Through Darren Thompson
On Nov. 30, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt denied a request by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma to extend a hunting and fishing pact between the state and the Cherokee and Choctaw Nations that entered into force. effective Jan. 1, 2017. The governor’s rejection comes with disapproval from five Oklahoma tribes, citing that Governor Stitt had previously supported the pact. The governor’s rejection of the pact means tribal members will have to pay state rates for hunting and fishing licenses and tags.
“This decision is extremely disappointing, not only for the Cherokee citizens who lose a program that Governor Stitt himself knew was a win-win, but for every Oklahoman who benefited from these agreements and future generations who would have benefited from federal funding to support wildlife management and conservation,” Cherokee Nation Senior Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. said in a Dec. 13 news release. Governor since the Supreme Court’s McGirt decision.
The McGirt v. Oklahoma reviewed the case of convicted child rapist Jimcy McGirt. In an effort to overturn his conviction, McGirt claimed he was wrongfully prosecuted by the state of Oklahoma because he was Native American and his crimes took place on the Muscogee (Creek) reservation. The court agreed in a 5-4 decision that the reservation was never overturned and that, in McGirt’s case, fell under federal major crimes law and required federal prosecution. McGirt was later prosecuted by the federal government and, in August 2021, sentenced to three life terms by U.S. District Judge John F. Heil III.
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Governor Stitt’s decision comes as the U.S. Supreme Court reconsiders the McGirt decision, considering questions about the 2020 ruling that the Muskogee (Creek) reservation was never officially removed. Other considerations include whether to overturn the ruling that determined the state lacks jurisdiction to prosecute non-Indians who commit crimes against Native Americans on Indian reservations.
On August 31, 2016, former Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed the Game and Fish Pact with the Choctaw Nation, and it was originally set to expire on December 31, 2019. It was extended to December 31. 2021. Tribes issued hunting licenses to citizens and reimbursed the state $2 for each license and paid state administrative fees. Under the agreements, the Cherokee Nation agreed to purchase at least 150,000 licenses per year, while the Choctaw Nation agreed to 50,000. The agreements between the state and the tribes were considered historic agreements.
Since the pacts were established, the Cherokee pact has generated more than $32 million and the Choctaw pact has generated $6 million, according to the Cherokee Nation. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) uses the funding for wildlife management planning and operations, law enforcement, and conservation efforts, to benefit natives and non-natives alike. indigenous.
“Under previous administrations, hunting and fishing license pacts were commonplace. They clearly provided great financial and cultural benefits to both the state and tribal members. Unfortunately, Governor Stitt has once again decided to let his personal concerns trump what is best for the people he was elected to represent, placing conflict above cooperation,” said Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton in a Dec. 13 statement.
On November 30, Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell wrote to the tribes stating that the state would be willing to discuss new hunting and fishing agreements, but that the tribes must agree to pay a high price for hunting and fishing licenses. “We strongly believe that all Oklahomans should receive equal treatment under the law and otherwise,” Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor Matt said. Pinnell in a letter to the tribes.
“Under current covenants, members of the Cherokee Nation and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma are granted hunting and fishing licenses at greatly reduced rates compared to citizens of Oklahoma who are not members of ‘neither tribe,’ he said. Pinnell is also Secretary of State for Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage. A standard combined hunting and fishing license for state residents costs $42. Deer and turkey tags, which must also be purchased by state residents, cost $20 and $10, respectively. Under the pact, citizens of the Cherokee Nation received one universal deer tag (with or without antlers) and one turkey tag per calendar year.
“Because of your failure to work together for all Oklahomans, I must move forward in a way that exercises and strengthens the sovereignty of the Choctaw Nation and our federally protected rights,” said the Chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Gary Patton, in a letter to the governor in December. 13. “I will begin to exercise our jurisdiction to regulate hunting and fishing within the boundaries of our reserve and beyond.”
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