- By Native News Online Staff
Five Oklahoma American Indian tribes, the state of Oklahoma, Indian Health Service (IHS) and communities are working together utilizing American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funds in a unified effort to improve the water infrastructure of communities within the state.
These projects will help ensure the infrastructure improvements needed as part of sustainable management of water resources serving both Native and non-Native Oklahoma residents, businesses and communities
The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Muscogee Nation, Cherokee Nation, Iowa Nation and Chickasaw Nation have contributed a total of more than $75 million to these projects.
State of Oklahoma funds for the water projects exceed $69 million, IHS is devoting more than $32 million, communities are contributing more than $1 million and other federal funds total nearly $20 million.
Altogether, federal, tribal, state and community agency contributions toward ensuring area residents have access to this vital natural resource total more than $200 million.
Planned water improvements within the Choctaw Nation include combined funding of more than $32 million that will go toward projects in Bryan County, Broken Bow, Pushmataha County, and Pittsburg County; infrastructure rehabilitation for Talihina and Sardis Lake; system improvements for the town of Pittsburg and Garvin, and McCurtain and Latimer Counties; as well as system upgrades for Stringtown.
“The Choctaw Nation always looks for ways to improve life and economic development in our communities,” Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton said. “Helping to provide clean, reliable water is one of a government's most important functions, and we are glad to play our part.”
Muscogee Nation projects will see more than $44 million from partnering agencies fund upgrades and repairs for Holdenville; equipment replacement for Dewar, Inola, Porter, Okmulgee County and Checotah; infrastructure rehabilitation for Checotah, Preston and Twin Hills; and improvements for Eufaula.
"We always want to seek out ways to affect generational change for our people and for our communities,” said Muscogee Nation Principal Chief David Hill. “Projects like these are a win-win, because they allow us to deliver essential needs, while strengthening relationships with the partners we work with."
Joint funding for water projects within the Cherokee Nation will total more than $50 million and will create new treatment plants and other infrastructure for the Stilwell area, Rogers County, South Delaware County Regional Water Authority, Nowata County and Locust Grove; and water distribution and sewer improvements for Collinsville.
“Tribal nations like the Cherokee Nation have long been great partners with community, state and federal leaders. Together, we work daily to protect our sacred water resources and ensure our communities all have access to safe, clean water. In the Cherokee Nation, we’re proud to have invested tens of millions of dollars toward improving water infrastructure in recent years, and we look forward to continuing that progress through even more investments in the weeks, months and years ahead,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.
ARPA water projects in the Iowa Nation put more than $9 million in combined funding toward rehabilitation and system upgrades in Chandler and Perkins.
Chickasaw Nation projects include more than $63 million of joint funding toward new infrastructure and improvements in Tishomingo, Lone Grove, Mill Creek, Sulphur, Johnston County, the Arbuckle Master Conservancy District and the Buckhorn Rural Water District.
Leaders of the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes spoke about these projects and the importance of working together at the general session of their quarterly meeting, Oct. 20 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tulsa. The council includes delegates from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Muscogee Nation, Cherokee Nation, Chickasaw Nation and Seminole Nation of Oklahoma.
“Infrastructure improvement will help ensure water is delivered to the end user efficiently and effectively,” said Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby. “Every community in the state relies on clean and sustainable water to foster economic growth and ensure future vitality. This work highlights our commitment and shared vision to work collaboratively to shape a brighter future for all who call Oklahoma home.”
The Seminole Nation is also committed to working together with tribal, federal, state and community agencies around them to the benefit of all communities within tribe’s reservation.
“The Seminole Nation has contributed tens of millions of dollars in water treatment and associated infrastructure through funds that have been appropriated for our small reservation,” said Seminole Nation of Oklahoma Chief Lewis Johnson. “The communities served have received a considerable positive impact that is significant throughout the Seminole Nation reservation.”
Tribal leaders said although the state and tribes may have differing opinions from time to time, opportunities to work together are abundant, and the residents, and tribal members and citizens they serve benefit most when everyone involved can see their common goal of enhancing their lives.
“This is a historic effort in partnership with the state of Oklahoma that will make an immediate, positive impact in rural Oklahoma, and we look forward to finding more ways to support our neighbors,” Chief Batton said.
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