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Cherokees begin selling car tags

Updated:

TAHLEQUAH (AP) _ The Cherokee Nation is the latest Oklahoma Indian tribe to get into the car tag business.

The Cherokees began selling car tags on Monday to tribal members who live within its 14-county jurisdiction in northeastern Oklahoma. Twenty-one other Oklahoma tribes also sell tribal car tags.

``We've got longs lines of people, and we're trying to keep them happy,'' said Mike Miller, Cherokee Nation spokesman. By midday, 250 people had bought tags, Miller said.

The tags sell for $75 for new cars and are as low as $10 for cars that are 17 years old or older.

A statewide referendum approved by voters in August 2000 established a maximum tag cost of $85. Tag costs drop to $75 in the fifth year, to $55 in the ninth year, to $35 in the 13th year and to $15 in the 17th year.

The Cherokees' governing council approved the tribe's tag plan earlier this year. The tribe was going to start issuing the tags in August, but delayed the plan until the fall.

State officials worried openly that tribal tag sales would cut into state revenues. Roughly half the tribe's 200,000 members live in Oklahoma, making the Cherokees the state's largest tribe.

But the tribe made an agreement with the state to share revenues from tag sales. Thirty-eight percent of the money will go to schools within the tribe's 14-county area. Money will be awarded to schools based on how many Cherokee students they have enrolled.

Miller said rural schools _ places where Indian populations are higher _ will benefit the most. But he couldn't say how much money they would get.

Another 20% of tag money will go to area roads.

Local law enforcement agencies also stand to gain from tag sales. 5% of tag sales will go to area police departments, sheriff's offices and the tribe's police office.

The remainder will be used to fund tribal education, housing and health programs.
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