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The ANA Messenger - Spring Edition

Published: June 6, 2013
Social and Economic Development Strategies (SEDS), Environmental Regulatory Enhancement

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Tonkawa Tribe of Oklahoma

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The Tonkawa Tribe has approximately 1,200 acres of Tribal lands in north-central Oklahoma, plus 800 acres located near the Kansas state border.  Although the Tribe developed several environmental ordinances in the past, none had been fully adopted by the governing body prior to the project.  Tribal staff therefore identified several environmental challenges needing to be addressed through regulations: cultural resources protection and management; abandoned and disabled vehicles; water quality protection and management; wastewater storage, treatment and disposal; hazardous waste disposal; animal carcasses; dumpsite access; pollution clean-up responsibilities; animal control; and hunting and fishing controls.

The purpose of this project was to protect the health and safety of Tribal members through the regulation of environmental activities under principles of Tribal sovereignty.  The first objective was to develop an Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and an Environmental Protection Board (EPB).  The APA established regular meeting dates, terms of office, by-laws, and clearly defined duties for the three-member EPB, and included a written environmental protection code.

The second objective was to draft and conduct a legal review of 10 environmental ordinances, including enforcement policies, procedures, and penalty and fine schedules.  The project director worked with the Tribal Administrator and an attorney to develop and finalize the codes, which were then approved by the EPB and sent to the Tribal governing body for ratification.  The third objective was to inform the community of the new environmental regulations, and train Tribal court personnel, Tribal police officers, and all environmental department staff on the updates.  Tribal administrative, court, and police personnel received training, and over 10 community meetings were held.

All Tribal codes are now in a digital format and posted on the Tribe’s website, and the community is continually informed about environmental activities and issues.  In addition, the fine schedule and court fees established as part of the new ordinances generate additional revenue for the Tribe.  One Tribal administration staff said, “It is not just about the extra revenue, but about making things better.  There has been a huge increase in awareness, and everyone is more in tune with environmental issues.” 

The EPB continues to hold regular meetings, which are well publicized and open to the community.  Project staff also put in place a plan for holding public hearings when necessary, and reported the community now has a voice.  The project not only developed the Tribe’s capacity to prevent pollution of air, water, land, and all other natural resources, but also provided opportunities for forming partnerships and exercising Tribal sovereignty.

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Last Reviewed: October 17, 2016