Second Chief Louis Hicks, National Council Speaker Lucian Tiger III, Second Speaker David Hill, National Council Members, Supreme Court and District Court Judges, religious and traditional church leaders, mekkos, community and government leaders, we welcome you.
I recognize our Royalty, Miss Muscogee Nation Princess Amberly Proctor and Junior Miss Iesha Phillips.
We recognize and honor our warriors, the men and women who have served and those in uniform now serving our country. I am grateful for the enduring strength and influence of our elder citizens for sustaining the spirit of our Nation and keeping our traditions alive.
We pray for their health and safety. We also grieve for those we have lost and recognize the lasting contributions they have made for our Nation.
I welcome our fellow Muscogee citizens within and outside our boundaries, those in attendance as well as those viewing online.
In his 1962 State of the Union address, President John F. Kennedy said that “the Constitution makes us not rivals for power but partners for progress…It is my task, ” he said, “to report the State of the Union – to improve it is the task of us all.”
As your Principal Chief, it is my task to deliver the State of the Nation Address of our Muscogee (Creek) Nation.
In the first two years of our administration, our dedicated cabinet members and employees have been willing to be our “partners for progress” as we took on the task to make changes in our policies, procedures and expectations to better serve our citizens. They have been up to the task of doing the hard work, making the hard choices, putting in extra effort, and the results are great.
Together we can say with renewed confidence that the State of our Nation is very strong, and that we have put into place the plans to help it continue to grow even stronger.
I have the task to keep my campaign promises to you. As you may remember, one of the themes that this administration adopted is “It’s all about the people.”
I could easily quote our progress in numbers and figures, as I do each quarter in a published report to our National Council; however, since “it’s about our people” I will highlight some of the accomplishments of our citizens with the support of our administration:
I want to tell you about a single mother of four who worked in our Tribal Roads Crew as a flagger. She started her job, supported by the Employment and Training Program, just to make ends meet. But Cara wanted something more, so she enrolled in truck driving school, which was paid for by Education and Training, while she continued to work.
She graduated at the top of her class. Now, Cara works full time for our Nation, operating a dump truck, the only female in a male-dominated field and she’s loves it!
I want to thank our Education and Training staff, and the Roads and Transportation Department, for being great partners to Cara’s progress.
Many of you are familiar with the Eufaula Dormitory. It has been around since 1847. Children in grades one through 12 live there during the week and attend Eufaula Public Schools, with structure and academic support from staff at the Dorm. Last year 100 percent of our seniors graduated. The latest graduating class included three best friends: Jack Eslick, Cordell Burris and Abraham Williams.
Jack was a foster child, a dorm student since second grade.
Abraham was a dorm student since sixth grade and Cordell since the seventh grade.
All three became good friends through the years, but somewhere along the way Cordell began to struggle. He lagged behind in credits and became an “at risk” student that meant graduation with his friends would be nearly impossible.
Through much guidance from his dorm counselors and his buddies, Cordell enrolled in the Eufaula Alternative Education Program. Last May, all three graduated together and on time.
Jack and Cordell were awarded more than $80,000 from the Muscogee (Creek) Scholarship Foundation Program and other public and private scholarships. I mention the amount because it is not every day a student is awarded that much!
Today, Jack, who was Eufaula’s Senior Class President, is enrolled at OSU-IT, Abraham is at Haskell Indian Nations University, and Cordell is still exploring his options.
The past two years brought focus and improvements to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Department of Health and the healthcare budget. I am pleased to say we were able to restructure the Eufaula Clinic and the Creek Nation Community Hospital loan at a lower interest rate while dropping the balloon payment.
We have paid $20 million of that by operating our facilities more efficiently. We have drastically reduced the clinic no-show cancellations from over 4,100 per month to less than half at 1,900 per month by calling patients ahead of time, therefore increasing our capacity by more than 24,000 visits per year.
We have also increased our third-party resources through improved enrollment and identification of private insurance.
Our facilities have also implemented electronic medical records and an updated phone system that allows all locations to communicate using a four-digit extension.
By renegotiating the Health Department phone costs, we were able to cover the costs of the new phone system while reducing our monthly phone bill by $50,000 per month.
We are proud of the innovative work of these “partners in our progress,” some who have dedicated many years to serving our citizens.
Muscogee citizens Brenda Lowe, 36 years, Shirley Been 32 years, Shelly Hagy, 33 years. Now they can finish their careers working in the new 55-million dollar facility in Okemah that opened last month.
Many of our Muscogee (Creek) citizens do not have health insurance; such is the case of Don Tiger.
