Chickasaw Nation

McGirt and Rebuilding Tribal Nations Toolbox

Year

The McGirt decision has changed the legal landscape and created new opportunities for tribal nations starting with the Five Tribes in Eastern Oklahoma and potentially for tribal nations across Indian Country. It also has been the source of confusion, hyperbole, and alarm among some commentators.

The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development and University of Oklahoma Native Nations Center McGirt Colloquium Toolbox contains a series of briefing papers that explain the ramifications of McGirt in various areas important to tribes and clarify what is and what is not at issue. These briefing papers help affected tribes chart a pathway toward the effective exercise of post-McGirt tribal powers and productive collaboration with state governments. The briefing papers offer ideas and examples of what these processes and outcomes might look like. In particular, they consider at least eight areas through the lens of a tribal government’s responsibilities to its citizens, to other Indians, and to non-Indians on trust lands and fee lands within the external borders of recognized reservations.

We hope these papers will be shared, and the ideas disseminated, in ways that tribal governments and other partners identify as useful for creating dispassionate, helpful guidance to tribes and states in the post-McGirt era.

Resource Type
Citation

McGirt Colloquium Toolbox. 2021. The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development and University of Oklahoma Native Nations Center. https://sites.google.com/g.harvard.edu/mcgirt-rebuilding-nations/home. The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. Retrieved on March 2, 2021.

Chickasaw Nation Constitution

Year

Chickasaw Nation is located in Oklahoma with a population of 49,000 people. The constitution was enacted in 1983 and amended in 2002.  

Preamble: We, the people of the Chickasaw Nation, acknowledging with gratitude the grace and beneficence of God, in permitting us to make choice of our own form of government, do, in accordance with the first, second, fourth and seventh articles of the Treaty between the United States, the Choctaws and Chickasaws, made and concluded at Washington City, June 22, A.D. 1855, and the Treaty of April 28, A.D. 1866, ordain and establish this Constitution for our government, within the following limits, to-wit...

Native Nations
Topics
Citation

Chickasaw Nation. 1983. "Constitution of the Chickasaw Nation." Ada, OK. 

Chickasaw Nation's Chuka Chukmasi Home Loan Program

Year

Created in 1998 to increase home ownership among Chickasaw citizens and other Native Americans in Oklahoma, the Chuka Chukmasi ("beautiful home") Home Loan Program is a secondary market home loan program that has helped more than 200 families realize the dream of home ownership. Collaborating with investor and lender partners, the Program provides pre-home ownership education, credit and loan counseling, and down payment and closing cost assistance.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

"Chuka Chukmasi Home Loan Program". Honoring Nations: 2003 Honoree. The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2004. Report.

Permissions

This Honoring Nations report is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. 

Honoring Nations: Miriam Jorgensen: Using Your Human and Financial Resources Wisely

Producer
Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
Year

NNI Research Director Miriam Jorgensen kicks off the 2004 Honoring Nations symposium with a discussion focused on "Using Your Human and Financial Resources Wisely," In her presentation, she frames key issues and highlights the ways that successful tribal government programs have attracted talent, invested in employees' skills, obtained and managed financial resources, etc.

Resource Type
Citation

Jorgensen, Miriam. "Using Your Human and Financial Resources Wisely." Honoring Nations symposium. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. September 10, 2004. Presentation.

"My name is Miriam Jorgenson, and I'm the research director of the Harvard Project of American Indian Economic Development, and also the associate director of research for our sister program, the Native Nations Institute, which is at the University of Arizona. Just by round of introduction, I grew up in a town called Vermillion, South Dakota, and it was an interesting time to be growing up there. I'm now almost 40 years old, and I say that with a little bit of embarrassment, but during my young childhood one of the earliest events that I remember was Wounded Knee II. And it was a really interesting time to be growing up in a university town, which was sort of a mixture of both Indian and white politics, and liberalism and populism, and things like that. A lot of excitement, and it got me charged up at a really young age about American Indian affairs and American Indian issues. What a big motivating event, and I'm very honored and glad to be working for the Harvard Project, to be able to still be involved in these issues, and still on what really is the cutting edge of American Indian policymaking in the United States.

