Choctaws Have Come A Long Way
A long time ago, I went to the Indian Boarding School in Cherokee, N.C. I met a lot of fellow Indians from across the country and most of us were from the same background - we were poor.
We didn't have the money to travel to our homes during holidays. We wore hand-me-down clothes and spending money just didn't exist.
One of my fellow students from that time was Phillip Martin. If you don't know Phillip, he's the Chairman of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians based in Philadelphia, Miss.
Recently I visited Philadelphia to go to the 50th Annual Choctaw Indian Fair. I have to give Phillip credit for transforming his community and his people. Under his guidance, the Choctaws have used Indian gaming to change their lives. The whole town is lit up to the sky. He has helped turn Philadelphia into a rich town from a poor folk's town.
I remember when there was nothing in Philadelphia. Now, today, I see people all smiling at Phillip when he comes around. Even Wal-Mart and McDonalds have come and many other food stands.
While I was there, I thought of all the jobs that have been created. In fact, the Choctaws are one of the ten largest employers in the state, with over 6,600 full and part time employees. And, the tribe operates the largest unified school system in the United States with 1,700 students.
It's a far cry from the time Phillip and I went to school together at Cherokee. I never dreamed I would see the Indians in every office on the Choctaw Reservation. The day I was there I said to myself, 'thank God I've lived to see this tribe come to the top.'
It's nice to see that the Choctaws can eat steak instead of hamburger meat. Even the buildings and schools have every modern convenience.
I wanted to write this because I know where Phillip and most of us Indians come from. I know it hasn't been an easy trip. I remember when sometimes we went without because we didn't have anything.
Now, finally, thanks to leaders like Phillip Martin, Indians are getting a better chance at life. And for that, I say again, thank God.