Manataka American Indian Council

 

 

 

 

FROM RAGS TO RICHES
By JOHN PORRETTO
Associated Press Writer

 

MISSISSIPPI BAND OF CHOCTAW INDIANS

PHILADELPHIA, Miss. - For someone whose drive and vision helped lift Mississippi's Choctaw Indians from dire poverty to economic well being, Chief Phillip Martin is restless, far from content.  

Since becoming chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians 22 years ago, Martin has led a revolution of sorts among his people, preaching self-reliance and creating an atmosphere of hope and prosperity.

He's been a chief and a chief executive, establishing an array of profitable businesses and reinvesting hundreds of millions of dollars in the reservation, dramatically reducing its dependence on the federal government.

In the process, he's become one of the most influential tribal chiefs in the nation, a man whose presence is well-known in Mississippi's Capitol and in Congress.

"Chief Martin has been one of the great path-breakers in the movement of tribal self-determination," said Andrew Lee, executive director of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development in Cambridge, Mass.

"What he's done is amazing, and it was grounded in the pursuit of self-governance," Lee said. "He was determined to do it his way, the Choctaw way, better than what the government could do."

At 75, Martin would seem ripe for retirement, ready to relax and use the set of brand-new Callaway golf clubs gathering dust in his office.  He could play daily on either of the two award-winning golf courses that complement the tribe's bustling Silver Star Hotel & Casino, an island of  entertainment in east central Mississippi's sea of rolling hills and woodlands.

"I don't have time for golf," said Martin, who uses PGA professional John Daly in TV advertisements. "Guys with money and a lot of time play golf.  We have schools to build, roads to fix and businesses to start.  "That's why I keep coming to work every day - it's a challenge."

Martin's latest - and perhaps final challenge - is the new $750 million Pearl River Resort, which will build on the success of the 7-year-old Silver Star, Mississippi's only land-based casino. The new resort will feature another gambling establishment, Golden Moon Hotel & Casino, which is under construction directly across from Silver Star.

Together, the casino resorts will have more than 1,000 rooms and 4,000 employees.  Also planned are a 285-acre lake for boating and fishing; a Choctaw cultural museum; a $13 million waterpark; a 10,000-seat amphitheater and sports complex; and a town center with numerous retail, dining and entertainment offerings.

The first pieces of the resort, including Golden Moon, are scheduled to be completed late next year. Martin said the concept is simple - play to your strengths and offer something new and different. One plus is that the tribe, which operates on a federal reservation, isn't restricted by Mississippi laws that allow casinos only on the Mississippi River and Gulf Coast waterways. "We can do a lot more because we have the land," said Martin, whose 8,300 tribal members live and work on 30,000 acres in Mississippi. "Look at Las Vegas. Way out in the desert. To go there, you have to really go there.  That same concept can work here."

Until the Silver Star's arrival, manufacturing was the foundation for the Choctaws' almost miraculous good fortune.

What started with a contract to make automotive wire harnesses for General Motors in 1979 - the same year Martin was first elected chief - has evolved into portfolio of businesses worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The tribe's customer list includes companies such as Ford Motor Co., PepsiCo Inc. and McDonald's. Annual sales now top $375 million. Tribal unemployment - which hovered around 75 percent in the 1970s - is less than 4 percent today.  Jobs are so plentiful that 60 percent of the 7,000 people on the tribe's payroll are on-Indian.

Nearly 50 years ago, when Martin returned to Mississippi after serving in the U.S. Air Force, the Choctaws were living on the poorest reservation in one of the poorest counties of the nation's poorest state. "We could have sat here and been impoverished until kingdom come," said Martin, who lives in a modest red-brick home next to the Golden Moon site.  "We demonstrated that by using ingenuity and determination, you can change your lifestyle."

Terry Jordan, a former state senator and lawyer in Philadelphia, said Choctaw ventures are the key to economic stability in the region. "We don't have the fluctuations that some other communities have had," said Jordan, a friend of Martin for 15 years. "There's a little bit of something for everybody depending on what your skills are." Martin's tenacity and business acumen have been well-documented in publications such as Fortune, Forbes and People.

