A year in review: Choctaw Nation celebrates successes of 2022
By Christian Chaney and Shelia Kirven
January 3, 2023
As the year 2022 comes to an end, we reflect on our new experiences, changes and growth.
“As 2022 draws to an end, I can’t help but smile and think about how the Choctaw Nation has embodied faith, family and culture by giving back to our tribal members,” said Chief Gary Batton.” This year was truly a blessing and I’m looking forward to what 2023 will bring.”
Here are some of the Choctaw Nation’s successes and highlights from the previous year.
The Choctaw Nation held its second jury trial. The domestic violence case trial was the first since the landmark rulings of McGirt v. Oklahoma and Sizemore v. State, which together affirmed the Choctaw Nation’s reservation boundaries.
CNO broke ground on an expansion project at Choctaw Print Services (CPS) in Durant. The new facility will have an additional 15,000 square feet of space, offering more room for services and sales operations.
Choctaw Casino & Resort – Durant was nominated for an Academy of Country Music Award. This year the casino is up for its first “Casino of the Year – Theater” award in the 57th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack selected 12 members to serve on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) inaugural Secretary’s Advisory Committee for Urban Agriculture. Among the newly appointed committee was Choctaw tribal member Kaben Smallwood. Smallwood was nominated for this role by Chief Gary Batton and was chosen from more than 300 applications nationwide.
Choctaw Casinos & Resorts announced a new way to play your favorite casino games, Choctaw Slots. The launch of Choctaw Slots brought a unique, free-to-play gaming experience available on all mobile application platforms, including Facebook and online at ChoctawSlots.com.
Another win for the Choctaw Nation in March was the opening of Chop House at the Choctaw Casino & Resort – Grant.
April 1 marked the first anniversary of the Sizemore decision, which applied the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt Ruling (2020) to the Choctaw Nation and affirmed the sovereignty of the Five Tribes.
The Choctaw Nation hosted the Second Annual Esports Invitational. The tournament helped facilitate growth of the emerging sport.
On April 5, CNO hosted its third Emerging Aviation Technology Conference. The conference offered opportunities for stakeholders to network and provide input on emerging aviation technology initiatives, including drone operations. The Choctaw Nation is working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to create appropriate regulations to support the unmanned aerial infrastructure necessary to ensure safe operations.
The Housing Authority also began successfully processing online payments.
More than 500 supporters gathered on May 7 at the Choctaw Community Center in Antlers, Oklahoma, to walk in honor of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIW/MMIWG) movement.
Jones Academy held a ceremony to dedicate a building to Robert Smith. Smith retired from the facility after 57 years.
Gilley’s at Choctaw Casino & Resort–Durant celebrated its 10th anniversary.
The Choctaw Nation website was completely redesigned to make it easier to use and provide consistent information across all programs and services. The development phase was completed in April, and Phase I launched in May.
CNO broke ground on Choctaw Landing, the Nation’s newest entertainment and resort development in Hochatown, on June 17. The Nation plans to invest $238 million into the project and create 400 new jobs.
Both Forbes magazine and HRDUS, a highly respected online journal for Human Resources Directors in the United States, recognized the Choctaw Nation as an exceptional place to work. CNO received recognition as one of six “Best Places to Work in the United States” as selected by HRDUS.
Choctaw Casinos & Resorts received recognition from Forbes as a “Best Employer for Diversity” in the Travel & Leisure category.
Forbes also recognized the Choctaw Casino and Resorts as one of “America’s Best Employers for New Graduates.”
On July 23, Choctaw Cultural Center in Durant, Okla., celebrated its first anniversary. Since then, visitors from all over have come to learn about Choctaw history and culture.
The Choctaw Nation Wellness Center in Durant hosted the Elder Chair Volleyball Regional Qualifier Tournament on July 28. Elders from every district of the Choctaw Nation made up the 30 teams participating in the contest.
