New Creek Nation chief says tribal businesses will grow

Sunday, January 11th 2004, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

OKMULGEE - Increasing business opportunities and promoting tribal unity will be top priorities for the Muscogee Creek Nation's new chief.

Retired farmer and union worker, A.D. Ellis was sworn in for his second term as the tribe's chief Saturday in a ceremony that featured singing, prayer and oaths in the Creek language.

Under his leadership, a new Indian university will begin in Okmulgee, with eight slots promised to Creek nursing students each semester, Ellis said.

As many Oklahoma tribes have struggled with infighting recently, Ellis urged his tribe to stay united.

``The way we can move this nation forward is for all branches of the government to work together,'' Ellis said.

``If we work against each other,'' he warned, ``we can't go anywhere.''

Ellis has also served as second chief on the tribe's council.

Ellis, 68, went into tribal politics in 1989 after 35 years of service with the International Teamsters Union.

Ellis said he wants to expand benefits to tribe's 56,000 members, including health and wellness services.

Ellis said 10 acres of land near the tribe's main complex will be used build a wellness and dialysis center as well as a ball park.

As chief, he'll also expand the Muscogee Nation Business Enterprise. The construction, communications and manufacturing company already has contracts with the U.S. Department of Treasury and Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co.

Ellis, who serves as a board member, helped the tribe land a $25 million contract for repair and contract work with Altus Air Force Base in 2003.

He said the tribe in the future would use not only gaming dollars but business capital to serve the needs of its members.

He predicted that some day tribal businesses will bring in more dollars than the Creek's lucrative gaming operation, which nets millions of dollars a year in revenue.

``Since February, we went from zero to 48 employees,'' Ellis said of the job growth.

Tribal gaming is also expanding, with a new hotel and casino being built on Tulsa's Riverside Drive that will employ about 2,000 tribal members, he said.

In the next few weeks, Ellis said he plans to negotiate a tobacco and gaming compact with state leaders.

Second Chief Alfred Berryhill and 26 council members also were sworn into office Saturday.


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