was more about trying to make the moment as normal as they could in a place so far from home. He received two phone cards and was very excited about it because he had not been able to call home in a while.

Things are put into perspective when you hear from a young veteran that one of the best gifts he has ever received was just a phone card.

Harlan joined the Marine Corps and served eight years, his first term from 2001 to 2005 and his second from 2007-2011. His father was also a Marine.

He was stationed primarily at Camp Pendleton in California, with one deployment to Japan.

Harlan was a heavy equipment operator who helped build runways and helicopter pads while attached to the Marine wing unit, as well as operating forklifts. He also built roads while attached to the 7th Engineer Support Battalion.

We are blessed to have a group who enjoys being able to assist other veterans. They have an opportunity to help them understand the benefits available to them and their spouses, and to try to obtain benefits for them equal to what other veterans are receiving.

Veterans Advocacy has partnered with KI BOIS in southeast Oklahoma to offer services to veterans in need.

Many veterans who once put their lives on the line to ensure our homes were protected are now homeless. The Choctaw Nation and Ki BOIS provide emergency stays in hotels and strive to assist veterans and their families transition from homelessness to permanent housing. The program also assists with fuel and food vouchers for at-risk veterans.

It is rewarding to know they have helped change the person's life in a positive way and want to do more. They are asking veterans to complete a small survey when they visit the department to continue identifying needed services.

Yakoke to our Veterans Advocacy team for showing the Chahta spirit and helping make a difference. Please log on to for more information on Veterans Advocacy.

November Pic 2
Michael Robbins holds up a beanie that will be given along with a vest to veterans at the Veterans Day Celebration at Tvshka Homma on Saturday, November 10th.  The celebration starts at 10 a.m.


State of The Nation Address Celebrates Choctaw Spirit - October 2018

The annual State of the Nation address on Monday, Sept. 3, closed out the five-day Choctaw Nation Labor Day Festival held each year at Tvshka Homma, the historic Capitol of the Chahta.

Chief Gary Batton reported on Labor Day the economic impact made by the Choctaw Nation to be a healthy $1,868,451,097.

"That's a $1.8 billion with a B, impact made on the State of Oklahoma," said Chief Batton. "Total tribal assets are $2.4 billion."

The Fiscal Year 2016 figure, the most recent available, but still growing, lit up a power point presentation in Chief Batton's State of the Nation address.

Chief Batton said, "The economic impact made by the Choctaw Nation is accelerating opportunities for growth and prosperity for the tribe and the State of Oklahoma."

What that translates to, he said, are 8,358 direct jobs supported in 2016 (the 2018 figure has jumped to 10,346 employees) and 12,161 total jobs supported, making direct income payments of $518,000,000.

"Everyone wants to know where the money comes from," Chief Batton said, posting a pie chart behind him and on other screens, some outside the amphitheater for the overflow crowd to see.

"The largest amount, about 58 percent, comes from the business operations of the tribe; 24 percent from federal and state grants; 12 percent from Medicare and third-party insurance; 3 percent from general government revenue; and 2 percent from housing."

Another pie chart showed "Where the Money Goes." It stated 67 percent goes to services to tribal members, 21 percent to capital projects, and 12 percent to the permanent fund.

Chief Batton explained that there were large building projects completed in the past year including, in Durant, the new Choctaw Nation Headquarters and Regional Medical Clinic. He also listed the Choctaw Casino & Resort expansion in Grant; Wellness Centers in Poteau and Durant; Community Center in Broken Bow; and Head Start in Wright City.

The Housing Authority's lease-to-purchase program, LEAP, also opened 10 new brick homes each in Atoka, Cameron, Coalgate, Heavener and Hugo. By the end of the year 10 new homes will be in each of the 12 districts of the Choctaw Nation.

Future projects scheduled for openings in the coming months, he said, include more homes in other communities and the new Choctaw Nation Judicial Center.

Chief Batton praised the Tribal Council and noted among their accomplishments, the passing of a new Election Ordinance and a new state of transparency with the Code of Ethics and streamlined reporting.

All programs, from education, youth, social and elder services and more, showed increases in numbers of tribal members served.

Some were substantial. In health, outpatient visits went from 107,563 to 364,857; surgeries performed went from 2,688 to 3,514. Households assisted with home repairs jumped from 154 to 548. Home ownership, assisted by the Choctaw Nation, grew from 158 to 240.

The across-the-board growth was clearly in line with the tribe's Mission Statement. Chief Batton said, "To the Choctaw Proud, ours is the sovereign Nation offering opportunities for prosperity and growth."

The close of Chief Batton's presentation, like his introduction, was received with a standing ovation.

From Aug. 30 through Sept. 3 an estimated 100,000 people came to the Pushmataha County site to participate and share in Choctaw heritage, such as stickball, storytelling, Native hymns, and traditional arts and crafts; enjoy the family fun, including carnival rides and sports tournaments; and learn about today's programs and services in health, education and more.

Day visitors drove from across Oklahoma and from neighboring states. More than 350 RV campsites had all been reserved by the end of last January, while an estimated 1,500 to 1,700 campers set up tents to stay for the duration of the festival.

Each evening, more than 5,000 people packed the amphitheater for concerts by country music headliners Trace Adkins, Neal McCoy, and Dan + Shay, and popular Christian acts Chris Tomlin and Jason Crabb. Local opening acts were Choctaw musicians Jerry Tims and Kylie Morgan.

