Oklahoma Army National Guard, Okemah tribe sign pact
BY JERRY WOFFORD World Staff Writer
Friday, December 07, 2012
12/07/12 at 5:21 AM
The Oklahoma Army National Guard is working to build relationships with the state's tribal nations with agreements that officials said will streamline communication between the two groups.
The guard signed the first such memorandum of understanding last month with the Thlopthlocco Tribal Town of Okemah. The agreement establishes protocol between the guard and the tribe particularly on matters related to construction and renovation of guard properties.
Other states have used similar agreements, but the memorandum of understanding with the Thlopthlocco Tribal Town is a first for the Oklahoma Army National Guard.
"I think it's good," said Col. Curtis Arnold, director of engineering for Oklahoma Army National Guard. "It shows a trust between the guard and the tribes."
The agreement was signed Nov. 29 by Maj. Gen. Myles Deering, Oklahoma's adjutant general, and Thlopthlocco Tribal Town Town King George Scott.
Arnold said that federal law requires the guard to lay out any plans they have if it involves tribal lands with the tribe. The guard has to ensure the tribe's concerns are addressed before movement can happen with the project.
In the past, the guard would do this with each tribe whenever a project came up, which could cause headaches to repeat the process with the same tribe several times.
"Before any construction would ever occur we would contact that tribe," Arnold said. "We would tell them full disclosure what was going on. The tribe would tell us what impacts it would have and what we could do to mitigate those risks."
The agreement would put those channels of communication permanently in place, creating a more efficient process for the guard that ensures they are aware of any concerns the tribe might have.
Included in the understanding are how the tribe and guard communicate, who would be in charge of the projects, what those projects would be, what the tribe's concerns would be. The understanding also aims to maintain "a cultural resources awareness training program, maintaining the right of tribal groups to visit sacred sites on Oklahoma Army National Guard controlled property and sharing of historical research," according to the release.
"Native American culture is an important part of the culture of Oklahoma and we are very happy to have reached this agreement with the Thlopthlocco Tribal Town," Deering said in a statement. "Through this agreement, the Oklahoma Army National Guard and the Thlopthlocco Tribal Town will be able to protect our interests without an extensive amount of red tape costing the tribe and taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars a year."
Original Print Headline: National Guard, tribe sign pact
Jerry Wofford 918-581-8310