Stitt Wasted Millions in Unnecessary Legal Battles with Tribes

Revisiting a dark chapter in Oklahoma’s history, Gov. Stitt has repeatedly tried to force tribal nations to renegotiate state compacts. In particular, Stitt has become fixated on a plan to coerce tribal leaders to renegotiate gaming fees that were agreed to years ago. Unfortunately for taxpayers, he hasn’t been able to let the idea go. Most tribes refused to renegotiate, and Stitt engaged in a legal battle that was doomed to failure from the start.

So far, Stitt has cost taxpayers more than $2 million in legal and other fees and already lost multiple court cases trying to undermine tribal sovereignty. Stitt’s decisions are striking because modern governors from both parties have largely worked cooperatively with the tribes, recognizing their $12.9 billion fiscal impact to the state.

Stitt escalated the dispute in December 2021 by informing the Cherokee and Choctaw nations that he will not renew the state’s hunting and fishing compacts. The compact was agreed to by his predecessor, Gov. Mary Fallin. These agreements allowed tribal nations to buy hunting licenses in bulk at $2 apiece and then distribute them for free to tribal members who requested them. Combined, the agreement with both the Cherokee and Choctaw nations generated $38 million for the state.

At the end of 2019, Stitt’s secretary of Native American Affairs quit over disputes with the tribes. In her resignation letter, former state Rep. Lisa Billy said Stitt is “committed to an unnecessary conflict” with the state’s tribal governments and “remained intent on breaking faith with them.”