The annual Choctaw Nation Art Show again drew 56 of the top tribal artists from across Oklahoma and several states including, Arizona, Indiana, Missouri and Texas. Their work was displayed in the historic Choctaw Capitol building.

John Hoosier pic       Ilena Krausch
John A. Hoosier was the oldest Choctaw man present at The State of The Nation Address.  Hoosier is 94 years old.  Ilena Krausch was the oldest Choctaw woman, at 97 years old, present at the State of tHe Nation on Monday, September 3rd.  Krausch was born Sunday, September 5, 1920


Resources Available for Students of All Ages - September 2018

It's that time of year again. Summer break has come and gone. Our students and teachers are back in the classroom gearing up for a new school year.

I hope everyone had a fun-filled summer with great memories.

I know it was an eventful one for many young Choctaws here in the 10½ counties.

Our Choctaw Nation Special Projects department hosted a total of 25 summer camps this year. Over 2,000 campers took part in summer programs ranging from Cultural Enrichment to various sports camps.

It is great to see our young people out there learning about our culture and growing as individuals.

This was another successful year for the Summer Youth Work Program. A total of 921 young Choctaws ages 16-21 completed the program.

Participants gained employment at various locations. Some even landed jobs that will continue after the program and learned things that they can carry on with them throughout life.

Now that our students are back in school, there are so many programs offered through the Choctaw Nation to help them this school year.

Our nationwide Choctaw STAR program encourages students to make education a priority. STAR's mission is to develop student work ethic, improve graduation rates and to reveal opportunities for continued education after high school.

Students participating in the program are rewarded for their hard work and good grades for the fall and spring semesters.

Students must be Choctaw tribal members and enrolled in the second through 12th grade.

Purchasing new school clothes and supplies can be expensive. The Student School Activity Fund offers the opportunity to receive a $100 dollar grant to help with those costs.

Students must be tribal members ages 3 through 18 and enrolled in an accredited daycare or Pre-K through 12th grade school.

2018 Chiefs Message

Rick Braziell (far left) and James Ward (far right) taught the Hunter Safety classes during the Youth Conservation Campsheld at Tvshka Homma over the summer.  The Hunter Safety class was one of many activities at the camp.  Youth were also able to fish, climb a rock wall, learn to shoot a bow and more.

Other programs include Adult Education, Choctaw Asset Building, Career Development, Chahta Foundation, Choctaw STEM, College Clothing Allowance, College Freshman Year Initiative, Educational Talent Search, Higher Education, High School Student Services, Johnson-O'Malley, Technology Allowance Program, Vocational Development and Youth Advisory Board.

Each of these programs serves a unique purpose that caters to many different age groups.

No matter your age, it is never too late to begin your educational journey or take it to the next level.

I encourage every tribal member to follow their dreams and hope we will be able to assist them in their endeavors.

For more information on all the programs mentioned, please visit Tribal Services.


Choctaw Nation Continues To Thrive  - August 2018

Our annual Labor Day festival is right around the corner. Soon the capital grounds will be filled with thousands of visitors. The festival is so much more than concerts and carnival rides.

The five-day event is a great time for the Choctaw people to gather and share our faith, family and culture.

During this time of year, I find myself reflecting on the past, present and future of our tribe.

During the 1830s over 15,000 Choctaw people were removed to Indian Territory and of these approximately 3,000 people did not make the journey; we called this the Trail of Tears and Death.

Once our ancestors made it to their new home, they faced many hardships. Yet, Choctaw people are resilient and overcame adversities.

After arriving in Indian Territory, our ancestors worked hard to regain our identity as a tribe and government. They authored a new constitution, set up a court system and named Tvshka Homma the new capital.

In 1866, Choctaw Chief Allen Wright gave present-day Oklahoma its name. Oklahoma means "red people" in Choctaw.

Like many native languages, ours was nearly lost. There are many Choctaws still living today who remember a time when speaking the Choctaw language was the cause of punishment.

Now, our language is taught in 44 high school classrooms across the state and in 19 community classrooms in Oklahoma and two in California. It is so great to hear our language come back to life.

The nation has grown so much over the years. Our tribe now has 200,000 members, making us the third largest in the country.

The Choctaw Nation and our over 10,000 employees work hard every day to help the Choctaw people. We offer around 130 programs and services to our members.

Our clinics and wellness centers help our tribal members live happy, healthy and productive lives.

We have wellness centers in each of the 12 districts. Since its opening in 2017, a total of 63,332 primary care visits have taken place in the new Choctaw Nation Regional Medical Clinic in Durant.

Our services not only help our tribal members living in the 10½ counties, but many of our programs serve tribal members regardless of their location.

Any Choctaw tribal member pursuing a higher education degree may apply for assistance from the Choctaw Nation Higher Education program.

Every day our nation grows and we continue that growth through our various construction projects.

One of those exciting projects is the new brick homes being built throughout the 10½ counties through the Choctaw Housing Authority's newlease-purchase LEAPProgram.

The first of these housing additions was dedicated on June 15 in Hugo. Other towns that will be receiving LEAP homes include Atoka, Antlers, Broken Bow, Calera, Cameron, Coalgate, Heavener, Idabel, McAlester, Stigler and Wilburton.

We are also working hard on getting new independent elder living communities finished in Antlers, Atoka, Broken Bow and Coalgate. These facilities help our elders live healthy, productive and independent lives.

The nation has many other construction projects underway. I am excited to see all the progress we are making.

It has been amazing to witness that growth and watch our people thrive. From the time I started at the nation, 31 years ago, to present day, it is amazing how far our nation has come.

