TISHOMINGO, Okla. – During his Oct. 4 State of the Nation address, Governor Bill Anoatubby said that successful economic development efforts have enabled the tribe to continue offering new opportunities to Chickasaw citizens.
Continued success of economic development efforts, including a profitable tourism initiative, has led to growth in the number of businesses, as well as the number of employees. He went on to say that growth has led to a renaissance of culture, as well as advances in health care, education and housing services.
Citing this growth and development, Gov. Anoatubby said the state of the Chickasaw Nation is “strong and getting stronger.”
With almost 13,000 employees across the United States, the tribe was able to contribute the majority of funding for more than 200 programs and services which benefit Chickasaw citizens.
“Our prosperity and strategic planning has directly contributed to our ability to offer these programs and services to our citizens,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “We look at the funding we put into our programs and services as an investment in the Chickasaw people. The Chickasaw Nation is doing very well and we have a lot to be thankful for, but regardless of how well we are doing, we should always strive to do better.”
That attitude has served the tribe well during Anoatubby’s tenure as governor. This fiscal year alone, net assets of the tribe increased by more than $105 million.
Business diversification efforts have led to success in entertainment, manufacturing, medical technology, medical services, government contracting, banking, communications and tourism.
Gov. Anoatubby chose to speak about the economic importance of tourism during his address.
“Tourism is an important segment of the economy. We are pleased to report that tourism in Chickasaw Country continues to grow,” he said only days after the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) honored Chickasaw Country as “Best Tribal Destination of the Year.”
Recent investments in tourism venues in Murray County have been met with considerable success. More than 51,000 guests have stayed at the Artesian Hotel in Sulpur, Oklahoma since it opened for business in August 2013. That equates to an occupancy rate of more than 84 percent, which is more than 20 percentage points higher than the average across the U.S.
The inaugural Arts Festival at the ARTesian gallery and studios in Sulphur brought more than 4,000 visitors to the area.
Since opening in the Arbuckle Mountains near Sulphur December, 2013, the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center has hosted weddings, groups from the University of Oklahoma and other organizations as well as film crews working in the area.
“Since the cultural center opened in 2010, it has welcomed almost 300,000 visitors from Germany, France, Australia, South Africa and other places around the world,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “Even more exciting is the fact that the number of visitors has increased each year. More than 91,000 people visited the center in Fiscal Year 2014, which is almost 50 percent more than the 62,000 visitors in 2013.
“While our cultural center provides a special opportunity to learn about ourselves and our nation, it also offers the opportunity to share who we are – to share the vibrant heritage of the Chickasaw people and our great nation.”
Culture and Humanities
Governor Anoatubby also mentioned that the tribe is involved in a number of efforts to revitalize Chickasaw culture and language.
The Chickasaw Press launched a new imprint this year. White Dog Press was developed to expand the reach of the press by publishing children’s books, fiction and other works beyond academic research and scholarship.
New children’s titles from White Dog press include “Chickasaw Journeys Activity Book” and “C is for Chickasaw.” The press also released its first novel “Anompolichi: The Wordmaster.”
Language continues to be a high priority because it is so closely linked with Chickasaw culture. More than 10,000 visitors took advantage of online language resources.
The Chickasaw Nation continues to make a special effort to educate Chickasaws and others about the homelands of the Chickasaw people.
“Our Chickasaw presence in our ancestral homelands in Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee did not end with the removal of our people to Indian Territory in 1837,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “While our people were removed, our deep connection remains.”
A collaborative effort is underway with the Natchez Trace Parkway to develop a Chickasaw Heritage Center in Mississippi. The center will help educate visitors about Chickasaw history and culture in the area.
Governor Anoatubby also said that health care will always be a high priority for the tribe.
“Research tells us that one of the most effective ways to prevent disease is by staying physically active,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “That is why we have built wellness centers and developed other opportunities for our people to stay active.”
These included renovating a gymnasium behind the tribal headquarters in Ada as well as building a softball complex in Ada. The Chickasaw Nation also operates wellness centers in Ada, Tishomingo and Ardmore.
The wellness centers had more than 164,000 participant visits this year, while hundreds more Chickasaws have taken advantage of the gymnasium and softball complex for tournaments and individual game play.
“Access to quality health care is important to all of us and we will continue to work to meet this goal,” said Gov. Anoatubby.
This year the Chickasaw Nation Department of Health served more than 587,000 patient visits, while pharmacies filled more than 1.2 million prescriptions. That is more than 1,600 patient visits and more than 3,200 prescriptions per day.
In June, the Chickasaw Nation began construction on a 26,000 square foot Child Development center in Ardmore, which will offer educational opportunities for children from 6 weeks to four-years-old.
“From birth to age three is a critical time in a child’s development,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “This new child development center, much like the one in Ada, offers much more than daycare. These centers offer a learning environment for young Chickasaws where they are taught the Chickasaw language, the importance of good nutrition, of being active and much more.”
Higher education is also a point of focus for the Chickasaw Nation. This year, more than 4,100 students pursuing a higher education were awarded grants, scholarships and incentives totaling more than $16.3 million.
“Access to a quality education is one of the foundations of a successful future,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “It prepares individuals for entrepreneurship, which is vital in today’s competitive world of business. These opportunities are essential to the success of individuals as well as the Chickasaw Nation.”
“Quality, affordable housing is also essential to the quality of life,” said Gov. Anaotubby. “That is why we place a high priority on a wide range of opportunities for homeownership.”
This year alone, a total of more than $5.5 million in home loans were provided to 44 Chickasaw families through our Chuka Chukmasi (Beautiful Home) Home Loan program.
Fifteen homes were constructed for Chickasaw families through our affordable homeownership program this year.
“When there are Chickasaw citizens living in every state in the nation and in nine countries on four continents around the world, one thing is important: that’s communication,” said Gov. Anoatubby, quickly adding “Our team continues to seek innovative ways to communicate and share information – no matter where you may live.”
Gov. Anoatubby went on to laud the advantages of film and mention a number of projects currently underway.
“Film is a unique communication tool. It is a great way to convey the message of who we are as a people,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “That story goes beyond recounting our history, sharing accomplishments or progress. It is a story of the indomitable spirit of the unconquered Chickasaw people.
“Whether it is the story of a young athlete such as Joshua Turner, the accomplishments of Congressman Tom Cole, or the experiences of a Chickasaw aviatrix or storyteller, film enables us to convey the full depth of our experiences.”
The Chickasaw Nation is currently working on a series of historical and contemporary documentary videos called “The Chickasaw Heritage Series.”
The recently completed first documentary tells the story of the tribe’s first encounter with Hernando Desoto in 1541.
The tribe is also filming a feature film based on the life of Chickasaw story teller Te Ata. Several award-winning actors have been cast in principal roles.
Q’orianka Kilcher will portray Te Ata, while Gil Birmingham will be playing Te Ata’s father Thomas Thompson and Te Ata’s mother Bertie will be portrayed by Brigid Brannagh.
Oscar-nominee Graham Greene will play Chickasaw Governor Douglas H. Johnston, while Mackenzie Astin, son of well-known actors Patty Duke and John Astin, will play Dr. Clyde Fisher.
Governor Anaotubby concluded his address by pointing out that while the state of the Chickasaw Nation is strong and getting stronger, there is still much to do.
The Chickasaw Nation has been tremendously blessed, said Gov. Anaotubby. “We have experienced much progress – but there is still much work ahead of us. We have plans for new developments and additional progress over the next several years. We will continue to work hard to ensure that our nation continues to thrive.”