United Indians seeks political voice
For the first time in a decade, Indian tribes in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas have an organization to share best practices and present a united front on political issues.
After a series of summit meetings during the past year, tribal leaders decided in August to organize as the United Indian Nations of Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas.
Although Oklahoma has several multitribal organizations, this is the first open to all 39 tribes since at least the mid-1990s, said Barbara Warner, director of the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission.
The new group is not out to replace existing ones, said George Tiger, a Muscogee (Creek) Nation legislator who presided when the group met Thursday in Oklahoma City.
"We're not trying to take any other tribal organization away from anybody. We're just trying to be an added resource," he said.
A pantribal organization gives the tribes more political clout at national meetings, Warner said.
"They say, 'One stick you can break, a bundle of sticks you can't.' That's what we're trying to do -- stay together and have that big voice," Warner said.
Roots for the organization go back to December, when Creek, Osage and Cherokee leaders held a summit in Sapulpa to discuss state-tribal tobacco compacts.
The discussion expanded to other issues, and a series of monthly tribal summits followed from April to August.
"At each meeting, we were finding out it didn't make any difference how large or small our tribes were, we had the same concerns," Tiger said. "Then we got to talking about how important it was to be in the political process -- getting our people to register and go out and vote," he said.