On Aug. 3, Chief Gary Batton and CNO Executive Director of Advanced Technology Initiatives James Grimsley participated in the White House Summit on Advanced Air Mobility in Washington, D.C. Chief Batton delivered a keynote presentation titled “Emerging Aviation Technology in Local Communities,” which was followed by the panel discussion including Grimsley.
Choctaw Casino & Resort – Durant celebrated 35 years of exceeding guests’ gaming and resort industry expectations. The property celebrated all month with concerts, $2 million in cash giveaways, specials throughout the resort, guest appearances at The League sports bar and activities at The District entertainment venue.
In September, the Labor Day Festival returned after a two-year break due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Chief Gary Batton digitally delivered his State of the Nation Address on Sept. 5.
The Choctaw Nation Tribal Council unanimously approved a $2.1 billion comprehensive expense budget for fiscal year 2023 during its Sept. 10 session. The expense budget is a 15 percent increase over 2022.
The Choctaw Nation Clinic in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, celebrated its 15th anniversary with a ceremony and a new name. The clinic is now known as the Choctaw Nation Ruby Choate Clinic.
CNO hosted its first-ever Native American fashion show on Oct. 6 during the Inter-Tribal Council meeting of the Five Civilized Tribes.
Southeastern Oklahoma State University (SOSU) invited Chief Gary Batton to the university to unveil their new basketball jerseys. The SOSU men’s and women’s basketball teams will represent Choctaw culture by wearing alternate jerseys with the words “kucha okpulo” displayed on the front of the jersey. On Oct. 27, Choctaw Nation Health Clinic held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the new extension location in the Stigler office building.
Choctaw Casino & Resort – Grant hosted the first-ever Taloa Music Festival. Performers included Gary Allen, Elvie Shane, Callista Clark, Frank Ray, Meghan Patrick and Neon Union.
CNO held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new Wellness Center in Wright City.
The Breast Center and Cancer Survivorship Clinic in Talihina, Oklahoma, received the Joint Commission’s Center of Excellence designation.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) appointed a Choctaw tribal member as the first National Tribal Affairs Advocate. Kelbie Kennedy was sworn in on October 11 and formally announced as the first tribal political appointee in FEMA history on October 12.
The 2022 Choctaw Powwow kicked off Native American Heritage Month. Dancers from across the nation gathered to compete. This year’s grand prize was the largest in the event’s history, almost $177,000. More than 600 dancers, joined by singers and drummers, participated.
Chief Batton declared a State of Emergency for the CNO Reservation after an EF4 tornado hit Idabel on Nov. 4.
On Nov. 8, the Choctaw Code Talkers Association dedicated a six-foot black granite monument that tells the story of the Choctaw Code Talkers. This monument is the second to be placed along the portion of State Highway 3 between Antlers and Broken Bow that is designated as the “WWI Choctaw Code Talkers Highway” by the Oklahoma State Legislature.
The Choctaw Nation Head Start centers held a canned food drive and a coat drive. Food and coats collected were given to local families in need, churches and food banks.
Choctaw Wellness Centers also held winter apparel and toy drives. New socks, gloves, beanies, scarves, jackets, blankets and toys were collected at Wellness Centers throughout the Choctaw Nation.
Outreach Services distributed holiday food vouchers to low-income elders and families who live within the Reservation boundaries.
Throughout the year, the Choctaw Nation Health Services Authority received several awards:
- 9 Peer Recognition Tribal Awards
- Merit Tribal Award
- Exceptional Individual Performance Non-clinical Award
- Area Director’s Individual Area Impact Award
- Area Director’s Individual Excellence in Customer Service Tribal Award
- Area Director’s Group Excellence in Customer Service Tribal Award
Additionally, seven more programs added online applications to the Chahta Achvffa Member Portal:
- Emergency Services
- Biskinik Address Updates
- Higher Education
- STAR Program
- Student School and Activity Fund (SSAF)
- College Clothing Allowance
- Bear Harvest Reporting
Stay up-to-date in 2023 by following Choctaw Nation on social media or visit choctawnation.com.