Okla. gov.'s tribal liaison issues first report

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 7, 2014 at 5:27 pm •  Published: January 7, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma-based Indian tribes have reached agreements with the state on burn bans, policing, smoke-free casinos and the installation of compressed natural gas filling stations as a result of successful negotiations with Gov. Mary Fallin's office in recent months, the governor's Native American liaison announced on Tuesday.

Jacque Hensley, a member of the Kaw Nation who was appointed to the newly created executive branch position in July 2012, outlined the state of tribal affairs in her first annual report. Hensley said tribal leaders from across Oklahoma have been participating in regular conversations with the governor and appreciate having a direct contact inside the office of the state's chief executive.

"I think that we have made big strides in the relationship between the tribes and the state," Hensley said. "We've had all of the tribal leaders and Gov. Fallin and myself sit down, and we talk. I don't think the tribal leaders have ever had that."

The position of Native American liaison in the governor's office was created after Fallin and the Republican-controlled Legislature approved a bill to abolish the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission in 2011. Some Native American lawmakers initially voiced opposition to the plan, but officials from several tribes have since said they are pleased to be working directly with a liaison to the governor's office.

"We appreciate the increased access to the governor's office that the Native American liaison has facilitated," said Judy Allen, a spokeswoman for the Durant-based Choctaw Nation, one of the state's largest tribes.

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