ADA, Okla. (AP) _ The Chickasaw Nation is airing a series of television ads across the state in an effort to strengthen the tribe's economic position.
Although the ads are airing just months before a key vote on a state question on Indian gaming, tribal officials said the ads are designed to uplift tribal members and are not politically motivated.
``This is unrelated to any state question,'' said tribal spokeswoman Robyn Elliot. ``We are looking at how we work with Oklahoma, and this is how we do that on a broad scale.''
Former Bureau of Indian Affairs head Neal McCaleb and tribal legislator Judy Goforth Parker are among those featured in the spots.
Future ads will feature other well-known Chickasaws.
McCaleb said the ads are intended to focus on the Ada-based tribe's economic growth and unity.
``If you watch those ads closely, we purposely avoid mentioning gaming,'' he said. ``It's an effort to tell the full story of the nation.''
He likened the ads to a local Chamber of Commerce buying time to promote a city.
Because tribal members are scattered around the state, officials are buying air time in a wide market. The ads have been running on local television stations in the central and eastern parts of the state.
``We are not one-dimensional. Sometimes it seems like the only coverage we get in the media is gaming-related,'' McCaleb said. ``We are into gaming, and that's fine, but we're also about a whole lot more.''
The 35,000-member tribe is the largest owner of Class II gaming machines among state tribes.
Chickasaw legislator Wilson Seawright, who has seen the ads, said he was surprised by them initially.
``I would suspect the ads are meant to establish more of a sense of trust and confidence in the Nation,'' he said, ``but I don't know.''
Seawright said that while he didn't think the ads were motivated by politics, his tribe has been internally questioning the way some of its gaming money is being spent.