State of the Nation Address
Cooler temperatures over the weekend brought out huge crowds to enjoy all that the Choctaw Nation Labor Day Festival has to offer. A highlight of the festival every year is Chief Gregory E. Pyle’s State of the Nation address as thousands gather on Monday on the Capitol grounds at Tuskahoma.
“This year’s Labor Day theme is ‘Heroes of the Past.’ Certainly Brother Bertram Bobb is one of our past, and current, heroes,” said Chief Pyle of a special presentation made to Tribal Chaplain Bertram Bobb, recognizing him for a lifetime of achievements. “Many of our past heroes were members of our military and we will always honor their service to our country.
“We have a great relationship with the military. The Choctaw Nation provides support to our troops in many ways. We continue to send care packages to our troops stationed overseas, whether they are Indian or non-Indian,” said Chief Pyle. “We will provide a deployment send-off when the Oklahoma National Guard leaves for Afghanistan in January.
“We also provide help with Wounded Warrior flights. This is where we fly wounded troops to various locations around the country for medical care or to rejoin them with their families. Recently, on one of these flights, the control tower in Houston learned that a wounded warrior was on the flight and asked if they could speak to him. Our pilot, a veteran himself, gave the microphone to the soldier and told the controller to go ahead. The controller started talking to him. He thanked the soldier for his service and wished him a speedy recovery. He then said that anyone else on that frequency who wanted to say anything could go ahead. One after another, they kept talking. One pilot would get on then another. They continued lining up, all wishing the soldier well and thanking him for his service and sacrifice. We are so proud that the Choctaw Nation is able to help in this effort.
“We have to support our neighbors,” Chief Pyle said. “A recent flood in Arkansas took the lives of 19 people. Several of our forestry staff volunteered to go to Arkansas to offer aid.
“Our Going Green program continues – ‘sustaining our people, our traditions, our earth.’ The Choctaw have always been protectors of the environment, especially water. This is extremely important,” Chief Pyle stressed. “You are probably aware that others are interested in acquiring the water from Sardis Lake and some have even made a monetary investment toward that. By treaty, the tribe’s water has never been given up. This is still our water, and we will fight for the protection of this natural resource for all of southeastern Oklahoma, even though it may take years to resolve.
“One of Choctaw Nation’s most successful programs is the STAR program,” he informed the audience. “This program, Success Through Academic Recognition, rewards Choctaw students who make good grades or have perfect attendance. Through our STAR program, we have seen a significant increase in our students’ grades and school attendance. We are happy to announce that this program is now going nationwide.
“The Choctaw Nation continues to grow and prosper. Some of the new construction recently completed includes a new arts and crafts building at Tuskahoma, a new Child Development Center in Durant, new Social Services building and Wellness Center in Hugo, new scoreboards at ballfields here at the capitol grounds and a new Red Warrior statue in front of the capitol building.
Plans for future construction include new community centers and child development centers as well as a new amphitheater at Tuskahoma. The new amphitheater will be twice this size.
“Our tribal vision is ‘to achieve healthy, successful, productive and self-sufficient lifestyles for a proud nation of Choctaws.’ This continues to be our goal – to better serve you … the Choctaw people. Our continued economic development will create more jobs, more revenue and ultimately more services for our tribal members. Road projects will improve access to health care, schools and jobs. I want all of our families to achieve our vision of healthy, successful and self-sufficient Choctaws.
“I want to take a moment to recognize our Tribal Council who take their responsibility to the Choctaw people very seriously,” Chief Pyle said. “They continually look out for the needs of our people and we appreciate their service to the Nation. We also want to remember one of our Councilmen who passed away just last month. Hap Ward was a good friend of mine and a friend to all Choctaws. He loved his people and spent his time serving him. Although Hap can never be replaced in our hearts, a special election will be held Oct. 30 for the District 1 Council position.
“In closing, I want to emphasize that the Choctaw Nation continues to be strong. As we honor our heroes of the past, we remember our heritage and continue our traditions. Our strength and our continued growth will sustain our future generations to follow. And we will remain a proud Nation of Choctaws!”