Bill Anoatubby originally had no desire to participate in Chickasaw Nation politics, but nearly three decades after he was originally elected, he still serves as governor of the tribe.
Looking back, he says, “while there were strong mixed emotions accompanying the decision to seek the governorship, it is one that has led me down the path to the most rewarding life imaginable.
“My purpose and desire is to serve the Chickasaw people. Being governor is more of a calling than a job,” he says.
During his seven successive terms – he was first elected in 1987 and ran unopposed several times after for the governor’s chair – the Chickasaw Nation has undergone an economic and cultural renaissance. In the 27 years since Anoatubby took office, tribal businesses have grown from four to more than 100, and the Chickasaw Nation’s tribal budget has increased a thousandfold, from $200,000 in 1987 to a staggering $202 million today. Funds go toward offering some 284 assistance and service programs for tribe members, including scholarship and education assistance that has more Chickasaws pursuing higher education degrees than ever before.
“We believe the success of our economic development efforts has placed the Chickasaw Nation on a firm financial foundation,” Anoatubby says.
According to the governor, this recent boom in prosperity benefits not only the Chickasaw Nation, but also the state of Oklahoma. He references President John F. Kennedy, believing that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”
“We strongly believe that what is good for the Chickasaw Nation is good for the state of Oklahoma,” he says. “We also believe that what is good for Oklahoma is good for the Chickasaw Nation. While it is almost inevitable that two sovereigns in the same space will need to compromise on some issues, there is almost always a solution that works well for everyone involved.”
Anoatubby says the past three decades of rising Chickasaw fortunes are just the beginning. With many more projects and programs underway, Anoatubby is positive that moving forward, tribal government will be more than capable of addressing the future needs of its members.
“Chickasaws who are striving for a better education, a more meaningful career, a safer and more comfortable home for their family, a healthier lifestyle, more effective health care or to improve their life in any number of other ways will find the Chickasaw Nation is there to help them meet those goals,” Anoatubby says. “All this is part of our commitment to servant leadership. We believe it is vital to listen to the voices of our citizens and respond to those needs. When we have an idea for a new program, service, business or other initiative, our leadership team is committed to ask how it will benefit the Chickasaw people. We only move forward with an idea when we have a good answer to that question.”
By Tara Malone