Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin sign a hunting and fishing compact that expands the hunting and fishing rights of all Cherokees living in the state of Oklahoma.
New compact with state of Oklahoma guarantees Cherokees’ treaty rights, expands hunting and fishing rights to all 77 counties
TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA — Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed a compact Friday to expand hunting and fishing rights for Cherokee Nation citizens to all 77 Oklahoma counties. The new agreement takes effect January 1, 2016.
“By creating and signing this compact, we have reaffirmed our tribal sovereignty and once again led the way for other tribal governments in Oklahoma and across the country,” Principal Chief Baker said.
“Today, I am proud the Cherokee Nation is the first tribe to compact with the state in proper recognition of our long-held treaty rights to hunt and fish the lands within not only our jurisdictional boundaries, but all 77 counties in Oklahoma. No Cherokee will ever be fearful of arrest or prosecution for exercising their inherent rights to hunt and fish.”
Overlapping state and tribal jurisdiction often made for confusion when it came to Cherokee Nation citizens’ rights to fish and hunt the land without facing unnecessary and unlawful prosecution from state wildlife enforcement officers. Under the new compact, Cherokee Nation citizens will now be able to freely exercise their treaty rights across the state and without fear of arrest or prosecution off tribal land. The compact is the result of several months of careful negotiation to ensure Cherokee Nation citizens’ rights were not only preserved, but strengthened.
Every Cherokee Nation citizen over the age of 16 will receive a hunting and fishing license annually and free of charge, along with one deer tag and one turkey tag. The Cherokee Nation will pay $2 to the state of Oklahoma for every license issued, which allows the state to obtain federal grants to help preserve the state’s wildlife and natural habitats. The agreement also unlocks as much as $4 million in federal money for the state wildlife department, monies which tribes are not eligible to apply for.
Compacts become necessary when state and tribal laws conflict. The Cherokee Nation and Oklahoma have compacts dating back to 1992 in the areas of gaming, motor fuels, vehicle license plates, tobacco sales, environmental protection and child care.
The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council approved the tribe entering into an agreement with the state during a special called meeting Thursday.
“While this compact benefits every Cherokee Nation citizen, all Oklahomans will benefit through the conservation and protection of wildlife habitat in Oklahoma,” said Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd, who chairs the Rules Committee. “The Cherokee Nation is committed to protecting our wildlife resources for future generations, and this new compact with the state of Oklahoma will help ensure our natural resource assets are properly preserved.”
Cherokee Nation citizen and Adair County resident Travis Sawney said the compact offers tribal citizens the ability to hunt and fish just as his ancestors once did.
“I’ve heard stories about the old days from elders my whole life. The days when they could hunt and fish freely,” said Sawney, who spends about $130 every year on hunting and fishing licenses and tags. “I’m very happy and proud that we’re getting back our right to provide for our families without paying fees and providing the peace of mind of knowing if you want or need to hunt or fish you can just go, the way it should be.”
The hunting and fishing compact is effective Jan. 1, 2016. Tribal officials are still determining the most efficient method of distributing the hunting and fishing licenses to Cherokee Nation citizens.