Courtesy Choctaw Nation
Following the sudden retirement of Choctaw Nation Chief Gregory Pyle, Gary Batton, pictured, was named his successor.

New Choctaw Chief Gary Batton and His Council of Wisdom

Brian Daffron

With Chief Pyle and myself, the philosophy has not changed whatsoever. We do what is best for our Choctaws. We’re trying to set a path of sustainability for the next 100 years.

What will you do that’s specifically your own vision?

With culture and heritage, I’m going to expand that and continue to grow that. We cannot forget the old ways. I’m starting a Council on Wisdom. You always have to make sure you remain accountable to our people. I’m wanting to go back to the grassroots, where we’re listening to our people and know what they want to say.

What are your plans for a Wellness Center?

We just opened our first Wellness Center in Atoka. We have three more that are opening up in Idabel, Broken Bow and Crowder by the end of this month. We will be expanding that program throughout our Choctaw Nation. I believe in prevention—an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. What we’re trying to do is make sure we don’t have obesity. We want to provide alternatives. We’re going to be building independent living centers throughout the Choctaw Nation. That’s something that we’re going to be doing as well.

How about the growth of your Culture Center in Durant?

I call these “Lifetime Legacy” projects. I want to make this Cultural Center something that 100 years from now, I want people to know about our culture and heritage, where we came from and be able to display that. My goal is to showcase our culture to the world.

What is your personal involvement in Choctaw culture?

It’s very high. I’ve been trying to go back and learn the language better. My grandfather taught me more than my mother. I can’t speak it fluently, but I’ve been trying to learn the language. I’ve been playing stickball. Even though I’m 47, I go out there with the young guys and play stickball—hopefully they won’t get out there and break my leg. I made my first bow about a year ago.


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