Oklahoma Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton emphasized faith, family and culture in his State of the Nation Address Monday.
Batton’s video speech opened with members speaking the Choctaw language before the chief began talking about a church in his annual speech focusing on the tribe’s culture on Labor Day.
Tribal member Barbara Cates said it was difficult to communicate with her father because she was not fluent in the Choctaw language.
“Language is very important – it’s a very important factor in any culture,” she said in the video speech. “If you lose the language, you lose your culture, you lose your tradition.”
She said it motivated her to enroll in Choctaw Level 1 language classes seven years ago and she has continued to learn through online classes.
The Choctaw Nation Choctaw Language School offers free online courses online at www.choctawschool.com. The course is self-paced and delivered through the Canvas learning management system.
“Keeping our language alive is just one way to exercise that sovereignty,” Batton said. “I am encouraged to see so many people enthusiastic about learning the Choctaw language.”
Batton said the Choctaw Nation has again won victories for tribal sovereignty over the past year, with the number of tribal members rising to 212,369 worldwide.
He said the Choctaw Nation’s sovereignty and federal assistance has helped it provide relief to tribal members during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Unfortunately, COVID-19 has touched just about every one of us in some way,” Batton said. “The American Rescue Plan Act has allocated funds to the Choctaw Nation to support our tribal members during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The tribe processed 30,813 food security claims and 160,808 economic impact recovery claims.
The Choctaw Nation announced last year that all of its members 18 and older could receive $1,000 each year in 2021 and 2022, with members under 18 allowed to receive $700 by applying through the tribe.
Batton praised the health services of the Choctaw Nation.
He said the tribe reported more than 800,000 health issues and filled 1,166,298 prescriptions through the Choctaw Nation Health Services Authority in the past year.
The tribe earlier this year announced plans for a nearly $70 million expansion that will double the size of the Choctaw Nation Health Clinic in McAlester.
The Choctaw Nation also reported 20,327 behavioral health encounters, with Batton saying the tribe wants to remove barriers to treatment.
“You are not alone,” Batton said. “The Choctaw Nation is here to help.”
The Choctaw Nation also provided $380,458 to seven towns and $56,835 to another through its community development fund.
Data shared in the video shows the tribe operates on 46% operating revenue and 38% on federal and state grants.
The Choctaw Nation Housing Authority offers a multitude of services to tribal members – independent rental homes for seniors, affordable rental homes, LEAP housing, home financing, home rehabilitation programs, storm shelter programs, and more.
Tawnya Wells said she needed more affordable accommodation after being widowed and moving into an apartment. But she moved into Choctaw Nation housing and said it helped her.
“I didn’t think I would live in a house again,” she said. “I saw them building these houses so I jumped on them. It’s just perfect. There is plenty of room for all my family to come and visit.
The Choctaw Nation built 10 homes this year through LEAP, a rent-to-own program, bringing its total to 330 built under the program. The Choctaw Nation also built 22 free-standing retirement homes this year to bring its total to 231. The tribe also expanded broadband services to 824 homes.
The tribe has completed 1,501 home repairs and helped with 81 home loans over the past year.
Career Development Services assisted 6,458 tribal members, including 52 internships and held 29 job fairs.
The Choctaw Nation also served 8,795 higher education members with nearly $8 million in its higher education fund. The tribe’s eight preschools serve 618 enrolled children with a capacity of 251 staff.
Batton also touted the announcement of Choctaw Landing Hochatown — a 200,000-square-foot entertainment destination with 100 hotel rooms — as part of the tribe’s Southeast Economic Development Benefit. Oklahoma.
Contact Adrian O’Hanlon III at [email protected]