ARDMORE, Okla. - One Nation, a privately-funded group based in Oklahoma, is seen by tribal leaders as a major threat to tribal sovereignty. According to the organization's Web site, it was "... created to "push back" against the massive expansion of tribal authority and the various disruptions and inequities created by sovereignty ... One Nation will be an outspoken advocate on issues relating to how Native American tribal authority and power is distorting the free market American economy."
Kim Collins, a Choctaw man living in Ardmore, first saw the site in May of this year. "I wasn't happy with what I saw, which was a threat to tribal sovereignty," Collins told Indian Country Today. "I got mad, and decided it was time to do something, so I secured the domain name the night I saw their site." His site is called "One Nation Ok Lies" (onenationoklies.com). The Web site has received 2,500 hits since May and web traffic has steadily increased.
One Nation lists their founding coalition members as the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, the Oklahoma Petroleum Marketers Association, the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, the Southern Oklahoma Water Alliance, and the Oklahoma Grocers Association, along with Jeramy Rich, director of public policy for the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, and Rusty Shaw, owner of Shaw's Gulf, Inc. Membership dues range from $250 for a regular membership to $10,000 to become an "Executive Council Member." The site argues that Native Americans are paying no taxes, and "cost" the state millions in gambling, cigarette, and property taxes.
Collins counters every point on his site. "I don't know what kind of impact this site will have," Collins continued, "but my main focus is to educate people and try to put a stop to the lobbying that I'm sure One Nation is doing at this time, they've been too quiet. With $10,000 membership fees for advanced members, they've got some money in their pockets and they are going to spread it around to special interest groups and do what they can to implement changes in the legislation and the laws. If you look at their site and some of the things they say, about the loss of taxes to the state of Oklahoma, and you do a little research, you'll see they're bogus. According to the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Web site, tribal governments contribute more than $7.8 billion annually to the Oklahoma economy, and this is not just through the tribal members, we're talking about businesses, employment, education, health, child care, social services, housing, and a lot of other things."
Collins believes the group is a reaction to gross misconceptions and myths about the rights of tribal governments when it comes to taxes. "There's been a rumor started among truck stops and convenience stores that Indian tribes have the ability to avoid state taxes, and that is simply not true," Collins said. "Good Lord! I pay taxes. The only thing I get free is health care. I'm Choctaw; I don't get money."
Ultimately Collins sees One Nation as trying to take away what the tribal governments need in order to do business. "I think there are some racial undertones, but for the most part it's economics; it's hitting them in the pocketbooks. The tribes are sovereign nations, recognized by the United States constitution and in hundreds of treaties. The tribes are becoming self-sufficient, they're not relying so much on the government dollars, they are entering into some viable, profitable business ventures, and these folks don't like it."
When asked if everyone involved in the group could stand to profit, Collins said "I'm sure there are people involved that would not profit if One Nation were successful. A lot of the people who are a part of this have basically been buffaloed by the misinformation that One Nation is putting forth."
Collins noted that he doesn't feel that One Nation's goals are the same as anyone else in Oklahoma, and points to Governor Brad Henry, who is currently in negotiations with many tribes around the state. "The nations are sovereign entities and they are not required to pay taxes on sales on tribal lands or tribal enterprises," Collins noted. "But in cooperation with the state they have entered into compacts so the state doesn't lose out totally. This is something that the tribes don't have to do, and it's not mutually beneficial, because the tribes are paying money that, according to federal law, they should not have to pay."
While Collins does not see how One Nation can succeed at their goal, he does stress that unity is needed among the tribes and the Indian people in order to fight it. "We all need to come together on this issue because this is a major threat to all of us. Four of the last five decisions the Supreme Court has brought down in reference to tribal sovereignty have gone against the Indian tribes, so there's some kind of precedents here that we all need to do something about. I'm not anti-government; I'm a Native American and I live in this country."
One Nation was contacted by ICT, but did not return any calls.