Gift of documents strengthens partnership

Chris Jennings

U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin presents a copy of the Stigler Act to Chief Gary Batton and the Choctaw Nation.

Photo by Deidre Elrod

The recent passing of the Stigler Act, which allows tribal members that are less than one-half degree Indian blood quantum to keep their original allotment land without having to pay taxes on it, was a huge success for the five tribes.

To commemorate this accomplishment, U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin recently presented Chief Gary Batton and the Choctaw Nation with an original copy of the Stigler Act signed by President Trump.

Rep. Mullin, a member of the Cherokee Nation, had an inside view of the problem created by the blood quantum requirement. Mullin said, “Some of the land that my wife and I have on our ranch was our original family allotment. My family’s been living in the same place for generations.”

Due to the 25% requirement, some of that land had been sold. When Mullin had the opportunity to buy some of that land back, he jumped at the chance.

“Just because of who my ancestors chose to marry doesn’t mean that this has any less historical or heritage value to me than anyone else,” said Mullin.

Keeping family land in the family was the driving force behind the Stigler Act. Chief Gary Batton said the Stigler Act affects everybody, including himself. 

“For me, I know that my mom’s land, my grandfather’s land, is going to stay there forever because there’s not going to be any taxation. If we sell it, we choose to do with it as we please,” said Batton.

The Choctaws, along with other tribes, put forth a considerable amount of resources into getting the Stigler Act passed. The outcome was positive and Batton says that’s because of a newfound respect the tribes are getting in Washington now.

“The federal government is finally recognizing tribes, and they’re willing to listen to us…they know that we have 200,000 tribal members all across the United States, they understand the impact that we can have,” said Batton.

The gift of the Stigler Act documents from Mullin to Batton signifies a shared respect and also a resulting partnership.  “I just want to say thank you. Because Choctaw Nation is very aggressively not just working inside their nation, but working with municipalities and the state as a whole. You can see it from Durant to Idabel and everything in between,” said Mullin. 

Batton echoed the praise to Mullin. “What I appreciate about Congressman Mullin is that he sees it as a federal responsibility to tribes. They are trustees, it’s their obligation to help us keep our land. That’s what really makes me proud that he’s educated and knowledgeable and willing to support what the tribe has asked him to do.”

A sign of that respect and partnership now hangs in the Chief’s office at the Choctaw Nation Headquarters in Durant, and it has the President’s signature on it.

Biskinik June 2019