Well, this general assembly is about 'Using Human and Financial Resources Wisely.' Now, it is almost a dry topic to start off an incredibly exciting symposium with. But I think it's an important topic to begin with, because as we look across all the winning programs, 16 programs in each of four years -- I don't know, can I do the math that fast? -- 64 winning programs, and if we look across, the applicants that were extremely successful, but didn't rise that high. When you look at the things that they share in their success, and you think about our five criteria and what leads to marking high on those five criteria, using human and financial resources well is something that really helps programs succeed. It's what helps them live on and become sustainable, it's what helps them have good effectiveness, and things like that. And so I think although it seems, in some senses, a dry topic, it's really at the core of what makes these programs succeed. I want to just highlight a few points about what I think it means to manage human and financial resources wisely that we've learned from these programs through observation. Some of these are more universal. They're not just about Indian Country. And in that sense, I'm going to turn to our presenters in the second half of this presentation -- our representatives from the Lummi Nation and from the Chickasaw Nation -- to give us more specific, on-the-ground examples of how these things are being applied in Indian Country in a Native way.

But to start with human resources, I wanted to relay a story that Joe Kalt was telling to me last night. You know that this is our second symposium of our learning that we get out of the Honoring Nations programs. Our first one was three years ago in Santa Fe. And Joe said, 'do you remember how when we were sort of trying to ask the participants, 'what makes your program a good program? Give us some feedback and ideas about what is it in your mind, as program managers and administrators, that makes your program succeed.' He said, 'every answer we heard was some version of, good people. Good, committed people is what makes our programs go.' I think that's absolutely true, and I want to explore that a little bit more. How is it that you get good people and manage those people well, so that you're getting the most out of them? I think that one of things we've learned from looking at Honoring Nations is that you start with really good, raw material. You recruit great people to these programs or you develop good people in them; sometimes it's a little of each.

On the recruitment side, we're seeing, sort of three different things occurring. One is, recruitment of, by happenstance sometimes, having the best person for the job being the founder of the program, or being in the community, who can really run it, get it going, draw other people to them. Those are sort of those lucky circumstances where you have the best person for the job right there, ready to take the reins. In other situations --and I think this is particularly true when we're talking about some of the programs that have extremely technical elements or certain specific skill elements, where there has to be some recruitment from the outside -- I'm thinking about some of our natural resource management programs, like the Columbia River Fish and Wildlife program, the Umatilla Basin...the Salmon Recovery Project, even things like the Gila River Police Department, where there are specialized skills, where there is recruitment from the outside. And by outside, I'm thinking of two different things, where you're recruiting your own tribal members, who may not be actively engaged within the tribe and the tribe's mission at the time, encouraging them somehow to come back and work for the community. In other cases, it's recruitment of other Indians from other tribal communities, to work for your nation, your causes. And sometimes, it's experts who are non-Native, who are coming to work for the program. But it's this concentration of getting the best people and, once you get them, managing them well. Whichever source of those people, I think it's also the case that one of the things the winning programs do really well is do something to tie them to the program, to inspire those people to give the best possible for the program. To get them bought into the mission and the ideas and the goals, so that the program really can be the best it can be. Now, how does that happen? How does that sort of motivation and firing up take place? How do you take someone who might be, sort of, really good raw material, the best person for the job, and turn them into somebody who's highly skilled? Again, I think there is wonderful learning from Honoring Nations on that.

One of the things we've seen in this is really just the creation of opportunities for learning. Some of this is obviously by necessity, as we look at the programs of one Honoring Nations. Very few of them have large staffs. I think there's one that's listed, the Gila River Police Department, for instance, is listed as having at one point 92 employees. That is an enormous program for Indian Country. Most of the programs we're talking about may have staff of no more than three or four. An average program is five or six or seven. And so, there's of necessity, creating this situation of cross-training, teaching each other about the work that you do, and giving each other challenges to stay engaged with the job and to create a really good program. So, again, some of it is by necessity through the size of the program. I just also think it's smart human resource management that's saying, people are going to really fired up about this program and do it well, if they understand the various ins and outs of the program, if we can substitute for each other in various ways and take advantage of our different skills and play off each other.

I think another thing that really is about managing the human resources well within these programs is most of the Honoring Nations winners are really taking seriously the notion that you make a successful program if you create an environment where it's okay to take risks, where it's okay to say, 'I don't know the answer to that but I'm going to try to find out.' Programs do this in a variety of ways, and we'll be talking about some more of these in our political session tomorrow, but I think a really important way is when tribal politicians support that kind of risk-taking, learning environment. I'm thinking in particular of two examples, the Fond du Lac tribe, and also the Winnebago tribe of Nebraska, have very consciously at their leadership level told their winning programs -- Ho-Chunk Inc. at the Winnebago Tribe in Nebraska, and the online pharmacy program and also the foster care program at Fond Du Lac -- they've said to them, 'Look, take risks. We know you might not succeed. We know you may lose some money, but we'll never be out there with that innovative cutting edge program to solve our people's problems unless you do have our support in taking this risk.' And I think that's really an important aspect of management.

