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Tribes talk leading state economy at first Regional Chamber event

Ben Abrams

The Tulsa Regional Chamber hosted leaders of the Cherokee, Muscogee and Osage Nations Thursday at the first State of the Tribal Nations Conference.

The event gave tribal governments and business leaders the opportunity to discuss the future of economic developments in their nations.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said the event itself is a "sign of the times."

"Tribes have such a tremendous presence in the economy of the region," he said. "That makes Oklahoma more attractive than other states."

The conference featured three panel discussions, including one between Hoskin and Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear reflecting on how the economies of their nations have grown.

Ben Abrams

"In the past five decades, we've gone from the United States taking its boot off the neck of the Cherokee Nation to leading this state in the economy," Hoskin said during the panel.

Organizers said Muscogee Nation Principal Chief David Hill could not attend due to a funeral, but Secretary Zechariah Harjo said the conference should not be the last of its kind.

“This is the first of hopefully many" he said, expressing hope that a "true" conference featuring all 38 recognized tribes in Oklahoma may happen some day.

A major boon for the tribes has been film and television. Hoskin said the tribes "ought to lead" in the film industry in Oklahoma. Standing Bear continued to praise Martin Scorsese's "Killers of the Flower Moon," which tells the story of the Osage Reign of Terror.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum was in attendance, well as local non-tribal business leaders.

"It’s great to be around people who are for progress and working together," Chief Standing Bear said.

Stitt and tribes continue to hit snags on compacts

When asked about progress on the Cherokee Nation's automotive tag compact with the state, Hoskin said there's been "not a lot of progress."

"I think the governor has a different vision of what the tag compact ought to look like," he said, "I think the model we have is one that should be continued."

Hoskin said "the issue is singularly at the office of the governor" when it comes to deals between the nations and the state, saying Stitt is "on an island."

Standing Bear said he does not speak to the governor "not because I dislike him or he dislikes me, we just have nothing in common right now."

Ben Abrams is a news reporter and All Things Considered host for KWGS.
Check out all of Ben's links and contact info here.