I look forward to seeing the growth in store for our tribe in the future. I also look forward to seeing you all at the Labor Day festival.

August Message Pic
by Charles Clark

Chief Gary Batton explores one of the new LEAP homes after the dedication in Hugo.  Chief Batton looks out the window with the two boys who now call the house home.  LEAP homes are planned for all districts in the 101/2 counties of the Choctaw Nation.


Grand Opening Begins New Chapter in Chahta History
- July 2018

Walking into the new Choctaw Nation Headquarters in Durant makes me reflect and think about the past and the struggles and resilience of our tribal members.

It also makes me think of where the tribe is today and the bright promise of an even better future.

It is a home where the Chahta spirit of faith, family and culture will be lived out daily.

A home where love, grace and prayer can be found day in and day out. And, a home where all of our family of tribal members, employees and community will always be welcome.

The grand opening was held June 26 for the 500,000-sq.-ft. facility. Approximately 1,000 employees are now together in their new home instead of being separately housed in at least 30 different locations.

They have the best in technology and teamwork abounds as they communicate and combine resources to meet the needs of the Choctaw Nation family of tribal members and community. In this atmosphere, initiative and creativity are moving the Choctaw Nation forward.

The design of the building and the surrounding campus was inspired by the Choctaw people, our culture and the natural elements. It tells the story of the past, present and future through designs, textures and color.

Each floor has a color scheme-earth (green), wind (navy/gray), fire (red), sun (yellow) and water (teal).

The diamond pattern is used throughout, honoring the diamondback rattlesnake, as well as other designs honoring nature.

Vivid photographs and exceptional art by Choctaw artists line the walls. We are privileged to have their work for everyone to enjoy.

The headquarters, including the grounds and restaurant, are for family.

I love to walk the halls and see the conversations between employees, some who have been here for 30-plus years and others who may be just beginning their journey with the Nation.

Visitors are welcome and tribal member services are available on the first two floors, with the most requested services positioned toward the center of the building for easier access.

Contacting us remains the same by calling either (580) 924-8280 or (800) 522-6170. The mailing address also remains the same. Correspondence can be sent to P.O. Box 1210, Durant, OK, 74702. Just remember to put attention to the name of the department you are sending mail to.

Words cannot always describe our surroundings. The heart and spirit of the Choctaw Nation is tangible wherever we come together for the good of the Nation, where we care for each other and plan our future.

I hope you can visit the new headquarters at 1802 Chukka Hina in Durant, Oklahoma and experience the faith, family and culture that lives through the people, art and details of our new home.

Remembering the Past and Looking to the Future - June 2018

The grounds of Tvshka Homma were full of people on May 19, all honoring the thousands of Choctaws removed from Mississippi to start a new life in a new land.

As I always do, I looked at the families gathered together on that beautiful, warm Saturday and thought of the tragedies occurring along the Trail of Tears and the many obstacles met by those who survived.

It is because of their values of faith, family and culture, and of their resiliency and strength (Tvshka/ warrior) that we are the tribe we are today.

Today, the Choctaw Nation is one of the strongest tribes in the United States. The Nation has close to 200,000 members and over 10,000 employees, making a positive impact on lives around the world.

Focusing on Choctaw youth is one of the ways we help build a stronger Nation. Education literally begins with parents before the babies are born and there are services available from birth through college and career-training years.

Summer is an exciting time for youth in the Choctaw Nation. Several opportunities to grow, become independent and self-confident are provided through sports, educational and cultural camps, summer school, and summer jobs and internships.

The Choctaw Nation Special Projects Department kicked off two months of summer fun with stickball camp in May.

It also has camps lined up for cultural enrichment, wildlife conservation, golf, softball, baseball, basketball and football. The youth are able to learn about their heritage and expand their skillsets.

A Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) Camp will be held June 24-29 at Jones Academy for students in the 9th through 12th grades.

Science and technology are everywhere, in everything we do. STEM Camp offers the students a chance to be hands-on as they meet fun and exciting challenges.

This summer's STEM Camp will be full of workshops, recreational fun, and team building activities including an intense and engaging workshop provided by NASA.

College tours included during STEM Camp are the University of Oklahoma's American Indian Institute, as well as its Engineering Department and an overall campus tour.

Some of the topics covered will include a robotics session with Sphero, engineering design, and graphic design, just to name a few.

The Partnership of Summer School Education (POSSE) is providing intervention in reading and math for 4,100 kindergarten through third-grade students who are attending the summer learning program.

Students are attending at 40 host sites and come from 74 of the 87 school districts in the 10½ counties of the Choctaw Nation.

In addition to the morning academic intervention, students are provided enrichment activities in the afternoon in the areas of science, technology, engineering, art and math.

Students will also participate in physical education, Choctaw cultural activities and go on three theme related field trips.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) helps prepare youth 16 to 21 years of age for entry into the workforce. It provides opportunities during the summer to gain experience with on-the job training.

This is the fourth year we have offered the Internship Program. The program has opportunities for students who live throughout the United States and partners with several programs within the Nation such as WIOA, Higher Education and Career Development as well as several colleges.

Empowering our youth to be leaders with good values, a servant attitude, and the knowledge to be stewards of the Choctaw Nation is one of the most significant things we can do for us all.

June 2018 Pic
                                                                                                                         by Wyatt Stanford

During the Summer of 2017, the Choctaw Nation employed 38 interns in several programs throughout the Choctaw Nation.


