Oklahoma Tribes Exploring Opportunities in Insurance Industry

October 18, 2012

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak told state lawmakers and tribal leaders that he welcomed a partnership with Oklahoma tribes to create additional insurance opportunities for all Oklahomans, according to an an announcement released by the House media services.

“We look at this as a collaboration. There’s a learning curve for both of us. It’s good for the State of Oklahoma to have people competing for our business, so I fully support any opportunities for Oklahoma tribes to get involved in the insurance industry with proper consumer protections,” said Doak.

Doak was invited to speak to the House Insurance Committee as part of a legislative study requested by state Rep. Dan Kirby, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

“I wanted to give tribal leaders the opportunity to use the Insurance Department as a resource in offering additional coverage opportunities,” said Kirby. “I am hoping today’s study will lead to a fruitful partnership between the Insurance Department and Oklahoma tribes.”

Jay Calhoun, Director Strategic Investments at Cherokee Nation Businesses, said there is interest in exploring opportunities in the insurance industry.

“Cherokee Nation Businesses is interested in exploring all opportunities that create quality jobs for our people. We look forward to learning more about the industry and how we might work together to create greater economic opportunity,” said Calhoun.

An official with the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma said sovereignty is important to tribes and central to any discussion of collaboration.

“Tribes each have their own governments and those governments are sovereign,” said Robert Weaver, government-to-government healthcare legislative appointee of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma. “My perception is that many tribal leaders in the past and even some in current times has been that the States, including Oklahoma, are not as open to working on a government-to-government basis as we would like. I believe we as tribes want to work closer with the state, but we have to be seen as at least ‘equals’ because we are sovereign. I have been very encouraged by the talks I’ve had with Commissioner John Doak that we can find common ground. I hope we will get the same impression from state lawmakers as we move forward.

“In my opinion, Indian Country is looking for diversification in our economic status, but it is not willing to play a subservient role to a state in a collaboration due to the ever important role of our inherent sovereignty.”

The Associated Press has reported that the 38 American Indian tribes in Oklahoma have an annual economic impact of nearly $11 billion in the state. A study from Oklahoma City University’s Steven C. Agee Economic Research and Policy Institute found that more than 70 percent of the $10.8 billion impact comes from the tribes’ gambling operations.

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