The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma is once again seeking to negotiate a compact with the state involving hunting and fishing rights.
Jim Gray, executive director of government relations and communications for the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, confirmed the negotiations are in the beginning stages. He offered no details about the potential compact or its scope.
“We have met with the state of Oklahoma and are interested in pursuing talks on a compact concerning hunting and fishing licenses later this year,” Gray said. “Until we have had that discussion, it would be premature to speculate on details.
“We have a positive relationship with the state and the governor's office and have every intention of maintaining that rapport,” Gray said.
In July 2009, the Cherokee Nation announced that tribal members wouldn't need state-issued licenses to hunt or fish within the nation's historical treaty borders.
The tribe contends that such rights were granted to them through centuries-old treaties with the federal government. The tribe's treaty lands sprawl across all or part of 14 counties in northeast Oklahoma.
The relatively new laws, posted on the Cherokee Nation's website, state that tribal members need only carry a “blue card” while hunting or fishing within the tribe's treaty lands.
A warning also is posted at the bottom of the document outlining the Cherokee Nation's hunting and fishing laws, telling members they still can be cited for illegal hunting by agents working for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
“Until there is a formal agreement with the state, you may be subject to fines and/or other penalties for hunting on state land without a state license,” the warning reads.“While the Nation believes that such penalties would be improper, there is no guarantee that you will not be subject to them.”
The warning also states that Cherokee officials may or may not intervene on the member's behalf if they are cited for unauthorized hunting or fishing by state wildlife agents.
According to the March 2009 edition of the Cherokee Nation's newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, an initial attempt by the tribe to negotiate a compact with the state was unsuccessful.
In a story from that edition, former Gov. Brad Henry said the potential hunting and fishing compact was put on hold because of a tobacco compact the Cherokee Nation was negotiating with the state at the time. The story indicates Henry was concerned about “all the tribes in Oklahoma having hunting and gaming codes, saying it could be ‘problematic.'”