Cherokee Chief To Address Lawmakers As Gaming Dispute Nears 8th Month
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. will address lawmakers at Wednesday's Capitol Cherokee Day.
The remarks will be the first time Hoskin formally addresses lawmakers since the fight over gaming compacts between the governor and the tribes began nearly eight months ago.
Both Gov. Kevin Stitt and the tribes are at a stalemate while they wait for a decision on a federal court case, which has now ballooned from three tribes to more than a dozen.
Stitt wants the tribes to renegotiate the state Class III gaming compacts. The tribes said the compacts auto-renewed on Jan. 1.
In a rare act of solidarity, nearly all of the state's 39 tribes have thrown their support behind the lawsuit.
It's unclear what Hoskin will say during his address. Calls to the Cherokee nation went unanswered, but it's likely the gaming compact dispute will be a large portion of his presentation alongside tribal education, health care and the epidemic of missing or murdered indigenous women in Oklahoma.
In the halls of the Capitol, Stitt has stood essentially alone in his fight against the tribes. The House Speaker sided with the tribes. The Senate President refused to take sides and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have criticized the Governor's tactics.
In his own cabinet, Attorney General Mike Hunter has removed himself from the dispute.
Stitt’s first Sec. of Native American Affairs, Lisa Billy, resigned abruptly, calling the dispute “an unnecessary conflict” that could risk “lasting damage to the state-tribal relationship and our economy” in her resignation letter.
"[Stitt] needs to understand tribal sovereignty. He needs to understand our role in gaming,” Hoskin said at the Governor’s State of the State Address. “He needs to understand that the state of Oklahoma has never had a better friend than the Cherokee Nation or the other tribes, but it's a friendship that needs to be based on respect and understanding."
In the meantime, the tribes are continuing to send in their gaming compact fees which last year topped more than $149 million.
Last week, the State Board of Equalization announced it expected more than $130 million in exclusivity fees from tribes in the coming year. According to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, fees for January were due last Thursday and are still being processed.
Chief Hoskin will speak after lawmakers head into session at 1:30 p.m.