I think another -- and I'll just end with this point on human resources and move to financial resources -- another thing that the winning programs are doing incredibly well is really linking the people who work for the program to the community, and having the community see what they're doing, and having the folks working for the program get that support and encouragement from the community. I'm thinking, for instance, of the Ya Ne Da Ah School, in Alaska, where you've got community members certainly very involved with the school, but also the people working in the school and volunteering in the school, and even the students at the school feel like, 'You know what, the community is behind us,' and that makes all of those working in the school feel like their job is important, and it's being done well. Also, the Kake Circle Peacemaking program is another example of this, where you've got a lot of community involvement, certainly. But because the people working with that program feel the strong support of the community, it energizes them and encourages them.

I want to move on, now, to talking about also managing financial resources wisely. Now, I think one of the biggest things again, if you look both just at the raw material that we're looking at when we're assessing Honoring Nations winners and when we're getting out into the field on site visits, and when we're hearing you talk at symposia and conferences, one of the things that we're seeing that makes really successful management of financial resources, is to not have sole dependence on a single program within the federal government. Almost none of the applications that we see, if you remember, those of you who filled out these applications, there's a little blank that says, 'How much of your money is coming from these various sources?'  Almost none of the programs that are really rising to the top as successful programs are putting 100 percent federal. And it's not just that they're not putting 100 percent federal, they don't have sole reliance on one federal program, and oftentimes they don't even have sole reliance of federal programs. Winning programs are seeking a variety of funding sources. And that's just smart, because it means that those programs aren't tied to the vagaries of federal funding, they're not tied to what Congress may decide to do next year, and it often means that they're being really creative and innovative on the finance side, which has payoffs for the programmatic side. I want to give a couple of examples. Government reform at Navajo, for instance, has raised some money from foundations to do some things that they otherwise wouldn't be able to do. I think some of this has happened at the Lummi tribe as well. We see a lot of partnership within organizations and Chuka Chukmasi from the Chickasaw Nation will talk about this some more. Partnerships are a great way to draw in additional financial resources that you might not be able to take advantage of.

One of the other innovative ways, and we're seeing this more and more outside of Indian Country, but I would argue that it's taken place first in Indian Country in a lot of senses, is realizing the sort of business side of some of these government programs too. Unashamedly, many of our programs have a pure business side. The Jicarilla Wildlife Program, the White Mountain Outdoor Wildlife and Recreation Program, are two very similar programs that say, 'You know what? We have this business side of our work that raises money and pays for and helps support our very programmatic service side of our work.' I'm also thinking of the Yakama Nation land program, which says, 'Hey, you know, our goal is to get all of land back, to get the Yakama Nation's traditional land back to our nation, but we know that we can't do that just through grants from our own tribal government or from the federal government or through philanthropic spending. We're going to raise money by developing some of the land that we buy back, so that we have more money to buy more land back.' So it's this very virtuous cycle of innovation on the finance side, that's keeping the service and programmatic side alive and doing well.

I'm just going to close with two challenges for the human and financial management. I think I've spent sort of the last ten minutes sort of extolling the virtues of saying, things that programs are doing well, there's some Native twist to the way these things are happening too, even though are some universal themes in this good financial and human management. One of the things that I think on the human side, all programs, but perhaps particularly successful winning programs, have to struggle with on the human management side, on the human resources management, is making sure that folks don't get too burned out. Making sure that those folks who are so highly successful, running great programs, aren't turned to and asked to do so much that they just get all of their energy and zeal sucked out of them. Some programs are doing this to some extent, but again, I think that it's a challenge, especially for successful programs, to make sure that that aspect of managing human resources well is really honored, that people aren't sort of asked to do too much so that, in the end, the program can suffer.

On the financial management side, I want to say that this is a sort of success that we already see and something that I think I want to challenge programs to do as well. It's clear that really successful financial management also depends on financial controls, things like annual audits and budget hearings and reports and things like that. Successful programs do these things really well. But really successful programs are taking advantage of these opportunities to say to themselves, 'Are we just reporting out to an outside entity, to the federal government, to our tribal government, to our philanthropic funder, or are we using these opportunities, that we're forced to do because we have to do them for our reporting purposes, to look at ourselves and to do self-examination, to use this audit process to say, 'Am I on mission?  Am I using my resources in the best way possible? Am I keeping to my service population in the best way that I can be?''  So that, again, is another challenge. On the human side I say, find ways for successful programs not to get their people burned out. And on the financial resource side, find ways to use forced controls upon you, to really figure out even stronger ways to make the programs move forward.

