Governor Mary Fallin's liaison with Oklahoma's American Indian tribes worked on measures this past year that expand the authority of tribal law enforcement officers under state law and improve communication between tribal and state officials on child welfare cases.
The accomplishments are listed in an annual report on 2013 activities that was presented last week to the governor by Native American Liaison Jacque Secondine Hensley. It was delivered to tribal leaders today as well as to members of the Oklahoma Legislature's Native American caucus.
It is Hensley's first report submitted to the governor. A copy of the report can be found here.
This is the first full year that Hensley has served as Native American liaison. The governor appointed her to the post in July 2012.
In her report, Hensley said she met with tribal leaders from all 38 of Oklahoma's federally recognized tribes.
"Oftentimes, the same three issues were brought up," Hensley said. "First, tribal leaders wanted a more meaningful government-to-government relationship with the state. Second, the welfare of Indian people, both inside and outside of Indian Country, should be a top priority. And, third, there needed to be more tribal-state partnerships on economic development opportunities.
"I've been proud to see Governor Fallin and her administration actively working to address tribal issues and respond to tribal requests," she said.
In her capacity as legislative liaison, Hensley has worked directly with lawmakers to improve state and tribal cooperation.
During the 2013 legislative session, Hensley, a member of the Kaw Nation who is also part Shawnee and Delaware, worked with Rep. Lisa Billy, R-Lindsay, and Sen. Susan Paddack, D-Ada, on House Bill 1871. It gives state police powers to any U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs law enforcement officer or a tribal law enforcement officer of a federally recognized tribe who has undergone state certification to enforce state laws on tribally owned land. The measure took effect Nov. 1.
Hensley also worked with Fallin on an executive order issued in November by the governor that directs the Oklahoma Department of Human Services to openly share information and work collaboratively with tribal child welfare officials on cases involving issues such as child neglect and foster care.
Hensley said she is working with tribal officials on establishing state-licensed tribal elder care facilities.
Gov. Fallin said Hensley's work demonstrates the value of an executive-branch tribal liaison.
"Oklahoma's tribes have a valuable and unique impact on Oklahoma's economy and our culture," Fallin said. "My administration has always worked closely with Oklahoma's tribes and will continue to do so in the future. I am pleased to see the work and efforts of the Native American liaison's office have enhanced the partnership and communication between the governor's office and Oklahoma's tribes. Jacque has helped to enhance the lines of communication between Oklahoma and the tribes. That increased communication is paying off."
Hensley, as Native American liaison, serves as an adviser to the governor on tribal affairs with areas of responsibility designated by the governor. They include monitoring consultations and interactions between state agencies and tribal governments, as well as continuing the outreach between the governor's office and tribal governments.
The office of the Native American liaison was created by the Oklahoma Legislature in 2011 and modified in 2012. It replaced the Indian Affairs Commission as the primary go-between for the state and the tribes. Unlike the Indian Affairs Commission, the liaison meets regularly with the governor and her Cabinet and also attends senior staff meetings with other upper-level policy advisers.
Hensley also has worked with several state agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Department of Commerce, Department of Education, Department of Human Services and Department of Health as well as with state energy and environmental officials.