TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Leaders of the Five Tribes Intertribal Council met for their quarterly meeting Jan. 14 via videoconference.
Tribal leaders discussed their response and recovery efforts amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and provided updates on other tribal activities. The leaders also passed a series of resolutions, including support for cooperative wildlife resource management on all five-tribe reservations.
The resolution will provide citizens of the five tribes with opportunities for expanded access to hunting and fishing privileges on their respective reservations in accordance with each tribe’s treaty rights, laws and conservation standards.
In 2016, the Cherokee Nation and the Choctaw Nation entered into historic hunting and fishing license pacts with the State of Oklahoma. Oklahoma State received more than $38 million in new federal funds for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to support responsible fish and wildlife management for all Oklahomans. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt did not renew the pacts for 2022.
“The fact is that the tribes are ready, willing and able to assert their treaty rights. We have been for some time. We do that now in the Cherokee Nation. I know other tribes are doing the same,” said Cherokee Nation Senior Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., outgoing chairman of the Intertribal Council. “I am confident that the Cherokee Nation can responsibly manage fish and wildlife. I am confident that all tribes in this state have the authority to regulate hunting and fishing on their tribal lands – certainly all tribes involved in the Intertribal Council. I don’t just believe we can do it, I think we can do it better than anyone. I think we still have to work with Oklahoma State. We still have opportunities for partnerships, as we all have a stake in preserving the environment to ensure fish and wildlife habitat is there for generations to come. If we had a willing partner in the governor’s office, I think we could do a lot more.
Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton said previous pacts between the Cherokee and Choctaw nations for hunting and fishing were a “win-win” for the state, tribes and tribal citizens.
“This governor is simply choosing not to do what is best for all Oklahomans, the 4 million, that he will claim he is doing,” Chief Batton said. “I don’t want to dwell on it, but it’s just a bit sad. I think the five tribes need to be prepared for future compaction issues that will arise. We will do everything we can in the Choctaw Nation to exercise our sovereignty and ensure that we maximize the benefits for our people and for those who reside within our communities.
The tribal leaders met virtually due to the surge in COVID-19 cases across the country.
“We may not always take the same path, but at the end of the day, we all do what we think is best for our nation independently,” Muscogee Nation Senior Chief David Hill said. new chairman of the Intertribal Council. “I know that our goal will always remain the same to advance the cause of indigenous peoples and take care of our citizens.
All proposed resolutions were passed unanimously at Friday’s meeting. The passage included a resolution urging Congress to fulfill the trust’s responsibility of the United States by fully meeting the needs of tribal nations for clinical services, preventive health care, and health care infrastructure. A resolution supporting the United Nations International Decade of Indigenous Languages, which was officially launched from the Cherokee Nation reservation in Tahlequah earlier this year, was also passed. The resolution supports United Nations efforts to support and support the promotion of indigenous languages throughout the next decade.
“The Chickasaw Nation is preparing to launch an adult immersion program that will provide a select group of Chickasaws with the opportunity to learn the Chickasaw language from high-level speakers,” said Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby. “They will be in a structured and immersive environment, which is one of the most effective ways for people to learn the Chickasaw language. We also continue to find creative and innovative ways to leverage technology to integrate the culture Chickasaw in our daily lives through several different applications that can be used on our own cell phones.
Deputy Seminole Nation Chief Brian Palmer also expressed support for the language efforts.
“The Seminole Nation remains committed to preserving our Mvskoke language and I am proud of our efforts to achieve this, including plans for future online language courses that will ensure that we continue to teach our language, but doing so while protecting each other,” Assistant Chief Palmer said. “As all tribal nations understand, our unique languages are what set us apart as distinct peoples.”
The Five Tribes Intertribal Council has also expressed support for state legislation that would allow tribes to certify their own teachers at tribal-operated schools if they choose to operate a state charter school. State legislation recognizes that tribes need the flexibility to provide teacher certification to tribal-operated schools as they strive to preserve culture and language.
A resolution was also passed urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to cancel eligible USDA loans to Native American producers, and a resolution urging the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to hold formal tribal consultations on proposed center closures. VA health located on tribal reservations.