Choctaw State of the Nation address highlights, progress and strength

Chief Gary Batton, left, is sworn in for a new term of office by Choctaw Nation Chief Justice David Burrage Sept. 2 at the 2019 Choctaw Nation Labor Day Festival. Photo by Deidre K. Elrod / Choctaw Nation.

Choctaw Nation
Charlie Clark

TVSHKA HOMMA, Okla. – After being sworn in for his second consecutive term on Sept. 2, Chief Gary Batton addressed the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma on Labor Day, outlining progress in several key areas – education, health, government and commerce. The address capped a five-day Labor Day Festival in Tvshka Homma attended by thousands of tribal members and visitors from Oklahoma and neighboring states.

Chief Batton shared that Choctaw Nation’s total assets are more than $3.5 billion.

“People want to know where the money comes from and where it goes,” Batton said.

He cited that 54 percent of revenue comes from tribal businesses, 30 percent from grants, 13 percent from Medicare and third-party insurance, 2 percent from general government revenue and 1 percent from housing. He emphasized that more than 70 percent of the tribe’s budget goes to services, with the rest going to investments, sustainability and capital projects.

“But this is only part of our story,” Batton said. “Our overall efforts benefit both the tribe and the State of Oklahoma.”

Tribal investments in infrastructure like the Durant Casino Resort expansion and Choctaw Nation Cultural Center provide economic benefit to the whole state. Chief Batton noted the Choctaw Nation also has 10,868 employees, and there are more than 400 current openings.

“If you want a job, we have one for you,” he said.

Chief Batton stated that the protection of the tribe’s sovereignty was at the forefront of Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma efforts. The Stigler Act Amendments of 2018 were just one example.

“We’re going to stand firm,” Batton said when referencing the gaming compact with the State of Oklahoma. If a new compact is not signed by January, the Choctaw Nation’s gaming enterprise will “continue functioning like we think it should.”

“The success of our Nation is measured by the strength of our people,” Batton said.

The Choctaw Nation provided more than $16 million in educational assistance to 9,515 tribal members and offered health care through 999,315 Choctaw Nation Health Services Authority visits.

Chief Batton ended his address looking to the future.

“We have to plan for the next seven generations. It is critical as a government that we balance providing opportunities to you, our people, while making sure as a Nation we remain financially secure.”

The ceremonies also included the swearing in of six tribal council members who started new terms of office on Sept. 2: District 1, Thomas Williston; District 2, Jonathan Anthony Ward (Tony); District 3, Eddie Bohanan; District 5, Ronald Clyde Perry; District 8, Perry Thompson, and District 11, Robert Karr.

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