Tribes and Self-Determination

Tribal sovereignty, which is the authority of a government body to govern itself, not only predates Oklahoma but America as well. As Oklahoma was seeking admittance to the Union as the 46th state, the 1906 Statehood Enabling Act required that Oklahoma not interfere with the interests of the tribes or their lands.

From the founding fathers who recognized the importance of tribal governments, to the era of self- determination, to legislation that propelled tribes toward self-sufficiency, history is clear. When tribal sovereignty is supported, towns, counties and states are stronger. As attorney William Norman notes, “Tribal sovereignty is not a threat to the state of Oklahoma.”

When state leaders and tribal leaders respect one another, communicate with one another and can be frank with one another about their challenges, they tend to be able to sit down and problem-solve.
William Norman
Managing Partner, Strauss & Walker

Firmly Rooted to Be Strong Partners

The core sovereignty of tribes has remained unchanged over the years. Tribal nations have the ability to determine who their citizenry is, to regulate the activities within their borders and to interact with other sovereign governments.

Tribes Provide $15.5 Billion in Economic Impact
Tribes in Oklahoma support 113,442 jobs and pay $5.4 billion in wages and benefits.
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The idea of cross-jurisdictions is not a new one. “Just like we have municipal and county governments and state and federal governments, there are tribal governments,” says Chickasaw Nation Senior Counsel Stephen Greetham. “You drive from Oklahoma City to Dallas and go through jurisdictions every few minutes along the way on the road. It’s no different. It’s just a different form of government.”

Tribal sovereignty is not a threat to Oklahoma. Ultimately, it’s about having a voice — tribal people being able to speak for themselves and make their own decisions for the future. And that’s something tribes never do in a vacuum. Rather, they do that working side-by-side with their neighbors.

Tribal sovereigns are just like any other sovereign. Tribal peoples are like other peoples. They want what’s best for their kids. They want what’s best for their communities.
Stephen Greetham
Greetham Law, P.L.L.C.
The state government and the tribal governments are sovereigns. They have unique statutory and constitutional powers, both at the federal government and the state government.
Frank Keating
State of Oklahoma (1995-2003)
Tribal sovereignty is poorly understood by most people. The argument is we’re all Americans, we shouldn’t have a separate kind of government. But we did, before America existed as a matter of fact.
Neal McCaleb
Chickasaw Nation
Tribes have been here for millennia and we are woven into the fabric of every community that we’re involved in.
Matthew Morgan
Special Envoy
Chickasaw Nation