In comments that took only a few moments during her 49-minute State of the State speech on Monday, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin issued a gentle but rather direct chiding of the leaders for two of Oklahoma’s major Indian tribes.
Fallin said, “The Choctaw and Chickasaw nations have sued the state of Oklahoma concerning who owns the water in 22 counties.
“We continue to hope this issue can be settled through mediation, without huge legal fees, and with all parties negotiating in good faith.
“In the event, however, that the tribes do not share that goal, we intend to defend the water rights of all Oklahomans against a claim that favors one group over the interests of the entire state and all of its citizens.”
Fallin concluded with a request for the Legislature to consider additional resources for the office of Attorney General Scott Pruitt. She said, “To ensure we are adequately prepared to do that, the attorney general needs additional resources to retain the very best counsel.”
In a statement sent to reporters today (Tuesday, February 7), Gov. Bill Anoatubby of the Chickasaw and Chief Gregory E. Pyle of the Choctaw said they were “pleased” to hear Fallin “shares our goal of meeting the water needs of every Oklahoman and not just those of a few.”
The pair asserted, “We only filed legal action to protect water resources in southeastern Oklahoma after our repeated requests to establish government-to-government negotiations with the State to resolve water resource issues were met with silence.
“We structured our suit carefully to prevent one-sided action by the State, yet still provide a forum for negotiation. We also painstakingly composed our suit and subsequent amendments to preserve the rights of the hundreds of individual users who are using the water under current permit.”
The two men said, “We continue to hope the tribes and the governor can work together to resolve our differences and we will do our part.”
On February 2, Fallin wrote a letter the Oklahoma City lawyer representing the two tribes, succinctly making to them the case to “dismiss your lawsuit” and continue mediation.
In a letter dated today and transmitted to “via counsel of record” to Secretary of state Glenn Coffee and two members of Pruitt’s staff, the two tribal leaders asserted, “There was a lack of negotiations or meaningful engagement until we filed our suit, and if we dismissed, our current court ordered medications would cease.”
Missing in the recent exchanges between the governor of the state and the two tribal leaders is any reference to the asserted aboriginal rights of the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma, the subject of past reports from CapitolBeatOK.