Those are just my thoughts, from the standpoint again...I will admit this, because [as] the director of research, I frequently am looking at things in sort of an abstracted way, and now, I'm hoping that we'll hear some more specific examples through stories of programs about the successful management of human and financial resources. And again, looking for some specific Native programs and specific Native nation ways that these have been occurring. To hear about that, I'd like to introduce several people to you. From the Lummi Nation, we have two representatives. We're very honored to have Chairman Darrell Hillaire here, who's going to be talking some about the Safe, Clean Waters Program, but also about some of the other exciting things that they're up to in the Lummi Nation, and giving you some of the ideas about how they're managing their human and financial resources through some of these interesting innovations. And with him is Sharon Kinley, who is from Northwest Indian College, but also works for the Lummi Nation, and she'll be giving a presentation following Chairman Hillaire. After their talk, we have representative Kay Perry from the Chuka Chukmasi Home Loan Program, and she'll be talking more about that program and also offering some of her insights and ideas as well."

Honoring Nations: Kay Perry: Chuka Chukmasi Home Loan Program

Producer
Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
Year

Kay Perry with the Chickasaw Nation's Housing Counseling and Loan Service program provides an overview of the Chuka Chukmasi Home Loan Program and how the program uses human and financial resources wisely.

People
Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Perry, Kay. "Chuka Chukmasi Home Loan Program." Honoring Nations symposium. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. September 10, 2004. Presentation.

Miriam Jorgensen:

"Well, they're a hard act to follow, but I am going to ask Kay Perry from the Chuka Chukmasi Home Loan Program to come forward and to talk about the program there and perhaps some of the other things that are going on at Chickasaw, again with this focus on helping us thinking about using financial and human resources wisely on the ground. There are a lot of examples of that in the cultural protection example we just saw."

Kay Perry:

"I'm Kay Perry and I'm Director of the Housing, Counseling, and Loan Services Department in Ada, Oklahoma. And our program was the Chuka Chukmasi Home Loan Program. I think that every winner here, the idea started somewhere with a fire that just kind of burned within and there are all kinds of programs -- can everybody hear me? I can't tell. Okay -- that are winners, but an idea had to start somewhere, and I know for me, home ownership was a fire that was kind of within me because I grew up very, very, very poor and I guess I was a freshman in college before my parents ever owned their first home. And I can remember growing up, thinking that people who owned their own homes were rich and they had money and, 'Gosh, wouldn't it be nice to have a house of your own instead of living in rent houses where the curtains blew out in the winter because of the wind coming in around them, or that were up on cement blocks, didn't even have foundations.' And I can remember growing up that way and thinking that people who owned their own homes were rich. And I can always remember having that desire, even as a little kid to have a home of my own.

And I've actually worked in the mortgage lending industry for 30 years now and I worked primarily at banks. I've been with the Chickasaw Nation for a little over five-and-a-half years and I worked at banks and I saw the inequities in lending, and there were many inequities in lending, and it was always the minorities that that inequity was reflected on. And I can always remember hating it. And I'll be honest with you, I've even lost a couple of jobs because I'm pretty outspoken because I spoke up about some of those inequities. I went to work for the tribe five-and-a-half years ago and the Chuka Chukmasi Home Loan Program was already in existence and it has grown tremendously since 1998, when it started. And when it first started, it was a collaboration between a broker, PMI mortgage insurance company and Freddie Mac -- actually started out to be a Freddie Mac loan, Freddie Mac is an investor -- and it was the beginning. It was a full-documentation loan, it was underwritten by human beings, and when I went on board, after it had been in existence for a couple of years, we weren't doing a lot of loans. They weren't doing a lot of loans because, quite frankly, even though there was risk-share agreements in place...and there were still those inequities because even the underwriters were involved in the underwriting process and you just almost had to be a perfect applicant to become approved for a loan. The loan required counseling, but at that time it was done over the phone with a company that was contracted. We talked to applicants. They spent about ten minutes on the phone with them and then they signed off on a counseling piece. Well, that didn't make me very happy.

And so when I came on board, I immediately started talking to the powers that be about making some changes. And that's the one thing that I can say about the Chickasaw Nation, that the leadership, put people in places and then give them the freedom to talk about making changes for the better, to look for ways to make things better. And in 2000, we actually changed the way we were doing everything. We partnered with a different lender. PMI Mortgage Insurance Company remains our partner today, they've been there from the very beginning, but we went to doing Fannie Mae loans, and we do automated underwriting, so that your race is not there, your sex is not there, your marital status is not there, your age is not there. The file is underwritten automatically, on an automated program but everything is based just like everything else. Everybody's underwritten under the same conditions.

