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Commentary: Cole Bill is Bad for Small Tribes, Bad for Oklahoma’s Diverse Citizenry, and Bad for America

Patrick B. McGuigan 

OKLAHOMA CITY – Now comes from Washington, the latest formula for dysfunctional government, irrational economic policy and abuse of Oklahoma’s Small Tribes, small business and mid-size states.

All this, from the mind of no less a Republican than U.S. Representative Tom Cole.

Based on a draft version of the legislation, as distilled by reporters for NonDoc.com today (Tuesday, May 11), I believe that Cole’s latest effort at a “land fix” for the two most powerful Oklahoma tribes (the Chickasaw and the Cherokee) is bad for small tribes, bad for Oklahoma’s diverse citizenry, and bad for America. 

The proposed legislation would worsen the most negative effects of ‘McGirt v. Oklahoma,’ the most important legal decision in state history. 

The practical effect of Cole’s measure would be to:

* Keep all property matters like environmental taxation and oil and gas in the hands of the two Big Tribes.

* Crush the opportunity of smaller tribes like the UKB (United Keetowah Band of Cherokee Indians) and Comanche – who were granted rights to acquisitions within Cherokee territory (in the case of the UKB) and Casino-development rights in Love County in separate compacts with the state.

Cole’s proposed law would give veto power to the big tribes over all land-into-trust acquisitions.

* Allow Big Tribes to buy the entirety of their reservations back and claim they are restricted under 25 U.S.C. 177 which previously did not convert them to “Indian Country” but which now would via the “Indian” Lands definition in the Cole bill.

* Allow dozens of dubious casino acquisitions for the big tribes to be further legitimized by ratifying them as Indian Lands.

Note: McGuigan is editor of The City Sentinel newspaper, and founder of CapitolBeatOK.com.

Historical Map of Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory in pre-statehood days.