5 Tribes, state seek ‘shared position’ on jurisdiction after McGirt case

BY CHAD HUNTER
Reporter
07/17/2020 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation and four tribes plan to work with the state to craft legislation that will “best serve our shared interests” related to criminal and civil jurisdiction in the wake of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that states Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s historical reservation remained intact through Oklahoma statehood.

In a 5-4 ruling on July 9, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Seminole Nation citizen Jimcy McGirt, who claimed state courts had no authority to try him for a crime committed on reservation land. McGirt was serving a life sentence in Oklahoma for molesting a child before the Supreme Court’s decision overturned the state conviction.
The court’s determination that tribal nations in Oklahoma “were never diminished,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., will impact the Five Tribes – Cherokee Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole nations.

On July 16, the Five Tribes issued a statement that Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter joined them in presenting to the state’s congressional delegation “a set of principles that memorialize our shared position.”

“Our goal is to see these principles implemented in appropriate federal law for purposes of enhancing and clarifying respective state and tribal jurisdiction, both criminal and civil, without limiting the jurisdiction or immunities of either the state or any Nation,” the agreement states. “We believe implementation of these principles will preserve sovereign interests and rights to self-government while affirming jurisdictional understandings, procedures, laws and regulations that support public safety, our economy and property rights.”

MCN Principal Chief David Hill said that tribal nations have successfully collaborated with law enforcement for years, “and this ruling only strengthens our ability to work together for the betterment of public safety for all Oklahomans.”

“While the ruling does leave questions for us to answer as we move forward, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation is confident that our past work with state and federal agencies has prepared us for this significant moment in our history,” Hill said.

Hoskin added that Cherokees “have always fought to protect our tribal sovereignty and homelands and strengthen our communities.”

“We have long held that Cherokee Nation has a reservation, rooted in our treaties, as the Supreme Court of the United States has now affirmed,” he said. “This proposed legislation will cement our reservation boundaries and the broad tribal jurisdiction the Supreme Court recognized in the McGirt decision. We will continue to work with the state of Oklahoma and our federal partners to ensure the safety of the public.”

Hunter said the recommendations to clarify jurisdiction are “the best path forward for protecting the public and promoting continued economic growth in Oklahoma.”

“My commitment to our tribal partners is to work together to forge common ground on the issues brought to light by this case,” he said. “Oklahoma’s tribal nations are a fundamental part of Oklahoma’s culture, economy, politics and governance. The relationship between the tribes and my office is based on trust and mutual respect. And that synergism has been essential to the successful formation of this important agreement.”

Click here to viewthe Murphy/McGirt Agreement-in-Principle document.
About the Author
Chad Hunter has spent more than two decades in the newspaper industry as a reporter and editor in Arkansas, Oklahoma and his home state of Missouri. He began working for the Cherokee Phoenix in late  ...
chad-hunter@cherokee.org • 918-453-5269
Chad Hunter has spent more than two decades in the newspaper industry as a reporter and editor in Arkansas, Oklahoma and his home state of Missouri. He began working for the Cherokee Phoenix in late ...

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