COH Site

Chickasaw Nation


The Chickasaw Nation has formal boundary territories that encompass all or most of 13 counties in predominantly rural South-Central Oklahoma.

Because Oklahoma has no reservations, Chickasaw members live in communities with non-Chickasaw members. Only 1% (about 32,000) of those living in the region are members of the Chickasaw Nation. Like many other tribes in the United States, the Chickasaw Nation experienced a history of displacement and discrimination. The federal government forcibly relocated the tribe from its original residence in Mississippi to Oklahoma in 1836, where members of the Chickasaw Nation became farmers and ranchers and prospered. However, when Oklahoma became a state in 1907, the federal government dissolved the tribal government, and the Chickasaw Nation ceased to exist as a recognized tribal entity. As tribal lands were broken up into allotments, many members moved away or were absorbed into the local population, losing touch with their Chickasaw cultural identity.

Chickasaws continued to gather socially during this time, and eventually, in 1970, the Chickasaw Nation gained the right to re-establish its government. In 1983, they passed and ratified the Chickasaw Constitution. Today, the Nation is seeking to overcome decades of oppression and poverty by building a diversified economy. Its overarching philosophy that “a rising tide raises all ships” recognizes the common capacities and prosperity of tribal members and nontribal residents alike. Although the Nation has seen success in growing its economy and expanding health infrastructure, members continue to face challenges that may be linked to historical discrimination, obesity, and substance abuse.

  • Overview

    Population and Demographics

    Population: 350,000

    U.S. Census Bureau; photography courtesy Flickr user Rockin’Rita, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

  • Context and Actions

    Community Context and Challenges

    • Decades of historic discrimination and trauma have led to cultural identity loss; today fewer than 120 people speak the Chickasaw language.
    • More than 15% of all residents in the region have less than a high school degree, and nearly 85% have less than a college degree.
    • While gaming supports more than 27,900 jobs, 56% of them are filled by nontribal residents, leading critics to point out that it’s unclear who benefits most from casinos; in addition, increased crime, debt, and substance abuse are linked to gaming.
    • Obesity, substance abuse and mental health are serious issues in the 13-county region; 30% of residents are obese and in 2012, 21% of all residents had a mental illness, and nearly 8% report substance abuse.
    • Access to health care is a pressing challenge; a local health facility built to handle 20,000 annual visits reported more than 238,000 patient visits a year, with patients having to wait 30 days for routine appointments.

    Taking Action

    Recognizing the health challenges faced by the 13-region community, the Chickasaw Nation is focused on improving the health of both tribal and nontribal members.

    The Nation has taken great steps to strengthen its economy and reaffirm cultural identity and unity among members. By integrating traditional values of the tribe into policies and programs, the Chickasaw Nation hopes to reconnect members with their heritage and support well-being among all residents.

    These baseline reports, created in 2016, reflect our initial observations on select community programs and initiatives to gauge ongoing, as well as newer, efforts to improve community health. Future reports will provide more in-depth insights and analysis into this community's activities.

    Redressing Historic Trauma

    Chickasaw nation has developed an infrastructure and resources to begin redressing historic trauma and promoting the health and well-being of residents in their region. The tribal government has developed a wide variety of programs and resources within the past 10 years to address well-being related issues, including housing, elder care, education and health care. In addition, the tribal government solicits input from its members through tribal councils and surveys at health centers, the hospital, and the Chickasaw Cultural Center, opened in 2010.

    Economic Diversification

    Self-sufficiency and economic diversification are long-term goals of the Chickasaw Nation. Gaming has anchored the tribe financially and provides approximately 91% of its annual revenue. However, the tribal government has been working to attract new and diverse businesses, including tourism, banking, and health care, to the area by developing relationships with nontribal organizations and with local, state and federal governments.

    Culturally-Integrated Wellness Centers

    Chickasaw Nation-funded Wellness Centers in three communities—Ada, Ardmore and Tishomingo—offer educational programs, incentives and access to activities that promote exercise, nutrition and overall improved health. To make these programs widely accessible, certain programs, such as walking track, aerobics and martial arts, are available to tribal members at no cost. The Wellness centers integrate Chickasaw culture through the physical space and aesthetic design of their buildings. 

    Family-Centered Counseling

    AAFOLOTA’ (Chicasaw for Turning Point) is a youth (ages 12-24) substance abuse counseling program that provides family-centered substance abuse and mental health treatment. Services include evidence-based and culturally specific treatment therapies at tribal provider sites in both urban/suburban and rural locations.

  • Going Forward

    Questions for Consideration

    In the three decades since the ratification of its constitution, the Chickasaw Nation has made tremendous strides in achieving its goals of economic self-determination and restored cultural identity. Yet modern-day challenges persist, affecting the health and well-being of residents in the 13-county region. Some notable challenges are high rates of unemployment; obesity; substance abuse; and mental health issues. The extent to which Chickasaw Nation initiatives are addressing its priority community health concerns requires further examination. Additional surveillance, data and information gathering, analysis, and reporting can examine whether gaps are emerging in priority areas.

    We are working with the Chickasaw Nation to acquire tribal-level data and information to support future research considering the following questions:

    • How does the Nation’s economic success and growth influence the well-being of both tribal members and nontribal residents in the 13-county region? What are the challenges or issues with the region’s reliance on gaming as a revenue generator?
    • How is the Nation working with local, state, and federal governments to improve the health and well-being of its members and nontribal residents?
    • How is the Nation collaborating with other populations in the 13-county region to address social, economic, and health challenges, such as substance abuse, obesity, and poverty?
    • To what extent have the Nation’s local programs, including obesity prevention, elder care, and educational initiatives, achieved their goals? Who are they reaching and how?
    • How has the Nation’s efforts—to integrate Chickasaw culture into its business enterprises, community-based programs, and wellness initiatives—affected social, economic, and health outcomes for the tribe’s members?
  • Downloads

    Community Snapshot Report