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Gov. Mary Fallin's office, Oklahoma Indian tribes off to good start in new era of relations

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: November 30, 2012

An Oklahoma City University study puts the direct economic impact of Indian tribes at 50,000 jobs and the indirect impact at 87,174 jobs. The tribes, criticized for selling their own car tags, have been paying for state highway improvements. They also help relieve the state of some of its burden to provide health care for the poor.

Many of the jobs cited in the study are related to casinos, one of the fastest-growing industries in the state over the past decade or so. Tribes are using casino proceeds to help members and the state as a whole. Fallin and other state officials have a legitimate need not only to listen to tribal concerns but to act in their best interests, when it doesn't conflict with the interests of the entire state.

T.W. Shannon, the next speaker of the Oklahoma House, has Chickasaw heritage, as does one of his mentors, U.S. Rep. Tom Cole. Many Oklahoma politicians can claim Indian heritage; many of them — like Shannon and Cole — are Republicans. There's no disconnect between being a conservative Republican and being an enrolled tribal member.

Sovereignty remains a launching point for conflict, however, and Fallin's liaison can play a critical role in keeping everyone talking — at least when no gag order is in effect. When the Indian Affairs Commission was abolished by Republican lawmakers, we said we weren't sure it was a good idea. We're still not sure, but the results so far are good enough to say that the new approach deserves more time to prove its worth.

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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