Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

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Promise Zone Offers Opportunities for Growth

From the Desk of Chief Gregory E. Pyle

February 2014

It was an honor to represent the Choctaw Nation at the formal announcement by President Obama on Jan. 10 in Washington, D.C., as he named the Choctaw Nation one of the five initial areas chosen for the Promise Zone initiative. We believe the Choctaw Nation, the only tribe to be selected, was chosen because we have been working for over a decade on addressing the essential challenges that Promise Zone is reported to address – generational poverty, lack of education, lack of jobs, and more.

As evidenced by its ongoing actions, the Choctaw Nation believes that education and economic development must positively work hand-in-hand if the region is to rise out of its current levels of poverty and illiteracy that often drag people under. That is specifically the reason why the Nation is diligently working to enhance opportunities for education, jobs, and families.

While we have not received detailed information yet, the application guidance indicated that each designated Promise Zone will be asked to identify a set of outcomes they will pursue to revitalize their communities, develop a strategy supporting those outcomes, and realign resources accordingly. For communities selected, the federal government will partner to help the Promise Zones access the resources and expertise they need to create jobs, leverage private investment, increase economic activity, expand educational opportunities, and improve public safety.

As Chief, I am acutely aware of the poverty that is felt throughout southeastern Oklahoma. Our Tribe’s Councilmen speak about the troubles in their districts describing the situations that many of our community members find themselves in because of plant shut-downs, loss of employment, and the lack of job opportunities available to them in our rural area. Without a doubt, this region is in need of revitalization efforts that will create jobs, improve education, reduce crime, and breathe life and hope back into our local communities.

The Promise Zone initiative offers an opportunity for the Choctaw Nation to partner with communities and entities on the tribal, city, county, state and federal level. We have a common goal – We must lift everyone up if our communities in southeast Oklahoma are to move forward from survive to thrive.