In 1998, Chahta Enterprise, one of the tribe's oldest ventures, became the first Native American-owned company to take advantage of the North American Free Trade Agreement and move south to Mexico.  With Chahta went its more than 1,000 low-paying, low-skilled jobs. Other low-wage manufacturing work may be on its way to China.

The idea, said Martin, is to make room for resort development and other businesses that will offer more attractive careers.  For sure, the chief knows how to get things done and is well known for spending millions of dollars on hotshot Washington lobbyists.

Published reports earlier this year showed that American Indian tribes that operate casinos have contributed nearly $40 million to Washington politicians and lobbyists over the past five years.  So far they've been successful in fending off efforts in Washington to tax Indian casino revenue and increase oversight of the casinos. "If they started taxing us and got 35 percent of our income, it could break us," Martin said. "Most people would be back on welfare."

It's all about creating income for the reservation, Martin said, and for now there are still too many opportunities for him to walk away. "It boils down to self-determination," he said. "What do you want to do for yourself? "We're trying to rise up, and we're trying to bring everybody around here with us."


More About Chief Phillip Martin
http://www.choctaw.org/

Phillip Martin is the democratically elected Tribal Chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, a federally-recognized American Indian tribe of 8,300 enrolled members living on or near 30,000 acres of reservation land in east central Mississippi. Martin has a 40-year record of service to the Tribal government, including 25 years as the Tribe's principal elected official. Martin is currently serving his sixth consecutive four-year term as Tribal Chief. His date of birth is March 13, 1926.

Nationally, Martin has served as president of the National Tribal Chairmen's Association, and president of United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc. (USET), an association of the 23 federally-recognized tribes in the eastern portion of the U.S. Martin founded the USET organization in 1969. He was the first president of the Board of Regents of Haskell Indian Junior College, between 1970 and 1976 (now Haskell Indian Nations University). In that period, Martin worked with other tribal leaders to acquire and maintain accreditation for Haskell, and to improve campus facilities, including construction of dormitories, a cafeteria, resource center, and field house. In 1992, Martin founded the United South and Eastern Tribes Gaming Association. He currently presides over that organization.

Locally, Chief Martin serves the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians on numerous Boards of Directorship. During his tenure as Tribal Chief, Martin has established the following Tribal businesses and service operations on the Choctaw Indian Reservation:

Choctaw Resort Development Enterprise (est. 1999)

Choctaw Housing Development Enterprise (est. 1995)

Choctaw Golf Enterprise (est. 1995)

Silver Star Resort and Casino (est. 1994)

First American Plastic Molding Enterprise (est. 1993)

Choctaw Construction Enterprise (est. 1993)

First American Printing & Direct Mail Enterp (est. 1990)

Choctaw Shopping Center (est. 1988)

Choctaw Residential Center (est. 1988)

Choctaw Manufacturing Enterprise (est. 1986)

Chata Enterprise (est. 1979)

Choctaw Development Enterprise (est. 1969)

A strong and well-known advocate for education, Chief Martin serves on the Advisory Committee for the Division of Technology, Mississippi State University, Meridian Branch. He has also established the Choctaw Indian Scholarships Program to ensure that all Mississippi Choctaw students can attend the colleges and universities of their choice. During his tenure as Tribal Chief (since 1979), Martin has helped to create more than 6,700 permanent, full-time jobs on the reservation. This number will grow significantly over the next five years. Martin has been responsible for establishing an 80-acre industrial park; a Tribally owned construction company; and several public service enterprises, such as the Choctaw Transit Authority, and the Choctaw Department of Public Works. Martin also developed Chata Enterprise, which assembles automotive wiring harnesses in four plants for the Ford Motor Company as well as Delphi Packard and Matrix Systems. Other customers have included United Technologies, Eastman Kodak, Sylvannia, General Motors, and Daimler-Chrysler.