Foster Care Gives Youngest Tribal Members a Safe Harbor - May 2018

One of the comments I have read recently about the importance of family is that family is essential because it sustains society while fulfilling God's purposes.

The Choctaw Nation Foster Care program creates a bridge for children from despair to reunification with family.

As of the end of March, there were 575 Choctaw children in the foster system in Oklahoma. Only 12 percent are with Choctaw foster families.

To ensure the best interests of Indian children were being met, Congress enacted the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in 1978.

ICWA's goal is to help keep children in loving, caring homes with priority placed on uniting them with family members. My wife and I were foster parents. It was a blessing to be able to open our home for the children.

There are many families who are brought together through programs such as Foster Care and Children and Family Services.

Providing a home is just part of the commitment to being a foster family. A foster parent offers opportunities that otherwise may not have been available for the child.

Choctaw foster parents nurture a child's social and cultural heritage as well as provide basic needs.

Maintaining the child's cultural heritage is very important. To become a Choctaw foster family, you must be a member of the Choctaw Nation or another federally recognized tribe and at least 21 years of age. You can be single or married. A full list of requirements to become a foster family can be found on the Choctaw Nation website. Look for Foster Care & Adoptions under the Tribal Services tab.

Placement is preferred to be with a member of the child's extended family or a tribal foster home in the child's tribe. If neither are available, a tribal foster home outside the child's tribe is sought.

There are many families who are hesitant to take the steps to becoming foster parents. Most are concerned it will be too hard to let the child go when it is time to return him or her to their family. There are actually two other types of foster care needed for families who are unable to be full-time.

Emergency fostering is short-term placement for children who need additional assistance because of health, anxiety or fear.

The families who welcome children in these emergency situations provide an atmosphere that is calm, caring and attentive.

Respite foster care offers a short break for foster parents while providing other families with the opportunity to become involved with the lives of the children in need.

Respite foster care is a good option for anyone who is unable to become a full-time foster parent.

If you are interested in becoming a Choctaw foster parent, please visit our website,, or call (800) 522-6170 and ask to speak to Foster Care Recruiter Kat DeCaire.

Assisting with foster care for a Choctaw child can be very rewarding for everyone involved. The children need a safe harbor and we are given the chance to make a difference in the life of a child, putting them on the path home.

Chiefs Message - Pic 1


Spring is a Busy Time of Year for Choctaw Nation - April 2018

 Spring is such a wonderful time of renewal. As the warmer days guide nature around us to awaken, the Choctaw Nation continues to celebrate faith, family and culture.

The fourth annual Easter Celebration was held March 10 at Tvshka Homma. It was a day filled with family activities.

The Choctaw Nation Royalty signed the Lord's Prayer for everyone on the Council House lawn, leading into Employee Chaplain Olin Williams' Easter message that is always a great reminder of what Easter is truly about.

There also were youth league stickball games, Easter egg hunts for the kids and the elders, photos with the Easter bunnies, which is definitely enjoyed by all ages, lunch, and fellowship everywhere on the Capitol grounds.

Another highlight during March was the visit by Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadker. The link between our nations has withstood 171 years since a selfless act made by a group of Choctaws who figuratively reached out to a country over 4,000 miles away in their time of need.

It was such an honor to host Prime Minister Varadkar and the delegation that came with him. Our nations have shared a similar history of tragedy, perseverance and strength.

We have a kindred spirit of caring for others and I hope and believe we can make a positive difference in our people and in the world.

The donation by the Choctaw people to Ireland was only $170, some people might say. It was much more than that.

It was dollars and change gathered by a group of Chahta people who had been reduced by thousands as they were displaced from their homeland a mere 15 years before they heard of the Great Famine also killing hundreds of thousands of people.

The amount sent from the Choctaw Nation to Ireland in 1847 would be close to $5,000 today. It was the difference in life and death to many. The Irish people, too-those who were still healthy enough-were having to leave their homeland to make new homes in countries strange to them; yet, they were countries that offered them hope.

We've been told by a young man from Ireland that he grew up hearing about the Choctaw people on his grandmother's knee.

The story of the donation is much more widely known in Ireland. It was very evident at the dedication of the Kindred Spirits monument in Middleton last year-a monument forged by the hands of a sculptor who wanted to commemorate the generosity of the Choctaw people.

Kindred Spirits was placed in a small, beautiful park in the town of Middleton, County Cork, Ireland. People there told of their ancestors who were recipients of the food provided by the donation.

Hunger, disease and death influenced the directions of the Choctaw and the Irish. I can't imagine how they felt as they traveled under horrible weather conditions, barely any food, no one to help.

The Trail of Tears had to still be strong in the memories of the Choctaw people when they made the donation. They knew too well what the Great Famine was causing and wanted to help.

It is beyond my imagination to grasp how terrible the conditions were-so terrible that the $170 from the Choctaw people meant so much it is legendary in Ireland.

The story isn't known here as well, and I imagine it is because the original people of this land are the only ones who can truly understand. On May 19, we will hold our annual Trail of Tears Walk at Tvshka Homma to commemorate the relocation of our ancestors who traveled from Mississippi to Indian Territory.

It is a time to focus on what they did for us with every step they took, every tear they shed, and every life mourned. We honor those who died during the removal and we honor those who survived. Chahta sia hoke!

Chief's Message - Pic 1
                                                                                                                                             by Stacy Hutto
During the visit by Ireland's Prime Minister, Choctaw Head Start students demonstrate Choctaw words
they are learning as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Chief Gary Batton watch.


