Cole Speaks at Sovereignty Symposium in OKC

Article excerpt

Flanked by the flags of 39 tribal nations and surrounded by tribal leaders from across the country, Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cole said tribal sovereignty wasn't just a legal issue, but a political one.

Cole made the statement during the keynote address of the Oklahoma Sovereignty Symposium at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. This year's event, sponsored by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, was the symposium's 25th meeting.

Speaking to a crowd of about 300, Cole stressed the need for tribal self-governing.

"Pull out the treaties, the law and the congressional activity," he said, "and you will find in them language that represents the best issues and values by the American people. Sovereignty is about self-governance."

Cole's speech, one of two keynote addresses delivered Tuesday, came as state officials, tribal leaders and representatives of Oklahoma City continue to try and hash out their differences in federal court. In August 2011, the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations sued Oklahoma City and the state after the Oklahoma Water Resources Board voted to allow the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust to purchase the Sardis Reservoir in southeastern Oklahoma.

Since that lawsuit was filed, attorneys for all sides have fought back and forth in federal court, filing motions and countersuits and amending the original lawsuit.

In earlier speeches in both Norman and Oklahoma City, Cole has called for all parties to sit down, talk and work out their differences. And while Cole did not address the water issue directly Tuesday, he repeatedly spoke about the importance of the state's 39 tribal nations and the need for tribal sovereignty. …