Historic settlement signed between Choctaw, Chickasaw, federal government

Posted on October 6, 2015, by the Herald Democrat.

DURANT — U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell made a stop in Durant Tuesday to announce a major trust settlement involving the Chickasaw Nation and Choctaw Nation. Joining Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby and Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton, Jewell said the multimillion-dollar settlement will put an end to a long struggle between the nations and the federal government and encourage a partnership founded in a relationship of trust.

"It's been a lot of hard work," Jewell said. "... This historic settlement is really an opportunity for all of us to get a fresh start in our relationship. It recognizes there's been a very painful history between the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations and the U.S. government, but it also recommits us to move forward in good faith."

Jewell said this settlement holds the government accountable for upholding its end of the trusted treaty obligations established more than a century ago.

"This gets the black mark of our history of not doing that off the books so we can move forward together," she said.

The settlement gives the nations $186 million dollars to split — $139.5 million to the Choctaw Nation and $46.5 million to the Chickasaw Nation. In return, the nations will dismiss their lawsuit and inhibit future litigation.

The money will be used to provide assistance for nation members, such as job assistance and prison rehabilitation programs, Batton said. Anoatubby added that the funds will help carry the pride of the nations and see that their culture thrives.

"These dollars are going to continue the rich culture, history and the values that have gotten us to where we can even fight this battle that we had today," he said. "It's going to go to economic development, it's going to provide opportunities for our tribal members and it's definitely going to provide sustainability for our tribe for many years to come."

The original lawsuit was filed by the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations in 2005. The nations were not seeking monetary damages, but instead sought from the government an accounting — an explanation of what happened to hundreds of thousands of acres of tribal land in Oklahoma.