Looking Back on the Martin Years

Forty years ago, Choctaw was a dying culture. Unemployment on the reservation stood at about eighty percent, with poverty rates even higher. Government dependence was the rule.

"This was the end of the road. You couldn't get more isolated, more segregated from the mainstream culture," said John Egerton, a freelance writer.

Simply put, things have changed since then. Martin began serving the tribe in 1957 as a member of the Tribal Council. He served in that capacity on and off until 1975, when he was first elected Tribal Chief.

In that time, the tribe has seen a remarkable turnaround, with business and industry, and most dramatically, the Pearl River Resort, complete with two casinos, two golf courses, and a water park.

Martin talked about the changes on the reservation during an interview in 1998.

Martin was asked if he had ever imagined the changes from 1957 to the present day.

"No I didn't, but I knew if we didn't do something, we would disperse," Martin said.

"All of these forces have come together to bring the Choctaw to this moment in time where they become not the downtrodden, not the bottom of the pile, but the example all of us can learn from," Egerton said.

Experts and pundits have given Martin much of the credit for the turnaround of the tribe, but Martin has always been quick publicly to not give himself too much credit.

"Do I think I'm great? No. I don't think I could not have done what other people could not have done," said Martin. "The only thing is I had the tenacity to do it."

Now another man takes his place. Only time will tell whether or not he will fill his shoes.

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