SHAWNEE — The Citizen Potawatomi Nation signed an agreement with the federal government on Monday to take more authority over its land, reducing the role of Washington bureaucracy in the tribe's economic development decisions.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn went to Shawnee to sign the agreement, the first of its kind among Oklahoma tribes. The leasing regulations that were part of the agreement are expected to encourage commercial development and investment on the land.
Jewell said the tribe “now has the authority to decide how it wants to do business on its lands, making it easier for families to do things like buy and build houses or open businesses in the communities where they have lived for generations.”
The agreement was just the sixth signed with an American Indian tribe under a law passed by Congress last year that allows tribes to process leases on trust land without approval by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The regulations developed by the Interior Department to implement the law establish “separate, simplified processes for residential, business and renewable energy development, rather than using a ‘one-size fits all' approach that treats a lease for a single family home the same as a lease for a large wind energy project,” according to the department.
Citizen Potawatomi Nation Chairman John Barrett said, “This is a step in the right direction for tribal self-governance and will empower tribal governments to take greater control of their land. CPN has created a thriving economy of retail and tourism developments and we look forward to working with other businesses to spur business and commercial development in Oklahoma.”
The tribe has about 10,000 enrolled members in Oklahoma and 30,000 members in all.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, a co-author of the law, said, “Increased economic opportunity is the best way to raise the standards of living for tribal members. Today's formal approval of leasing regulations for the Citizen Potawatomi Nation will pave the way for just that.”