State Superintendent of Public Instruction praises tribes for contributions

CATOOSA, Okla. – Oklahoma’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister thanked the state’s tribes for their contributions to the state’s educational goals during a quarterly meeting of the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes Jan. 10. The quarterly meeting was hosted by the Cherokee Nation at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tulsa.

“My heart is filled with gratitude for the service and the prioritization you have made over the years for the school children of Oklahoma,” Ms. Hofmeister said.

Since the beginning of Ms. Hofmeister’s term in 2014, the state’s tribes have invested more than $575.8 million in gaming funds to the state’s education system.

“These contributions have steadily risen, despite tribal nations receiving no state subsidies to the gaming industry,” Ms. Hofmeister said.

These contributions, she said, have been supplemented by Oklahoma’s Native American tribes, both monetarily and through their educational programs and services.

“On behalf of the State of Oklahoma, again, thank you,” she said. “Thank you for supporting public education.”

In other business, the council passed a resolution honoring Lisa Billy for her service as Secretary of Native American Affairs for the State of Oklahoma.

Mrs. Billy recently resigned from her gubernatorially-appointed position following the compact renegotiation dispute between the tribes and Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt. Mrs. Billy currently serves as a legislator for the Chickasaw Nation representing Pontotoc District.

“Today, we thank Lisa Billy for her integrity and legacy for tribal advocacy, and we look forward to seeing how she will use her talents for leadership and politics in the future,” Governor Bill Anoatubby said.

Mrs. Billy was presented with a medal, a drum and a copy of the resolution honoring her.

“We are mighty in our message of unity,” she said. “We continue to move forward.”

Tribal leaders said the state’s many Native American tribes are committed to each other, their communities and their state.

“We are united for Oklahoma,” said Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Chief Gary Batton.

Other tribal leaders echoed Chief Batton’s message of unity. Seminole Nation of Oklahoma Chief Greg Chilcoat said the tribes work, communicate and move forward together.

Newly-elected Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill said the Muscogee (Creek) Nation stands with all tribal nations in the state.

“I’m looking forward to working with each one of you to ensure our partnership is strong and our voices are heard as one,” Principal Chief Hill said.

Tribal leaders said tribal programs and services help more than just the citizens of their respective tribes. They help all Oklahomans.

“Construction and operation of programs and services, combined with governmental and business endeavors, as well as philanthropic and infrastructure projects, make the Chickasaw Nation a crucial driver in the economic activity in our area and in Oklahoma,” Gov. Anoatubby said.

“The five tribes are the best friends that the state of Oklahoma has ever had,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., said.

The council designated Principal Chief Hoskin and Principal Chief Hill the council’s new president and vice president, respectively, in a routine changing of officers. Terri Haney was re-elected council treasurer.

In addition to the resolution honoring Mrs. Billy, the council passed five additional resolutions:

- A resolution supporting restoration of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

- A resolution urging the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Office of Justice PROGRAMS United States Department of Justice, to hold a tribal consultation and develop an OJJDP tribal policy in conformance with the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018.

- A resolution urging Congress to reauthorize the Special Diabetes Program for Indians.

- A resolution urging renewal of the Oklahoma Advisory Council on Indian Education Act.

- A resolution supporting Oklahoma State Department of Health adoption of immunization rule changes.