About a month before Otoe-Missouria tribal member Crystal DeRoin received a ticket from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol for having an “improper” tag in Garfield County, an Osage man of 19 years old who also lives in Garfield County was receiving a ticket for his Osage Nation license plate.
According to the Oct. 13 ticket issued in Enid, the violation description and fine were the same as DeRoin’s: operating a vehicle on which all taxes due the state have not been paid; in violation of 47 O.S. 1151(A)(5). The fee for the ticket: $249.
Many Osage Nation tribal leaders are in New Orleans this week, meeting with other tribal leaders at the annual National Congress of American Indians conference. Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear said he, Osage Congressional leaders and ON Attorney General Clint Patterson would be meeting this week to discuss the tribal tag issue and would have an update soon.
According to the Oklahoman, “Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the office of Gov. Kevin Stitt both said police aren’t starting to enforce a new policy, but are following a 30-year-old Supreme Court ruling. In practice, however, state police have recognized tribal tags as valid regardless of where tribal members live.”
ON Chief of Police Nick Williams said his department is following the latest directive from AG Patterson.
“The latest I heard was from the Attorney General and he advised that anybody that receives a ticket for this matter, get the ticket to his office,” Williams said.
Williams said the ONPD, which is cross-deputized with local and county police, will not be issuing tickets to the Nation’s tribal neighbors for being out of their jurisdiction if they should be stopped for an infraction, such as a broken taillight or speeding. He feels that each tribe has its own sovereign government, its own laws and that tribal citizens pay fees for their tribal license plates and are compliant.
He said the Nation already does a good job sharing Osage tribal members’ vehicle registration information with the state.
“When I run your tag over the radio, they put it into this computer database for law enforcement and then that tag comes back with all your information,” Williams said. “That’s what happens when the ON Tax Commission registers your vehicle, they put all your information, the model, make of your car, the year, sometimes the color, who it’s registered to, the address, and it goes into that database. So, when law enforcement approaches you and they run that tag, all your information comes up and it lets us know who we should be talking to behind that wheel.”
The database is shared nationwide. However, some of the smaller tribes do not report that information. For example, ONPD has tried to run a Kiowa tag before, and no information came up.
“But as far as the Osage Nation, our Tax Commission does a good job,” Williams said.
Williams said they have not had a call yet from any Osage citizen reporting they had a ticket for an out-of-jurisdiction license plate.
Attorney General Clint Patterson could not be reached for comment. If you or someone you know receives a ticket for their Osage Nation license plate, contact the ON Attorney General’s office at (918) 287-5514 or email them at AttorneyGeneralOffice@osagenation-nsn.gov.