A 100-year sustainable vision
From the desk of Assistant Chief Gary Batton
One of the duties of Assistant Chief is helping tribal executives oversee the many budgets of the 120+programs of the Choctaw Nation. October is the month that a new year begins for most of our services, and there is always a flurry of activity as we gear up to make sure the needs of tribal members continue to be answered. As I work one-on-one with the people who are in charge of these programs, I am humbled by their giving attitude of time and resources.
The Chief has explained to all of the executives and directors that he has a long-term plan for the tribe, because he wants to ensure a 100-year sustainable vision for Choctaw Nation can be attained. The men and women who administer the education, health, heritage, elders, children and families, social services, economic development and other programs are all dedicated to helping the Chief make this vision a reality.
Many times during this past year I have seen evidence that the staff are all enthusiastic and supportive of ideas and efforts that will help this goal become reality. Events like the Choctaw Days at the Smithsonian NMAI (another of a long line of “firsts” for our tribe) received a huge volunteer effort. Education programs such as STAR, Career Development and Scholarship Advisement have assisted thousands of tribal members across the United States, giving them encouragement, and providing opportunities to accomplish dreams. It is great to know that the Choctaw Nation has people in place who are continuing down the path of ensuring that the tribe will continue to be successful for many generations. Notable successes in tribal health have been much more than the eight clinics, hospital, diabetes centers and other health facilities that have been constructed – health care professionals make sure that patients needs are met with the best care possible.
Heritage based programs allow people to learn our history – Chief and I actually made our first pieces of pottery this year! Watching the firing of the small hand-made clay pot I had crafted in the same manner as many of my ancestors out of clay was overwhelming, not because my little pot was particularly beautiful, but because it had such tremendous meaning to our culture. I keep it on a shelf in my office to remind me of how important our past is to all of us.
As a part of the cultural awakening in the 6,000 tribal employees, the headquarters, field offices, and many other Choctaw facilities now participate in Heritage Monday on the first Monday of each month, where we celebrate by wearing traditional clothing and accessories, greeting guests in Choctaw language, and other interesting and unique ways of highlighting our history. I have seen posters on office doors explaining history, bookmarks with Choctaw/English words on them, and even handouts with children’s legends. This has been a tremendous learning experience for all of us and I look forward to seeing all the employees in the hallways and at their desks in their traditional shirts and dresses.
I truly do see the Choctaw Nation “Growing with Pride, Hope and Success.” And it is thanks to the tremendous tribal members and the great staff!