2023 Choctaw Nation Year In Review

A year in review: Choctaw Nation celebrates successes of 2023

By Shelia Kirven
January 5, 2024

In the February 2023 issue of the Biskinik, Chief Batton talked about the tribe’s goals for improving all aspects of the tribal members’ quality of life in the new year.

“From education, housing, and health to employment, data digital transformation and an increase in economic development activities across the reservation, we will be razor-sharp in our focus to deliver more opportunities to enhance the well-being of our tribal members in 2023,” said Chief Batton.

He explained that to support the focus on improving the quality of life for tribal members, we would continue to look for opportunities to strengthen financial growth and economic sustainability.

As a new year begins, let us look back at last year and review what the Choctaw Nation held dear, the opportunities for growth and prosperity we took advantage of, and how we lived out the Chahta spirit through faith, family, and culture.

Here are some of the highlights from our previous year.


  • Choctaw Nation announced that the BIA Talihina Agency would be officed at Tribal Headquarters in Durant.
  • The Warrior Wellness Program launched, designed to connect Native American veterans with culture, heritage, and each other to reduce rates of death by suicide among veterans.
  • A partnership was announced with Atoka Public Schools for a multi-year farm-to-school program. Choctaw Nation produced and distributed fresh beef raised and harvested in Southeastern Oklahoma to the school’s campuses.
  • The Choctaw Tribal Council held its last meeting in the existing Council Chambers at Tvshka Homma, awaiting construction completion on its new facility.
  • Choctaw Nation, the community of Atoka and country music star Reba McEntire partnered for the grand opening of Reba’s Place in Atoka. Through the partnership, Choctaw Nation Ranches will sell their high-quality beef to the restaurant.
  • CNO law enforcement officers Patrolmen Roy Hummel, Patrolman Brent Humphries, Sgt. Isaac James, Sgt. Doug Rinehart, Patrolman Michael Walden, Patrolman Robert Toon, and former Patrolman Nick Wallace were honored for actions above and beyond the call of duty in 2022.


  • Chief Batton announced the tribe had approximately 12,000 employees, the most in Choctaw Nation history.
  • Choctaw Nation and NASA developed a new relationship, offering students more direct insight into Science, Technology, Engineering and Technology (STEM) education through collaboration with CNO’s Education Department on programs involving science and technology.
  • Members of the Choctaw Tribal Council spent the day at the Oklahoma State Capitol working on issues for the Choctaw Nation.


  • The Choctaw Nation honored female veterans with a reception, reflecting on the history of Native American females in military service.
  • The third annual Trail of Tears Virtual Journey took participants over 620 miles from Naniah Waiya Mount in Mississippi to Naniah Waiya in Oklahoma via the Walker Tracker app.
  • A groundbreaking was held for the new Timber View Apartments in Broken Bow, a complex of 120 units.
  • Chief Batton and Assistant Chief Austin attended the redesignation ceremony at the newly named Fort Barfoot in Nottoway County, Virginia. The fort was renamed in honor of Second Lieutenant Van T. Barfoot, a Choctaw descendant.


  • An Easter celebration was held at the Choctaw Cultural Center in Durant with an egg hunt, storytelling and Easter ornament making.
  • Hundreds of visitors attended Chief Batton’s Easter Celebration on the capitol grounds at Tvshka Homma.
  • Candidates for Chief and Tribal Council Districts 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 and 11 filed for office. Candidates for elective offices of Chief, Council District 1 and 5 were qualified and unopposed.


  • President Joe Biden proclaimed May 5, 2023, as Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day. Missing Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) events were held in Durant and Antlers to raise awareness and honor missing and murdered Indigenous persons.
  • A Memorial Day ceremony was held at the Tvshka Homma Capitol Grounds.
  • The McAlester Clinic held a groundbreaking expansion ceremony, with GI, cardio, ENT, endocrinology, orthopedics, speech therapy and Employee Health Services to be added.
  • The McAlester Wind Horse Behavioral Health Center celebrated 15 years of service to the community.
  • Chief Batton appeared in the second season of Netflix’s animated series Spirit Rangers.
  • Choctaw Nation and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs co-hosted a day of assistance to veterans with the “Bringing VA Benefits to Your Hometown” event at the Tribal Headquarters.
  • Elder Appreciation Day was held honoring elders’ wisdom and contributions to the Choctaw Nation.
  • The Trail of Tears Commemorative Walk was held at the capitol grounds at Tsvhka Homma, with around 600 participants walking.
  • Oklahoma Legislature override Gov. Kevin Stitt’s veto of a bill allowing students to wear Native American regalia during high school and college graduations.


  • The Poteau and Durant Wellness Centers celebrate five years of operation.
  • Choctaw Nation residency students completed their program, and a Choctaw Nation Family Medicine residency graduation was held.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Native American children can continue to be protected under federal law from removal from their tribal communities for fostering or adoption on Thursday, June 15, 2023, affirming the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act by a 7-2 vote.
  • A ribbon-cutting was held in Spiro for 10 new Affordable Rental Homes.
  • Chahta Achukmaka (Choctaw Wellness) Center in District 4 celebrated its fifth anniversary.
  • Trail of Tears cyclists from all over the country completed a 500-mile journey in seven days, riding the Trail of Tears route from Mississippi to Oklahoma, stopping to learn about the history of the Trail of Tears and see places of significance.
  • Choctaw Nation’s Project Pelichi WILL, Warriors in Learning and Leadership, hosted their seventh annual STEAM camp for participants in grades 5-8 and 9-12.
  • Choctaw Nation’s Human Resources department was named HRDUS 2023 Innovative HR Team award winner. Choctaw Nation was recognized by the publication as one of the six Best Places to Work, noting the use of using software and technology to create a seamless experience throughout the associate life cycle.
  • The annual Chahtapreneur Awards Ceremony was held in Durant and recognized 12 small businesses.


