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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Following Gov. Stitt’s fourth ‘State of the State’ address, tribal leaders spoke out about some of the governor’s claims.

During the speech, Stitt spoke about his ongoing fight following the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt ruling.

“From the beginning, I’ve sounded the alarm on the Supreme Court’s McGirt decision. Because I knew then, and I know now, that even a narrow Supreme Court ruling can fundamentally change a state. Oklahoma has been robbed of the authority to prosecute crimes. Put simply, McGirt jeopardizes justice,” Stitt said.

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that McGirt is not retroactive.

“This isn’t about winning and losing. This isn’t personal. It’s not Kevin Stitt versus the tribes. Instead, it’s about certainty. It’s about law and order. It’s about fairness, equal protection under the law, and one set of rules. We’re all Oklahomans. Let’s work together to solve this,” he added.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Hoskin, Jr. released the following statement:

“It’s time for the governor to move forward and work alongside our tribes. Tribal nations have been crucial to the successes in Oklahoma, contributing to jobs, economic growth, public safety, COVID response, health care and supporting education, communities, roads, and law enforcement.

The crimes that Governor Stitt mentioned in his speech are tragic. Any death is one too many, and we remain fully committed to doing all that we can to support victims and prosecute crime. But the way to resolve these matters is to bring everyone together — tribes, state leaders, law enforcement, Congress, and local officials — to develop real solutions, not to seek endless litigation that creates headlines but not much else.

In the year and a half since the McGirt decision, tribes have been working closely with state, local and federal partners to address public safety challenges and ensure we can provide a blanket of protection to everyone on our reservation. Meanwhile, Governor Stitt prioritized creating instability across Oklahoma, with nothing to show for his quest to overturn McGirt but millions of wasted Oklahoma taxpayer dollars, and lost time that could have been spent working collaboratively on our shared safety goals.

The relationship between the state of Oklahoma and the Cherokee Nation is one between a state and a sovereign nation, one with specific rights, with a system of justice and with a separate jurisdiction. We do not advocate for unequal rules, or for discrimination, as Oklahoma’s governor seems to claim. We seek the same ideals as we have for over a century, working together as a partner.”

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr.

Prior to Stitt’s speech, Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill announced that he would be attending the event. He said he hoped Stitt’s speech would show a respect for the sovereign nations.

“I am attending in support of the respectful working relationship the Muscogee (Creek) Nation has with the members of the Oklahoma Legislature,” Hill said. “My attendance should not be construed as support for the Oklahoma governor nor his obsessive, incendiary rhetoric and actions that have worked against the interests of tribal nations and all who live in Oklahoma.

But, as I said in my State of the Nation remarks last month, it’s never too late to begin anew.

I will listen closely to the Oklahoma governor’s remarks for any evidence that he has awakened to an understanding of the sovereign tribal nations within the state’s borders and how working together can improve public safety and the quality of life for all.

I will listen intently with the hope that the Oklahoma governor will stop his increasingly frequent efforts to frame his opposition to implementation of the McGirt ruling as concerns about racial equality. Sovereignty is a matter of citizenship, not race. The Governor and his advisors know this to be true.

I will listen in hopes that the Governor will abandon the stories he spins of supposedly ‘unequal treatment’ under the law – given that these are merely examples of how jurisdictional overreach by the State is being corrected based on the McGirt ruling. These stories don’t hold up under scrutiny.

I will listen closely to hear if the Governor is now ready to begin collaborating with fellow sovereigns, the tribal nations, to implement McGirt. The time is now. The U.S. Supreme Court has more than 30 times told the State, ‘No,’ to its pleas to overturn the ruling.

I will listen for any recognition that the Governor has grown to understand that for every crime, there is a jurisdiction – even for persons who were wrongly convicted by the State and now are being re-arrested, prosecuted and convicted in federal or tribal courts.

I will listen with hope that the Governor will not repeat his ludicrous fiction of what Martin Luther King Jr. would think of McGirt. The Oklahoma governor is no Martin Luther King Jr.  Dr. King stood for truth and justice. The Governor’s pouting and dishonest fear-mongering about the effect of tribal sovereignty exhibit neither.

I will listen for any recognition from the Governor that all Oklahomans benefit when the tribal nations benefit. When the tribes expand healthcare options. When we open tribal businesses, Oklahomans have more opportunity. Improved educational opportunities on the reservation benefit employers and communities across the state. The improvements tribal nations make to roads and bridges benefit all who traverse them.

I will listen for any sign that the Governor appreciates that the McGirt decision has paved the way for tribal nations to expand our law enforcement institutions and mirror the shared successes we’ve had in other sectors. In the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, we have doubled the size of our police force. We have doubled the number of cross deputization agreements with other agencies and established a mobile command unit to facilitate collaboration across jurisdictions. We have added prosecutors, judges, and investigators.

I will listen to hear that the Governor recognizes that the tribal nations have made much progress on this front in collaboration with many local officials. To these individuals, I offer our nation’s gratitude as we look forward to a long and fruitful relationship.

I will listen to hear evidence of a change in the Governor’s heart and mind that could pave the way for the State and tribal nations to move forward – beyond the chaos, fear and misunderstanding that he has sowed. If that has changed, it is not too late for us to get to work.

I will listen knowing that if the Governor demonstrates that he is not capable of working with us, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation will be undeterred. The safety and security of our citizens and our friends and neighbors in the Reservation are far too important. With or without the Oklahoma governor, we will continue to act in concert with our neighbors to build a better tomorrow. No amount of fear-mongering and false rhetoric will obscure the reality that we are stronger and better together. The truth will ultimately be revealed. History will be the judge.”

Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill

During Gov. Stitt’s address he spoke about McGirt and specifically referenced a 2013 crime in which a 12-year-old boy, Billy Lord, was riding his bike in Wagoner when he was hit and killed by a drunk driver, Richard Roth. The state did convict Roth, sending him to prison, but the guilty verdict was overturned due to Lord being Cherokee.

“The case can’t be retried in federal court, and Roth could go free from punishment without even so much as a traffic ticket on his record,” said Gov. Stitt. “That’s not fair. And it’s not equal protection under the law.”

Following today’s address and Gov. Stitt’s comment, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation added:

We wanted to provide additional information related to the Richard Roth case Gov. Stitt mentioned today. It is not appropriate for Gov. Stitt to continually oversimplify cases to sow fear and confusion. What is simple is that Roth remains in State custody. What is more complex is that, because of the State’s repeated failure to timely file appellate-required pleadings over a number of years, this case will be affected by the Supreme Court’s upcoming consideration of concurrent jurisdiction related to McGirt. However, it is not accurate to say that if the Supreme Court decides one way or another, that Roth will remain in custody or be released. Rather, the outcome would mean that either Roth stays in state custody or the federal government could pursue statute-of-limitations options to allow for his re-prosecution.

Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Chief Gary Batton issued the following statement regarding his decision not to attend Gov. Kevin Stitt’s State of the State address.

“As leader of the Choctaw Nation, I am committed to doing what’s best for my members, and for our fellow Oklahomans. That’s why we remain dedicated to cooperation with officials at all levels of government, especially the Senate and House of Representatives, even when we have disagreements,” Batton said. “I did not feel it was appropriate to attend this function as Gov. Stitt has no regard for tribal sovereignty. As always, we remain open to work for the betterment of all Oklahomans.”