Analysis: Cherokee Principal Chief Bill John Baker this Friday has invited guests to witness as he signs away long-held Cherokee Nation hunting and fishing rights in return for giving the State of Oklahoma an estimated $300,000 to $500,000 per year by compact.
There is a planned committee meeting then a Council Meeting Thursday. Invitations to a compact signing ceremony have been mailed for the Friday event, but details on the compact may not be fully or broadly known until it is law.
Former Principal Chief and candidate in the current race, Chief Chad Smith asserted in 2006 that based on the 1975 Menominee vs. US decision, holding a “blue card” is all the hunting and fishing license any Cherokee needs in the fourteen counties comprising the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma.
If this compact is signed; some suggest the Nation is giving away sovereignty, failing full and open debate, and paying huge sums of money to the State of Oklahoma that are unnecessary and unlimited thus risking critical programs and services both immediately and for future generations.
According to the draft reviewed; the Nation cedes joint authority to the State and agrees to adopt federal laws “applicable” with few specifics or limitations.
Next, the Nation agrees to adopt and maintain “as a minimum standard the provisions of the OK Wildlife Conservation Code” which may also change at the will of the State.
Further, by adopting State regulating authority, the Nation may be at risk in legal positions on water rights actions and other cases of possible dispute with both the State and Federal government.
The cost of issuing a tribal/state dual jurisdictional license (compact license) is the responsibility of the Nation. The Nation must pay the State the minimum amount for each compact license required for certification under the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR). That cost is “currently anticipated” at $2.00, but is not limited.
Regardless, the Nation is required to pay for a minimum of 150,000 compact licenses each year for its citizens between the ages of 16 and 65 years old – there are only around 151,000 Cherokees in Oklahoma. Does every Cherokee hunt and fish every year?
Critics suggest that the number of Cherokees that hunt and fish each year between 16 and 65 years of age is far less. Further, the administrative cost to the Nation has not been detailed in how these now licensed Cherokee hunters and fishers will be tracked and counted under a new system.
Some familiar with the issues suggest this is a political grandstanding effort by Chief Baker, but, at the least, this compact has not received public scrutiny or careful consideration.
From this writer’s reading of the draft compact it appears the Nation is buying rights they already hold to gain nothing in return.