CATOOSA, Okla. – Oklahoma’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction thanked tribes for their contributions to the state’s educational goals recently. Joy Hofmeister spoke at a quarterly meeting of the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes on Jan. 10 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tulsa. The meeting was hosted by the Cherokee Nation.
“My heart is filled with gratitude for the service and the prioritization that you have made over the years for the school children of Oklahoma,” Hofmeister said.
Hofmeister said since the beginning of her term in 2014, the state’s tribes have invested more than $575.8 million in gaming funds to the state’s education system.
“These contributions have steadily risen, despite tribal nations receiving no state subsidies to the gaming industry,” Hofmeister said.
She said these contributions have also been supplemented by Oklahoma’s Native American tribes, both monetarily and through their educational programs and services.
In addition, the council passed six resolutions, including one honoring Lisa Billy for her service as Secretary of Native American Affairs for the State of Oklahoma.
Billy resigned last month from her gubernatorial-appointed position following the compact negotiation dispute between the tribes and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt. Billy currently serves as a legislator for the Chickasaw Nation.
Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby said, “Her achievements and actions have made clear to everyone that the sovereign tribal governments of Oklahoma are united and that our bonds are stronger than any bureaucratic or legal misrepresentation.”
Billy was visibly moved when presented with a medal, a drum and a copy of the resolution honoring her. “We are mighty in our message of unity,” Billy said. “We continue to move forward.”
Tribal leaders said the state’s many Native American tribes are committed to each other, their communities and their state.
“We are united for Oklahoma,” said Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Chief Gary Batton. Other tribal leaders echoed Chief Batton’s message of unity.
Seminole Nation of Oklahoma Chief Greg Chilcoat said the tribes work, communicate and move forward together.
Newly elected Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill said the Muscogee (Creek) Nation stood with all tribal nations in the state. “I’m looking forward to working with each one of you to ensure our partnership is strong and our voices are heard as one,” Principal Chief Hill said.
Tribal leaders said tribal programs and services help more than just the citizens of their respective tribes, they help all Oklahomans.
“The five tribes are the best friends that the state of Oklahoma has ever had,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.
The annual election of officers was held. Tribal leaders voted for Principal Chief Hoskin and Principal Chief Hill as the council’s new president and vice president, respectively. Terri Haney was re-elected as council treasurer.
In addition to the resolution honoring Billy, the council passed five other resolutions:
– Supporting restoration of the Earned Income Tax Credit.
– Urging the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Office of Justice Programs, United States Department of Justice to hold a tribal consultation and develop an OJJDP tribal policy in line with the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018.
– Urging Congress to reauthorize the Special Diabetes Program for Indians.
– Urging renewal of the Oklahoma Advisory Council on the Indian Education Act.
– Supporting Oklahoma State Department of Health adoption of immunization rule changes.