Further, Chief Martin began a joint venture with American Greetings, to hand-finish greeting cards for the corporation; this is the first plant built on Indian land through use of state industrial revenue bonds. Another Tribal enterprise is First American Printing and Direct Mail, a commercial printing and mail processing business. First American is the largest commercial printer on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Martin negotiated joint venture agreements with Harman International for the establishment of two additional industrial enterprises the Choctaw Electronics Enterprise and the Choctaw Manufacturing Enterprise, producing speakers for automobile radios and electronic circuitry and components, respectively, for Ford Motor Company and the Daimler-Chrysler Corporation. Other customers have included Bergstrom, Caterpillar, Club Car, Inc., Ford Power Products, and Oxford Speakers. During 1989, Tribal enterprises received three coveted Q-1 preferred supplier awards and flag from the Ford Motor Company. In 1992, Choctaw Manufacturing Enterprise received Quality awards of the Chrysler Corporation, QS-9000, ISO-9000, and ISO-9001. Tribal sales generated through Choctaw manufacturing enterprises, at less than $1 million when the first plant opened in 1979, now exceed $200 million per year.

Other recent additions to Tribal enterprises have been the Choctaw Construction Enterprise, which produces plastic cutlery by injection molding for McDonald's restaurant franchises in the eastern U.S.

On July 1, 1994, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians launched its first gaming operation, the Silver Star Hotel and Casino, organized under the authority of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The largest and most profitable Choctaw Tribal enterprise to date, the Las Vegas-style Silver Star Hotel and Casino is located on Tribal land near the small rural town of Philadelphia, Mississippi. Another part of the growing Choctaw community resort complex is the Dancing Rabbit Golf Club, a 36-hole, championship golf course designed by architect Tom Fazio and professional golfer Jerry Pate. The resort and casino currently employ almost 2,400 people.

Since August 1997, Chief Martin has served as a member of the editorial advisory team for Indian Gaming Business, a quarterly supplement to International Gaming and Wagering Business (IGWB) magazine that deals exclusively with the Indian gaming industry. Chief Martin has achieved front-cover recognition in these and other important publications.

In 1976, as the owner of National Indian Management Service, a private consulting firm, Mr. Martin headed the nation-wide study entitled "The Status of Educational Attainment and Performance of Adult American Indians and Alaska Natives," under which a scientifically-designed random sample survey of adults in Indian country was conducted. National Indian Management Service also conducted a national symposium in June 1984 for tribal leaders throughout the country on "Reservation Job Creation through Manufacturing Enterprise."

During recent years, Phillip Martin, as the elected Chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, has been the recipient of several awards. In addition to winning the United Indian Development Association's Jay Silverheels Award, Chief Martin received the Minority Supplier/Distributor of the Year Award from the Small Business Administration and the Minority Business Development administration, the "Soar Like An Eagle" Achievement Award from the United Indian Youth Organization (Unity), and an economic achievement award from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

In 1987, Martin received the American Vocational Association's Award of Merit for the successful work of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians' Vocational Education Program. In 1988, Chief Martin received the statewide Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Outstanding Employer Award, and HUD Certificate of National Merit in the National Recognition Program for Urban Development Excellence for the Tribe's innovative Early Childhood Education Center.

The Dancing Rabbit Golf Club at Silver Star Resort and Casino, officially opened in May 1997, is featured in the Oct. '97 issue of Mississippi Golf Guide. In February 2000, Chief Martin received the Frontline Award from the John C. Stennis Space Center, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, for his collaboration on educational projects in education. In March 1996 Chief Phillip Martin was inducted into the Mississippi Business Hall of Fame. In July 1996 he received his first Hammer Award from the Vice President of the United Sates, Al Gore, applauding Martin's establishment of the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) Teacher Enhancement Center within the Choctaw Tribal School system. November 1997 saw his receipt of a second Hammer Award from Vice President Gore honoring Martin's active support of the John C. Stennis Space Center Education Office.

Chief Martin received his third Hammer Award during the summer of 1998, recognizing his leadership in Choctaw Indian health care. In September 1998, the Washington, D.C.-based organization Americans for Tax Reform Foundation, honored Martin by bestowing upon him its Hero of the Taxpayer Award. Peter J. Ferrara's book The Choctaw Revolution: Lessons for Federal Indian Policy, with an introduction by Chief Martin, was published in September 1998. Focusing on the benefits of maximizing Tribal sovereignty and Self-Determination, this book recounts Martin's leadership for the Choctaw Tribal government and the Tribe's successes in economic, educational, and community development over the past two-and-a half decades.

