Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma agree to extend hunting and fishing compact
After the Cherokee Nation and the state of Oklahoma agreed to a hunting and fishing compact extension in the last week of 2019, Cherokee citizens living Oklahoma will receive their 2020 hunting and fishing licenses. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation citizens living in Oklahoma will soon get their 2020 hunting and fishing licenses now that the tribe and state have agreed to a hunting and fishing compact extension.
Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed the extension during the last week of 2019. The compact has benefits for each party, with the Nation issuing licenses and creating access to more than $6.9 million dollars in projected federal funding for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The ODWD can use the funding for wildlife conservation, enhancing fish and wildlife management across the tribe’s jurisdiction and the state.
“The hunting and fishing compact extension reaffirms our sovereignty and reminds us of our inherent right as Cherokees to hunt and fish on our lands, much like our ancestors have done throughout history,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “Our agreement with the state of Oklahoma provides Cherokee citizens living in Oklahoma an opportunity to hunt and fish not only within our tribal boundaries, but in all of Oklahoma’s 77 counties. This is a win-win for the Cherokee Nation and the state of Oklahoma. I commend the state for its willingness to extend the compact as we work toward further improvements for a possible longer-term agreement in the future.”
Under the compact, the Cherokee Nation issues its hunting and fishing licenses free of charge to Cherokee Nation citizens residing in Oklahoma. Licenses are acknowledged by the ODWC and offer Cherokee Nation citizens within the state the same privileges as Oklahoma’s licenses. Cherokee Nation citizens in the state also receive one deer tag and a single turkey tag per calendar year. Under the agreement, the Nation will purchase up to 150,000 licenses.
“Over the next year, the Cherokee Nation will continue to collaborate with the state of Oklahoma to negotiate a longer-term hunting and fishing compact that will better address the needs of the Cherokee people,” Cherokee Nation Secretary of Natural Resources Chad Harsha said. “We look forward to those discussions and appreciate the state of Oklahoma for being a cooperative partner in this effort.”
The compact between Oklahoma and the Cherokee Nation, the first hunting-fishing licensing agreement between a tribe and state in the United States, first became effective on Jan. 1, 2016, and had an expiration date of Dec. 31, 2018. But an agreement was later reached to extend the deadline by a year. The extension signed by Hoskin and Stitt expires on Dec. 31, 2020, pending any further agreement to continue the compact.
With Stitt and tribal governments sparring over the tribal gaming compact, there was concern within Harsha’s office that the hunting and fishing compact might be overlooked or become an afterthought.
During the Tribal Council’s Resource Committee in December, Harsha said a long-term hunting and fishing compact remained a goal, but a one-year extension could be more feasible and acceptable given the political situation.
There was further concern among some Cherokee Nation citizens when the Choctaw Nation announced on Dec. 30 that its respective compact had lapsed.
The Choctaw Nation said a proposal was put forth with the ODWC, but Stitt’s office had not responded.
“We are disappointed that negotiations have come to a standstill with state administration on the Hunting and Fishing Compact,” said Jack Austin, Jr., Choctaw Nation assistant chief, who led negotiations on the compact for the tribe. “This program has been a mutually beneficial agreement, benefitting both tribal members and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.”
Discussions were begun to renew the hunting and fishing agreement in August, according to the Choctaw Nation, and the ODWC was on board. Similar to the Cherokee Nation agreement, the Choctaw plan included the guaranteed purchase of thousands of state licenses for tribal citizens. Combined with federal rebates, projected revenue to the state was $4.875 million for 2020.
The Choctaw Nation advised its citizens to obtain 2020 state hunting and fishing licenses through the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
“We are pursuing other avenues to provide opportunities for our tribal members and protect the Choctaw cultural tradition of hunting and fishing,” Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton said. “While we have always been interested in a strong tribal-state partnership and remain open to negotiation on this issue, we are investigating alternative solutions that strengthen our tribal sovereignty.”