In the News . . .

Native American Caucus Elects New Officers
Sun, 24 Feb 2013

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Native American Caucus has elected the co-chairs of the caucus and the caucus secretary for the 54th Legislature.

The purpose of the caucus is to identify and address state policy that affects Oklahoma’s 39 federally-recognized tribes, and to facilitate state-tribal communications and policy processes pertaining to sovereignty.

The caucus was established in 2006 through the foresight of state Rep. Lisa Billy and former state Rep. Shane Jett. The National Council of Native American Legislators was formed in the 1980s and was reformed as the National Caucus of Native American State Legislators in 1992.

Billy said Oklahoma is unique because it is home to so many tribes.

“The Native American caucus was founded to build strong relationships with our Oklahoma tribes. Oklahoma is in a unique position due to our tribal partners. The caucus has been a positive force in building and strengthening these partnerships,” Billy said.

As a bipartisan caucus, members elect a Republican and Democratic co-chair to head the caucus. State Rep. Dan Kirby was re-elected to serve as the Republican co-chair. State Rep. Anastasia A. Pittman was elected to serve as the Democratic co-chair.

State Rep. Seneca Scott was elected to serve as secretary of the caucus.

Kirby, an enrolled member of the Creek Nation, said he is committed to ensuring tribes have a strong voice at the Oklahoma Legislature. Kirby currently serves as the chair of the House Insurance Committee.

“I am honored to serve the caucus and help represent the voice of the tribes in Oklahoma at the Legislature,” said Kirby, R-Tulsa. “I know that the Creek Nation is currently working with the Department of Insurance to figure out how to begin to develop tribal businesses related to the insurance industry while maintaining their sovereignty. As the chair of the Insurance committee, I am working with them and other tribes on insurance issues.”

Pittman, an enrolled member of the Seminole Nation, previously served as secretary of the caucus for most of its existence. She said she looks forward to serving the caucus as a co-chair. She is currently the vice chair of the House Human Services Committee and the chair of Health and Human Services committee for the National Caucus of Native American State Legislators.

“I am proud to continue my service to the Native American Caucus and the National Caucus of Native American Legislators, established by former Senator E. Kelly Haney,” Pittman, D-Oklahoma City, said. “We work very closely with Oklahoma tribes and make sure their voices and needs are heard by state lawmakers.”

Scott is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and also secretary of the National Conference of State Legislatures Native American Caucus.

Scott said he was honored to serve the caucus as secretary.

“I’m very proud of my Native American heritage and am honored to represent the Native American caucus as the caucus secretary,” Scott, D-Tulsa, said.

Pittman said the caucus also serves brings national Native American issues to the Oklahoma Legislature.

“Oklahoma has been taking a lead role in addressing Native American issues for over two decades,” Pittman said. “It was Oklahoma former State Senator and former Principal Chief of the Seminole Nation E. Kelly Haney who founded the national organization, and we work very closely with them.”