Chief: $3.2 billion economic impact shows "Chahta spirit"

Mar. 15—DURANT — Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton said a report showing the southeastern Oklahoma tribal nation having a more than $3 billion economic impact in 2021 shows the "Chahta spirit."

"Today is a celebration of our culture," Batton said. "We've always been a giving people and we're going to continue to give. When we came across the Trail of Tears and lost part of our people, we gave to the people of Ireland. That's the same Chahta spirit that we carry with us today."

The report, prepared by Dr. Kyle Dean, an economist and director of the Center for Native American and Urban Studies at Oklahoma City University, showed the Choctaw Nation as one of the largest contributors to southeastern Oklahoma, as well as the overall state, supporting a total of 20,142 Oklahoma jobs with benefits and wages totaling $1 billion.

"With its remarkable $3.2 billion impact, the Choctaw Nation is one of the most significant contributors to economic prosperity in Oklahoma. Through innovative enterprises and steadfast commitment to community, the Nation not only fortifies its own future but also significantly contributes to the economic fabric of communities throughout southeastern Oklahoma and the state," said Dr. Dean. "Continued partnerships between the Choctaw Nation and local communities are crucial for the survival and prosperity of rural areas in southeastern Oklahoma, serving as a cornerstone for sustainable development and mutual growth in the region."

Batton spoke on the investments made in not only the services the tribe provides to its citizens, but also with community partners throughout the reservation area.

Through the Choctaw Community Partnership Fund and Choctaw Development Fund, the Choctaw Nation has provided $3,525,252 in contributions and community grants to cities, towns and counties to support economic development, infrastructure and sustainability.

"We have to invest in our communities," Batton said. "If they don't grow, our tribe is unable to grow."

In education, the tribe paid more than $335 million in exclusivity fees to the state since 2005 with $34.2 million paid in 2021.

The tribe also invested more than $10.8 million in scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial support to tribal members and $4.8 million to summer school programs that served 5,573 Oklahoma students in 48 schools.

More than $14.2 million was invested in housing for tribal members with 92 new homes built in 2021. The report states 481 storm shelters were installed with $3.2 million in rental assistance distributed. Another $2 million was used to assist in 100 home loans for tribal members.

The report states the Choctaw Nation spent $282 million in 2021 to support healthcare with nearly one million patient encounters and dispensed more than 1.5 million prescriptions. The tribe's 13 wellness centers also recorded more than 302,000 visits.

Batton said the tribe is continuing to invest in southeast Oklahoma with the opening of the Choctaw Landing resort in Hochatown coming soon that will bring several new jobs and attract more tourism to the McCurtain County town.

"It is a $224 million capital investment and creates 370 jobs in a poverty-stricken area," Batton said.

In closing, Batton said he was thankful for the blessings God has given the tribe and the impact it gives on communities and the state.

"I take great responsibility as the leader of our government and I think people, hopefully, understand that we are a sovereign nation, we are a government," Batton said. "We take it very seriously and we are going to continue to do out part to grow Choctaw Nation and grow the entire state of Oklahoma."