Opinion: The fall of Mississippi Choctaw Chief Martin

"Battles over issues of blood quantum, federal recognition, cultural & language retention, historical alliances and of course gaming, have caused lines of division not unlike those faced by communities across Indian Country. The architect of many of these divisions, Mississippi Choctaw Chief Phillip Martin watched his meteoric rise and pronouncement as an economic powerhouse crumble in recent days due to his close association with non-Indian lobbyists, politicians and anthropologists who reeked havoc on neighboring Choctaw communities by overturning federal recognition petitions and postponing land in to trust applications.

So last Friday, on the day he conceded victory to his challenger Beasley Denson, we watched the opening rounds of the annual stickball tournament across the street from the tribal complex and office where he led his tribe for 7 terms. While standing there, numerous community members approached me with outstretched hands and words of greetings and thanks in our Choctaw language. Many people in the Mississippi Choctaw & MOWA Choctaw communities, as well as numerous Indian people from various tribes across the nation, had spent a great deal of time over the past few years, advocating for the rights of the Mississippi Choctaw people and exposing the fraud committed against the MOWA Choctaw community 120 miles to the southeast who were thought to be possible competition in the gaming industry. For years, the same tactics were played against the now federally recognized Jena Band of Choctaw Indians in Louisiana. Twelve years after their federal recognition, they are just now being able to take land into trust for the purposes of economically and socially growing their community.

While Jack Abramoff, J. Steven Griles and a host of others associated with Chief Phillip Martin’s administration are now serving jail terms or awaiting trial, Mr. Martin has been able to use the tribe’s federal immunities to ward off investigations into his role in the matter. Of course, little of this matters now as power has been rested from his hands."

Get the Story:
Cedric Sunray: Will The Choctaw Nation Please Stand Up (The Native American Times 7/26)

Relevant Links:
Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians - http://www.choctaw.org

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