TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. signed an executive order Monday asserting the tribe’s treaty right for citizens to hunt and fish within the Cherokee Nation Reservation, regardless of Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s refusal to renegotiate previous hunting and fishing compacts with tribes.
Chief Hoskin said the Cherokee Nation will rely on its existing law to regulate hunting and fishing activities among Cherokee citizens within the tribe’s reservation area in Northeast Oklahoma.
“As I have said before, the Cherokee Nation has outlasted many who tried to take away our sovereignty and destroy our identity as a people. Gov. Stitt’s refusal to work in good faith with tribal nations on a hunting and fishing compact that has provided millions of dollars in previous years to state conservation efforts is astounding, but it is not going to hinder our efforts to exercise our inherent rights as Cherokees - rights that have been reinforced in treaties with the United States,” Chief Hoskin said. “In the absence of a 2022 hunting and fishing compact with the state of Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation Secretary of Natural Resources Office and our tribe’s Wildlife Conservation department will manage and regulate hunting and fishing in the Cherokee Nation Reservation.”
At this time, the Cherokee Nation will not issue a specific hunting or fishing license, but will allow Cherokee citizens to use their tribal citizenship card or Cherokee Nation photo ID in place of a license. Cherokee citizens will be required to follow bag limits and season dates in accordance with Cherokee Nation law, which align with those of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Hunters and anglers must still have landowner permission to hunt and fish on private property as they always have.
“Cherokees have always been good stewards of land, water and wildlife resources. We have relied on hunting and fishing since time immemorial as a means of subsistence and as an integral part of our cultural lifeways,” said Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “As a tribal government, we are prepared to exercise these rights on our reservation moving forward. Earlier this year, we signed the historic Cherokee Nation Park, Wildlands, Fishing and Hunting Preserve Act of 2021, signaling a new era for conservation on our public lands and designating several new Cherokee Nation preserves. That legislation gave us a road map to preserve our culture and our resources, and it will be crucial to supporting our hunting and fishing efforts outlined in Chief Hoskin’s executive order.”
The Cherokee Nation will introduce an electronic check system for reporting wildlife harvest using the tribe’s Gadugi Portal system online at https://gadugiportal.cherokee.org later this month.
“I want to thank Chief Hoskin and Deputy Chief Warner for supporting the inherent rights of Cherokees to hunt and fish on our public lands within the Cherokee Nation Reservation,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Chad Harsha. “Natural resources really are the bedrock for the overall health of Cherokee citizens and the plants and animals that are so critical to our culture. The laws we have in place will ensure we properly regulate hunting and fishing activities, and that we are able to protect those important natural resources in the process.”
Cherokee citizens can go online to https://cherokee.org/our-government/secretary-of-natural-resources-office/wildlife-conservation to find answers to the most commonly asked questions about Cherokee Nation hunting and fishing regulations, a copy of tribal laws pertaining to hunting and fishing, as well as a map of Cherokee Nation properties available for hunting and fishing.
Chief Hoskin said that any exercise of hunting and fishing rights would be done responsibly by the Cherokee Nation.
“In addition to today’s executive order we already have our own comprehensive legal code in place and are prepared to move forward responsibly regulating hunting and fishing. We value our great relationship with the state Department of Wildlife Conservation and our cross-deputization agreements with the department and we will continue to work well with that department on our shared conservation initiatives. Cherokee Nation will put the resources in place for fish and wildlife management just as any responsible government should,” said Chief Hoskin.
The existing hunting and fishing compact between the Cherokee Nation and the state of Oklahoma expires Dec. 31, 2021. The landmark compacts between the Cherokee and Choctaw Nations and the state of Oklahoma were among the first state-tribal agreements of their kind in the country when first signed in 2016. The Cherokee Nation’s compact has generated more than $32 million for the state over its lifetime, allowing the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to dedicate the funding for wildlife management planning and operations, law enforcement and conservation efforts, benefiting Natives and non-Natives alike. Although tribes have guaranteed hunting and fishing rights on their reservations under treaties with the Unites States, the compacts allowed for a coordinated, intergovernmental system that provided expanded hunting and fishing opportunities for tribal citizens throughout the state of Oklahoma.