On the last day of 2019, Cherokee Nation was able to secure an extension of our hunting and fishing compact with the state of Oklahoma. The compact reinforces the rights of Cherokee citizens to hunt and fish within our reservation boundaries and provides additional access for Cherokees to enjoy outdoor recreation across all 77 counties in Oklahoma.

By finalizing this one-year extension with Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, we’ve proven it’s possible for our two governments to forge a mutually beneficial agreement that positively impacts all citizens across the state. That gives me hope for continued conversations going forward, and I commend the state for its willingness to extend this compact while we work toward a longer-term agreement that balances the priorities of our respective governments. History has shown that Oklahoma and Cherokee Nation can be good partners and neighbors, so long as that relationship is based on mutual respect.

Under the extended agreement, the Cherokee Nation will continue to directly issue Oklahoma hunting and fishing licenses – free of charge – to all eligible citizens residing within the state. The Cherokee Nation Fish and Wildlife Association has already mailed out more than 100,000 licenses, with thousands more in process. Under the compact, the tribe will issue up to 150,000 licenses, with $2 per license allocated to the compact funding agreement.

The 2020 compact extension includes a more flexible deer tag, along with a turkey tag. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation recognizes our tribal compact licenses, which provide Cherokee Nation citizens the same privileges as an annual Oklahoma hunting and fishing license.

The dollars generated by the compact will be used by the state for habitat conservation, expanding fish and wildlife management initiatives across our tribal jurisdiction and throughout Oklahoma. This extension has opened the door to nearly $7 million in projected federal funding this year alone, which compliments the tens of millions of dollars in federal funds that have been allocated for wildlife conservation in Oklahoma since the compact was initially adopted.

Over the course of the coming year, Cherokee Nation, led by Secretary of Natural Resources Chad Harsha, will continue to negotiate with the state of Oklahoma for a long-term agreement that will better address the needs of Cherokee citizens.

We look forward to those discussions and appreciate the state of Oklahoma for being a cooperative partner in this effort. Originally negotiated in 2016, the historic agreement between our tribal government and the state was first of its kind in the nation. We’ve now seen the ripple effect as similar agreements have followed between the state and other Oklahoma tribes, which is something we’re very proud of.

Hunting and fishing are traditional lifeways for Cherokees that date back generations. These activities are deeply ingrained in our people and communities. Even if you don’t hunt or fish, the license allows tribal citizens access to state land for many other recreational activities, including hiking, photography, horseback riding and camping.

The Cherokee Nation-Oklahoma Hunting and Fishing Compact reaffirms our sovereignty and reminds us of our inherent right as Cherokees to hunt and fish in Oklahoma, as our ancestors have done for generations. This extension, along with ongoing productive discussions, is a definite win-win for the Cherokee Nation and the state of Oklahoma and makes our state a better place to live for all of us.

Chuck Hoskin Jr. is the Principle Chief of the Cherokee Nation.