In November 1997, Chief Martin and Mississippi Governor Kirk Fordice signed an historic Accord between the Executive Branches of Government of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and the State of Mississippi. This document officially recognizes the sovereign nature of the Choctaw Indian Tribal government and publicly proclaims the government-to-government relationship that has long existed between the Tribe and the State.

In December 1997, the Philadelphia-Neshoba County Chamber of Commerce named Chief Martin Man of the Year. This group at the National Guard Armory in Philadelphia honored him at a banquet dinner.

The Mississippi Press Association chose Chief Phillip Martin as a luminary to roast, and did so in January 1998, at a banquet held at the Silver Star Convention Center. In March 1998, the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) presented Chief Martin with the 1998 Award for Outstanding Tribal Economic Diversification and development.

Chief Martin's business savvy and leadership skills have propelled the Tribe to the forefront of economic development in the Southeast. The Tribe is the largest employer in east central Mississippi, and among the ten largest employers in the State. The Tribe's achievements under Martin's leadership have been the subject of major magazine features, newspaper articles, and books in the recent past.


Courtesy of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians

Choctaws Provide Economic Boost For Mississippi

Choctaw, MS - December 6, 2001- Mississippi State University has just completed an analysis to determine the economic impact of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians on the State of Mississippi. The study predicts that by October 2002, the Tribe will be responsible for 14,817 permanent jobs in Mississippi that will pay $356.8 million in annual payroll for Mississippi workers, and create $18.7 million annually in Mississippi tax revenue. But that is not all -- the Tribe is currently investing $485.9 million in new construction projects that will create 8,686 jobs in Mississippi that will earn $236.7 million in payroll and generate an additional $19.7 million in Mississippi tax revenues. "Some people complain that we don't pay taxes, but they fail to acknowledge that we do not cost the State anything, either." stated Chief Phillip Martin. "This study by Mississippi State shows that we are a huge financial benefit for Mississippi, and we don't ask for anything in return."

Chief Martin is nationally recognized as a leader in Indian Country by creating a successful economy that took the Tribe from 80% unemployment to full employment in less than a generation. "The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is involved in much more than gaming and recreation." stated Dr. Meghan Millea, co-author of the study, "They produce plastics, electronics, operate tribal government, and educational facilities…Their purchases from Mississippi businesses and payments to their workers continually circulate money through the economy. This increase in economic activity results in greater output and employment in the state." By October 2002, the Tribe will directly employ 7,800 Mississippians that will earn more than $190 million in payroll annually. Tribal operations will also spend almost $115 million each year with Mississippi vendors. Due to the "multiplier effect" of economics, the Tribe's operations will generate more than 5,482 additional, permanent jobs in Mississippi with an annual payroll exceeding $136.2 million. These ongoing activities will create approximately $7.9 million in annual tax revenue for Mississippi through retail, excise, and income tax collections.

The Tribe's tourism industry also benefits the Mississippi economy by bringing in out-of-state tourists that spend money in Mississippi during their visit. According to Dr. Jon Rezek, co-author of the study, "The Pearl River Resort also contributes to the state economy by drawing out-of-state visitors…the sectors most affected by visitor spending are the transportation, retail, and food and beverage sectors." By October 2002, the Tribe estimates that 2.3 million out-of-state tourists will visit the Reservation annually. MSU estimates that these tourists will spend $51 million each year with Mississippi businesses off the Reservation, which are obviously subject to applicable State sales and excises taxes. The Tribe's tourism efforts will create an additional 1,534 permanent jobs in Mississippi with an annual payroll of $28.5 million. Tourist spending will also contribute approximately $1.6 million annually to Mississippi's tax coffers.

While construction expenditures only represent a one-time injection into the economy, they generate a significant economic benefit for Mississippi. The Tribe currently has $485.9 million in new construction projects under development ranging from hotels to health clinics and day care facilities. All of these projects will be contracted with Mississippi-based prime contractors. According to Mississippi State, these construction expenditures will create an additional 8,686 jobs in Mississippi earning $236.7 million in annual payroll, and will generate $19.7 million in Mississippi Tax Revenues. Overall, the Tribe's current construction expenditures will increase Mississippi's Gross State Product by $318 million, which is "the best single measure of the state of the economy," according to Dr. Rezek.

