Seminole Nation provides clarification after letter sent to oil companies

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WEWOKA, Okla. (KFOR) – Following a decision by the United States Supreme Court, a tribal nation sought to tax some oil and gas producers within its jurisdiction.

On July 9, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the Muscogee (Creek) reservation was never disestablished. It’s a ruling that has a big impact on the state’s criminal justice system.

“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.”

As it stands, these decisions alter the State’s legal jurisdiction and law enforcement capabilities on potentially a significant portion of eastern Oklahoma, creating uncertainty for many Oklahomans.

In December, the Seminole Nation sent a letter to oil companies, saying they were “required to pay 8%” of what they produce.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said tribes can only do that if the business has a contract with the tribe, or if the business is interfering with the tribal government.

On Wednesday, Seminole Nation Chief Greg P. Chilcoat released a statement about the nation’s taxation authority over nonmember oil and gas producers within the Seminole Reservation.

“As a sovereign nation predating the U.S. Constitution, the Seminole Nation has the inherent authority to levy severance taxes on nonmember oil and gas producers operating on the Seminole Nation’s trust and restricted lands.  As articulated by the Supreme Court in Merrion v. Jicarilla Apache Nation, tribal authority to levy taxes over nonmembers on trust and restricted lands stems from the tribe’s “right to exclude” as well as the right “to control economic activity within its jurisdiction, and to defray the cost of providing governmental services.”  Therefore, nonmember oil and gas producers who have entered the Seminole Nation’s trust lands or restricted Indian allotments to benefit from oil and gas production are required to remit taxes to the Seminole Nation as prescribed under Title 33 of the Seminole Nation’s Code of Laws.  At this time, the Seminole Nation has not exerted taxation authority over nonmember oil and gas producers operating on fee simple land.”

Seminole Nation Chief Greg P. Chilcoat

Hunter says the statement provided much-needed clarity about the path forward.

“I appreciate Chief Greg Chilcoat for his statement today clarifying the tribe’s asserted taxation authority over oil and gas producers within Seminole County only extends to those produces operating on Seminole Nation trust land or restricted allotments, and not on any land owned by non-Indians. This gives state officials and producers looking to do business in Oklahoma more certainty and a clearer path forward when operating. His move should also ease the concerns of those who thought this would be the subject of litigation, while strengthening our relationship with the Seminole Nation,” Attorney General Mike Hunter said in a statement.

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