Tribal officials question sovereignty issue

Thursday, September 23rd 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CARNEGIE, Okla. (AP) -- With a new Red River boundary between
Texas and Oklahoma closer to reality, representatives of the Kiowa,
Comanche and Apache tribes are concerned about tribal sovereignty
and plan to lobby Congress.

The Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Intertribal Land Use Committee
oversees about 9,000 acres of jointly owned Kiowa, Comanche and
Apache land along the Red River.

"Our position is that any jurisdictional change may infringe
upon our sovereign rights," said Melvin Kerchee Jr., the
committee's chairman.

The legislatures in Oklahoma and Texas agreed earlier this year
to a compact that defines the boundary as the vegetation line on
the south bank of the Red River. The issue has been disputed for
100 years. Congress must approve the agreement between the states.

Kiowa, Comanche and Apache committee members said any definition
of the Texas boundary might increase or decrease the tribes' public
lands and oil and gas revenues.

"It boils down to jurisdiction and the taking away of
regulatory rights of the tribes," said Mike Turner, a Kiowa tribal
member and self-proclaimed watchdog. "What if some of these lands
go to Texas? Will they recognize our sovereignty? And if this
passes Congress, can they come back and make amendments? What will
they take next?

"How much are we going to lose? It looks to me like we're going
to lose a lot."

"I have aunts and uncles who have land all up and down that
river," said Kiowa tribal member Ernest Topah. "We're worried
about them, too. Will the jurisdiction change on that land?"

Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson gave the compact his
stamp of approval this week. Edmondson's ruling read in part,
"Oklahoma and Texas may enter into an agreement that permits each
state to exercise sovereignty over the lands that previously were
under control of the other state."

The compact says it "does not change or affect in any manner
the sovereign rights of federally recognized Indian tribes over
tribal lands on either side of the boundary line established by
this compact. Tribal sovereignty rights continue to be established
and defined by controlling federal law."

"If we are a sovereign nation, then why is Oklahoma and Texas
making laws and overriding federal law," asked Kiowa tribal member
Gene Geionety.

Geionety is urging tribal members to protest the compact, which
must be approved by Congress.

The committee appointed an attorney Wednesday to handle the case
and has asked the National Congress of American Indians to help