  • Atoka Clinic celebrates 15 years of service, specializing in Family Practice, Immunization,       Lab/x-ray, WIC, Diabetes Education, Nutrition and Pharmacy (including a drive-thru).
  • Choctaw Nation Employee Prescription Program reached a total of 992,120 for 2023, a 5% increase from previous year.
  • Choctaw Nation Healthcare system grew by 779 associates since October 2022.
  • Choctaw Nation Health Care System received new accreditations, including the Breast Care & Cancer Survivorship Clinic – Center of Excellence and the Diabetes Program – Center of Excellence.
  • Results from the Choctaw Nation General Election were announced. District 2 Winner: Anthony “Tony” Ward with 544 votes (76.51%). District 3 Winner: Eddie Bohanan with 650 votes (85.41%). District 8 Winner: Perry Thompson with 836 votes (79.17%). District 11 Winner: Robert Karr with 987 votes (77.41%). The office of Chief, Tribal Council District 1 (Thomas Williston) and District 5 (Ronald Perry) were unchallenged and duly certified as elected for a new term.
  • Summer youth camps were held focusing on sports, culture, academia, and wildlife, etc. Camps began in May and concluded in July, with over 2,000 registrations.
  • CNO Behavioral Health partnered with McAlester Taekwondo to host the first Ninja Camp in McAlester.
  • Choctaw Nation Division of Commerce partnered with Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology (OSUIT) to offer Choctaw Casinos & Resorts food and beverage associates culinary training and college course credit.


  • Choctaw Nation received the Occupational Excellence Achievement Award from the National Safety Council (the first tribe to receive the award) and the U.S. Best-in-Class Employer by Gallagher for exceptional efforts in the workplace.
  • The Choctaw Housing Authority announced the growth and expansion of the Section 184 Home Loan Guarantee Program.
  • Over $400,000 in scholarships were awarded to 63 Choctaw students seeking higher education at the 2023 Chahta Foundation Scholarship Banquet held at the Choctaw Cultural Center.
  • A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for the grand opening of the Ahni Center at the Chief Gregory E. Pyle Tribal Complex in Durant. The center is the first tribal Family Justice Center in Oklahoma’s Indian Country.


  • The Choctaw Nation Labor Day Festival was held at Tvshka Homma. Chief Batton delivered the 2023 State of the Nation Address virtually. Swearing-in ceremonies for Chief and six tribal council members were held.
  • Bear Conservation Workshops were held in eastern areas of Choctaw Nation with information including bear conservation, hunting techniques, field care and harvest check-in.
  • A scholarship ceremony was held on the OSUIT campus for eight Choctaw tribal students who were selected to receive a Marathon Petroleum Vocational Scholarship from the Chahta Foundation worth $10,000.
  • The Choctaw Tribal Council unanimously approved a $2.5-billion comprehensive expense budget for fiscal year 2024, with revenue for fiscal year 2024 projected to be nearly three percent higher than prior year, driven primarily by increases in commerce and healthcare.
  • Choctaw Nation Law Enforcement renamed the police force “Lighthorse” to honor the original Choctaw Lighthorsemen who served the tribe many years ago.


  • The Flowers on the Pond Vigil was held at the Choctaw Nation Headquarters and Shine the Light on Domestic Violence was held at the Hugo Wellness Center, featuring a glow run/walk and candlelight vigil. Both events spotlighted Domestic Violence Awareness Month’s planned events.
  • Chief Batton and Assistant Chief Austin, along with other tribal delegates, traveled to France to meet with government officials for nation-building and to pay respects to five Choctaw soldiers who lost their lives in WWI at St. Etienne, France. The Choctaw Nation participated in the 105th anniversary of the battle at the location where the Tvshka Chahta are buried at the American Cemetery in France.
  • A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in Wilburton for Affordable Rental homes.
  • Chief Batton and Assistant Chief Austin, along with Stacy Shepherd and Michael Burrage, were named to Oklahoma Magazine’s “55 Over 55 Inspiring Oklahomans” list.
  • A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for the new Specialty Clinic at the Choctaw Nation Hospital. The $8.5 million project expanded the Residency Clinic and remodeled the Specialty Clinic.
  • REI Oklahoma awarded Choctaw Nation Small Business Development (CSBD) the Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award at its Dream Big Oklahoma Awards.
  • CNO held a groundbreaking ceremony for the Emerging Aviation Technology Center (EATC) near Redden.


  • Choctaw Nation celebrates Native American Heritage Month with numerous activities and classes scheduled throughout the month.
  • The annual Choctaw Powwow was held with dancers from tribes around the country participating.
  • Canned food and coat drives were held at Tribal locations throughout the reservation.
  • The annual Veterans Day ceremony was held to honor and recognize tribal veterans, with the newly adopted Choctaw Salute recited for the first time.
  • Choctaw seniors participated in pecan picking in Idabel on November 14, along with a cookout.
  • Choctaw Nation Department of Wildlife Conservation announced its free online Hunter Education course.
  • Thanksgiving dinners for tribal members and families were held in each reservation district.
  • Choctaw Development Fund donated $250,000 to McAlester Airport towards a project for a state-of-the art-airport terminal for the city of McAlester and to aid in the drone program at the McAlester Airport.


  • Christmas parties were held throughout the reservation’s districts for Choctaw children.
  • CNO received over $2.3 million in funding to support Native American victims of intimate partner violence from the Department.

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