We are really, really, really heavy on the counseling portion. In 2000, we started doing our own counseling and that was a real trip. It took a while to put everything together. We partner with different companies to obtain materials free of charge. We look for different resources to add to our programs. We get a HUD grant, we've applied for a HUD grant five years in a row. Four years -- we don't know this year -- but four years in a row we've been very fortunate to get a counseling grant that supplemented our counseling program. We won't allow our counseling to be farmed out to anyone. When we first started, we did loans only in our 14-county service area. Now, we can do loans for Chickasaws anywhere in the continental United States and for other Native Americans living in the State of Oklahoma, we can also help them as well. We do down-payment and closing-cost assistance. We use the lender's money for the first mortgage loan, which keeps our money freed up for the down-payment and closing-cost assistance loans. We actually service those ourselves, and all the grant money, all the leveraging that I do for resources, for materials, to supplement our counseling program, it keeps my budget money in place so I can give raises and have good fringe benefits and just make everything more attractive. We're huge on education.

When I first started, it was a one-man show, it was just me, and I was doing all of it. I was doing the seminars, I was taking the applications, processing the loans, getting them through underwriting, following them up and getting them to closing, doing the seminars. It was tough. We're up to four people now. All my, everyone in my department has to be a certified home buyer educator-counselor. They have to go to school, they have to test, and they have to pass the test. And then we do continuing education every year, anything that comes up that pertains to us, because we want to be better so we can pass on that knowledge. Many Native Americans who are buying homes on the secondary market in the private market aren't just first-time home buyers, they're first-generation home buyers. And the problem has been that...getting a mortgage loan, it's not an easy thing from the standpoint of understanding what's going on. And being in the lending field, I know that I wasn't that way, but I know it's all in the numbers, it's all in the profit, it's all in the bottom line, it's all in how many you close, every month, and what you're going to make on all those closings. So no one was taking the time to explain everything from start to finish, talk to people about what all these charges were, what they meant. All these vendors that were charging things as surveys, title insurance, title work, you know, you just throw those words out there, and people are embarrassed to say, whether you're Native American or regardless of your race, you're embarrassed to say, 'I don't understand what you're talking about.' And loan officers just assume that people understand what they're talking about because it's everyday language to them, but people don't understand. And I always took the time to explain everything, line-by-line, go over what it meant, and we do that today.

Our counseling for out-of-state clients is actually done on the phone. Summer Stick is here with me. Up until recently, she was our main counseling person. Summer, stand up. Summer developed a pretty extensive questionnaire. We mail materials, a packet of materials about this thick to clients who are out of state and can't come to regional seminars that we do. They're given ample time to study that material. They can call and ask questions and then when they feel like they're ready to talk to the counselor about the process, then Summer calls them, so that it's on our nickel, and she spends whatever amount of time is necessary on the phone with them. And she has a list of 36 questions, areas that she feels like they need to really understand so that we know that they're going into this process understanding. We also, on all our loans, require post-purchase counseling. We work with a lender that if a customer misses a payment, we're the first person they call. We get on the phone, try to figure out what's going on. And so, we're trying to create good retention numbers for Native Americans.

Our current delinquency and default rate, when we applied with Honoring Nations, it was zero. And it's not that now, but it's still lower than the national average. We're at .07% of all the loans that we've done. We've originated almost $22,000,000 in first-mortgage loans. We've done a little over $620,000 in second-mortgage loans, which are the down payment on the closing cost assistance and we have no defaults on those. So we're pretty proud of those records, and we want to establish really good lending figures for Native Americans, because it's always been the assumption that they were high risk. Well, they're not high risk. They're just like anybody else. We're hard working, you know, just haven't been given a lot of opportunities, and [there] haven't been a lot of people that took the time to go into this area with Native Americans. I don't personally think that all Native Americans want to live colloquial lives. I think that in Oklahoma, we're fee simple land. I know reservations are different and I understand that, but there are a lot of areas where Native Americans want to live outside the reservation or they live where there are no reservations, and there are no reservations in Oklahoma. And we try to be very culturally sensitive. We do, actually, have a reservation in Ada. It's a tract of land, and we call it 'Kullihoma Reservation,' and we have actually traditional housing, traditional Chickasaw housing, and the council, huge council house on that land. And the Chickasaws are very culturally sensitive, but at the same time we all have to learn and grow and live together and do things according to the way that things are done to a degree, as much as we can. The lending arena is one of those areas. What the Chickasaws have done is partner with people to make sure that Native Americans have the same opportunity that everyone else has, and then we've carried it a step further by having negotiated some concessions, it's a little bit easier. We're very proud of our program. October the 5th we are having a roundtable and we want to partner with other Native American tribes who don't maybe have the expertise or the money to set up a lending program, but who would like to assist their tribal members in purchasing homes through maybe down-payment and closing-cost assistance. And we are going to offer our expertise. We have the manpower. We will teach you how to originate the loan. That's take the application and gather the supporting documentation, send it to us. We're going to process it. We're going to get it approved. We're going to walk it through to the closing process. We'll even provide the counseling.

