Strengthening the Oklahoma Indian Nations Voice

Nations Thirst for a Place at the Table

The Journal Record – October 21, 2010

Robert Haupt and colleagues advocate on behalf of the 38 federally recognized Oklahoma Indian nations that own the rights to much of Oklahoma’s water resources. As plans regarding water are made on the state and federal level, the Oklahoma Indian nations are largely left out of negotiations. This column lays out a distinct plan to help the nations have a greater voice.

Former Oklahoma Gov. David Walters referred to water as the “new oil.” That metaphor would seem apt. However, while Oklahomans recognize that to get oil you’ve got to pay the owner, it’s very different with water.

For decades, many have refused to admit that much of the water they rely on belongs to someone else – the 38 federally recognized Oklahoma Indian nations – and that decisions regarding that water cannot, in good conscience, be made without the owners’ input. Just this past April, when it became clear that an agreement regarding Lake Sardis Reservoir was in the works, Indian nations made pleas for a “place at the table,” but to no avail.

Can those nations be faulted for turning to the courts? One lawsuit has already been filed, and others are imminent…

Read the full article here.