Hoskin establishes sovereignty commission in wake of McGirt decision

Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. has established a commission to make funding and resource recommendations and examine related areas in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court McGirt decision. COURTESY

TAHLEQUAH -- According to an Aug. 13 Cherokee Nation press release, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. has established a commission to make funding and resource recommendations and examine related areas in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court McGirt decision.�

Hoskin signed an executive order on Aug. 13 establishing the Commission for the Protection of Cherokee Nation Sovereignty, the release states.

It also states Hoskin proposed the Cherokee Nation Reservation, Judicial Expansion and Sovereignty Protection Act for Tribal Council approval. The act would authorize the CN to apply for federal funding for expanded staffing and resources and to bring in court referees to help on assigned cases as the workload increases, the release states.

"We must begin taking steps to expand�our Marshal Service, Attorney General's Office, detention and probation budgets, our tribal court system and other areas, while staying engaged in any congressional response to legislation that protects our tribal sovereignty, keeps this historic ruling intact and ensures criminals that commit violent acts on Cherokee Nation reservation lands do not go free," Hoskin said in the release.�"This court decision is the largest victory for Indian Country in our lifetime, but also represents new challenges for the Cherokee Nation,�so we are preparing vigorously for what we anticipate is coming.�I look forward to a detailed report from the commission in the coming weeks."�

According to the release, the commission would be comprised of Deputy Chief Bryan Warner, Human Services Executive Director Marsha Lamb, Marshal Shannon Buhl, several members of Hoskin's Cabinet, Supreme Court Justice John Garrett, District Court Judge Luke Barteaux, former U.S. Ambassador Keith Harper and Tribal Councilors Joe Byrd, Mike Shambaugh and Janees Taylor.�

The release states the body would analyze resource concerns, costs and necessary steps as the CN prepares to exercise expanded jurisdiction over crimes committed by tribal citizens, non-citizen Indians and non-Indians.�

The group would also give input on the courts, law enforcement within the CN reservation, criminal codes, jails, re-entry and diversion programs, probation, prosecution, indigent defense counsel, cases involving the Indian Child Welfare Act, domestic violence cases, minor delinquent cases and other areas.�

"I've spent decades working to protect our sovereignty and we need to be proactive now more than ever," Byrd said. "I proudly join the commission and have asked Councilors Mike Shambaugh and Janees Taylor, who have experience in law enforcement and finance, to join as well."�

Under the order,�CN departments that intersect with the CN courts, attorney general and Marshal Service that are impacted by the�McGirt�decision would submit a report of impacts and proposed recommendations to the commission. The commission would be charged with issuing a final report to the administration by Dec. 1.�

The executive order also authorizes the attorney general to create the Inter-Governmental Law Enforcement Task Force�of external law enforcement and state and federal prosecutors to collaborate and ensure the prosecution of crimes committed on the tribe's 7,000-square-mile reservation see no gaps in jurisdiction.�

The commission and task force will be vital for discussions and decisions on resources as cases are transferred to tribal and federal court, the release states.

The CN filed an amicus brief with the�Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals in August asserting the tribe's reservation remains intact. That case involved the conviction of a Miami tribal citizen arrested inside the CN reservation for possessing a firearm after a former felony conviction.�

According to the release, there are similar cases pending, which�could be the first of thousands of cases challenged for lack of state jurisdiction. When or if those challenges are successful, the cases will be transferred to federal and CN prosecutors, the release states.

According to the release, the proposed legislative act was expected go before the Tribal Council on Aug. 27. It would allow planning for more resources and staffing and authorize Hoskin to secure grants and federal funding.��

"The Cherokee Nation will continue to fight to protect our sovereignty, the Cherokee reservation, the Cherokee people and all citizens living within our Cherokee reservation boundaries," Hoskin said. "I signed this executive order today to put this commission in place to ensure stability and protection on our reservation lands and proposed this legislative act to secure federal funding to meet the challenges�presented by the landmark United States Supreme Court McGirt decision."