For five years now, we have people who come in who want to build a home of their own, new construction, and we have to outsource them to a lender once they're approved for their permanent financing to do the construction loan. And I haven't been happy with the fees. So the powers that be said, 'Sure, you can do your own construction loans.' So we'll start, we'll get them approved for their permanent financing, we'll provide the construction funds, we'll follow that through all the way to the end. And then once the house is completed, we'll pay ourselves off with the first mortgage lender's money and have collected a little bit of interest in the interim. So all our assistance loans, they are loans, they are not grants, I don't have the funds to make grants available and as you all know, grants run out real quick. Maybe you allot $100,000 and it's gone in six months and then you're out of business 'til the next fiscal year and more money is allotted. So all our loans are loans, but at a very, very low interest rate that way we get the money back plus a little bit of interest to put in the pot to loan out to more people.

I think that one of the reasons our program has been so successful is we took over the counseling area of it and are really, really big on counseling. There's a bank in Ada that has branches throughout the state of Oklahoma. There's another bank locally. There's two banks in Ada. USDA and HUD, all now are referring clients to us to do pre-purchase counseling. So our counseling program has really taken off as well, and that's just really happened in the last two-and-a-half years. So we're also really, really proud of that and feel like it'll continue to help our retention figures and our delinquency figures for Native Americans because I want us to be the best, the lowest. I think that what we're doing in Ada helps to strengthen our community. Our counseling, our seminars, are actually open to the public.

We think that our program is a wonderful complement to the mutual help programs. There's a huge need for the mutual help program and there always will be. Not everybody is meant to be a homeowner. Some of us are meant to be renters, some of us are meant to be in mutual help homes and that's okay, there's nothing wrong with that. But for those of us that do want to be homeowners, we should have a choice about where we want to live and how we want to do a loan and so we feel like we've given our customers and other Native Americans that choice. And we're really proud of Chuka Chukmasi."

Honoring Nations: Jeannie Barbour: Chickasaw Press

Producer
Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
Year

Jeannie Barbour, creative director for the Chickasaw Nation, shares the history and success of the Chickasaw Press and discusses how it serves as a concrete expression of Chickasaw self-governance.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Barbour, Jeannie. "Chickasaw Press." Honoring Nations symposium. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. September 18, 2009. Presentation.

"[Chickasaw language] and good morning. It is an honor to have the opportunity to make a presentation about the Chickasaw Press to you all this morning. I would like to thank the Honoring Nations staff for their hospitality and the great work that they do with Indian tribes. It is obvious by your accomplishments that you have asked yourselves the same all important question, 'How can I best contribute to my tribal community?' The basic necessities of housing, healthcare and education provide communities with positive quality of life, but we must also be vigilant in the preservation and revitalization of each of our unique cultural practices and lifeways. Tribal language, history, arts, traditional healing practices and oral tradition define who we are as a people. Our elders are honored because of their knowledge of these things and we recognize these things will help prepare our children for life in a complex world. Throughout history, Indian people have recognized the need for civic engagement.

Encouraging civic engagement has always been an essential mandate for Chickasaw government and its people. It is the belief that all citizens can contribute ideas, energy and action for improving their communities. After Oklahoma Statehood in 1907, there was a systematic effort by the federal government to dismantle not only Chickasaw government but Chickasaw society as well. This had a devastating effect on tribal communities. Many Chickasaw people left as a result of relocation policies of one sort or another, draining the Chickasaw Nation of vital human resources and knowledge. However, Chickasaw people practiced civic engagement by supporting one another through the long dormant period that was the first part of the 20th century. They continued to meet. They continued to practice stomp dance, share their songs, speak the language and band together as a unique and distinctive people. Astute members of the tribe began to take advantage of opportunities presented by history's events in the 1960s and '70s. By the 1980s, the Chickasaw Nation was seeing the fruits of their vision for economic self-sufficiency. Through diligence and hard work over the past 30 years, the Chickasaw Nation has experienced incredible governmental and economic revitalization. Tribal members who had left were invited to return to the Chickasaw Nation, bringing with them skills and knowledge that would benefit all Chickasaw people. Tribal members that chose to remain outside the boundaries of the nation were also embraced. Chickasaw leadership recognized the need to develop programs designed to reconnect some of these people with traditional knowledge, history and practices still present in many Chickasaw communities in Oklahoma. There was a lack of documented Chickasaw history available. Only a handful of historical accounts of Chickasaw history existed. Very few of those were written by Chickasaw people or even from a Chickasaw perspective. It was decided that a solution to this challenge was to generate our own research and scholarship.

