‘Spartans’ history translates into modern Chickasaw success
It is once again time to ring in the New Year!
One year seems like a long time to young people. They can count their total years on this Earth on their hands and toes. One year to the young seems like an eternity. Those of us who have had a bit more “life experience” know how quickly the years can speed by!
This year of 2019 marks a special milestone for me. This year marks my 32nd serving as your chief executive. And yes, it often seems to me the years have gone by quickly!
These years, beginning in 1987, have been times of much change, some challenge – and incredible progress. We began this era not unlike the vast majority of federally-recognized tribes throughout the country. We were virtually all-dependent on federal funding to operate our critical programs and services. And those resources we were receiving were woefully inadequate to serve the health, education, housing, career and other fundamental needs of the Chickasaw people. We knew in our hearts in 1987 we had to use our heads and come up with plans for alternative funding of our own.
We determined we would “think outside the box.” We would formulate a plan that would provide the resources our tribe needed to produce and administer the vital programs Chickasaw citizens not only desired, but deserved.
We determined we could, with proper planning, good administration and an entrepreneurial spirit build a foundation of commercial businesses. We would build holdings that would not only sustain us, but lead us to exceptional growth.
We started small and slow, learning as we became more engaged in commerce. We had plenty of big ideas and we began to put those into action.
We soon began to realize some success, and with that success came a new realization of how much we could actually accomplish. We began to produce profits, and soon those profits grew.
Chickasaw people regularly told me the number one priority for them was quality health care. Based on what I was being told, and on my own health care experiences, we knew we would apply our growing resources immediately to improved health care for Chickasaws. By 1994, we had compacted with the federal government to provide health care in the service area in and around Ada. We were officially on our way to applying our new economic strength where it would produce the best results for our citizens.
As the years advanced, we hit our stride in business. We learned how to be not just reactive, but proactive. We learned where and how to apply economic, political and human resources. We entered into business relationships that made sense and were conducive to new successes.
We learned how to attract new business, and how to make that business pay off for the people of the Chickasaw Nation.
Today, the Chickasaw Nation oversees a myriad of successful enterprises. We are now in many categories of business, each hitting its mark. This success was about so much more than money. It was essentially about the independence and the freedom to make our own choices and pave our own way.
These commercial achievements show up in so many different ways. When a Chickasaw student receives his or her diploma; a Chickasaw patient receives the medical treatment he or she needs; a young Chickasaw man or woman lands a great job; a Chickasaw veteran lives a fulfilling, successful life following military service.
In the early days of European contact, Chickasaws were known as “Spartans of the Lower Mississippi.” We were respected for our fearlessness, our abilities in combat, and our understanding of successful tactics. The things we have achieved together over the past 32 years are reflective, I believe, of those very qualities for which our ancestors were so highly respected. Together, we will keep driving forward for our people.
Our plan for this new year of 2019 is to be highly proactive, seek out quality opportunities and execute our plans with spirit and drive. We understand from our history those elements are key to the success of properly and fully serving the Chickasaw people.
Happy New Year to you and your family from all of us who work for you at the Chickasaw Nation!