Supreme Court ruling designates almost half of Oklahoma as tribal lands

Home » Supreme Court ruling designates almost half of Oklahoma as tribal lands

In a landmark decision and the United States Supreme Court has reportedly ruled that almost half of Oklahoma should be considered aboriginal land due to a failure on the part of Congress to ‘disestablish’ treaties earlier signed with five of the state’s largest tribes.

According to a Thursday report from the online news domain at NativeNewsOnline.net, yesterday’s five-to-four ruling in the case of McGirt v Oklahoma means that nearly all of the state’s eastern half will now be officially treated as an aboriginal reservation. This will purportedly have the effect of making any crimes committed in these areas immune from prosecution by state bodies with only federal authorities holding jurisdiction.

Contentious claim:

The case was heard by the United States Supreme Court after the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals rejected an appeal from a citizen of the Seminole Nation, Jimcy McGirt, regarding his 1997 conviction in an Oklahoma court for the alleged rape a four-year-old child. The plaintiff is currently serving a life sentence and had purportedly argued that the state had lacked arrest and prosecution jurisdiction because his suspected crime had occurred on land that belonged to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

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Court consensus:

In writing for the majority, United States Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch (pictured) reportedly agreed with McGirt’s legal argument and ruled that the plaintiff should have been prosecuted under the Major Crimes Act, which gives federal authorities jurisdiction over alleged offences committed by or against Native Americans on their own lands, rather than by the state of Oklahoma.

Reportedly read a statement from Gorsuch…

“Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of federal criminal law. Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word. For Major Crimes Act purposes, land reserved for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation since the 19th Century remains ‘Indian country’.”

Important impact:

Gorsuch was reportedly joined in his opinion by fellow Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor with compatriots Brett Kavanaugh, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissenting. The ruling has purportedly had the effect of handing the disputed lands, which furthermore include almost all of the state’s second largest city, Tulsa, to the Chickasaw Nation, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, the Cherokee Nation, the Seminole Nation and the Choctaw Nation.

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Congressional clanger:

Oklahoma became the 46th state of the United States in 1907 after Congress had passed the Oklahoma Enabling Act, which combined the region’s many tribal reservations with the federally-administered Oklahoma Territory for the purposes of being able to admit the entire block to the union. But the nation’s highest court reportedly reached its decision after determining that this piece of legislation had failed to specifically ‘disestablish’ the earlier sovereignty of these aboriginal lands.

Meaningful message:

In responding to the historic ruling, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reportedly released a declaration in which it thanked the United States Supreme Court for upholding the nation’s ‘sacred promise’ of providing a protected reservation for its people in perpetuity.

Reportedly read the statement from the federally-recognized tribe…

“Today’s decision will allow the Muscogee (Creek) Nation to honor our ancestors by maintaining our established sovereignty and territorial boundaries. We will continue to work with federal and state law enforcement agencies to ensure that public safety will be maintained throughout the territorial boundaries of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.”

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