Hunting and Fishing Photos by Christian Toews

Tribes exercise their sovereignty rights

By Kendra Germany-Wall
February 1, 2022

In December 2021, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt announced he would not renew the standing hunting and fishing compacts with tribal governments after they expire at the end of 2021. These agreements with both the Choctaw and Cherokee Nations have been in place since 2016. The governor previously approved the compacts in 2019 and 2020 and praised the compacts for generating funding for the state’s conservation efforts.

In a press release published through his office on December 8, 2020, Stitt stated, “I appreciate the Choctaw Nation working with my office and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation on a one-year hunting and fishing compact extension. This compact continues a partnership between the State of Oklahoma and the Choctaw Nation to capture federal funds for conservation efforts across our state while promoting hunting and fishing opportunities for citizens of the Choctaw Nation.”

The landmark compacts were the first state-tribal agreements of their kind in the country and captured millions of federal dollars for wildlife management. Over their lifetime, the Choctaw compact accounted for $6 million, while the Cherokee compact generated more than $32 million. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation dedicated that funding for wildlife management planning and operations, law enforcement and conservation efforts, benefiting all Oklahomans, Native and non-native.

Tribes have inherent hunting and fishing rights on their reservations. These rights have been recognized by various treaties with the United States. The compacts allowed for a coordinated, intergovernmental system that provided hunting and fishing opportunities for tribal citizens while generating revenue and federal funding for wildlife management programs across the state.

On December 13, 2021, the Five Tribes released a joint press release addressing the issue.

“Under previous administrations, compacts regarding hunting and fishing licenses were a routine matter. They clearly provided great financial and cultural benefit to both the state and tribal members. Unfortunately, Gov. Stitt has once again decided to let his personal concerns outweigh what is best for the people he was elected to represent, putting conflict above cooperation,” said Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton. “We hope he will change his stance and respect tribal sovereignty while protecting wildlife, generating revenue and improving the quality of life for Oklahomans.”

“This decision is tremendously disappointing, not just for Cherokee citizens who are losing a program that Governor Stitt himself knew was a win-win, but for every Oklahoman who has benefited from these agreements and the future generations that would have benefited from federal funding to support wildlife management and conservation,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “Unfortunately, this is consistent with what we’ve seen from the governor since the Supreme Court’s McGirt decision. Whenever there is an opportunity to cooperate with tribes – whether on keeping criminals off the streets or on hunting and fishing rights – the governor has instead sought to undermine collaboration and claim McGirt created chaos. I promise the citizens of the Cherokee Nation that I will continue to aggressively defend our treaty rights and sovereignty against these attacks.”

“We believe in the treaty rights of tribal nations,” said Muscogee Nation Principal Chief David Hill. “The state’s decision to end the hunting and fishing Compacts with the Cherokee and Choctaw Nations is disappointing especially in that it only hurts the state of Oklahoma, but the true intent is to demean tribal sovereignty.”

“Chickasaws have long had a close relationship with the land and a strong commitment to responsible stewardship of our natural resources,” said Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby. “Wildlife conservation is an important aspect of our duty to protect and preserve our environment for future generations. Therefore, the Chickasaw Nation is joining the Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole Nations in a collaborative effort to protect the hunting and fishing rights of our citizens while also preserving Oklahoma’s abundant wildlife for the benefit of our children and grandchildren.”

“The Treaty of 1866 between the United States and Seminole Nation guaranteed the Seminole possession of their land and protection against enemies in exchange for peace,” said Seminole Nation of Oklahoma Chief Lewis Johnson.

“The Seminole Nation since time immemorial has supported tribal sovereignty and remains at peace with other Indian tribes and supports our fellow tribes in calling for the methods and tactics of the Governor of the State of Oklahoma to cease the acts of hostility on tribal sovereignty,” said Chief Johnson. “It’s time for the governor to change his approach to tribal rights and instead focus on doing what’s best for the people of Oklahoma and recognize the value of tribal partnerships. Seminoles will always stand up for tribal rights and sovereignty.”

Cherokee Nation and Choctaw Nation leaders also sent letters to the governor’s office.

On December 30, the Choctaw Nation Tribal Council met in a special session. During the special session, Tribal Council unanimously voted to amend the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Fish, Game and Animals Code. Tribal Council met again on January 8, 2022, for Regular Session and made further adjustments to the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Fish, Game and Animals Code. As wildlife conservation is an evolving field that requires constant attention and study, Tribal Council will continue to adjust the laws of the Nation to maintain good stewardship of the Nation’s resources.

Choctaw Nation Photo

On Thursday, December 30, Choctaw Tribal Council passed new Tribal hunting and fishing codes, which allow tribal members to hunt and fish within the tribe's reservation without a state license.

Frequently Asked Questions

Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma tribal members are eligible to hunt and fish within Choctaw Nation Reservation in accordance to tribal laws. Also, nonmembers with valid state-issued licenses are eligible to hunt in the reservation in accordance with applicable laws.

You will need proof of Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma tribal membership. Additional forms of ID might be requested to confirm identity. In addition, Hunter Safety course completion is also required by the Choctaw Nation Fish, Game and Animals Code and the State of Oklahoma.

The expiration date listed on your tribal membership is for ID purposes and does not affect tribal member status. You may renew your card by contacting the Choctaw Nation Membership Department by visiting the Tribal Membership webpage.

Contact the Choctaw Nation Membership Department by visiting the Tribal Membership webpage.

No, only confirmed tribal members are eligible to hunt and fish.

No, all Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma tribal members, regardless of residency, are permitted to hunt and fish within the Choctaw Nation land in accordance with Choctaw Nation code.

Hunters who have been convicted of a felony are prohibited from having a rifle, shotgun, or pistol in their possession or under their immediate control under the Choctaw Nation Criminal Code.

You can only hunt/fish within Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma reservation boundaries in accordance with all applicable trespass laws. Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma boundary map.

At this time, you will need a valid State of Oklahoma hunting and fishing license and must follow applicable laws.

At this time, you will need a valid State of Oklahoma hunting and fishing license and must follow applicable laws.

No action is necessary on your part. Follow the usual process.

You are not required to pre-purchase tags, but are required to report your harvest via the Chahta Achvffa Member Portal.

Duck stamps are federally regulated, and federal guidelines will still apply.

No, regulations set by the Choctaw Nation Fish, Game and Animals Code apply.

Complete a Hunter Harvest Report in the Chahta Achvffa Member Portal.

Yes, but a reliable internet connection or cell service is required for successful submission.

Yes, regulations set by the Choctaw Nation Fish, Game and Animals Code apply.

Yes, but a tag number may be required which can be found in Chahta Achvffa Member Portal application status grid, as well as the confirmation email you receive after check-in is completed.

Yes, there are age restrictions by the Choctaw Nation Fish, Game and Animals Code.

If you receive a ticket from an Oklahoma game warden for not having a state issued hunting/fishing license while hunting within the Choctaw Nation boundaries, email the Choctaw Nation Legal Department.

Any Oklahoma resident with a valid State of Oklahoma hunting and/or fishing license can hunt within the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma reservation in accordance with applicable law.