The Chickasaw Press was created in 2006 as part of a larger initiative to help in this process. Community involvement in the planning and establishment of the press was considered vital. A committee of Chickasaw individuals and others with knowledge of publishing, writing, scholarship and research were brought together to discuss the structure and the mission. The group prepared a proposal outlining their plan, which was presented to tribal leadership for approval. In a very short time, the Press was up and running and publishing books of significance to Chickasaw people. The Press is neither a vanity press for public relations nor a print shop for brochures and pamphlets. Instead, it was designed on the model of a peer-reviewed university press. Eight staff members consisting of individuals trained in editing, graphic arts, writing, marketing, publicity and sales are employed by the Press. Currently we are building the necessary support structures for the Press to achieve sustainability. These include tribal funding and a Press business plan looking toward self-sufficiency; also, programming to recruit and create Chickasaw historians and scholars.

The Chickasaw Press publishes books about Chickasaw history and culture. This knowledge is critical to the preservation and continuance of a shared Chickasaw cultural identity, particularly as our population increases both within and outside of our boundaries. Generating and publishing our own research is not only an act of ownership over our own history but is also an exercise of self-determination and cultural sovereignty. Since Chickasaw Press's inception and including our new releases scheduled for the end of this month, we will have published three biographies of important Chickasaw historical figures; one volume of Chickasaw history essays; a companion volume of oral histories and profiles; one book of Chickasaw poetry; two professionally photographed pictorial essays of contemporary Chickasaw society, culture; and a volume of paintings of Chickasaw elders by renowned Chickasaw artist Mike Larson. In an effort to provide information about other tribes as well, a biography of a noted Potawatomi artist is scheduled for release through the Press in the fall. Dozens of oral histories, citizen interviews, contributions by Chickasaw poets and photos of contemporary citizens populate the pages of these books. Some of the books are replete with images of Chickasaw contemporary and traditional arts, traditional games and food. Places of natural beauty and historic significance within the Chickasaw Nation are also showcased.

The books, in important ways, make Chickasaw history and the contemporary culture come alive. It is not unreasonable to suggest that any nation needs its own literature to be viable in the modern world. These books encourage civic engagement simultaneously, on a national level and on a personal level. Chickasaw people are hungry for this kind of affirmation. Although we do not have measureable data at this time, the creation of the Chickasaw Press and the tribe's division of history and culture have sparked a greater interest in and more discussion of Chickasaw history. Press staff members have participated in the development of history classes spanning ancient Chickasaw history to present day. Four hundred people attended the first session in December of 2007. Seven hundred attended the class the following spring.

The Press has also participated in revitalization efforts of Chickasaw language by sponsoring the publishing of the language book Let's Speak Chickasaw. This book is in its second printing since its release just a few months ago. Some of our books deal with sensitive areas of Chickasaw life and history. There has been reluctance in the past to publish oral traditional stories handed down from generations of Chickasaw storytellers. These stories represent, in important ways, information about the Chickasaw universe and tribal people's place in that universe. Our official tribal storyteller and her chosen apprentice started working this week with a Press staff writer and editor to document some of the tribe's traditional stories before they are lost. Tribal storyteller Glenda Galvan told the Press, 'For the first time, because the Chickasaw Press exists, I feel confidence in our ability to publish and thereby preserve these sacred stories accurately and respectfully.' She had been approached by other publishers down through the years about these stories and had rejected each inquiry. She also told us only now that the Chickasaw Nation has a tribal publisher makes her feel comfortable about sharing her stories that have been passed through generations of her family.

Because the Chickasaw Nation hopes to create new generations of Chickasaw researchers and scholars, it is establishing a new state-of-the-art cultural center/research center as well as Department of Chickasaw Studies, all within the Division of History and Culture. Our goals are number one, to interest young Chickasaws in researching and writing about Chickasaw history and culture, and to recruit Chickasaw scholars to come home to work as in-house faculty in the Chickasaw Studies Department. We value traditional oral knowledge as well as academic knowledge. The research center, Chickasaw Studies Department and Chickasaw Press serve as part of an overall infrastructure to facilitate the teaching and learning of Chickasaw history and culture. The Chickasaw Nation realizes that it is not an island unto itself. Tribal citizens live and share civic engagement responsibilities with non-Indians in Oklahoma communities. An ever-present challenge facing the Chickasaw Nation is that non-Native people know very little about tribal sovereignty, self governance or Chickasaw history. Sharing history with others through these tribal initiatives addresses this issue in a non-confrontational manner. The better others understand the Chickasaw Nation and its people, the better its government can work with them in government-to-government relationships.

