Commission for Protection of Cherokee Nation Sovereignty makes recommendations

BY STAFF REPORTS
10/14/2020 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – According to an Oct. 9 Cherokee Nation press release, the Commission for the Protection of Cherokee Nation Sovereignty, established by Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. after the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt ruling, has issued its first recommendations on expanding the tribe’s courts, attorneys and marshal service. 

In July, via the McGirt v. Oklahoma case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation was never disestablished. According to the Oc.t 9 release, the court’s reasoning in the case applies to not only the MCN but also the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole nations in Oklahoma, also called the Five Tribes.

The release states that since the Supreme Court’s decision, the Cherokee Nation’s attorney general’s office has identified more than 100 cases that may be dismissed by the Oklahoma court of appeals and sent to either Cherokee Nation or federal courts for prosecution.  

Appellate decisions could come by the end of the year, the release states.

“We must do everything in our power to protect our sovereignty, and we must continue to be ready for the challenges ahead and work with our partners on the ground while preparing to operate and expand our court system to prosecute more of these criminal cases on our lands,” Cherokee Nation Attorney General Sara Hill, a commission member, said. “First, we must ask the Tribal Council for an increase in the budget so that we can begin the expansion of our court system, attorneys, marshal service, victim services, detention facilities and other necessary changes as our reservation land is acknowledged by the state and cases involving Native perpetrators are dismissed, and we begin trying those cases in our tribal courts.”

According to the release, in order for the expansion and restructuring, the commission recommends:

· A $15.6 million budget increase to restructure and expand the Cherokee Nation court system. It could expand the District Court system from one District Court to up to 10 separate districts; add security, juvenile court services, technology and more.

· A projected $3.5 million increase for the attorney general’s office for more staffing to prosecute cases.

· Increase the marshal service budget and detention costs by an additional $16.25 million. This would add 12 marshals and increase detention facility costs.

· Look at grants or funding for expansion of victim service programs.

· Search for grants or funding for re-entry type programs.

· Update the Cherokee Nation criminal code to closely align with the Oklahoma Criminal Code so that law and order is consistent and the transition is as seamless as possible for officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys and the court.

· That the principal chief engages with members of Congress who may be contemplating legislation and oppose any legislation that would disestablish tribal reservations.

· That the principal chief discusses with state and federal elected leaders whether or not additional compacts, intergovernmental agreements or memorandums of understanding are needed or should be authorized to address civil, criminal and other issues on the Cherokee reservation.

The commission comprised of internal Cabinet members, law enforcement, tribal councilors, department heads and judges and meets monthly.

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