Safeguarding Our Nation's Tribal Sovereignty - March 2018

The sovereignty of the Choctaw Nation is fundamentally one of the most important elements to the identity of the Nation. Without sovereignty, the freedom to govern our tribe would be gone. We operate businesses, develop programs, and continue to make decisions daily because we have the inherent right to do so. We need to protect our tribal assets, our people, and our environment from those who wish to diminish or encroach on our sovereignty.

Government-to-government relationships are important to uphold self-governance and sovereignty. The Choctaw Nation Government Relations department follows court cases that may impact the Nation and it stays abreast of state and federal activities, following developments pertaining to tribes very closely including the recent shutdown of the federal government and any possible ramifications. In 2016, the United Nations invited representatives from the Government Relations department to speak, marking a first for the Nation.

We broke ground in January for a facility to house the Choctaw Nation Judicial Branch in Durant, a move that will continue to provide justice for tribal members through several levels of court. The Court of General Jurisdiction consists of the Peacemaker Court, District Court, and Court of Appeals. The Choctaw Nation Constitutional Court is a three-member court with exclusive jurisdiction to hear disputes arising under any provision of the Choctaw Nation constitutions or any rule or regulation enacted by the Tribal Council.

Another department in the Choctaw Nation's Division of Legal and Compliance is Public Safety, a group comprised of police, security, probation/community service, and emergency management staff who maintain law and order in tribal facilities and on tribal land. Tribal police are cross-deputized with other local law enforcement agencies and are always looking for ways to improve their ability to protect and serve. The Security Division of Public Safety is located throughout the 10 ½ counties of the Choctaw Nation and are posted in casinos, travel plazas, clinics, Choctaw Nation headquarters and Talihina hospital. These officers strive to provide safety and security to the associates and guests that visit these facilities. The Emergency Management Division of Public Safety provides planning, response, recovery and mitigation services to both the Nation and its tribal members. Emergency Management ensures that resources and personnel are available to respond to major emergencies as well as coordinate incident management with a multitude of departments and external agencies. The Probation Department, working through the Judicial Court System, also works in partnership with the other Public Safety divisions to serve the members and the Choctaw Community.

The Public Safety Department has shown there are more ways of helping others than providing protection-the Public Safety team is known for stepping up to offer assistance in their communities. They recently raised approximately $5,000 to be named the top fundraiser for Durant's Polar Plunge event benefitting Special Olympics and also raised $2,600 through a departmental fundraiser to help purchase Christmas gifts for 50 children.

More examples of safeguarding the Choctaw Nation, its land, and its members include a land and asset management department that keeps up with the protection of purchased assets. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the U.S. government took more than 90 million acres from tribes. Since 2014, the Choctaw Nation has purchased 47,843 acres of land bringing our land base to 72,000 acres with 12,763 acres of land held in trust. It is our goal to continue to purchase more land every year.

The Choctaw Nation GIS department helps create detailed maps of our boundaries, and the Risk Management department focuses on the health and safety of our employees, tribal members and customers.

All of these components are examples of effective sovereignty. The sovereignty of the Choctaw Nation is part of our culture. It is who we are, and it is our right as a Nation to maintain the wellbeing of our people.

CM - Pic 1
The Choctaw Nation broke ground for the new Choctaw Nation Judicial Center on Jan 30.The Judicial Center will be located at the Durant campus and construction is projected to be completed by December 2018.  The new center will provide a convenient location for tribal members. 


Revisiting The Water Settlement for Sardis Lake February 2018

   It has been about a year since we completed the water settlement agreement, and there may be some confusion in regards to the terms of the agreement between the Choctaw Nation, the Chickasaw Nation, the State of Oklahoma, and Oklahoma City.

   This message is to hopefully clarify the terms for anyone who has not had an opportunity to carefully review the provisions of this historical agreement.

   Neither the Choctaw Nation, nor the Chickasaw Nation received any money from the settlement. The lawsuit which produced the settlement was simply about water protection and land stewardship.

Everyone will recall from previous litigation that there was a strong need for the tribes to protect the water from overuse or improper use, as well as securing water for our local communities.

The settlement was extremely successful. Under this agreement, we were able to secure 37,908 acre feet of Sardis lake storage to be reserved for local use, which is more than 12,352,375,954 gallons of water.

With respect to the Kiamichi River, neither Oklahoma City, nor any other person or entity can divert water from this very important resource without leaving a flow of at least 50 cubic feet per second during diversions. 

This will protect fish and wildlife while also ensuring enough water is available for downstream users, including the City of Antlers and local citizens. None of these safeguards were present before this settlement agreement.

There is a broad misconception that the State of Oklahoma or Oklahoma City is now able to drain the lake by simply filing an application for a water permit with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.

This is not true. There is a lake-level management plan in place. Prior to the settlement, the State/ Oklahoma City had the water rights to Sardis Lake.

If you review the settlement agreement carefully, we now have a regulatory framework which protects lake levels, wildlife and recreation.

While anyone, including Oklahoma City, may file for, or even be granted a permit, they must now adhere to these rules and regulations which were not in place prior to the settlement agreement.

We will enforce these provisions, regardless of whether a permit is granted or not.

Prior to this settlement agreement, anyone wanting to protect their interests in water, including the tribes, were forced to litigate against the state or other entities in state court.

In fact, the original lawsuit, which prompted us to act, was filed in state court.

Due to our efforts with congress, the regulatory provisions secured by this settlement agreement are now enforceable in federal court. Not only does this protect our tribal sovereignty, it also provides a fair playing field for any future disagreements.

