Governor’s Report - October
Hello Tribal People.
I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying this fine weather we have been having. I would like to mention the General Council Meeting has been set for October 27, 2018, at 10:00 a.m. in the Multi-Purpose Building on the Absentee Shawnee Complex. The AST Health Clinic will be giving flu shots at General Council. We need to be thinking about the upcoming flu season. It will be here before we know it and I hope everyone will consider the flu immunization.
I have attended several meetings over the past month and want to share with you some of the decisions being made that will affect our tribe.
Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Reorganization:
President Trump signed an Executive Order 13781 on March 1, 2017, for Federal
agencies to examine ways it could reorganize to improve efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability. The Secretary of the Department of Interior (DOI) recently announced his vision to establish 13 unified regional office boundaries across all the Department of Interiors Bureaus that include Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).
The Department of Interior is taking careful consideration of how the BIA regions
and functions may be included in this reorganization. There have been many Consultation Sessions across Indian Country. A listening session was conducted in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 27, 2017, in which I was present, and spoke of the reorganization and how it was going to affect the Absentee Shawnee Tribe and all the Tribes in Oklahoma. The most recent meeting in Oklahoma was held on August 7, 2018, at the Embassy Suites in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Tribal Leaders across Oklahoma spoke up, opposing this reorganization and how it will not be a good move for the tribes.
The current status of the Department of Interior:
There is no written Reorganization Plan yet. But it is coming down the pipeline soon; draft maps have been developed by DOI of unified regions. With this draft map, it puts the Absentee Shawnee Tribe in the Arkansas - Rio Grande - Texas Gulf Region 7. This Reorganization Plan should be on every tribe in Oklahoma’s radar. Tribes should unify and take part in the consultations and write comments to the DOI. The Department of Interior is proposing to bring all bureaus together under 13 regions. As it stands today there are 9 bureaus in 61 regions.
On September 7, 2018, there was a follow up to the August 7th BIA reorganization meeting. Tribal Leaders from Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribe, Apache Tribe, Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, Comanche Tribe, Wichita & Affiliated Tribes of Oklahoma, Delaware Nation of Oklahoma, Kaw Nation and Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma. During this meeting, we had a lengthy discussion on the Reorganization Plan. We drafted and finalized an opposition letter to the Department of the Interior Reorganization. A list of concerns that we brought up, was sent with a letter are listed:
• Tribal Sovereignty is always our highest concern
• The reorganization is not for the benefit of Indian People/Country
• Concerns that jobs at the Southern Plains Regional Office will be lost,
approximately 125 jobs
• Concerns that jobs at the Riverside Indian School will be lost, approximately
• No indication as to how it would affect our Indian Child Welfare Programs and
the children being served
• How would trust services be affected?
• Concerns of how Trust and Fee Land issues would be addressed
• Unsure of how the Fire Programs will be affected
• Unsure how our court systems would be affected
- CFR Court
• Unsure of how information technology will be impacted at the local level
These are just a few of the concerns the Tribal Leaders listed at September 7, 2018 meeting. A letter and the list of concerns was completed and sent to the Department of the Interior Reorganization. I would like to thank President Terri Parton, of the Wichita & Affiliated Tribes of Oklahoma for spearheading this meeting. We had over half of the Tribes in the Southern Plains Region to sign the letter of opposition to their plan.
Sovereign Community Charter School:
On August 23rd, 2018 the State Board of Education met for their monthly meeting. During the Public Comment Session, there were about a dozen supporters for the passage of a Federal Charter School. The Sovereign Community School was an agenda item for the State Board to pass or not to pass. I was asked to speak in support of the Sovereign Community School. The School stands to become the first of its kind in Oklahoma. As proposed, the school would support 525 students, who could come from any of Oklahoma’s 39 tribal nations as well as other ethnicities. The academic program would include engagement in Native American culture, language and tradition, not specific to any tribe.
The Daily Oklahoman Newspaper mentioned a statement that I made in my speech. “Sovereign Community School can be a statewide example of how to incorporate a child’s culture into the curriculum”. I am happy to write that by the end of the State Board of Education a vote was conducted with the results of voting in favor or not being in favor. The school was passed by a vote of 5 -2, with Superintendent Joy Hoffmeister and Board Member Cathryn Franks to vote against the Sovereign Community School.
For those families who lost a loved one this month, I offer my sincere condolences to you and your family on your loss.
I appreciate tribal members that have come by my office or called with their concerns. My door is open unless I am in a meeting or attending a meeting elsewhere. Help me make a difference – stand beside me and Let us Build for the Future (BFF)
United and together!