From the March 2012 issue of Chickasaw Times: Honoring Our Past Means Protecting Our Resources, by David Woerz, Chairman, Chickasaw Tribal Legislature
You have probably read or viewed on television news the actions of the Chickasaw Nation and Choctaw Nation regarding our water claims within our historical tribal boundries. Water law, particularly regarding Indian tribes, is complex. However, we believe we are in the right, and that we can come to a just and reasonable conclusion with the participation of the parties involved.
As you probably know, the Chickasaw Nation and Choctaw Nation are bless with bountiful water resources. Obviously, we want to protect and preserve these resources for our future generations. Since the early 1960’s the city of Oklahoma City has been transferring water from Atoka Lake in the Choctaw Nation to the users of Oklahoma City. Additionally, the city has recently initiated actions that could give it access to Sardis Lake, a large lake built in southeast Oklahoma by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The critical issue is that the Chickasaw Nation and Choctaw Nation historic tribal rights are being ignored. Though our tribe and the Choctaws have offered many times to sit down and talk with those who want our water, that has unfortunately not occurred. You probably know that last year the Chickasaw Nation and Choctaw Nation filed a federal lawsuit seeking to recognize our inherent tribal rights to these natural resources. That suit is ongoing. What I know is that the treaty signed in 1830 at Franklin, TN between the Chickasaw Nation and the United States secured our new homelands--the place we now call home. In exchange for ceding our lands in the East, we were to receive new lands of our choosing in the West. The treaty states: “In consideration of said cession, the United States agree to furnish to the Chickasaw Nation of Indians, a country, West of the territory of Arkansas, to lie South of latitude thirty-six degrees and a half, and of equal extent with the one ceded; and in all respects as to timber, water and soil, it shall be suited to the wants and condition of said Chickasaw people.”
Our tribe and the Choctaw Nation have every desire to be good neighbors and friends. We have proved many times that we are not selfish, or blind to the needs of our neighbors. This process may take some time, but I am absolutely certain we are doing the right thing and moving forward in the right direction.