Environment | Law | Opinion

Bill John Baker: Compact upholds Cherokee Nation treaty rights

Cherokee Nation Chief Bill John Baker and Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signed the agreement on May 29, 2015. Photo from Anadisgoi

Chief Bill John Baker explains why the Cherokee Nation entered into a hunting and fishing rights compact with the state of Oklahoma:
Our treaty rights say Cherokees can freely hunt on tribal land. But as state and tribal jurisdictions have overlapped or connected, there has been confusion on exactly where Cherokees can exercise their inherent right to hunt and fish the land. The Cherokee Nation and state of Oklahoma had separate laws which required different documents to be carried, depending on who was hunting and fishing, and where they were engaged in the sport. State law required people to purchase a license to hunt or fish within the state, while Cherokee Nation required only that our citizens carry a copy of his or her blue card.

Unfortunately, with these different laws in place, Cherokees have been wrongly ticketed or fined by the state of Oklahoma, or made to answer unnecessary questions about their fundamental rights as Cherokee hunters or fishermen. Under this compact the the Cherokee Nation and Oklahoma will unify regulation. Cherokees need to carry only one hunting and fishing license issued by our tribe that will be honored by state game wardens.

When I assumed the office of Principal Chief, I took stock of the lingering issues that could be resolved for the good of our people. Hunting and fishing rights was one of them, and it became a major priority for my office. We spent more than two years negotiating with the state on how to protect the inherent rights of our citizens, and most importantly, our tribal sovereignty. I’m proud to say this compact accomplishes that.

There are no more “gray areas” in Oklahoma when our tribal citizens hunt or fish. They can now hunt and fish on tribal and state land or, with landowner permission, on private property without fear they may accidentally step into an area where they may be ticketed.

Get the Story:
Bill John Baker: Historic agreement between Cherokee Nation and state of Oklahoma expands hunting and fishing rights for Cherokees (The Skiatook Journal 6/4)

Another Opinion:
Chad Smith: Baker Gives Away Treaty Rights and $300,000 a Year (The Skiatook Journal 6/4)
Ed. Note: Bill John Baker is running for re-election. Chad Smith, a former chief, is also running.

10th Circuit Decisions:
Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes v. Oklahoma (March 25, 1980)
Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes v. Oklahoma (June 24, 1982)

Related Stories:
Cherokee Nation signs hunting and fishing compact with state (5/29)
Cherokee Nation to negotiate hunting and fishing agreement (05/06)

Join the Conversation