Stitt Gets Commission's Report on McGirt Ruling Impact

Oct 22, 2020

Credit Robby Korth / StateImpact Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A task force appointed by Gov. Kevin Stitt made no specific recommendations Thursday in its report concerning the impact of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared a swath of eastern Oklahoma counties remains an Indian reservation.

The report calls for consistent laws and regulations in the state governing taxation, zoning and business regulations, which Stitt said will be up to Congress to provide.

“There’s going to have to be some federal legislation, I think, that gives us guidance as a state. Otherwise ... it’s going to create tremendous uncertainty for the business community,” in trying to comply with regulations that may vary from the state to the those of each tribe.

The task force notably lacked indigenous representation.

"The governor and his team repeatedly said they don’t have many answers. Given the lack of consultation with our nation and others, it’s little wonder that they are struggling to find solutions. We asked the Governor over three months ago to work with us to forge partnership agreements that secure the health, safety, well-being and prosperity of all Oklahoma citizens but we never heard back," Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill said in a statement. "Even for a commission that lacked any tribal voices and representatives, the anti-Indian bias that flows through the governor’s recommendations is shocking."

The report comes a day after state Attorney General Mike Hunter sent a letter to the state’s congressional delegation, tribal leaders and state officials asking for congressional action to allow the state to agree with tribes for shared jurisdiction on criminal matters.

“Federal prosecutors are doing all they can to keep up with the cases that are being handed to them, but their resources are being stretched,” Hunter said. “All the while, the state’s courts, prosecutors and corrections system are ready and willing to help.”

The high court’s July ruling in McGirt v. Okahoma led other courts, as expected, to declare that four other tribal lands remain reservations, and now covers much of the eastern half of the state, including most of Tulsa.

In his letter Hunter said some 850 criminal cases have been referred to federal prosecutors since the McGirt decision and has estimated that up to 2,000 inmates could seek to have their convictions overturned as a result of the ruling, including several on death row.