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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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by pinky Location: standing pine on Jul 12, 2007 at 07:24 AM
    its about time that we have had a new chief. and i know beasley denson will be a GREAT LEADER!you'll see. sorry martin but you got to move on,you know we're not immortals, you knew this day would come.:(
  • by Tribal Member Location: Philadelphia on Jul 12, 2007 at 05:08 AM
    The Removal took place in the 1880s. Sorry for the typo.
  • by Tribal Member Location: Philadelphia on Jul 11, 2007 at 11:51 AM
    Chief Martin is an example to us all - to persevere in the face of adversity. He took "no", "you can't" and other negeative remarks as a challenge to prove that those words were just that - words. He proved that he, with approval and support of many council members he worked with through the years, had the ability and passion to turn things around from poverty to prosperity for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, a remenant of the Choctaw Nation who was removed to Oklahoma in the 1980s. He endeavored to us apart to be an example for the rest of Indian Country. We must continue this progress under new leadership because if anything we should learned from our most celebrated leader, Chief Phillip Martin, is that we can do anything we want to, we just need to persevere.
  • by member Location: philadelphia on Jul 11, 2007 at 08:06 AM
    what kind of friend gives you a compliment just to turn around and kick you down?? not a very good friend i would say. and he's only human, so what if he had parties...i'm sure you haven't lived a perfect life. give him the credit and praises but leave his personal life alone. its done and over with. you wouldn't want anyone putting your business out there, and you are right, they were "stories"...i'm sure your new chief has plenty of stories for your entertainment. and you are right though, appreciate the good he has done over the past 28 years
  • by a friend of chief's and beas' Location: philadelphia on Jul 10, 2007 at 07:24 PM
    you've been my chief all of my life and i appreciate the good that you've done...one thing i really wanted you to know is that the stories i used to hear growing up of your wild parties kept me from ever finishing a can of beer. thanks for 28 years
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