In closing, as a director I would like to say the Chickasaw Press stands as an original and significant example of tribal self-governance. It is based on Chickasaw values of community, sharing and education. Its specific mission is to revitalize and strengthen tribal cultural identity. The Chickasaw Press is based on the following beliefs: that history and culture are dynamic and alive; that knowledge of tribal history creates a shared identity and understanding of our current circumstances and needs and a basis for future decision-making; that we should take ownership of our history and practice ethical, culturally appropriate research methods; and that if more of our neighbors know about us, the more effectively we will be able to sustain productive government-to-government relationships and good will.

American Indians are not an extinct people. Their cultures have a past, a present and a future. Generalizations about Native people contribute to stereotypic notions that make no allowance for individuality or for any possibility of change over time. Cultural identity should be maintained and valued. Indian people have made a substantial contribution to the world and specifically to America. It is important that Native writers express themselves.

In the interest of civic engagement, it is important that presses print their work. It is our hope that other tribal nations will consider developing their own presses. We are currently writing a handbook outlining the process we took in this endeavor. When it is complete, we will share the booklet with Honoring Nations to distribute to those of you who are interested. Again, thank you. We at the Press wish each and every one of you every success in your work." 

Tribes Pushing Minimum Wage Higher

Year

Though the minimum wage remains at $7.25 per hour for most Oklahomans, several tribal nations pay more or have boosted their entry-level wage above the federal level, a move that could cause the Oklahoma Legislature to take another look at the issue...

Resource Type
Citation

Carter, M. Scott. "Tribes Pushing Minimum Wage Higher." Oklahoma Watch. September 12, 2014. Article. (http://oklahomawatch.org/2014/09/12/tribes-pushing-minimum-wage-higher/, accessed September 15, 2014)

Chickasaw Nation: The Fight to Save a Dying Native American Language

Producer
International Business Times
Year

A 50,000-year-old indigenous Native American tribe that has weathered the conquistadors, numerous wars with the Europeans, the American Revolution and the Civil War is now fighting to preserve its language and culture by embracing modern technology.

There are 6,000 languages spoken in the world but linguists fear that 50% of them will become extinct within the next century. In the U.S., 175 Native American languages are spoken, but fewer than 20 are expected to survive the next 100 years.

The language of the Chickasaws, known as "Chikashshanompa", is a 3,000-year-old living language that is categorized by Unesco as being "severely endangered"...

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Russon, Mary-Ann. "Chickasaw Nation: The Fight to Save a Dying Native American Language." International Business Times. May 8, 2014. Article. (http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/chickasaw-nation-fight-save-dying-native-americ..., accessed March 22, 2023)

Chickasaw Fishery Saves Endangered Species While Sustaining Fishermen and Tourism

Author
Producer
Indian Country Today
Year

Nothing elevates the hope and heart rate of an angler more than hearing that first predawn “ZWIIINNGGG” of a casting reel as fishing line slices through the early morning air and the lure plops into the water.

Whether it’s the first or last day of the season, fishermen hope that is a dinner bell ringing in the ears of their desired quarry.

The outdoor enthusiasts who pursue a multitude of game fish seeking refuge in coves, holes and brush in Oklahoma’s lakes and streams make a sound too: The cash register’s “cha-CHING” can be heard with predictable regularity.

With more than 700,000 anglers using the many public lakes, ponds and streams within Oklahoma each year, work is underway to guarantee the state’s natural fish resources will exist for generations to come. These efforts incorporate fish hatcheries located throughout the state, including the Tishomingo National Fish Hatchery...

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Cole, KC. "Chickasaw Fishery Saves Endangered Species While Sustaining Fishermen and Tourism." Indian Country Today. February 16, 2014. Article. (https://ictnews.org/archive/chickasaw-fishery-saves-endangered-species-while-sustaining-fishermen-and-tourism, accessed March 22, 2023)

Citizen Stewards: Chickasaw Nation Technicians Monitor Water Quality

Year

Regulations and laws about environmental quality abound, yet the Chickasaw Nation has little use for them.

Its citizens do not need legislation to inform them that they are stewards of the land. It is, of course, an immutable fact of existence. And Chickasaw Nation Environmental Services technician Brent Shields takes that charge very seriously, monitoring the health of rivers and streams that flow through his tribe’s territory and delivering the daily results to state and federal environmental agencies, the Chickasaw Nation said in a statement in December...

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

ICT Staff. "Citizen Stewards: Chickasaw Nation Technicians Monitor Water Quality." Indian Country Today. January 6, 2014. Article. (https://ictnews.org/archive/citizen-stewards-chickasaw-nation-technicians-monitor-water-quality, accessed March 23, 2023)