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Inter-Tribal Council plans for 2020 Census, credits collaboration for ongoing progress

THACKERVILLE, Okla. – Tribal leaders of the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes discussed the importance of encouraging Indian participation in the 2020 Census during the general session of its quarterly meeting April 12.

The meeting was hosted by the Chickasaw Nation at its WinStar Convention Center in Thackerville.

“As citizens of this country, we have a responsibility to (participate in the Census),” said Governor Bill Anoatubby said. “We’re working to educate our citizens, our employees and our communities of the importance of participating in the Census, and we look forward to the rest of the year working with these great nations.”

Gov. Anoatubby said it was important Native Americans were counted accurately. The results of the Census, he said, determine the allocation of congressional seats. The Census is also used to allocate funding for programs and services.

Tribal representatives at the meeting credited working together for progress toward forming and maintaining relationships with federal, state and local governments.

“We have the capability and the power within ourselves, collectively as a group, to help each other get to a different level,”  Seminole Nation of Oklahoma Chief Greg Chilcoat said.

Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Chief Gary Batton noted the tribes collectively represented more than 750,000 Indian citizens.

“Every day, we get to share our ideas, our thoughts and concerns,” Chief Batton said. “We take it very seriously.”

“We are stronger as tribes and as governments when we’re together like this,” Cherokee Nation Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden said.

Chickasaw Nation legislator Lisa Billy spoke to the gathering. Mrs. Billy is a former Oklahoma legislator who currently serves as Oklahoma Secretary of Native American Affairs. She spoke about Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s commitment to fostering relationships with Indian tribes in the state.

“It’s an honor to be here to represent Governor Kevin Stitt, who is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation,” Mrs. Billy said. “It’s a new day in the state of Oklahoma. We have a cabinet secretary for Native American Affairs.”

The council recognized Wayne Simms, a former U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development area director who worked with the tribes, with an award for his service.

“(Mr. Simms) has dedicated his life to helping Native Americans across the United States,” Chief Batton said.

The council unanimously passed seven resolutions at the general session. The resolutions were:

  1. A resolution opposing the elimination of funding for commercial loans for community development financial institutions as outlined in President Trump’s FY 2020 budget request.
  2. A resolution supporting “Five Tribes Ancestry Conference,” on Sept. 19-21, 2019, in Tahlequah, Okla.
  3. A resolution opposing the elimination of the Indian and Native American Department of Labor Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act funding in President Trump’s FY 2020 budget request.
  4. A resolution opposing the proposed FY 2020 budget reductions for Bureau of Indian Education.
  5. A resolution opposing the elimination of funding for the low-income home energy assistance program in the FY 2020 Department of Health and Human Services budget request.
  6. A resolution in support of Oklahoma House Bill 1365, which would create an office of mobility and public transit under the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.
  7. A resolution opposing funding cuts to Indian housing programs in President Trump’s FY 2020 budget request.