Wewoka suffers community disruption in the wake of continuous poverty and violence
The largely underfunded community of Wewoka, Oklahoma, located within the Seminole Nation, has faced a number of hardships in the past month, with gang-related shootings and house-fires, the people of Wewoka are left without support from the state.
The town of Wewoka is largely made-up of people from the Seminole Nation Tribe, and due to the events taking place in Wewoka, the tribe has also faced many challenges.
“Well, one it has disrupted a lot of the community events,” said Melissa Rosenfelt, a member of the Seminole Nation and advocate for Indigenous rights. “I know a lot of them are canceled due to the issues.”
“With the disruption and the violence going on they weren’t able to hold many events this year,” said Rosenfelt. “So it’s affecting the tribe itself, but also the tribal community.”
Wewoka is a small community made up of around 3,080 people as of a 2021 census, and has an average income of $30,000 per household.
With 30% of the population below the poverty-line, many are left without proper resources, and being that it is a mostly Seminole town, the tribe attempts to help, but the Seminole Tribe doesn’t have the same resources as some of the wealthier tribes in the state, like the Cherokee or Chickasaw.
“It’s a political issue,” said Rosenfelt. “Using the Chickasaw and Cherokee for example. They’re very established economically.”
“They have a lot of enterprise and economic means to provide,” said Rosenfelt. “The Seminole Nation hasn’t really grasped how to do that.”
The Seminole Nation owns three casinos in the state, whereas the Chickasaw own 23 casinos, as well as hundreds of varying businesses throughout the state, making them the most commercially successful tribe.
“They each have their own economic and institutional way of doing things,” said Rosenfelt. “The Seminole Nation had trouble establishing their businesses.”
Rosenfelt goes on to discuss the political impacts many laws have had on the tribes, and how Oklahoma lawmakers can better help the Seminole Nation and the people of Wewoka.
“There’s a lack of economic opportunity more than anything,” said Rosenfelt. “How could they help? They could really bring jobs here, and not just to the metro area.”
Many workers in Wewoka have to travel long distances in order to find better job opportunities, causing many jobs within the town to not be employed. This in-turn is harming the overall economy of the town.
With the economy of the town being impacted, as well as the Seminole Nation not having the resources to provide for the community, members have been left to fend for themselves.
Even with nearly 20 shootings taking place during the month of October, as well as six arrests in connection with the shootings being made recently, the town has still seen very little help from officials.