Strong Rural Areas

Providing Resources for Oklahomans in Small Towns and Communities

More than one-third of Oklahoma’s population lives in a rural part of the state. Those 1.3 million citizens are benefitting from tribal investments in the state’s small towns and communities. At a time when many rural communities across the nation are being decimated, Oklahoma tribes are investing in the state’s less-populated areas and, in doing so, are helping to strengthen the state as a whole.

The first area tribal funding benefits is education. Oklahoma tribes are developing schools and programs that are training our children and improving the quality of life of rural communities as a whole.

Another critical component is health care. Tribal investments are providing health care to citizens who otherwise might not receive it. And the tribes are also heavily involved in transportation infrastructure. They are building much-needed roads and bridges that are increasing access and saving time—and during emergencies, perhaps even lives.

Working together always produces better results. And there is no better example of that than to go look in rural Oklahoma where tribes are located and see every example under the sun of those communities and those tribes doing better together.

Matthew Morgan
Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association

The Economic Impact of Tribal Nations in Oklahoma Fiscal Year 2017

Oklahoma Tribal Nations are major drivers of Oklahoma’s overall economy, ranking as a Top 10 industry.

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A Rural, and National, First

One example of tribes’ investment in rural areas can be seen in the Cherokee Nation’s partnership with Oklahoma State University. Together, they are building the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Tahlequah. Set on the Cherokee Nation Health Services campus in eastern Oklahoma, it’s more than just the first rural facility of its kind—it’s the nation’s first college of medicine to be located on tribal land.

“We will turn Oklahoma into a primary care oasis,” promises Bill John Baker, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. Beyond providing access to state-of-the-art health care, the 469,000-square-foot facility will also bring a host of quality jobs to eastern Oklahoma. “The biggest need of the state of Oklahoma is a quality workforce to recruit people in, and we're doing our part,” adds Baker.

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Bringing more jobs to rural areas, as many tribal facilities have done, has had a big impact on these small communities. Many more rural towns across the state have benefitted from the tribes in terms of increased educational opportunities, access to quality health care and an enhanced transportation infrastructure that makes travel easier.

[The tribes] reinvest dollars in rural Oklahoma, fighting against the tide of the urbanization that's going on all across America and guaranteeing there will be employment in the long run future for rural Oklahomans.

Kyle Dean, PhD
Associate Professor of Economics
Oklahoma City University

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