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May 31, 2014

Bill Anoatubby says Chickasaw Nation’s focus is improving quality of life

NORMAN — The Chickasaw Nation had about 30 employees when Bill Anoatubby started working as the tribe’s health services director in 1975.

By 1987, the Chickasaws had grown their full-time employment to about 250 with a budget of $11 million. Today, the tribe and its various subsidiary businesses and services employ about 13,000 Oklahomans. In 2012, a university study pegged the tribe’s impact at $2.4 billion.

Anoatubby, governor since 1987, told the Chickasaw story to a Norman Chamber of Commerce general membership luncheon Friday at the National Center for Employee Development. He began his seventh term in office in 2011.

“It’s really close to my heart and one many people aren’t aware of,” he said of the tribe’s challenges and successes.

He said the 39 years he has worked for the tribe have gone by quickly, with many changes. The mission, however, has remained the same: to improve the qualify of life of the Chickasaw people.

“Our primary focus is education, health care, housing and economic development,” he said.

He said the tribe does not tax its people, so it must turn to other forms of revenue such as gaming, tourism, federal contracts, banking and manufacturing to support programs and services. They also want to avoid federal dollars, since all have strings attached.

“Though most of our profits are derived from gaming businesses, we continue to diversify our businesses,” he said.

Norman-based Chickasaw National Industries, or CNI, has about 1,800 employees working on a variety of governmental contracts. Anoatubby singled out Windstar and Riverwind casinos, Bedre Fine Chocolate, the Artesian Hotel Casino and Spa and the tribe’s health care interests.

“We truly believe that when we improve the circumstances for Chickasaw people, we improve the circumstances for all of the community,” he said.

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