Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin pledges to work with tribes

Oklahoma's governor says she talks monthly with her recently appointed American Indian liaison. She cites a report that shows tribal government and business operations directly employ more than 50,000 people and support nearly 90,000 full-time jobs in the state.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: November 27, 2012 at 8:22 pm •  Published: November 28, 2012
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Some tribes and American Indians serving in the Legislature were critical of the legislation passed last year and backed by the governor that eliminated the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission and established the liaison post in the executive branch.

The liaison's section of the governor's office is attached to the legal department and includes a deputy counsel and a part-time legal assistant.

Fallin said Hensley is meeting with tribal officials across the state and has held six town hall meetings across the state.

Fallin said her office has made it a priority to work with tribal governments and called the liaison post “one of the best things we have done.”

“The jury's still out,” said Rep. Larry Glenn, D-Miami, who represents 10 tribes in his northeastern Oklahoma district and voted against the measure that the created the liaison post.

Ron Sparkman, chief of the Shawnee Tribe, and a member of the Indian Affairs Commission when it was disbanded, said it is too early to determine whether the liaison post will work.

“We were very concerned about where it was going to go,” he said. “I look forward to working with the governor.”

He said he appreciates the effort that Hensley has shown, including visiting his tribe and attending tribal meetings.

“She is the voice of the tribes to the governor, and that will be fine,” Sparkman said.

“We'll try to work with it. I don't have anything negative to say about that. It's something the governor wanted to do and that's her prerogative, and the Legislature supported that view.”

McClain said he considers the liaison post “a step in the right direction.”

Fallin cites report

Fallin cited a report released in October that showed Oklahoma's 38 federally recognized Indian tribes have an estimated $10.8 billion impact in the state's production of goods and services, with more than 70 percent of that effect coming from the tribes' gambling operations.

Tribal government and business operations directly employ more than 50,000 people, and support a total of 87,174 full-time jobs in the state, according to an analysis by the Steven C. Agee Economic Research & Policy Institute at Oklahoma City University. Gaming accounted for more than half of those jobs.



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