Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction, spoke at the quarterly meeting of the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes and expressed gratitude for the tribes’ contributions to the state’s educational goals.
The Jan. 10 meeting, hosted by the Cherokee Nation, was held at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tulsa.
Since her term began in 2014, Hofmeister said, more than $575 million in gaming funds have been invested by the state’s tribes into Oklahoma’s education system.
“My heart is filled with gratitude for the service and the prioritization that you have made over the years for the school children of Oklahoma,” she said.
The contributions “have steadily risen, despite tribal nations receiving no state subsidies to the gaming industry,” Hofmeister added, and have been supplemented monetarily and through educational programs and services by Oklahoma’s Native American tribes.
The annual election of officers also occurred during the meeting.
Principal Chief Hoskin and Principal Chief Hill were elected as the council’s new president and vice president, respectively, while Terri Haney was re-elected as council treasurer.
Also at the meeting, the council passed a half-dozen resolutions, one of which honored Lisa Billy, Secretary of Native American Affairs for the State of Oklahoma, for her service.
“Her achievements and actions have made clear to everyone that the sovereign tribal governments of Oklahoma are united and that our bonds are stronger than any bureaucratic or legal misrepresentation,” Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby said of Billy, who now serves as a legislator for the Chickasaw Nation.
Billy, who resigned last month from her gubernatorial-appointed position following the compact negotiation dispute between the tribes and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, was presented with a medal, a drum and copy of the resolution.
“We are mighty in our message of unity,” she said. “We continue to move forward.”
The other resolutions passed included one in support of the restoration of the Earned Income Tax Credit. Another urged the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Office of Justice Programs and U.S. Department of Justice to hold a tribal consultation as well as develop an OJJDP tribal policy that is in line with the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018.
The remaining resolutions urged Congress to reauthorize a Special Diabetes Program for Indians; urged the renewal of the Oklahoma Advisory Council on the Indian Education Act; and called for support of the Oklahoma State Department of Health in adopting immunization rule changes.
At the meeting, tribe leaders said the tribes are committed to the state, their communities and one another.
“We are united for Oklahoma,” Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Chief Gary Batton said.
Leaders said tribal programs and services help not only the citizens of their tribes, but all Oklahomans.
“The five tribes are the best friends that the state of Oklahoma has ever had,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said.