The Future is Now

By RONNI PIERCE

Choctaw Nation

Over 200 people celebrated for the topping out and raising of the last beam on the new 500,000-square-foot Choctaw Nation Headquarters on a warm, breezy, November day. Councilmen from the 10 1/2 counties signed the beam along with the Chief, Assistant Chief, and Choctaw Nation citizens. (left to right) Ron Perry (D5), Perry Thompson (D8), Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr., James Frazier (D12), Chief Gary Batton, Thomas Williston (D1), Bob Pate (D11), Kenny Bryant (D3), Delton Cox (D4), Anthony Dillard (D10), and Joe Coley (D6).

The new Choctaw Nation Headquarters is taking shape and Choctaw citizens from all over Choctaw Country trekked to Durant to join in the topping out ceremony, watching the last beam fall into place on Nov. 18.

Designed to honor our Choctaw heritage, the 500,000-square-foot building stands five stories tall ans sits on 130 acres.

Just eight months ago ground was broken north of the Choctaw Community Center for the new Headquarters. Having long outgrown its present building on 16th and Locust, the Nation’s employees are scattered across 30 buildings in the Durant area.

Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr. kicked off the ceremony by introducing Councilman Joe Coley who opened with a prayer. Chief Gary Batton and District 4 Councilman Delton Cox followed with short speeches. Larry Rooney, the Vice President of Manhattan Construction—the company building the Headquarters—talked about the symbolism of the topping out ceremony.

Before the actual raising of the beam, Assistant Chief Austin also honored the late District 9 Councilman Ted Dosh. His words were met with a standing ovation.

Chief Batton said, “For the first time ever, we are going to have a one-stop shop here in Durant. For our employees to do well and be efficient for our tribal members they need the latest tools available to them and that’s what we are hoping to have here.”

Collaboration and teamwork are important for maintaining the family culture that exists within the Nation. According to T.R. Kanuch, Senior Executive Officer of the Division of Commerce, “When you get as big as we have the last few years, you’ve got to create synergies. You’ve got to create opportunities for people to work together and share ideas and that’s only going to make us better.”

The Headquarters will feature symbolic and culturally significant artwork by Choctaw artists and will include a parking garage and a conference center with cafeteria. External features include a small lake with a bridge and a walking track that will meet up with the city-wide track planned under the Imagine Durant initiative.

“It’s important to mesh history and culture with technology,” said Chief Batton. And, according to the Chief, the new building is all about accessibility with an eye on future growth.

While excited about the prospects of the new building, some employees were quick to give a nod to the past.

“It’s a little bittersweet to leave this building behind just because of the memories and the history and those who worked here before who have left us,” said Shelia Kirven with the Choctaw Nation marketing department. We’ve had a lot of really good employees who have passed away and a lot of really good employees who have retired and worked hard for this place. It’s bittersweet, yes. But it’s also exciting. It’s a new chapter in our history.”

The new building will join several other Choctaw structures—both old and new. Along with the Headquarters and the Community Center, the area houses the Food Distribution Center, Head Start, Print Services, Recycling Center, the Language Department and several other Choctaw buildings. A new Wellness Center is planned for the area, and the new Public Safety building is expected to open soon, followed by the Choctaw Regional Medical Clinic, scheduled to open its doors in late February.