AICCO to measure impact of Native businesses and tribes in Oklahoma

Written By: Rachael Schuit | VNN Oklahoma

(OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.) The influence of Indian Country businesses on the State of Oklahoma’s economy cannot be understated, according to tribal leaders like Muscogee Creek Nation (MCN) Principal Chief David Hill.

Each year, Oklahoma’s 39 tribes generate billions of dollars for the state’s economy.

Hill recently discussed MCN’s economic contributions in his annual State of the Nation address.

“We started our year by signing an MOU with the City of Tulsa and the City of Jenks for the South Tulsa Dam project which has been in the works for years,” Hill said.

Hill said the dam project will lead to new economic opportunities along the Arkansas River.

The Chickasaw Nation also started construction on the Lakecrest Hotel and Casino at Lake Murray in 2023, which is expected to be complete in the spring of 2024 and provide jobs for more than 200 people. The five-year development is expected to cost more than $300 million.

Amber Sharp is an American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Oklahoma (AICCO) State Board member and CEO of ClaimRev, a Native-owned business. She said the tribes aren’t just creating jobs through casinos and other business ventures.

“They’re also bringing in tourists eager to experience their culture,” said Sharp. “Their investments go beyond just business–they're improving infrastructure and providing essential services like healthcare and education, which helps everyone.”

Recently, AICCO launched a new initiative to measure the economic impact its Native business members and the state’s tribes had in 2023.

“AICCO is a big booster for the Indian Country economy,” Sharp said. “By hooking up Native American businesses with resources and networking opportunities, it's like they're laying down the groundwork for these businesses to grow and thrive. Think of it as creating a community where everyone's got each other's backs, sharing knowledge and opportunities.”

AICCO’s economic impact research and reporting project will survey AICCO Native businesses and tribes on topics such as jobs they have created and revenue they’ve generated.

“Native American enterprises often prioritize hiring within their communities, providing not just jobs but career development opportunities that help reduce unemployment rates and boost economic independence among Native populations,” said Sharp.

Once the survey results are in, AICCO will analyze them and release the data to the public. These surveys also seek to measure collaboration and community improvements related to Native and tribal business.

“These collaborations turbocharge the economy by pooling resources, expertise, and networks, making the pie bigger for everyone,” said Sharp. “It's about creating jobs and sparking innovations that wouldn't be possible in isolation.”

Sharp said one of the major goals of AICCO Native businesses is to honor the heritage of Indigenous people in their work environments and in the products they create. This endeavor is made stronger through chapter and statewide events, such as ‘The Gathering’ and ‘Leadership Native Oklahoma.’

Sharp noted that these events are “not just about business growth; they're also about making sure culture is part of the economic conversation.”

AICCO’s Economic Impact Research and Reporting Project is being facilitated by Native-owned news organization Verified News Network (VNN) Oklahoma. To learn more about this project, email

Cherokee Nation, State of Oklahoma reach tentative agreement to renew tribal-state tobacco compact

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation and the State of Oklahoma have reached a tentative agreement to renew a tribal-state compact governing tobacco sales.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said the proposed agreement reinforces the Cherokee Nation’s longstanding message that collaboration between tribal and state governments is essential and beneficial to all Oklahomans.

“Over the years, compacts have served as a fundamental exercise of tribal sovereignty between the tribes and the state and exemplify the power of successful collaboration and respectful partnerships. We have always believed in being good neighbors to all Oklahomans who share our home,” Chief Hoskin said. “Cherokee Nation Attorney General Chad Harsha has worked with the State of Oklahoma to renew our carefully negotiated tobacco compact, which has over the years received wide bipartisan support across the state. To make it official, Deputy Chief Bryan Warner and I are now asking the Council of the Cherokee Nation to approve this agreement. Once enacted, this tribal-state compact renewal will be another example of how we can find common ground between the state and tribe as we have for decades and ensure that our retail tobacco establishments will continue to operate as they have in the past.”

The Council of the Cherokee Nation is expected to take action on the proposed agreement at a later date. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed the agreement on behalf of the State of Oklahoma on February 26.

“For many years we have seen the positive impacts on our state as a result of tribal-state compacts,” said Deputy Chief Warner. “The newly renegotiated tobacco compact reaffirms our sovereignty and highlights our commitment to being good stewards of resources and our continued investments in our communities. In the spirit of gadugi – all of us working together for the greater good – we will continue to build a stronger, more prosperous Oklahoma that celebrates and respects all of its residents. Fundamentally, government-to-government compacts protect the interests and rights of the Cherokee Nation.”

Tribal-state tobacco compacts, including the Cherokee Nation’s compact, provide a framework for tribal nations and the State of Oklahoma to allocate tax revenue from the sale of tobacco on tribal land. This has generated tens of millions of dollars in revenue for tribes and the State of Oklahoma over decades of cooperative agreements.

“If fully executed through Council approval, this agreement allows Cherokee Nation to exercise our inherent sovereignty while we continue to work toward sound and durable government-to-government agreements that best serve our interests,” Cherokee Nation Attorney General Chad Harsha said.

The agreement, if approved by the Council of the Cherokee Nation, will carry a 10-year term that can be renewed thereafter.

Potawatomi Fire receive championship rings

Pictured from left are K.D. Moore, Fire Head Coach Mark Dannhoff, Chuck Guy, Deshawn Munson, T.J. Maston, and FireLake Arena General Manager David Qualls. Fire players Moore, Guy, Munson and Matson all received championship rings at a banquet Jan. 18.

