The Supreme Court ruled in one of its final opinions of the session that the state of Oklahoma can prosecute non-Native individuals who commit crimes in Native American territory.
The court’s ruling allows the state government to prosecute individuals who commit crimes against Native Americans on tribal reservations, in spite of previous rulings giving the right of prosecution of such crimes to the tribes themselves.
Native American reservations have long enjoyed tribal sovereignty, which allows them to govern themselves unless Congress should step in.
“This will have a ripple effect throughout Indian Country across the United States,” said leaders from the Muscogee (Creek) Nation to the Washington Post. They added, “public safety would be better served by expanding Tribal authority to prosecute any crime committed by any offender within our reservation boundaries rather than empowering entities that have demonstrated a lack of commitment to public safety on Indian lands.”
The leaders called the decision “an alarming step backwards” for the self-governing status of Native reservations.
Leaders from Oklahoman reserves spoke out against the decision in an op-ed in The Oklahoman this week. “Two years ago, in the McGirt v. Oklahoma case decision, the court upheld the promise the United States made to our nation, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, in concluding that our reservation and our inherent sovereignty remains intact,” they wrote.
“This week, this same court abandoned its own precedent and the Constitution’s command that treaties remain the supreme law of the land to conclude that Oklahoma has jurisdiction on tribal lands when Natives are victims of crimes committed by non-Native Americans. Simply, that is an alarming affront to our sovereignty, the safety of Native people and the U.S. Constitution.”
ARTICLE: LAURA SPIVAK
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: NEW YORK TIMES
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