OML holds Tribal Municipal Symposium

Collaborator: VNN Content Studio
Published: 01/10/2024, 7:58 PM
Edited: 05/18/2024, 5:00 PM

Native Commerce News is sponsored by the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Oklahoma (AICCO), dedicated to expanding Indian Country commerce across the globe.   

Written By:  Rachael Schuit 

(MIAMI, Okla.) Oklahoma is a complex state of multiple levels of government. Local municipalities and the state work alongside, and ideally with, 39 tribal nations, all of which have their own governing bodies. 

The Oklahoma Municipal League (OML), a statewide association that provides information and training for effective municipal governing, is also dedicated to creating commonality between tribes and municipalities through building communication streams, unity, and combining shared resources. 

OML’s latest Tribal Municipal Symposium was held at the Buffalo Run Casino & Resort in Miami, Oklahoma, on Friday to further collaboration efforts.

Organizers said seven tribes and 17 municipalities took part. 

“All of us have common goals,” said Margo Gray, the Executive Director of United Indian Nations of Oklahoma. “We want good healthcare, we want great education.” 

Gray was one of four panelists on the “Breaking Down Barriers: Strategies of Community Building” panel, which also included VNN’s own Brittany Harlow. 

The discussion focused on how municipalities and tribes can co-exist to their mutual benefit and how elected municipal officials can approach tribal leaders and vice versa to form lasting relationships.

“After attending ‘Exploring Indigenous Allyship’, I realized Brittany had the expertise and desire to foster relationships with the Tribes of Oklahoma,” Tribal Municipal Affairs Specialist Ray Poland said. 

“I appreciate this experience of being able to share my learning and insight from working for a Native-owned company and working with tribal-owned media,” Harlow said. “And, maybe even more importantly, working directly with our community members and listening to what they have to say about the collaboration between tribal and city governments that they would like to see.” 

Additional panelists included Miami Mayor Bless Parker and Lucinda Hickory Research Institute Founder Tatianna Duncan. 

Parker spoke about his commitment to collaborating with tribal governments in his area. 

“They have that Intertribal Council meeting the third Wednesday of every month. In my month, that is the most important meeting I have all month,” Parker said. “That’s when all my chiefs are there and they’re telling me what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, what their plans are.” 

Parker encouraged other municipal officials attending the event to form relationships with their local tribal leaders. 

“If you don’t have that relationship with your tribal leaders, I would encourage you to start it today,” Parker said. “You cannot start it soon enough. Those partnerships are important.”

Gray said partnering with tribes also has a significant economic benefit. 

“Through the transportation programs, the Federal Transportation programs that are earmarked for tribes,” Gray said. “Any road that deals with Economic Development or government or schools. Well those are the same roads that are taking any other Oklahoma citizen to work to healthcare to their jobs and so you join those monies together and then you can get those bridges, those roads that have been in disrepair for so long and get those fixed.”

Gray said it is important to truly understand one another to maximize the benefits each has to offer. 

“You may have nine tribes in your area, but can you tell me which tribes are matrimonial and patrimonial societies,” Gray said. “You have to understand what form of government you’re working with, that’s also key. Because some of them are tribal councils, some of them are business committees, some of them are chiefs, some of them are governors.”

Poland said OML began holding tribal municipal symposiums after a panel at a mayor’s conference in 2022 discussed how municipalities could collaborate with tribal governments to better their communities and the State of Oklahoma. 

“These symposiums have been deliberate and are geared towards the tribal government in the area,” Poland said. “OML does not want to force a conversation, but follow the lead of the tribes in how we can work together.”

Additional topics at Friday’s event included Economic Development and the State of Tribal Nations.

Poland served as OML President from 2022-2023. He assumed the role of Tribal Municipal Affairs Specialist in September of last year.

“As the Great Great Nephew of Alexander Posey a Muscogee/Creek Citizen, American poet, humorist, journalist, politician and member of the Dawes Commission, I viewed this as an opportunity to honor the legacy he left,” Poland said.

For more information on the symposium, click here.

This article has been updated with additional information following the symposium.


This story has no comments yet