Tribes, State, Officials React To Historic SCOTUS Ruling On McGirt V. Oklahoma

Jul 10, 2020

In a stunning 5-4 vote, the United States Supreme Court on Thursday sided with Oklahoma tribes in McGirt v. Oklahoma, saying much of the eastern half of Oklahoma is still an Indian reservation.

Collected below are reactions from tribal officials, representatives of various governments and agencies, attorneys, advocates, and others.

Joint Statement: The State of Oklahoma, Muscogee (Creek), Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole Nations

“The State, the Muscogee (Creek), Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole Nations have made substantial progress toward an agreement to present to Congress and the U.S. Department of Justice addressing and resolving any significant jurisdictional issues raised by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma

The Nations and the State are committed to ensuring that Jimcy McGirt, Patrick Murphy, and all other offenders face justice for the crimes for which they are accused. We have a shared commitment to maintaining public safety and long-term economic prosperity for the Nations and Oklahoma. 

The Nations and the State are committed to implementing a framework of shared jurisdiction that will preserve sovereign interests and rights to self-government while affirming jurisdictional understandings, procedures, laws, and regulations that support public safety, our economy, and private property rights. We will continue our work, confident that we can accomplish more together than any of us could alone.”

 

Muscogee (Creek) Nation

 

“The Supreme Court today kept the United States’ sacred promise to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of a protected reservation. Today’s decision will allow the 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.”

 

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.

 

“I agree with Justice Gorsuch’s opinion today that the United States government should be held to its treaty obligations, and its word. The Cherokee Nation is glad the U.S. Supreme Court has finally resolved this case and rendered a decision which recognizes that the reservation of the Creek Nation, and by extension the reservations of the Cherokee Nation, Chickasaw Nation, Choctaw Nation and Seminole Nations, were never diminished and that our respective governments were never dissolved. This ruling does not mean that those who commit crimes on reservation lands will not face justice, no tribe would ever welcome that, and now we will continue to work with the state of Oklahoma and our federal and tribal partners on legal parameters under the decision today.”

 

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum

 

"This morning the United States Supreme Court ruled that much of Tulsa exists within a reservation of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. 

Creek citizens founded Tulsa, and our successes and challenges are shared. They were before the Court’s opinion, and they will continue to be. We remain committed to the same strong cooperative relationship we have had for decades with the Creek Nation, and to the shared obligation among all jurisdictions – city, tribal, county, state, and federal – to serve all Tulsans, city and tribal residents alike.

For most residents and most purposes, recognition of tribal boundaries will not even be noticeable. Importantly, the Court’s opinion does not affect private property ownership. Where there is any jurisdictional uncertainty, we will work with our partners to develop mutually respectful cooperative agreements, such as our Intergovernmental Cross-Deputization Agreement, which has been working well for nearly two decades.

This decision will inevitably present further questions of jurisdiction and authority that will need to be resolved. I am grateful that this decision would arrive at a time when we have such a good working relationship between the City of Tulsa and the Creek Nation. I am committed to working with Principal Chief David Hill and his colleagues in the government of the Creek Nation to collaboratively address any issues as they arise.

Finally, I am certain Creek Nation officials join me in condemning the abhorrent crimes of the Petitioner in this particular case, and I am confident that the Creek Nation and federal authorities will hold him accountable."

 

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt

 

“I am aware the ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma was handed down this morning by the U.S. Supreme Court. My legal team has been following the case closely and is reviewing the decision carefully. They will advise our team on the case’s impact and what action, if any, is needed from our office.”

 

Joint Statement: U.S. Attorneys for the Northern, Eastern, and Western Districts of Oklahoma

“As Oklahoma’s United States Attorneys, we are confident tribal, state, local, and federal law enforcement will work together to continue providing exceptional public safety under this new ruling by the United States Supreme Court.

