IN SIMPLE TERMS
By BOBBIE McAULIFFE
I have written before about the myth that you have to be registered as a Democrat to vote in primary elections. Today I am going to write about some other myths, rumors and outright lies.
There are people in this community who have been telling outright lies about the Choctaw people for years. I say they are telling lies because they have been corrected numerous times and not checked it out to find they are wrong. They continue to tell the lies that are spread by others who would rather gossip than verify facts before opening their mouth.
First of all, the Choctaw Nation, and the members of the Tribe DO pay taxes. A simple check of property tax rolls on the county treasurer ’s website will reveal that the Choctaw Nation does in fact pay taxes on property they own and do business on in LeFlore County. A simple phone call to the Oklahoma Tax Commission will reveal that they do pay sales taxes, fuel taxes and tobacco taxes, and a simple phone call to the Office of State Finance will reveal that they do pay “fees” to the state of Oklahoma on gambling receipts at the casinos that is distributed to the communities the same way all other taxes and fees are distributed.
Tribal members who are employed pay income taxes just like everyone else and those who own their homes pay property taxes just like their non-Indian neighbors do. We buy license plates for our cars the same as everyone else, and are subject to the same insurance laws as everyone else.
The town of Poteau is a government, Le Flore County is a government, the state of Oklahoma is a government, and the Choctaw Nation is a government. As a government, the Choctaw Nation is eligible for all of the same federal programs that offer assistance and grants as the other governments are eligible for, and Tribal leaders apply for those programs just as any mayor, or county commissioner board, or governor does. The Choctaw Nation uses those programs to provide for the Choctaw People.
In some cases the leaders of the Choctaw Nation decline to do so and sometimes humbly reject participating in those programs to be free of the Federal control that goes with them.
One of those rejections was for the Choctaw Nation Health Care facility at Talihina. That facility was built 100 percent with funds the Tribe had earned in its various businesses in SE Oklahoma. Not one penny of federal money was used to build, furnish or staff our hospital.
Most care for the patients there is paid for with Veterans benefits, Medicare and Medicaid, or private insurance just the same as any other health care facility. Care for the Indian people who do not have insurance, or do not qualify for any of the above programs is paid for by the Tribe, and not federal taxpayer money, so quit with the “freebie card” gossip and lies.
Everyone reading this column and everyone you know has benefited in one way or another and probably more than once through the generosity of the Choctaw Nation.
In addition to the taxes paid, the Tribe makes contributions every year to every school in the 10 ½ county area of SE Oklahoma. The amount depends on the number of students in the school. They also contribute to the schools for special projects.
The school supplies and scholarships provided to Indian students come from the Tribe, not the Federal government because the student “has a card”.
They make contributions to the county drug courts, volunteer fire departments, and road building and maintenance. In times of disaster the Choctaw Nation is among the first to step up with manpower and money. Every day they are considering requests for assistance from many agencies, churches and charities, sharing their earnings.
I do not have room here to go into the many, many other specific ways the Choctaw Nation has given to this community in the interest of being a good neighbor.
Those “nice” Indian Homes are not free to those who have a “freebie card”. They are built for low income Tribal members under the same low income home ownership programs that anyone else can apply for. A substantial down payment is required, and monthly payments are made. The restrictions are so complex a lot of Indian people tire of dancing through the hoops and opt for a traditional mortgage to enjoy home ownership.
I hope I have straightened out a lot of twisted thinking about the Choctaw People, my People. We are just like you; well most of you.