Eventful Summer

The Supreme Court’s decision in the case of McGirt v. Oklahoma was truly one for the ages. Now we must figure out exactly what it all means. It’s often the case that the court will release a decision, and it then takes years to figure out what it means. Sometimes the lower courts must get involved before we gain any clarity.

We will drive a lot of what happens next, or at least that’s my hope and intention. We’ve identified five broad categories of questions we see arising from McGirt: law enforcement, judicial, taxation, regulatory, and Indian child welfare. I’ve formed a Choctaw Nation McGirt Task Force to begin looking at these five categories. Each of the five categories includes lots of questions. At this point, I’m still of the belief that there is no rush to move towards federal legislation. This decision will impact our tribe and its members from now on. I want to make sure we assess every opportunity to maximize our sovereignty and protect our citizens while being good neighbors.

We now live in a culture where we want and expect answers fast. That’s probably not going to happen here. I want to make sure we don’t somehow reverse any aspect of tribal sovereignty. Have you seen some of the beautiful quilts and handcrafts on display at Tvshka Homma on Labor Day? This situation is like one of those quilts. It takes different threads and colors to assemble a pattern. Pull just one thread, and you unravel the quilt. We’ll have to tread carefully.

I also want to give you an update regarding the CARES funds we have received. These dollars came from the federal government for our use in responding to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. We’re pulling together data and hope to have it for you soon. As a reminder, we already have existing programs to assist you with your rent or mortgage payment, put food on the table, continue your education and learn more about how to keep your businesses afloat during these challenging times. We’re working as fast as we can to get disbursements out. So, apply today!

We were also recently informed that the federal government will close out the 2020 U.S. Census a month early. It was scheduled to end on Oct. 31 but will now conclude on Sept. 30. The Census Bureau says it will still achieve an accurate count, but I’m not sure that’s possible. The 10.5 counties of the Choctaw Nation are considered hard-to-count areas because they are mostly rural. Because the Census Bureau can’t tell us the number of Choctaw tribal members who have filled out the Census (we won’t be able to find this data until after the Census closes), we’re surveying our tribe to see how many people say they have.

As of this week, approximately 33,000 of our tribal members say they’ve done so. That’s out of a total tribal population of over 200,000. Have you filled out your 2020 census yet? Please let your voice be heard by filling out the Census. You can fill it out at 2020census.gov or call 844-330-2020. I encourage everyone to complete their Census as soon as possible, as time is running out!