Indianz.Com Video: NCAI stands with tribes in gaming dispute

Oklahoma governor won't let Indian ancestry doubts derail gaming dispute

A certain Democratic candidate for president isn't the only politician facing questions about Indian ancestry.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, He traces his ancestry to the Dawson family, whose members appear on the Dawes Rolls, the documents used to determine eligibility.

But Stitt won't talk about claims that the Dawsons were not Cherokee, a position once advanced by the tribe itself when it sought to remove them -- unsuccessfully -- in the early 1900s. Through a spokesperson, he told The Associated Press that questions about his ancestry were "highly offensive" and were a distraction from an Indian gaming dispute he initiated last year.

“Now, I don’t judge him for that because a lot of our citizens fall into that category,” prominent Cherokee genealogist David Cornsilk told the AP, describing Stitt as someone not actively involved in tribal affairs. “What I do judge him for is the fact that he’s attacking our tribe and tribal sovereignty and our gaming compacts.”

Stitt also told the AP that he wasn't aware of the tribe's attempts to remove his ancestors from the rolls until asked by The New York Times and High Country News, which broke the story late last month. Cherokee Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. won't talk about the citizenship issue either.

“Governor Kevin Stitt is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and our tribe does not dis-enroll our tribal citizens, nor is the Nation associated with any related petitions,” the tribe sad in a statement to the AP.

Not long after taking office in January 2019, Stitt told tribes that they should share a greater portion of their revenues with the state. He then threatened to bring in non-Indian outsiders to operate casinos in the state, and said tribes would be engaging in illegal activity by operating slot machines, table games and related offerings past January 1, 2020.

The dispute is now being mediated after tribes -- including the Cherokee Nation -- went to court to protect their rights. As part of the case, Stitt once again argued that most Class III gaming compacts expired on January 1, and he sought an injunction to stop the operation of Class III games at tribal casinos.

Since 2004, when voters approved Class III gaming through State Question 712, tribes have paid $1.28 billion to the state, according to the Oklahoma Gaming Compliance Unit's most recent report. The money is derived from a percentage of revenue from electronic devices such as slot machines, as well as revenue from table games like blackjack and ball and dice games.

Read More on the Story
klahoma governor’s tribal fight raises ancestry questions (The Associated Press February 29, 2020)

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