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Ada Evening news

Kiowa members claim cockfighting legal on tribal land

ADA - Members of a Kiowa association claim they have found a way to legally fight game fowl in Oklahoma, however, the Office of the State Attorney General disagrees.

Cockfighting was banned in the state of Oklahoma when State Question 687 was unanimously passed on Nov. 5.

Mike Turner, Lawton, founded the Kiowa Association for the Preservation of Cultural and Rural Lifestyles. Turner, who raised game fowl, said Tribal Laws declare the state of Oklahoma as aboriginal land for the Kiowa Nation. "The Kiowa Tribe has a treaty with the state, which gives us aboriginal rights of occupancy," he said. "Under the Constitution, all treaties are recognized in all courts and considered supreme law. This is something the state has overlooked. You can't change precedence."

Turner said cockfighters can purchase a license from the association, which will legally allow cockfighting in the state of Oklahoma on aboriginal Kiowa territory. This license would allow the association to lease all flocks, property, facilities and paraphernalia of game fowl to cockfighters, thus declaring all game fowl activity as tribal activity. "The association and license legally protect the owners," he said.

Turner said cockfighting in Oklahoma is applicable in the aboriginal boundaries of the the Kiowa Tribe under the Treaty of Fort Gibson with the Kiowa Tribe. Turner also cites the U.S. Constitution's Indian Commerce Clause as precedent. "There are no laws against cockfighting on Indian lands. These are protected under the aboriginal rights of occupancy," Turner said. "Everything we've done has been grandfathered in."

Neal Leader, the senior assistant attorney general for the state of Oklahoma, believes this is not the case.

"It appears ... you are attempting to create a safe haven from Oklahoma's recently enacted Anti-Cockfighting Law for cockfighting activities taking place on Kiowa Tribe Indian Country and elsewhere ... under Federal Law, Oklahoma's Anti-Cockfighting Law is as applicable in Indian Country as it is outside Indian Country," he wrote in a letter to Turner.

Leader listed three reasons why it would be illegal to fight game fowl on the aboriginal boundaries of the Kiowa Nation:

1. The Federal Enclaves Act say the general laws of the U.S. as to the punishment of offenses committed in any place with the the sole and exclusive jurisdiction of the U.S., except for the District of Columbia, is extended to Indian Country. Leader said the act states the entire body of criminal law is applicable in areas under exclusive federal jurisdiction.

2. The Assimilative Crimes Act takes most of the state's criminal law and applies it through federal laws to areas under federal jurisdiction.

3. Through the Assimilative Crimes and Federal Enclaves Acts, the newly-enacted Anti-Cockfighting Law is applicable in Indian Country, as a matter of federal law, and punishable in the same manner as it would be within the state in which the act or omission is committed.

"For these reasons, whether you act through your association, or otherwise ... you cannot create a safe haven from Oklahoma's Anti-Cockfighting Law," Leader wrote to Turner.

Turner said SQ 687 is in violation of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and is infringing on individual's civil rights. "Animal rights activists are passing extreme laws," he said. "To have people be felony criminals for owning roosters is nonsense. These special interest groups try to use legislature to interpret the way we live. They do not run our lives, and most of them are from out of state."

Turner said he began the association to protect the cultural and rural lifestyle of the Kiowa Nation. Turner said he approached the Kiowa Business Committee in June 2000 and received unanimous approval for the association. The association was established in August 2000 with a 7-0 vote.

Turner said the primary objectives of the association are "to promote, protect and preserve the general welfare and interest of cultural and rural lifestyles of Kiowa Tribal and Associate Members through the development of sound policies and practice with respect to the conduct of cultural and rural activities within Kiowa Tribal jurisdiction, to promote economic development and commerce, to preserve and protect the rights of Kiowa Tribal and Associate Members from infringement from federal and state laws in pursuit of cultural and rural lifestyles and to maintain, protect and advocate Kiowa Tribal sovereignty and treaty rights."

Turner said he established the association to protect the rights of individuals who conduct cultural and rural lifestyles within the Kiowa Nation. "We seen the writing on the wall a long time ago," he said. "We just wanted to preserve our cultural heritage."

Turner said the Kiowa Tribe is currently not recognizing the association as a tribal entity. He said he does not use any tribal money to fund the association. "I came to the Kiowa Council on Oct. 5 to face my accusers," he said. "I was accused of fraud by the chairman and a lawyer for selling bogus permits. They have no proof of this. I'm legal and I'm legitimate."

Turner said cockfighting is not the main concern of the association. "We are not just about cockfighting, we are about everything in our cultural lives - things that are part of our heritage and not just the heritage of Indians.

"Roosters were being fought on Indian land before statehood. This is a part of our cultural heritage, and we will do what we can to protect it."