(Hello my friends),
We are officially into the fall season. The Potawatomi word for October is Bnakwigises, or leaves have fallen moon. The fall foliage throughout Oklahoma and much of the rest of the United States should begin to change soon. These beautiful colors mark the season’s change and, in the past, our ancestors would have taken this time to prepare for the hunting season and harsh winter months ahead.
Many of us still hunt and have hopes of filling the freezer for our families in the coming months, but for the most part, we are not required to gather and prepare as our ancestors did. Now, we simply make a trip to our local grocery store, hopefully, FireLake Discount Foods for those living in Shawnee, McLoud or Tecumseh areas, and stock up on the items we need.
Our tribal government still rolls with the seasons. In our tribal government, we use this time of year to prepare for the upcoming months and years by finishing up the budget process. Our fiscal year begins Oct. 1, so toward the end of September, the budget must go to the tribal legislature for approval. That is one step in a lengthy process that we actually begin in the spring. We “plant the seed corn,” throughout the year and as it grows, we “harvest” and put funds back into future growth and services for the tribe.
Much like our ancestors wouldn’t have eaten all of the crops during the summer months, we do not spend all of our funds. Instead, we make wise investments and plan for the future growth of the tribe. We have to be prepared for anything the future may hold. This year was no different, and we presented a thorough and balanced budget for the tribal legislature to approve. I am excited for the future of the tribe and look forward to seeing our plans grow over the coming months.
This planning and preparation are evident if you look at the numbers for just the last 10 years. In 2007, our economic impact was less than $400 million, and we’ve now increased that to $518 million. As our employment and revenue have grown, so to have our service offerings. In 2009, our clinics provided just more than 21,000 physician visits, 2,800 dental visits and 134,000 prescriptions filled. Compare that to 2016 when we provided 147,300 physician visits, 7,330 dental visits and 225,811 prescriptions filled.
Health care is one of the most sought-after services at the tribe, and we have responded to that by building an additional clinic and hiring more doctors. We’ll soon break ground on a new imaging clinic that will allow us to centralize or diagnostic imaging services.
There are services for those tribal members living outside of the tribal jurisdiction as well. All tribal members born on or before Dec. 31, 1976, are eligible for the Health Aid Program, which can help with the purchase of items like prosthetic devices, glasses, hearing aids, dentures, partials, crowns, wheelchairs, mobile chairs, CPAP machines, prescription sunglasses, contacts, and mobile chair lifts and ramps for vehicles. Please remember the Health Aid Program pays 75 percent up to $750. There is a limit of $750 per year.
We also have a mail-order pharmacy program, down payment assistance, burial assistance, and other services available to our at-large tribal members. Please reach out to your elected representatives if you’re ever in need- they might know of a resource available to you.
As always, thank you for the honor of serving as your Tribal Chairman.
John “Rocky” Barrett
(He Leads Them Home)