Rift between Stitt and tribal leaders grows deeper over fishing, gaming compacts

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — The rift between Gov. Kevin Stitt and tribal leaders in Oklahoma grows deeper.

On Monday, those tribes say that the governor doesn’t plan to renew hunting and fishing compacts that have been in place for years. The tribes said that these agreements were the first of their kind and were a win-win for both the state and the tribes.

“The governor is bent on destroying tribal sovereignty even if it costs the state tens of millions of dollars,” said Chief Hoskin, Cherokee Nation.

Hoskin wasn’t the only leader of an Oklahoma tribe who had strong words for Stitt. They say that Stitt doesn’t plan to renew compacts that allowed them to provide hunting and fishing licenses to tribal members.

“Our tribal members get to hunt and fish-free throughout public land in our area. The state of Oklahoma has been able to get almost $6 million,” said Chief Gary Batton, Choctaw Nation.

That money was reimbursed by the tribes and federal government on each license given out. The governor previously approved the compacts in 2019 and 2020.

“They’re not being canceled. They are set to expire at the end of this month. And there’s still a few weeks to go and we hope to gain some more clarity in the coming days of what operating without a compact will look like for the state of Oklahoma and for the tribal nations,” said Micah Holmes, the spokesman of the Department of Wildlife.

Holmes spoke about what losing this funding would look like for our state.

“It is a lot of dollars, but it is a little complicated because those dollars we get back are come through federal excess taxes and that portion is, depending on how many licenses you sell, how many licenses the states around us sell, as well, as the population and two or three of those things change annually. So, it’s hard to put a real hard dollar figure on what that might look like,” Holmes said.

The state would stand to make more money if every tribal member had to purchase a full license. However, Cherokee Nation’s leader said that they will still assert their right to hunt and fish.

“We’ll do so responsibly. We would rather do so cooperatively with the state, but Governor Stitt has abandoned cooperation with the tribes,” Hoskin said.

The Department of Wildlife said that moving forward, they want everybody to purchase a proper license.

“We know that those funds they go back directly to funding law enforcement, that serves our game that protect hunting and fishing privileges through the state,” Holmes said.

“Gov. Stitt believes that all Oklahomans should receive equal treatment under the law and offered both the Cherokee Nation and the Choctaw Nation the opportunity to enter into a compact to purchase licenses for their members by paying the same price as Oklahomans who are not tribal members,” Charlie Hannema, with Stitt’s office, said. “Personal attacks on the governor will not deter him from protecting the interests of all 4 million Oklahomans, including the state’s wildlife and natural resources.”

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