Opinion: Phillip Martin led Choctaw self-determination
"Assessing the legacy of former Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Chief Phillip Martin is an exercise that is incomplete without context. Martin was in critical condition at a Jackson hospital at deadline for release of this column.

The Choctaws were robbed, raped, bought, sold, herded like cattle to reservation lands and murdered with impunity in Mississippi between 1540 and 1900.

After that time, they were left to subsist on reservation lands with poverty, joblessness and illiteracy as their constant companions. Schools were poor, health care was scant and the once-prideful tribe was left as a cultural oddity clustered mostly in Neshoba County.

In the early 1800s, the leader of the Choctaw nation was - according to 20th century ethnologist John Swanton - Pushmataha, the "greatest of all Choctaw chiefs." Is it accurate to mention Martin's name with those of Pushmataha and former Chief Emmett York? Without a doubt, yes.

Under Martin's leadership, the tribe launched the Silver Star Casino in 1994 in rural Neshoba County on what had previously been swampy bottomlands.

The Silver Star was a rousing success, helping to propel Mississippi to the status of the nation's largest gaming destination between Atlantic City and Las Vegas.

A 1998 study by the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development indicated that Choctaw unemployment had dropped from 75 percent in 1979, when the tribe got its first General Motors wire harness factory, to 4 percent in 2001"

Get the Story:
Sid Salter: Choctaw 'self-determination' (The Hattiesburg American 2/3)

Related Stories:
Former Choctaw chief hospitalized in critical condition (2/3)