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Oklahoma court rules 'McGirt' does not apply in Osage Nation

Osage Nation

Oklahoma’s Court of Criminal Appeals says Congress disestablished the Osage Nation’s reservation around the time Oklahoma became a state.

Essentially, the appeals court judges are saying McGirt v. Oklahoma doesn’t apply to the Osage Nation. The story was first reported by The Oklahoman.

The McGirt decision re-affirmed the Muscogee Nation reservation and has set a precedent around the state, re-affirming several reservations including the Cherokee, Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations.

Those tribal nations all have criminal jurisdiction, meaning tribal citizens charged there will be tried in federal or tribal courts. They argue that’s a key component of tribal sovereignty.

Because of McGirt, Osage citizen Dakoda McCauley argued he should be tried in federal court for the 2018 death of an acquaintance in Barnsdall, for which he was convicted of manslaughter in Osage County. The appeals judges disagreed and declined to move his case.

The judges point to a 2010 federal court case that ruled the Osage Nation reservation was disestablished. They declined to overrule the federal bench in that case and wrote that McGirt doesn’t make the 2010 ruling moot.

Just last month, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals decided a similar case, where a Cherokee citizen appealed a DUI conviction on the Wyandotte reservation in Northeast Oklahoma. In that case, the appeals court affirmed that the Wyandotte reservation had never been disestablished.

It’s anticipated McCauley’s case could be appealed all the way up to the US Supreme Court.

Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear has said as much, telling The Oklahoman in 2022, "The goal has to be to go up to the United States Supreme Court.”

Robby Korth joined StateImpact Oklahoma in October 2019, focusing on education reporting.
Graycen Wheeler is a reporter covering water issues at KOSU.