OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma tribal leaders said this week that Gov. Kevin Stitt's decision to not renew hunting and fishing license compacts with the Cherokee and Choctaw nations is part of an ongoing dispute between the tribes and the Republican governor.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton said in a joint statement with Choctaw, Muscogee, Chickasaw and Seminole nation leaders that Stitt was undermining collaboration with them.
“This is consistent with what we’ve seen from the governor since the (U.S.) Supreme Court’s McGirt decision,” which found that Oklahoma lacks jurisdiction over serious crimes committed on tribal reservations by or against tribal citizens, Hoskin wrote.
The state has asked the court to reverse the decision.
Stitt and tribal leaders had clashed earlier over Stitt's desire to renegotiate tribal gambling compacts that he claimed were expiring. Federal and state courts ruled against Stitt in lawsuits over the gambling question.
Hoskin and Batton said their tribes have paid $38 million to the state since separately agreeing with then-Gov. Mary Fallin to the licensing compacts that went into effect in 2016.
“Under previous administrations, compacts regarding hunting and fishing licenses were a routine matter," Batton said. “Unfortunately, Gov. Stitt has once again decided to let his personal concerns outweigh what is best for the people he was elected to represent, putting conflict above cooperation.”
Stitt spokesman Charlie Hannema said Stitt believes all Oklahomans should be treated equally.
“Personal attacks on the governor will not deter him from protecting the interests of all 4 million Oklahomans, including the state’s wildlife and natural resources,” Hannema said in a statement.
Hannema said the Cherokee and Choctaw nations were offered the opportunity to purchase the licenses at the same price as non-tribal citizens, $25 for a hunting or fishing license, or $42 for a combination license.
A year ago, Stitt signed one-year extensions of the compacts, saying they helped capture federal funds "for conservation efforts across our state while promoting hunting and fishing opportunities for citizens of the (tribes)," according to statements released at the time.
After purchasing the licenses, the Cherokee Nation provided them at no charge to tribal citizens while the Choctaw Nation charged $2 each for them.
The tribes have guaranteed hunting and fishing rights on their reservations under their treaties with the United States.