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Negotiations could resume between Oklahoma and the Chickasaws, Choctaws tribes over water rights in southeast part of state

Negotiations between the state of Oklahoma and two large Indian tribes over water rights in the state's wettest region could soon resume. A federal judge granted a 60-day stay on Tuesday, giving both sides more time to resolve the matter before litigation continues.
by Andrew Knittle Published: March 28, 2012

History of dispute

The tribes filed a lawsuit in federal court in August 2011, essentially laying claim to the water rights in Oklahoma's wettest region — a 22-county area stretching from Grady County to the southeast corner of the state.

The state Water Board's adjudication suit was seeking to gain control of the same water rights, court records show.

Waterways at the heart of the dispute include the Kiamichi River and the Muddy Boggy and Clear Boggy stream systems.

The tribes claim the water rights were granted to them through a series of treaties signed with the federal government in the 1830s.

They say any unauthorized removal or export of the water is a direct violation of federal law.

Before filing their lawsuit in August 2011, tribal leaders claimed they'd been trying to negotiate with the state of Oklahoma for years — but to no avail.

“A lack of any real progress on the initiation of meaningful government-to-government talks on these matters leads us to believe further inaction would simply mean the deepening of our present challenges,” Pyle said shortly after the lawsuit was filed.

CONTRIBUTING: Staff Writers Nolan Clay and Randy Ellis

by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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