Finally, while all of these protections are incredible advances for our tribal members, local citizens, and communities located within the Choctaw Nation, it is always best to read the facts for yourself instead of relying on false rumors or inaccurate interpretations.

I would encourage everyone to view the terms of the settlement agreement at

Sardis Lake - February 2018 
The State of Oklahoma, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, City of Oklahoma City Water Settlement puts protections in place for Sardis Lake, pictured above, and the Kiamichi River in Southeastern Oklahoma.  The agreement protects the water from improper use, overuse and secures water for local communities.  It also protects fish and wildlife and ensures good land stewardship.


The Chahta Spirit Continues to Grow in the New Year - January 2018

Halito and Happy New Year to everyone!

We have been growing and changing since the Trail of Tears and I consider every day another opportunity to carry forward the legacy of our ancestors.

As we grow, we need to remain true to who we are. Growth and change are normal. As we move forward, we strive to uphold the Choctaw Nation's values in every decision we make and with everyone we meet.

One of the things that excites me the most about beginning 2018 is the anticipation of growing more in the Chahta Spirit. This year is going to have some milestone events to celebrate that will impact all of the Choctaw Nation.

Twenty years ago the Choctaw Nation had approximately 48,000 members. Today we are closer to 200,000.

The new headquarters, which will be opening later this year, is being constructed to make it easier for members to access programs and services in one location. It is going to increase effectiveness because the staff can work more closely together to meet members' needs.

In addition to the increased functionality, the headquarters campus is going to be one of the most striking, significantly important sites in the Choctaw Nation. It will literally be a chukka lukonli, or community, where members can visit the headquarters, have a checkup at the clinic, work out in the wellness center, gather at the community center for fellowship, or attend events at the amphitheater by the pond.

It will also be near the Choctaw Nation's Child Development Center and Food Distribution Center. The campus is being built on the east side of Hwy. 69/75, a short distance from the Choctaw Casino & Resort Durant, Choctaw Travel Plazas, and the Choctaw KOA RV Park.

Construction will begin this year on the west side of Hwy. 69/75 as the dream of a new culture center takes shape.

Sue Folsom and her staff in the Cultural Services division have been planning for years, consulting with people across the country, and putting together a plan for a culturally influential destination for everyone to learn about the Choctaw Nation.

Folsom, a 35-year employee of the Choctaw Nation, wisely says we don't live in the past, but we remember what the past has done for us.

The culture center will have information and classes to benefit all ages. It isn't only the young who hunger to learn more about our tribe and its culture. There are also adults who haven't had an opportunity to embrace their heritage.

As the Choctaw Nation continues to grow, we need to remain true to who we are. Faith, family and culture are guiding principles influencing our goals and decisions. We are united in efforts to raise the standard of living for tribal members, improve effectiveness in operations, and heighten awareness of the tribal culture for everyone.

This year, if you have never had the opportunity, I hope you have time to visit our capitol, Tvshka Homma, in the heart of the Choctaw Nation in Pushmataha County, the headquarters complex in Durant, or any area that is important to you and your family. May God bless you in 2018.

New Building Rendering - January 2018
                                                                                                                        Rendering by Frankfurt Short Bruze

Once the new headquarters is completed visitors will be able to use the walking track around the pond and attend events at the amphitheater. The new headquarters is scheduled to be completed later this year.  Tribal members will be able to use a variety of services at the new campus.


Following Jesus by Serving Others This Christmas Season - December 2017

The year has flown by and we are once again celebrating the Christmas season. It's a time I enjoy making memories with family and friends and feeling thankful for our blessings.

Christmas is special to me for many reasons. First and foremost, it is the time we celebrate the birth of Christ.

I once read a statement that said, "Considering all that Christ has done for us, we should be filled with gratitude at Christmastime."

I am grateful for all the blessings God has bestowed on my family and me, especially His Son. Jesus set the perfect example of how to serve those around him.

We have many opportunities at Christmastime to reach out and make someone's day brighter, serving others in the way Jesus taught.

The youth and elderly are the most vulnerable, which is why several of the Choctaw Nation programs are directed toward improving health and o­ffering assistance in a variety of ways.

Choctaw Nation programs see to many of the needs of tribal members and they go a step further during the holidays.

The Outreach department distributes food vouchers to those tribal members who otherwise wouldn't have a good holiday meal.

The vouchers, presented at both Thanksgiving and Christmas, provide enough for a ham or turkey and all the trimmings.

Tribal funds are also allocated every year to purchase Christmas gifts for approximately 1,026 Choctaw children living in the tribe's 10 1/2 counties, who met the program's income guidelines.

I'm thankful for the Outreach programs and the dedication of the staff­ to ensure all are distributed by Christmas and the children have a gift to open.

During the summer, before school starts, the Outreach group begins a shoe drive.

Later in the fall, they hold a coat drive, so all the children in the program can start school with a new pair of shoes and have a warm jacket for the winter months.

Tribal services have far-reaching arms in our mission to o­ffer opportunities for growth and prosperity.

We must always remember the importance of taking care of one another. I feel blessed when I see family, friends and co-workers donating their time to assist with food drives, toy drives, and volunteering to provide angel gifts for the youth and elderly.

We will all face times in life when a caring sister or brother makes a di­fference and it is good to remember, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…"

My family and I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and the best of a new year in 2018.

 Chiefs Message - December 2017 Pic

Chief Gary Batton is pictured with his wife, Angie; son, David and his fiancee, Taylor Walker; and grandchildren, Jeffrey and Kaylyn.


