Chief Gary BattonChoctaw Nation Photo

Grateful beyond words for the Great Choctaw Nation

Chahta Okla ahli aiokpanchi fehna

Published May 13, 2024

By Chief Gary Batton

Audio in Choctaw Language

Taking a breath to focus on all we have accomplished as a Nation is sometimes hard to do when you are busy with the next items on your to-do list. All the wonderful people that contribute to the Choctaw Nation and all the hard work that goes into caring and creating for our tribal members can sometimes be overlooked in the flurry of activity.

On April 26, I was given the great honor of a celebration of 10 years as Chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Writing that down, it is almost impossible for me to believe that it has been a decade since I was first sworn in. Looking out over the audience of people at this celebration event and seeing the many faces that contribute to the success of our tribe gave me such a sense of pride and thankfulness.

People talk about accomplishments during a Chief’s tenure, but the work is not accomplished by one; it takes a passionate, committed, determined and intelligent group who listen to our tribal members to get the nation over the finish line time and time again. As I have said before, the work of our tribal council to better the lives of our tribal members is inspiring. Our council comes together as one, not Democrats or Republicans, but Choctaw to work together for the success of the tribe.

The Lord has certainly blessed this tribe to allow our Choctaw Nation to flourish and offer the kinds of programs and services to our tribal members and associates to, hopefully, better their lives and the communities in which they live. When I was sworn in as Chief, my first thought was how we can as a tribe, better the lives of our tribal members and promote the culture of our ancestors. Over the years, our efforts have been rewarded, but we are far from done – this is a lifetime of work to keep the Choctaw Nation proud, strong, self-empowered and sovereign.

Through hard work, determination and collaboration of our leadership, the Choctaw Nation has flourished and remained strong. I am astonished by what our team has accomplished over the last decade, and it deserves recognition, here are just a few items that deserve notice:

  • More tribal members access healthcare, clinics, pharmacies, wellness centers and elder care.
  • More than 1,400 new homes and over 7,300 storm shelters for tribal members.
  • Increased access to higher education, scholarships, youth camps and adult education.
  • 128% growth in reservation business: Gaming and hospitality, Travel Plazas and Casino Too, franchises, country markets, commercial leasing, agriculture, pecan orchards, drone testing and print services as well as revenue-creating partnerships.
  • Doubled the size of our Choctaw Nation employees.
  • Language Apprentices was established in 2022 to preserve our language.
  • Language Nest was established in 2023.
  • Cultural Center opened in 2021.
  • Tvshka Homma Chapel opened.
  • Choctaw Language Greetings implemented across properties.
  • Daily prayer implemented across properties.
  • Disney and Marvel Studios partnership with ECHO Series to promote Choctaw culture.
  • Choctaw Heritage Day was established.
  • Choctaw Indigenous People’s Day as holiday recognized.
  • Participated in largest repatriation in history of United States.
  • Established Chaplains at properties.
  • Choctaw Dictionary published.
  • Established Stickball and Cultural Camps.
  • Established Youth Stickball Teams across the reservation in all Districts.
  • Created Choctaw Pledge of Allegiance.
  • Created Choctaw Veteran’s Flag.
  • Expanded Lighthorse Police/Law Enforcement across reservation.
  • Established Fire Marshals.
  • Established Probation Office.
  • Appoint Native Americans to local, state, and national positions initiative.
  • Strengthen Nation-to-Nation Relationships (France, Ireland, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand).
  • First Tribal Public Defender’s Office in Oklahoma.
  • First In-house Tribal Prosecution Office in CNO history.
  • Three full time District Court Judges.
  • First Tribal Family Justice Center in Oklahoma, third in United States.
  • First Multi-Disciplinary Team accredited by National Children’s Alliance in Oklahoma and fifth in the United States.
  • First Data Privacy Office at CNO.
  • First CNO Health Information Privacy Act.
  • The Wildlife Department was established and first tribally administered hunting and fishing seasons under inherent sovereign rights.
  • The judicial department expanded with a new center opened in Durant in 2018.
  • Expansion of Prosecutors and Defenders offices.
  • Expansion of Environmental and Water Resource Management departments.
  • Tobacco, Gaming, Motor Fuel, and Car Tag Compacts negotiated and renewed.
  • Protection of water through settlement negotiations.

I am sure there are some accomplishments of our team that I am leaving out, but this list was to highlight the fact that the Choctaw Nation could not thrive and be strong without the hard work of everyone – by everyone, I am talking about leadership, associates, tribal members, and partners.

It is the honor of my life to be the Chief of the Choctaw Nation and work beside so many talented people who are all working in the same direction to better the lives of tribal members. I hope everyone reading this realizes how much your contributions, counsel and friendship mean to me. I thank the Lord each day for our determination to be better and our drive to meet our goals.

God Bless each and every one of you and Yakoke Chito for your efforts!