The State of Mississippi has reviewed and verified the findings of the study. According to Dr. Phil Pepper, State Economist for Mississippi, "The research methodology used in the report appears to be standard and reasonable. The findings also appear representative of the actual impact of the economic activities of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians on Mississippi's economy."

If the past is any indication of the future, the results of this study will continue to grow over time. The Tribe is on the fast-track to create a world-class destination resort that will compete on the national level. Other economic initiatives include the entrance of the Tribe into a variety of high-tech fields and the continued diversification of existing product lines in manufacturing. The Tribe is also building new schools, day care facilities, health clinics, and housing for its tribal members. "We should be considered the ultimate locally-owned business," states Chief Martin. "We live in Mississippi, earn our living in Mississippi, and invest our money in Mississippi. We are not going to move to greener pastures like some companies do. I look forward to continuing our progress, and I like the fact that Mississippi benefits as well. I see nothing but tremendous opportunities for us both."


 

HISTORY OF THE CHOCTAW, Chickasaw and Natchez Indians

By H. G. Cushman, Angie Debo

H. B. Cushman, the son of missionaries working at Mayhew, a Choctaw Indian station in Mississippi, observed the Indians' heartbreaking removal from Mississippi between 1831 and 1833. Later in life he continued to be associated with them, when he lived in Texas just across the Red River from the Choctaws and Chickasaws. In 1884, in an attempt to criticize white exploitation of the Indians, Cushman embarked on writing his History of the Choctaw, Chickasaw and Natchez Indians from the Indians' point of view. He spent six years renewing contacts, visiting cemeteries, observing Indian councils, and studying Indian records in the original languages. Published in 1899, his history is extremely valuable for his firsthand observations on the removal and later history of the Choctaws and Chickasaws as well as for its material on the Natchez Indians, about whom little is in print. Because the original edition was repetitious and contained homilies and irrelevant literary allusions, Angie Debo abridged, edited, and indexed the work. Her 1961 edition, with a new introduction by Clara Sue Kidwell, is here published in paperback for the first time. University of Oklahoma Press, March 1999, Soft Cover, 503pp.  $ 31.95 

Proceeds from book purchases go to support the nonprofit, cultural, educational and religious purposes of the Manataka American Indian Council.  Thank you for your support.


Pushmataha: A Choctaw Leader And His People (Alabama Fire Ant)

By Gideon Lincecum

In "Life of Apushimataha," Gideon Lincecum tells the story of Choctaw chief Pushmataha, who was born in Mississippi in 1764. A fearless warrior, his name literally means "one whose tomahawk is fatal in war or hunting." As a charismatic leader, his foresight in making an alliance with General Andrew Jackson brought the Choctaws into war with the Creek Nation and into the War of 1812 but served to their benefit for many years with the United States government. In 1824, Pushmataha traveled to Washington, D.C., to negotiate the Treaty of Doak's Stand as pressure grew for Choctaw removal to Oklahoma Territory, but he fell ill and died there. He was buried with full military honors in the Congressional Cemetery at Arlington." In "Choctaw Traditions about Their Settlement in Mississippi and the Origin of Their Mounds," Lincecum translates a portion of the Skukhaanumpula - the traditional history of the tribe, which was related to him verbally by Chata Immataha, "the oldest man in the world, a man that knew everything." It explains how and why the sacred Manih Waya mound was erected and how the Choctaws formed new towns, and it describes the structure of leadership in their society. University of Alabama Press, March 1996, Soft Cover, 136pp.  $21.95 

Proceeds from book purchases go to support the nonprofit, cultural, educational and religious purposes of the Manataka American Indian Council.  Thank you for your support.

Notice: Occasionally books may be discontinued or out of stock without prior notice. With written permission, your order may be filled from the 'shelf'.  Shelf books are new, but some may be slightly discolored or sale tags may be still attached. Fulfillment rate: 98.6%.

 

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