Choctaw Celebrates a Rich and Colorful Culture - November 2017

November is recognized every year as National Native American Heritage Month. The Choctaw Nation has a very rich heritage, one that is full of faith, family and culture.

The Chahta who made the long journey from Mississippi built homes, churches, schools and businesses on the foundation of those values.

We are still strong today because of the dedication to uphold them. We should be proud of the deep roots our people have as a sovereign Nation in this country.

Our heritage is evident in many ways. The most obvious is the Choctaw culture we see through traditional dress, jewelry, art, and dance.

We hear conversations in the Choctaw language and the words are beautiful in the lyrics of Choctaw hymns. The School of Choctaw Language and the Cultural Services department offer classes throughout the Choctaw Nation, as well as demonstrating Choctaw culture and traditions as we visit locations outside the 10 1/2 counties.

It's heartwarming to be able to connect with Choctaws around the country and see their reaction when they hear the language spoken, when they learn to make a piece of jewelry or hold a basket woven the old way.

The strong sense of pride in our heritage also guides us as we make decisions on services and businesses. Businesses such as the casinos and resorts, travel plazas, Choctaw Printing Services, and more generate dollars that help provide health and tribal services, education, employment, and housing options.

The diversity and success of the Nation's businesses help to make a difference in peoples' lives and provide sustainability for our children, grandchildren, and greatgrandchildren so they are imbued with the wisdom and tools to continue the legacy.

That is what our ancestors did for us and it is our mission to continue offerring opportunities for growth and prosperity.

In the last three years, there has been a 5 percent increase in the number of Choctaw tribal members. In the last three years, there has also been a 59 percent increase in services and a 53 percent increase in jobs.

The Choctaw Nation employs more than 9,000 people in positions inside and outside of the tribal boundaries.

As the largest employer in southeast Oklahoma, we are a strong partner with the cities and other businesses in helping lift up the communities.

The future is bright for the Choctaw Nation. We stand proud of who we are and the country in which we live.

Our heritage is what inspires us and it is evident not just in November, but in everything we do.

November Message Pic

During the Labor Day Festival in Tvshka Homma, social dancers share the Choctaw culture by demonstrating Choctaw social dances.  The social dancers also teach some of the dance steps to  people from the audience.


Choctaw Labor Day Festival Gets Better Every Year - October 2017

Some people are saying the 2017 Labor Day Festival was one of our best ones ever. It was a very special event for certain, and we couldn't have put in a request for better weather.

Over the five days, Aug. 31 through Sept. 4, tens of thousands of people came to Tvshka Homma, the historic capital of the Chahta Nation, to share in our heritage, to enjoy our arts and crafts, and to gain knowledge about today's programs and services.

Each evening, more than 5,000 people enjoyed concerts that included country superstars Alabama and one of the world's hottest new Christian bands, For King and Country.  

We also came together as Choctaw people, as friends, and as family to reminisce, share stories, and grow closer.
While we celebrated our good fortune in Tvshka Homma, we did not forget the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas.
That same weekend, after Jake Owen's performance at the Choctaw Casino & Resort-Durant, proceeds from the concert and vendors were collected for a $70,000 donation to the Houston Food Bank.
The gesture was a reminder for many of the Choctaw aid sent to victims of the Irish Famine in the 1830s. We are still a giving people, and it was just one of the ways the Choctaw Nation is coming to the aid of those in need after the recent hurricanes.
The annual ceremony on Monday also saw the swearing in of Tribal Council members. After our recent elections, council members retaining their seats were Delton Cox for District 4; Jack Austin Sr. for District 7; Anthony Dillard for District 10; and James Frazier for District 12.
The election also brought two new members onto the Council, Jennifer Woods for District 6; and James Dry for District 9.
Labor Day is always a time I look forward to, because I get a chance to tell Choctaw people directly of our tribe's growth and prosperity.
This year's State of the Nation address had the theme "Stay the Course" for good reason. Last Labor Day, I had told you that 2017 was going to be a year of growth like none before in the Choctaw Nation.
I was glad to report that the leadership of the Tribal Council, and the hard work of our employees kept us on track. My recommendation in the year ahead is to "Stay the Course."
Everyone always wants to know, "Where does the money come from?" and "Where does the money go?"
As I explained, the funds are from "tribal, federal and state" sources. Total income over the past fiscal year was $744,200,000.
While state and federal dollars are shrinking, it pleases me to say that tribal income is up 58 percent, showing steady growth and success.
This has allowed us to put over $504 million into services for our Choctaw people; invest more than $152 million into growing our tribal businesses; and put over $86.5 million into sustainability.
We put more people to work full time, and the Job for the Day program has found work for 493 people.
The Choctaw Nation Housing will also be building 120 new homes across the 10½ counties of southeastern Oklahoma.
Rental residences will also be constructed in the coming year. Through another housing program, 470 eligible households will receive funds to rehab their existing homes.
Since 2016, 14 construction projects have been completed across the 10½ county service area of the Choctaw Nation.
Another 28 sites are under construction, or in planning stages. The Choctaw Nation Regional Health Clinic in Durant, Community Centers in Bethel/Battiest, Hugo, Talihina-Broken Bow.
Head Starts in Atoka, Bethel/Battiest, Wright City- Antlers, Hugo, Poteau, and Talihina have opened, along with Choctaw Day Cares, a Food Distribution center, Independent Elderly Housing, Wellness Centers, Choctaw Travel Plazas with Casino Toos, and the Choctaw Resort & Casino expansion in Grant that includes a Chili's.
Coming in the future are the Choctaw Cultural Center, the Judicial Center and the new Choctaw Nation Headquarters, all in Durant.
I hope my report has given you a snapshot of how we are staying the course. We are keeping our rich cultural history alive, protecting our sovereignty, providing opportunities, and keeping the tribe strong for future generations.
If you were not able to be there, I would encourage you to visit the Choctaw Nation's YouTube site, ChoctawNationOK, and see the Labor Day Ceremony in its entirety. 

