We had an idea for growth. It turned out to be a very good idea!

American writer and humorist Mark Twain once wrote, “A person with a new idea is a crank…until that idea succeeds!” At the Chickasaw Nation, we had a good idea many years ago, when we set off on our path to seek greater levels of economic development, self-governance and self-determination.

Today, we are among the most successful tribes in the country.

Years ago, the environment for tribes throughout the country created challenges to success for individual Native Americans and Tribal governments alike. Many Chickasaw citizens experienced the daily struggle of working to earn just enough to sustain to their families.

While the Chickasaw Nation was committed to serving our people, more than 98 percent of our funding came from the federal government. At that time, there were no tribal businesses or other entities that might contribute to the tribe’s dreams and initiatives. Therefore, the programs and services the tribe could offer its citizens were often insufficient to meet the needs of our people.

The Chickasaw Nation continued to seek education, housing, health care and family services that would provide new opportunities to the Chickasaw people.

Our strong Chickasaw family connection held us together. All of us believed our situation would get better if we continued to work hard and came up with new ways to be successful.

Chickasaws began meeting together to discuss ways to reclaim the inherent sovereignty of the Tribe and help enhance the quality of life of their fellow Chickasaws.

Chickasaw leaders have long known that a productive sovereign-to-sovereign relationship with the federal government is essential to our success. During the decades of the 1960s through the 1980s, we became familiar with people in elected office and other officials who could assist us on our drive to build up our tribe.

We learned how to better access and employ the federal funds on which we depended for basic services.

And we began coming up with good new ideas we thought could really work for us.

It became clear we could not, over time, sustain the healthy programs and services we envisioned on federal funding alone. Such funds were notoriously spare and volatile. They could be reduced without warning from year to year. We knew we had to grow. We began looking at all ideas that might produce funds for all the great programs and services we envisioned.

Growth, to us, equaled self-sufficiency and Chickasaw opportunity. We set a course and followed that path to tribal commercial expansion. The goal was a vibrant and self-sufficient nation dedicated to improving the lives of its people.

We believed we had a good idea. We were going to take a risk and put our idea into action!

Our growth was not without its ups and downs, particularly early on. Anyone engaged in business knows success most often lies in an organization’s ability to adapt and respond positively to challenge. We were learning the ropes and, fortunately, we began to meet with success, and we hit on some real winners. Our tribe learned to adapt and base decisions on the reality of the environment in which we operated. And we played to our strengths.

In the 1990s, the Chickasaw Nation began to break through in a big way. We built profitable, vibrant businesses. We built our quality management team from within, and that has proved a strong and essential pillar of our success.

Today, our elders can recall the days of struggle, and fully appreciate the blessings we today enjoy. We always remember it is our people we serve, and our entities that provide the financial foundation are in place strictly to serve the Chickasaw people. The times have changed, but our mission has never varied.

Our businesses are now very profitable, but the real proof of our success is the new Chickasaw college graduate; the Chickasaw family receiving top quality health care; Chickasaw elders gathering for a nutritious meal and fellowship; the celebrations of our Chickasaw culture.

And it all happened because we had a new, good idea, and we moved forward! We have accomplished much together. Working together, the opportunities for the future are limitless.