U.S. Attorney Timothy Downing, Western District of Oklahoma

U.S. Attorney Brian Kuester, Eastern District of Oklahoma

U.S. Attorney Trent Shores, Northern District of Oklahoma"

Ian Gershengorn (attorney who argued the case on behalf of petitioners before the Supreme Court)

"The Supreme Court reaffirmed today that when the United States makes promises, the courts will keep those promises.  Congress persuaded the Creek Nation to walk the Trail of Tears with promises of a reservation—and the Court today correctly recognized that that this reservation endures.  We—along with our co-counsel Patti Palmer Ghezzi and the Federal Public Defender of the Western District of Oklahoma—are immensely pleased for Jimcy McGirt and Patrick Murphy, whom Oklahoma unlawfully prosecuted for alleged crimes within the Creek reservation."

 

Joint Statement: Oklahoma's United States Congressional Delegation

“Today, the Supreme Court provided a long-awaited ruling on McGirt v. Oklahoma on an issue concerning the Five Tribes of Oklahoma and all Oklahomans. We are reviewing the decision carefully and stand ready to work with both tribal and state officials to ensure stability and consistency in applying law that brings all criminals to justice. Indeed, no criminal is ever exempt or immune from facing justice, and we remain committed to working together to both affirm tribal sovereignty and ensure safety and justice for all Oklahomans.

Kevin Hern (Republican) , Markwayne Mullin (Republican), Frank Lucas (Republican), Tom Cole (Republican) and Kendra Horn (Democrat)."

Joint Statement: Oklahoma's United States Senate Delegation

U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) today issued the following statements after the Supreme Court ruled in McGirt v. Oklahoma:

 “Today’s ruling on McGirt v. Oklahoma sheds light on an issue debated for some time now,” Inhofe said. “As we move forward, I have no doubt we can work together with state officials, tribal organizations and the delegation to find a workable solution for everyone that ensures criminals are prosecuted and brought to justice in the most appropriate manner. We have a duty to all American citizens to uphold the Constitution and stand up for victim’s rights. Our number one priority will always be the safety of each and every Oklahoman.” 

 

 

 

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling determines that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation was not dis-established when Oklahoma became a state,” Lankford said. “The work will continue in the days ahead to clarify a framework for criminal and civil regulatory jurisdiction that provides consistency and predictability for all people living and doing business within the state. However, I am grateful for the commitment from the state and the 5 Tribes to work with the delegation to craft legislation that ensures that the ruling has a minimal impact on individuals and businesses throughout Oklahoma. Our greatest priority should be to provide for the safety of communities by ensuring those serving time for crimes continue to do so, and individuals that commit crimes are prosecuted to the fullest extent under the law.  I look forward to working with the tribes, the state, and other members of the Oklahoma congressional delegation to finding a solution acceptable to all parties.” 

Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby 

 "We applaud the Supreme Court’s ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma, which holds that the Creek Nation’s treaty territory boundaries remain intact.

We appreciate the Supreme Court’s affirming the United States’ treaty promises and we celebrate the Court’s recognizing that Oklahoma and the Tribes consistently “have proven they can work successfully together as partners.

Tribal and state law enforcement agencies have worked cooperatively for years to serve and protect our communities. We are accustomed to the unique context of overlapping Tribal and State jurisdictions and will continue to work together to ensure public safety and effective law enforcement throughout Oklahoma.

Regardless of any court ruling, far more unites us than ever separates us, and the Chickasaw Nation looks forward to continuing its cooperation and collaborative partnerships with State and local law enforcement to ensure public safety and well-being throughout Oklahoma."

Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians

“Through two terms of the United States Supreme Court, and as many cases and fact patterns, this question has loomed over federal Indian law. This morning, NCAI joins the rest of Indian Country in congratulating the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and proudly asserting that its lands remain, and will forever be considered, Indian country as guaranteed in their treaty relationship with the United States."

 

John Echohawk, executive director of the Native American Rights Fund

“In this case, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation had to fight long and hard to protect their homelands, which were promised in their treaty agreements with the United States. In holding the federal government to its treaty obligations, the U.S. Supreme Court put to rest what never should have been at question. We congratulate the Nation on its success.”