CM - 1
                                                                                                                                 by Lisa Reed

Hundres of people gather around the amphitheater in Tvshka Homma during the Labor Day Festival.

Looking Towards a Better Future Through Education - September 2017

The Choctaw Nation is committed to offering opportunities for education to our people through programs such as Choctaw University, internships, career development and general education.

The Career Development program is dedicated to making dreams come true for tribal members. Its vision is to create a pipeline to career and technology training as well as services for the Choctaw people.

Success after success are documented by the dedicated staff of Career Development. They help tribal members throughout the United States reach their goals to become members of law enforcement, medical practitioners, nurses, truck drivers, and more.

Higher Education assistance is also available to tribal members enrolled in accredited colleges or universities throughout the United States.

With assistance from either the Choctaw Nation Higher Education or Career Development programs tribal members are earning bachelors and masters degrees in fields they love.

Offering a variety of opportunities for education remains a top priority. There are many other programs to help tribal members better prepare for the future and more information is on The Chahta Spirit is found in every heart seeking to grow and succeed.

Choctaw University and Learning Development are two options available to the approximately 10,000 associates of the Nation.

Choctaw University grows the knowledge and skills of the associates by instilling a deeper understanding of their purpose within the organization.

Participants receive professional development training, build knowledge, and improve their skills to be more efficient and productive leaders.

Choctaw University has graduated 585 participants from the Leadership Series and 338 participants from the Continuing Education Series since its conception in 2012.

The program currently has approximately 300 associates within its two programs-Leadership Series and Continuing Education Series-and they will graduate from their respective program levels in December 2017.

Choctaw University has helped 21 associates graduate from Southeastern Oklahoma State University by utilizing the Leadership Series and a number of them have continued to complete Masters Degrees in Native American Leadership.

The Choctaw Nation also offers courses through its Learning and Development (L&D) program that focuses on the specialized needs of both the government and commerce divisions.

The L&D family is committed to progressing and developing the skills of all associates through knowledge and the Choctaw Nation's values, creating unique learning opportunities that support the culture and traditions of the Nation.

In the last year, associates within the Choctaw Nation's government programs trained in 1,177 classes ranging from in-service training for educational programs to management and compliance trainings.

The Commerce Division's Learning & Development program has scheduled 90 different courses for its associates since October 2016, with a confirmed attendance of 6,473 associates.

With supervisor approval, any associate is eligible to attend the courses as quickly as the first week of employment.

Investing in our tribal members and its associates is an investment in the Choctaw Nation. The skills they learn benefit the tribe and provide a better future for all.

2017 Choctaw University Leadership Symposium
                                                                                                                                                by Jason Hicks

During the 2017 Choctaw University Leadership Symposium, participants were encouraged to L.I.T.E.up Choctaw by leading, inspiring, transforming, and empowering those around them.

Choctaw & Irish Kindred Spirits in Perseverance - August 2017

From one outstretched hand to another, the Choctaw Nation and the Irish formed a connection 170 years ago.

In June, I had the privilege to travel to Ireland to attend the dedication of "Kindred Spirits," a monument commemorating the gift of $170 from Choctaw tribal members living in the Skullyville area to the people of  Ireland who were suffering and dying during the Great Hunger in their land. Ireland lost more than 2 million people-approximately 1 million died of starvation and disease and over a million migrated to other countries. 

The story of the donation has been passed down through generations in Ireland. I was unprepared however, for the extent of the welcome we would receive when we arrived in Ireland.  Their generous spirit reached out and embraced us wherever we went. It was a very humbling experience  and we were very proud to walk in the spirit of our ancestors.

Ireland's President Michael Higgins recognized the gift came from a people who shared similar experiences.  He called it a gift of love and compassion and solidarity. "Kindred Spirits" is such an appropriate name for the  relationship between our countries. The Choctaw people came across the Trail of Tears where we lost one-fourth of our people.

When our ancestors heard of the famine and the hardship of the Irish people, they knew it was time to help. It is a spirit of hope and prosperity, one that has grown stronger through things we have overcome and endured. The Choctaw people and the Irish people are still here today.

Irish Dancers
Dancers from Comhaltas Ceolteoir Eireann perform during the dedication ceremony for "Kindred Spirits" monument in Bailick Park, Midleton, Cork County

The monument created by Alex Pentek pulses as if it contains life, the life and spirit of the many people lost  through both tragedies and those who survived. He chose eagle feathers because the eagle is symbolic of peace and revered by Choctaw people. The steel feathers stand 24 feet tall and when you look closely you can recognize the talent and precision used to create each one.  On such close inspection, it is obviously metal. When you stand back to see the entire creation, it isn't steel  you see. It's life. The feathers, cupped like a bowl, are reaching for the heavens and they shimmer with every  hint of light. Alex said that even though the histories are tragic and unimaginably horrific, there is a feeling of rising above it by standing together. As much as ever, standing together against adversity from those who are persecuting is a message we can still move forward today.

                                                                              *Photo above by Deidre Elrod

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