Choctaw Nation thrives due to sovereignty
Published March 20, 2023
By Chief Gary Batton
Recently, I had the honor of speaking at the Tribal Legislative Reception and took the opportunity to talk about the great work and success of the Choctaw Nation. The reception is a meeting where state and tribal leaders throughout Oklahoma meet, get to know each other, and share information for the betterment of the state and tribal nations.
Sometimes, you can take for granted the great work being done at the Nation, and this reception was an opportunity for me to reflect on what we have done and plan to do as we look at the road ahead.
Since 2018, we have built 765 new homes for tribal members and in 2022 we provided 60 lease to purchase homes, 231 independent elder units, 376 affordable rental units, 349 storm shelters and 2,120 home repairs for our tribal members. The Choctaw Nation also has an economic impact in the state of Oklahoma that is $2.2 billion annually.
We spend $50 million annually on education and have 5, 251 tribal members in college or career techs in Oklahoma. Our Choctaw Nation Development Department awarded $6.6 million to nearly 6,000 students to help further their education.
The Nation spends $300 million annually on healthcare and our clinics helped 1,074,672 people and filled 1,558,677 prescriptions in 2022 alone.
These numbers are extraordinary, and we owe all these accomplishments to the fact that we are a self-governed Nation, and we can form our own future. Without sovereignty, the help we currently give to our tribal members would be a fraction due to outside government red tape and strict requirements. We do not have Republicans or Democrats in the Choctaw Nation; we just have people who want to help our tribal members.
When we have an issue that comes up, we don’t have to ask if it’s good for this political party or that partisan slant, we just ask if it’s good for the people. And if it is, we pass the bill and get it done. I am so thankful for the unity and efficiency we have within the Choctaw Nation.
The McGirt ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court found that our reservation was never disestablished, and we have jurisdiction over our people. We created our own courthouse, and we now have a Choctaw Nation judicial branch. We hold court. We have about 2,000 cases per month that we oversee. Our courts make sure we give people a hand up and rehabilitation if their crime does not require incarceration.
In late 2021 and early 2022, our right to govern ourselves and establish our own laws was highlighted when the Governor of Oklahoma chose not to renew tribal hunting and fishing compacts. As a result, we created our own Hunting and Fishing Department, which ensures our tribal members continue to have the opportunity and right to hunt and fish throughout our reservation thanks to Choctaw sovereignty.
Choctaw sovereignty is the most important aspect of maintaining a strong, resilient Nation where we can control our own destiny and forge our own path to create a place our ancestors dreamed of. While we have a great amount of success to build on, none of this would be possible without our sovereign right to govern, enforce laws, create healthcare and education plans, and to move the Choctaw Nation in the right direction – our direction as a sovereign Nation.
Yakoke and God Bless.