OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby and Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. today announced they support narrow federal legislation to allow Tribal-State compacting on criminal jurisdiction.
Tribal officials say this marks a step forward in potential intergovernmental cooperation following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma.
The high court decided that the Muscogee (Creek) reservation was never disestablished. The ruling’s impact on Oklahoma’s criminal justice system has been enormous.
“For anybody that has an Indian card, a CDIB card, a certified degree of Indian blood,” Native American law attorney Robert Gifford told KFOR. “If they are within the Creek Nation, the state of Oklahoma had no jurisdiction over them.”
The ruling in the McGirt case designated a large portion of Oklahoma “Indian Territory.” That means, it’s subject to tribal and federal laws.
As it stands, these decisions alter the State’s legal jurisdiction and law enforcement capabilities on a significant portion of eastern Oklahoma, creating uncertainty for many Oklahomans.
“In general, the McGirt decision by the United States Supreme Court has created a significant amount of confusion, especially in regards to inmates who are serving time in state custody for crimes committed on historic tribal lands,” Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said in August.
The ruling led to several convictions being undone, including murder convictions.
Now, Tribal leaders hope to promote cooperation between law enforcement agencies in the pursuit of criminal justice.
The Tribal leaders made clear their expectation that any federal legislation would be based on the core principle of self-determination and be designed to empower Tribal-State problem solving with respect to their shared mission of the public’s safety and effective law enforcement.
“We appreciate the hard work of the Oklahoma delegation as they work with us, the State and members of the community on criminal jurisdiction matters post the Supreme Court’s McGirt decision. We support federal legislation that is based on the core principle of self-determination, clearing the way for us to work with the State as we navigate the best path forward. We look forward to working with our delegation to secure the passage of such legislation.
The Chickasaw Nation leadership team has worked diligently to ensure we are prepared to meet our expanded criminal justice responsibilities, both now and for generations to come.
Our Lighthorse Police continue to enforce the law, working in close partnership with allied State, Federal, and local agencies, and our prosecutors continue to bring criminals to justice. Since the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals applied the McGirt decision to the Chickasaw Nation reservation on March 11, our prosecutors have brought approximately 225 new criminal cases in Chickasaw Nation District Court and worked with Federal prosecutors to ensure appropriate Federal charges are brought in scores more cases.
For years, we have worked in close partnership with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to protect and serve all the residents of our area. Cross-deputations and other agreements among federal, state and local partners support the efforts of all the brave men and women who maintain law and order in the 13 counties that make up the Chickasaw Nation.
We remain partners with allied agencies, united by our commitment to public safety. That will not change.
Together, we have the tools we need to address the challenges of serving every individual who calls this area home. The most important thing we can do right now is work together to ensure that justice is served and that we, the people who live here as neighbors, friends and partners are safe. United by a common mission, we have made tremendous progress. Working together, we have the ability to continue protecting and serving our families, friends and neighbors for generations to come.”Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby
“As Chief, I will always protect our tribal sovereignty and 100 percent of the recognition of our reservation that was affirmed in the historic McGirt decision and by the state of Oklahoma. This legislation will empower our tribe to compact with the state on the prosecution of certain criminal cases, so that we can ensure criminals can receive proper justice, without compromising on our sovereignty.
Compacting is an important tool of self-determination that allows us to decide how best to address our own needs. It is a solution that will only increase our options so that justice can always be served, and so that victims and their families – both Native and non-Native – don’t have to worry about their cases falling through the gaps. This legislation gives Cherokee Nation the option to compact, should we choose to do so, and compacting only happens with approval of the Council of the Cherokee Nation. On behalf of the Cherokee Nation, I look forward to working with our congressional leaders and the state to pass this legislation and enhance our options.
The Cherokee Nation has continued to upgrade its criminal code, appoint more district court judges, and hire more deputy marshals, prosecutors and victim advocates.
The tribe has now filed more than 700 cases that were dismissed by the state in the Cherokee Nation District Court. That’s more cases filed by our courts in the past year than filed in the past 10 years combined. What this legislation provides for is the option of compacting so that non-Natives who commit crimes on our reservation – the ones we are unable to prosecute – can receive proper justice through the state’s court system. For those small number of crimes that stretch beyond statute of limitations, compacting can also help ensure these perpetrators face the justice that victims and their families deserve.”Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.