Editorial: State-tribal relations topic of meeting with governor
BY World's Editorials Writers
Thursday, November 29, 2012
11/29/12 at 3:26 AM
Gov. Mary Fallin's meeting with representatives of about 20 of the state's 38 federally recognized Indian tribes seemed to go well. She said all the right things, and for the most part, tribal leaders responded well to her effort to reach out to them.
It remains to be seen, however, if state-tribal relations ever reach a more than satisfactory status. Relations over the years have been less than satisfactory, though there have been improvements in recent years.
There are plenty of good reasons to develop better working relationships with the tribes, not the least of which is the fact they directly employ more than 50,000 people and are responsible for a $10.8 billion impact in the state's production of goods and services.
Fallin called the meeting with tribal leaders in recognition of a national proclamation designating November as Native American Heritage Month.
"In Oklahoma," Fallin told the 50 representatives present, "we appreciate and we respect the impact that our tribes have had upon our state's economy, upon the jobs that have been created, certainly upon our culture in our state - keeping the history alive, the traditions alive. ...
"The tribal governments ... are important partners in helping us grow the prosperity of all of our Oklahoma citizens," she said.
The governor pointed to some progress her administration has achieved, including the settlement of a long-standing dispute with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation over tobacco-sales practices.
She also called for further cooperation on such matters as cross-deputizing law officers and in issuing burn bans.
But there are a few areas of conflict that continue bubbling. A lawsuit filed by the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations last year against the state over control of southeastern Oklahoma water looms large. And some tribal leaders still are disturbed over legislation passed last year doing away with the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission, a measure backed by the governor.
Fallin did appoint a tribal liaison to help her stay in close contact with tribes, but some tribal leaders are withholding judgment on the success of that approach.
Here in the Tulsa area, local leaders more and more are warming up to the idea of working closely with tribes, exploring such possibilities as building low-water dams and bridges together.
We're all in this together, and the quicker we put our differences behind us and building partnerships toward the future, the better off all of us will be.
Original Print Headline: Reaching out