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Review: News Affecting Indian Country

Susan Shannon

Tobacco Tax Compact Negotiated

A new tobacco tax compact between the Kialegee Tribal Town and the state of Oklahoma is now in effect. Each of the state's 38 federally recognized Indian tribes can negotiate a compact with the state that determines how much of the $1.03-per-pack tax is distributed between the state and the tribe.  The Tulsa World reports that Oklahoma will collect 30 percent of all Kialegee compact taxes - or all applicable state taxes - on the sale of any cigarette or other tobacco product that is subject to the compact from Feb. 1 of this year through the end of 2015. That amount increases to 40 percent in 2016, 45 percent in 2017 and 50 percent in 2018. The compact expires at the end of 2018.

Fallin Signs Bill Keeping Oklahoma Advisory Council On Indian Education

An advisory council that advocates on behalf of Native American students in Oklahoma is continuing for another six years. Gov. Mary Fallin recently signed into law a bill that renewed the Oklahoma Advisory Council on Indian Education. The council makes recommendations to the state's Board of Education and the state superintendent about education issues affecting Native American students. It also promotes education opportunities for Native American students. The council is comprised of representatives from tribes, teacher organizations, school superintendents, tribal colleges and others. Oklahoma has 39 tribes and is second in the nation in the number of residents who identity as Native American.

First Native Woman Appointed To Serve As U.S. District Court Judge

On May 14, Hopi tribal member Diane Humetewa was appointed to the federal court bench in Arizona, making her the first Native American woman to serve as a U.S. District Court Judge.

Montana Democratic Senator Jon Tester is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. He made headlines two days prior to Humetewa’s confirmation by urging Senatorial action on her presidential nomination, and the pending nominations of two other Native Americans and Oklahomans, Vincent Logan (Osage) and Keith Harper (Cherokee).

Vincent Logan’s nomination for Special Trustee for American Indians at the Department of the Interior was first sent to the Senate in September 2012. Testor said filling this position, which oversees the Department of Interior’s trust responsibilities to tribes and individual Indians, is long overdue.

Testor also spoke in favor of Keith Harper, saying Harper had the backing of the National Congress of American Indians and numerous tribal leaders throughout Indian Country. Harper has been active in human and civil rights organizations and served as delegate to the 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. Were Harper to be confirmed he would be the first member of a federally recognized tribe to hold the rank of United States Ambassador.

Senator Testor told his colleagues he understood the “reasons and frustrations” surrounding the handling of nominations in past years, but that it is time to act.

Indian Times will give updates on the pending nominations.

Tribe Raises Minimum Wage

The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma have approved a resolution that increases the minimum wage for tribal employees to $9 per hour. Tribal legislators passed a resolution over the weekend in support of the measure, which is a 24 percent increase from the current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The Oklahoman reports that Cheyenne and Arapaho Governor Eddie Hamilton has said he'll sign the measure. The tribes have about 570 tribal employees, but only about 20 to 25 workers will see more pay because of the minimum wage increase. Officials say the Lucky Star Casinos in Canton and Watonga, which are owned by the tribes, increased wages for casino workers to $9 an hour earlier this year. The tribes operate five casinos in Oklahoma. According to the Cherokee Phoenix, the Cherokee Nation raised its minimum wage in February to $9.50 over the next two years. The Cherokee Nation’s minimum wage was $9.00 an hour, already above the federal minimum wage.


Tuesday, May 20, the Jacobson House is holding a Community Potluck dinner from 5:45 p.m. to 9 p.m. to welcome Maori people from New Zealand. This event is part of the University of Oklahoma’s Bringing our languages together: Sharing Language Revitalization with Te Panekiretanga o Te Reo. For more information call the Jacobson House at 405-366-1667 or contact Royce Freeman via email rkfreeman@ou.edu.


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