He had been experiencing serious healthcare issues and was not completely sure if he had health insurance or benefits. A Department of Health employee, Policy Analyst Amy Eden worked with Don.
With his approval, she researched his healthcare coverage. She was able to verify that he was enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid. Ms. Eden also ordered a new Medicare card for Mr. Tiger and provided him with a list of his healthcare benefits. Amy is another Muscogee (Creek) employee who was up to the task.
The greatest thing about this story is we have living proof that Don is alive and well.
That video was from our Annual Elders Christmas Party, which more than 300 elders attended. It has been our most popular post on Facebook with almost 700 ‘likes’, 400 shares, dozens of comments, and nearly 60,000 views of the video.
Just a lot of fun put together by our Senior Services Program, Muscogee Creek Nation Youth Council and so many more.
It is great to see our elders enjoying life, being healthy and happy. They are our link to our past and our partners as we progress.
Who would have thought Mr. Tiger would be out there dancing? Not long ago, he was suffering from congestive heart failure and could not walk. He now spends his time singing Creek hymns every Thursday night and fiddle dancing when possible. With much prayer and 100-percent help from contract health, Don is worry-free.
Our traditions, culture and language are everything to us. If we lose them, we lose our identity.
This past year we added two new language teachers. That sounds like a small number, but the results have been significant. Today, they are seen in the classroom of our Head Start Programs, teaching the Muscogee language to young ones as well as the older generation.
In October, the Greater Tulsa Area Indian Affairs Commission awarded the Perry Aunko Indigenous Language Preservation Award to the Muscogee Language program.
Another achievement is our Historic Council House. I can report that its restoration is complete. From the time the first stone was laid in 1868, the Council House was designed and intended to be a sacred meeting place for our people.
The Council House was taken from our Nation at Oklahoma statehood and served many functions before the Nation repurchased it. It was in disrepair and we had no plan to restore it.
The road to restoration was not easy. The cost of the restoration exceeded the National Council’s appropriation. Instead of returning to Council for more funds, we used innovative ways to make up the difference.
Our partner, Onefire Holding Company, secured more than $1.5 million in historic tax credits for the project and finished the project on time and on budget.
We utilized a Muscogee (Creek) Nation-owned company, Council Oak Design Engineering & Construction (CODEC), who selected Native vendors to bring back this important place to our people. The focal point of downtown Okmulgee, our beloved Council House, was built, and again rebuilt, by our people.
Now, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Cultural Center and Archive Department will complete the interior and prepare to welcome you.
This year, we will be able to hold meetings at the Council House and in the House of Warriors. We will also live stream current day National Council meetings, so that the public can attend and see our government in action.
I highlighted some successes in the first two years of our administration. To complete our promises to you, we must do more. We must elevate the Nation even higher.
In the National Council’s agenda this morning is legislation of great importance to our future. We have developed and submitted for their consideration a Master Plan to guide decisions for future growth in economic development and government, for development of venues to showcase our culture and for recreation.
The Master Plan is a transformation of the Nation’s land and its properties within the Okmulgee area for both long and short-term projects.
The Master Plan redesigns the use of our industrial site property for immediate economic development. It provides for additions to the Omniplex, including an indoor event center.
It includes a 40-acre parcel of land for cemeteries for our veterans and citizens. The Department of Veterans Affairs has approved a grant for operational funds for the veterans’ cemetery. We will soon begin the design of the citizens’ cemetery, which will meet our burial needs for the next 100 years.
We recognize our responsibility to guide the future of our Nation by being deliberate in our planning to increase our business capability, preserve our traditions and culture, while providing an enhanced environment for our Festival and year-round use of the Omniplex grounds. With input from hundreds of people, we believe we have gained vital insight and direction to become more successful.
Our task, going forward, is to continue to work on your behalf. We look forward to continued partnership with the National Council. We are grateful for their support of this Administration. We recognize in governing, we may not always agree, but we will always be respectful of each branch of our government and their roles.
Future progress will be filled with hard work. As President Kennedy said, “to improve it, is the task of us all.”
Our ancestors continually rose to the tasks they faced. Wars, loss of our homeland, forced removal, broken treaties—their lives were filled with challenges, but they always found a way to succeed when faced with constant change.
They were resilient because they held onto their common purpose and were able to accomplish the tasks required of them. They would expect the same of us.
I look forward to the New Year with great optimism, to next January when I again will have the most pleasant task: to report on our continued successes.
May the Creator continue to bless our country, our state, our Great Muscogee Nation, and all Muscogee citizens.