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reasonable standard of living for our people. Our tribal government is
strong and active and is in the process of establishing numerous programs
and projects that will benefit our people by supplementing the limited
services available to them through various governmental agencies.
Many of our people are poor.
Even though Cherokees are a small
percentage of the total population within the area once know as the
Cherokee Nation, a larger percentage of our population is below the po
verty level. Specifically, about 50% of Cherokee families have income
below poverty level.
As much as 70% of the unemployed within the area
Many available services offered by state and federal agencies
and by our own government never reach the ones who need them most.
80% live in rural areas.
Their isolation compounds the problems of
poverty, wemployemnt, substandard housing, health care and education.
Ther Cherokee tribal government has formulated plans which seek to
alleviate the problems of the Cherokees through development of tribal
We are now working on programs involving adult education,
transportation, training for jobs and others.
We have also emphasized
economic development. Through investment in existing industry and by
attracting new industry to the area, we will significantly aid in the
creation of jobs and general stimulation of the economy in Northeastern
Compensation for our interest in the Arkansas River will
enable us to implement new programs and expand existing ones, with the
advancement of the Cherokee people in mind.
On behalf of the Cherokee Nation, I ask you for the legislation,
that is S.B. 660, as a means to initiate the agreement by authorizing
the Secretary of Interior to enter into this agreement with just com
pensation to the Tribes as the end.
Let me reiterate, further in
action 18 effectively taking our property without just compensation.
I want to thank you for allowing me to make this presentation in
I cannot stress enough how important
behalf of the Cherokee Nation.
this legislation is to our tribes and all of the people in Oklahoma.
Senator BARTLETT. Mr. Chairman, I would like to make a brief statement to the chiefs and to Mr. Wilcoxen for appearing. I think they have inserted their statement in the record and we are happy to have them.
Some important points were brought out. As Mr. Wilcoxen pointed out, this bill establishes two or three very important parameters other than negotiation which were not only facilitated but cites those parameters which have been agreed upon between the previous administration and the tribes. These three tribes have agreed themselves and they are ready to act.
So obviously this bill would facilitate the negotiations and if the bill were not passed and the contents of the bill were set-aside, then the three tribes would be back at that starting point.
You have been delayed for a year and a half and you have been kicked around. It is culminated with last night's episode at 7:30. There is ample reason for the Congress to act very quickly and pass this legislation and also for the trustees to begin negotiations immediately in the spirit of this bill.
This will certainly fulfill the commitment that was made to you previously and of which you are deserving.
I thank you for being here.
The written testimony of C. David Gardner will be entered into the record at this point.
[Mr. Gardner's prepared statement follows:]
Testimony of C. David Gardner, Principal Chief, Choctaw
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee and Senator Bartlett,
I appreciate the opportunity to appear before this committee to
present testimony in regard to SB 660. I am David Gardner, Principal
Swimmer's testimony. We do need SB 660 passed into law. The
and Cherokees own the bed and banks of a portion of the Arkansas
River, yet we are deprived of any of the benefits of the ownership.
This legislation will provide a means to negotiate an agreement between our tribes and our trustee the U.S. Government. Upon becoming Principal Chief of the Choctaw Nation approximately
twenty months ago, I made an in depth review of the Supreme Court
decision, the appraisals, and the efforts of three Tribes to seek an equitable agreement with the U.S. Government. I believe, and
so do most of the informed Choctaws, that the present dilemma is
the result of an honest mistake. Everyone assumed when Oklahom
became a State that title to the navigable rivers passed from the
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Federal Government to the State. The treaties with these three
tribes created a unique situation, however, which was not resolved until the Supreme Court finally determined we owned the bed and banks of the Arkansas River all along. The navigable McClellan
Kerr Navigation Project was already well under way. Individual
land owners whose property was taken by the project had been
We feel that if anyone had known at the time that
the bed and banks of the Arkansas River really belonged to us,
We would have been justly compensated like everyone else.
Let us correct this mistake once and for all. This Bill provides for the most logical first step to take. It is our
responsibility and duty-- yours and ours-- that we move with all
due speed toward a fair and equitable resolution of this matter.
It is also my duty as Principal Chief to seek to increase
the capability of our Tribal Government to serve the needs of the
Choctaw people. The per capita income of the Choctaws is less than half that of the State of Oklahoma. Almost twenty percent of the entire Tribe is receiving Public Assistance and over half
our people live in substandard housing. Jobs are scarce in
Southeastern Oklahoma. The Choctaw Nation is in a position to
do something about these problems. Goals set by the Tribal Government include programs for health, housing, education and employment. Jobs can be created through Industrial Development
and our work force can be upgraded through training.
A negotiated agreement which would resolve our ownership
interest in the Arkansas River could provide the means whereby