The United Keetoowah Band held a special council meeting June 27 to discuss and vote on two new business items: a gaming compact and a measure opposing Congressman Markwayne Mullin’s House Resolution 7263.
The council opted to move the gaming compact discussion to the executive session, since it pertained to an ongoing legal case. Then, talk went straight to the House resolution.
This bill aims to "repeal the eighth proviso under Operation of Indian Programs" in order "to restore Tribal sovereignty." Mullin introduced it to the House Natural Resources Committee on June 18. As of June 30, the text had not been received by Congress.
"Prior to the 76-acres decision, I was contacted by House Rep. Markwayne Mullin, and he informed me of his introduction of a bill to Congress and the Indian Affairs Commission to change the 1999 Appropriations Bill, which is the bill that gave the UKB land in trust. It reads, 'to consult with CNO [Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma] for land in trust.' He wants to change the bill to read, 'CNO consent.' This means if it passes, we will have to have permission, as well as any other federally recognized tribe, for land in trust in the original Cherokee jurisdiction,” said UKB Chief Joe Bunch in a statement. “We know CNO will never give the UKB permission for any other land in trust if this happens. The 2.03 acres casino property would directly be in jeopardy if this passes. CNO has stated we are ‘competition,’ but I can’t imagine that. CNO has nine other casino properties.”
UKB Attorney General Klint Cowan discussed the bill and the UKB response. The resolution opposes the passage of HR 726,3 or amending the bill to have it apply equally to CN and UKB, so both would have to consent to any other tribe coming into the 14 counties, according to Cowan.
Councilor questioned the ethics of Mullin, who is a Cherokee Nation citizen, in introducing this bill.
“We can certainly talk to the other delegates in Congress about that, but I’m not aware of any way at the moment to require that he not be involved, and even if he did take his name off it, Tom Cole is still sponsoring it, as well,” said Cowan in response to a question by Councilor Eddie Sacks, Canadian District.
Although it was introduced as a standalone bill, Sacks expressed concern that it would end up a rider in an Appropriations Bill and it would go unnoticed.
Cowan said they are in conversations with the delegations’ offices. When asked if there were other options that could be considered other than the resolution, Cowan said they should discuss it in executive session.
Bunch mentioned bringing it to the attention of the Ethics Committee, as well as the National Congress of American Indian.
After the executive session, the councilors voted and passed the resolution. They also passed a gaming compact discussed in that executive session, but Media Director Brittney Bennett said Tuesday that the tribe was not ready to discuss details yet. More information should be available this week, she said.