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In hope of settling the boundary dispute between Oklahoma and Texas, both states, along with the Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache tribes (KCA), appointed delegates to the Red River Boundary Commission in 1991. Supreme Court rulings in 1923 had declared the south bank of the river as the border. But how one discerned the exact location of the south bank depended on one's state of residence or one's tribal affiliation. Responsibilities of the commission included: 1) establishing the exact location of the south bank of the Red River; 2) holding hearings on both Texas and Oklahoma with the Bureau of Land Management and other "interested parties"; and 3) filing a final report outlining action deemed warranted with the governors and the states' legislatures. Finally, the commission was to limit its findings to that section of the Red River running from the 98th meridian to the mouth of the North Fork.

The commission held public meetings in communities bordering both sides of the river and in the state capitals. Commissioners heard testimony from surveyors and geographers, from professional geologists at the Bureau of Land Management, and from private citizens who owned land adjacent to the river. The commission submitted proposed legislation to both states' legislatures in early 1999. Gov. George W. Bush of Texas signed the legislation into law on May 24, 1999; Gov. Frank Keating of Oklahoma followed suit on June 4.

Thus, the Red River Boundary Compact became the legal document establishing the permanent political boundary between Oklahoma and Texas. The compact declares the vegetation line along the south bank of the Red River extending on a line from the 100th Meridian east to Lake Texoma as the northern border of Texas. Land between the south bank and the meridian line of the river belongs to the Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache tribes and is held in trust by the federal government. The riverbed north of the meridian line belongs to the state of Oklahoma. The lone exception to the south bank being the northern border of Texas is spelled out under Article II, Section b.1, which states that in the Texoma area the boundary extends from "the intersection of the vegetation line on the south bank with the east bank of Shawnee Creek." The line, depicted by the characters ("-..-") in the Lake Texoma Fishing and Boating Map, Number A353, continues to the foot of the Denison Dam.

Beyond establishing a permanent boundary between the two states, the compact: 1) requires marking the boundary with visible landmarks; 2) establishes proper state and federal sovereignty over lands adjacent to the Red River for purposes of taxation, judicial power, and administrative oversight; 3) protects the property rights, "including riparian rights," that transfer to an owner through title; 4) addresses the problem identifying the legal owners of mineral rights for any discoveries in the Red River; 5) creates a judicial venue for settling land ownership disputes between citizens of the two states, or between citizens and the federal government; and 6) institutes a standing commission to resolve any future disputes between Oklahoma and Texas. The compact went into effect August 31, 2000, when both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives approved the Red River Boundary Compact as Joint Resolution 72.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Anne Million, "We the Sooner People: Oklahoma and the United States Constitution," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 65 (Winter 1987 88). Liz Pollard, "Red River Boundary Compact Spurs Three Oklahoma Tribes into Protest Action," Oklahoma Indian Times: The Native American Resource, 25 October 1999. "Red River Boundary Commission," Vertical File, Oklahoma State House of Representatives, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Red River Boundary Compact, Oklahoma Statutes, 2000 Supplement, Vol. 3, Titles 68 to End. Carl N. Tyson, The Red River in Southwestern History (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1981).

Glen Vaughn-Roberson

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