By: Tina Bridenstine, Citizen Potawatomi Nation Public Information Department

The Potawatomi Fire, the only tribally-owned basketball team in the nation, received championship rings at a banquet Jan. 18 at the FireLake Arena.

In only its second season in The Basketball League, the Fire took home the National Championship at the end of the 2023 season when they defeated the St. Louis Griffins 98-89 in game 3 of the finals.

Not only did the team win the championship, but others received honors during the 2023 season as well.

Fire Coach Mark Dannhoff was named Coach of the Year, Chuck Guy was named Defensive Player of the Year, and the Fire Girls were named the best dance team in the Central Conference.

At the banquet and ceremony, championship rings were presented to the Fire players and Fire Girls, in addition to Dannhoff receiving his Coach of the Year ring and Guy receiving his ring for Defensive Player of the Year. Deshawn Munson also received his ring for being named 2022 MVP for TBL.

Fire sponsors were also honored at the event. Vyve Broadband and Chick-fil-A were presented with framed, autographed jerseys for their support. Pottawatomie Go (a health initiative also known as PoGo) and SSM Health (which provides the team’s trainers) were not able to attend but also received jerseys.

“We were humbled by the show of support from our fans and sponsors who came out to honor our players,” FireLake Arena General Manager David Qualls said. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

The Potawatomi Fire will kick off the 2024 season against the Enid Outlaws at 7 p.m., Friday, March 1. Tickets and the 2024 season schedule are available online at

“We’re excited for this season,” Qualls said. “We’re loaded with the high caliber of players that can lead us to back-to-back championship wins.”

Find the Potawatomi Fire on FacebookInstagram and X. Purchase tickets at

Oklahoma designers making mark in fashion industry

Dante Biss-Grayson models one of his ranch shirt designs. This one is called “Ace High.” Photo provided by Sky Eagle Collections.

By Analyse Jester & Lisa Maslovskaya

Dante Biss-Grayson and Nicole Moan create designs that are striking and innovative, and they would like to see more Oklahomans enter the world of fashion.

Dante Biss-Grayson, owner of Sky Eagle Collections, designs clothing influenced by his Osage Nation heritage.

SkyEagle Collections is named for his Osage title, Wa-Sa-Ta, which means First Son of the Eagle Clan. He said his collections are meant to inspire his own people and other Indigenous groups.

Running his company with the help of his wife, Yanti, Biss-Grayson celebrates his culture with modern interpretations of classic Indigenous design elements. Serving for the U.S. Air Force in a multitude of countries, Biss-Grayson wanted to celebrate his home, using art as his expression after developing post-traumatic stress disorder. His work includes ribbon skirts, dresses, coats, shoes, shirts and more, which can be purchased through his website.

“When I was growing up, looking at the ribbon work, a practice from the Southern Plains tribes of cutting and sewing ribbons into different geometrical patterns, that's a huge inspiration for me,” Biss-Grayson said. “And I made it really modern and contemporary.”

Biss-Grayson said the work of Native designers is “reminding other cultures that Indigenous people are still here, but two, that we can also perform shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the biggest fashion houses globally.”

SkyEagle Collections made its mark in the fashion industry a year ago when Biss-Grayson’s runway designs took New York Fashion Week by storm. He said he chose not to participate this year, but with the release of the Oklahoma-made movie, " Killers of the Flower Moon,” which depicts the “Osage Reign of Terror,” his designs were seen on the Red-Carpet during movie premiere events.

“I see this philosophy of we’re here and we’re going to succeed,” Biss-Grayson said. “So, I see it as not just men and women, but as these new warriors in this modern world.”

Biss-Grayson said part of the Native culture “is wearing these designs as pride, as medicine. And I see it as a modern medicine in a new world. So that's the idea and ethos behind it… it's very uplifting and empowering for the wearer.”

Oklahoma City’s Nicole Moan started out as a tiling craftsman, and later turned her talent to creating ceramic corsets, which she said she pioneered as a way of combining art and fashion.

“It first started off with me making custom tiles…and here I am 25 years later making ceramic corsets and I don't know, I've probably made over 300 or more by this time,” Moan said.

Her corset designs have been featured in shows across the world, including this year’s Grammy Awards. Chrishell Stause, an American actress and television personality, wore one of Moan’s corsets as part of her outfit. The designs are not only a work of art but are completely wearable and use a classic corset lace-up style, Moan said.

After her ceramic corsets sparked major interest in the fashion world, Moan wanted to see where her skills could take her. She applied for an alternative fashion week in London and was one of the first American designers chosen to have their collections on the runway.

Moan is also a photographer and painter, and her decorative headpieces, available on her website, include fascinators, top hats, headbands and a feather-trimmed “mad hatter hat.”

After starting her corset business, Moan collaborated with the Oklahoma City Museum of Art to “combine art and fashion,” hosting her first fashion show.

“It really helped work as a community and I really think that's what we need, we're really thirsty for fashion here in Oklahoma City,” she said.

“We don't have enough representation, and yet people don't see that the fashion world is really that important here in Oklahoma. I really want people to realize that there's tons of talented people here and we need to show people with their voice,” Moan said.

Her business is still based in Oklahoma, and Moan loves to see other artistic talent within the state. She hopes to continue hosting fashion shows and expand her reach, not only across the state but the country.

“I don't want to make anything that anybody else has made, I want to change it up,” she said. “Hopefully we can just keep building it and make it [her fashion show] work. You know, an event that people come from all over the world to Oklahoma of all places, to experience.

Gaylord News is a reporting project of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication. For more stories by Gaylord News, go to