Byline: Morgan Taylor/Multimedia Producer
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma – The Muscogee (Creek) Nation National Council invited the Tulsa City Council to the Mound Building to establish a working relationship between the two legislative bodies on Sept 9. The Tulsa Council mentioned that of the three tribal jurisdictions that overlap Tulsa, MCN was the first to initiate a meeting as such.
On one side of the long brown table set the National Council with Speaker William Lowe in the center with the National Council representatives on both sides of him, excluding a few. Just across from him set Tulsa City Councilwoman Lori Decter Wright long with eight constituents that make up nine districts represented in Tulsa.
The chairperson of each council explained their processes, followed by personal introductions. One common goal among the large group was the greater good of the people. No one on the Tulsa Council was an enrolled tribal member but that did not deter them from collaborating. Like the MCN, the City of Tulsa is the largest employer in their area.
Decter-Wright said the City has 52 authorities boards, committees and commissions. “We would love to have Muscogee Representation across the board.”
Speaker Lowe and a delegate for Chief David Hill have been attending the newly formed Tribal Nation’s Relations Committee created by the Tulsa City Council to develop legislative relations and communicate directly with tribes to draft policy.
It was District 4 Councilor Kara Joy McKee who pushed for the committee after she met with various Chiefs last summer when President Biden came to OK. McKee said the council’s Tribal Relations Committee is not meant to compete with the already in place Indian Affairs Commission but will complement the commission created by city ordinance to provide Tulsa’s Mayor’s Office and the City Council with advice on Native American issues.
McKee told Tulsa World that as she was at the Airport awaiting Biden’s arrival, she was able to initiate contact with tribal leaders. “We were literally hanging out at the airport, and I said, ‘You know, it would be beneficial for us to have a committee of the council that would focus on developing our knowledge, our cultural competency, and our relation with the tribes.”
The committee’s first meeting was held in November, including a review of jurisdiction, meeting schedule, makeup, and objectives.
Following meetings include reviewing jurisdictional boundaries and discussing City and Tribal ordinances with representatives from the Cherokee, Muscogee and Osage Nations. The next meeting is the second week of Nov.
McKee brainstormed the idea in place of the McGirt Decision and had been talking to the council about it for some time, she claims. “I always felt we could be doing more at the City of Tulsa.”
McKee lives in a mixed household with her husband and daughter, who is of Cherokee descent. She claimed to be friends with Sterlin Harjo during her college years, and living in Tulsa has put tribal aspects in her life.
“Growing up in Oklahoma, we’re in Indian Country, and that’s always been a part of my life,” she said.
She said that the reception between the two Councils had her smiling ear to ear. “We really got to know about the folks on the other side of the table and our priorities and a feel for our fellow councilors.” As she is ending her term in November, she will pass her chair on to Councilor Howell Harper.
Lowe agreed that the Nation to City relationship could be an example for other cities and entities within tribal jurisdictions.
Gifts were exchanged, and the Tulsa City Council members were invited to tour the Council House with Curator John Beaver.
All City Council meetings are on Wednesdays on TGOV – Tulsa Government Access Television, on Cox Digital Cable channel 24. These meetings are then broadcast again throughout the week. Check the TGOV website for more information. Meetings are also streamed on tgovonline.org.