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Study highlights Native American tribes’ impact on Oklahoma economy

The 38 federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma had a $12.9 billion impact on the state in 2017. The study, sponsored through the Oklahoma Tribal Finance Consortium, found that the tribes directly employ more than 50,000 people and support 96,000 jobs to tribal citizens and non-citizens, accounting for more than $4.6 billion in wages and benefits to Oklahoma workers in 2017. Citizen Potawatomi Nation employed 2,296 individuals with an impact of $516 million in 2017. CPN continued to grow in 2018, with 2,354 employees and a $537 million economic impact.

“This study shows that Oklahoma tribes are providing valuable jobs and employment to Oklahomans throughout the state,” said Lisa Johnson Billy, Oklahoma Secretary of Native American Affairs. “We look forward to continued growth and cooperation that benefits all Oklahomans.”

Kyle Dean, associate professor of economics and the director for the Center for Native American and Urban Studies at Oklahoma City University, analyzed data from 15 tribal Nations based in Oklahoma and prepared the study.

In the health care realm, tribes paid $213 million in Medicaid expenditures at tribal health care facilities, saving the state $88 million in 2018 by requiring no state matching funds. In fiscal years 2017 and 2018, CPN recorded 341,362 patient visits and filled more than half a million prescriptions.

The tribes have invested a total of $200 million in transportation infrastructure, aiding the construction of nearly 27,000 miles of highways and roads. Oklahoma is first in the nation for federal dollars contributed through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Tribal Transportation Program.

Through gaming compacts between Oklahoma-based tribes and the state, tribal nations submit a percentage of their Class III gaming revenues for the exclusive right to operate casinos in the state. Oklahoma tribes have paid more than $1.5 billion in exclusivity fees since 2006. The state sends the first $250,000 of these fees to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Of the remaining funds, 88 percent is earmarked for public education, totaling more than $1.3 billion. Tribal gaming garnished $198 million in 2017 alone that directly supported Oklahoma schools. Additionally, CPN contributed $556,612 from Tribal car tag fees in 2017 and 2018.

The tribes have invested heavily to support local communities and efforts. Citizen Potawatomi Nation uses 100 percent of its revenue to reinvest in government services, such as providing health care for tribal members and Oklahomans, paving roads throughout the Tribal jurisdiction, and supporting community partners through donations. In fiscal year 2018, CPN contributed $1.5 million to the local community. The tribe also awarded more than $14 million in higher education scholarships across the country.

More information can be found at oknativeimpact.com. The Oklahoma Tribal Finance Consortium’s mission is to advance tribal economics and strengthen tribal finance within the state of Oklahoma.