Despite an announcement yesterday by Oklahoma’s attorney general that the state and the Five Civilized Tribes had entered into an “Agreement in Principle” that would take the state’s judicial system back to the status quo before last week’s Supreme Court decision,
two three of those five tribes have announced today that they are not on board with the “agreement.”
“The Muscogee (Creek) Nation is not in agreement with the proposed Agreement-in-Principle document released yesterday by the State of Oklahoma,” David W. Hill, principal chief of the Creek Nation, said today. “I very much believe that collaboration between federal, state and tribal governments is critical and necessary ... that collaboration, however, does not require congressional legislation. The Nation will continue to pursue all appropriate intergovernmental agreements to ensure public safety within its borders.”
The Seminole Nation also said it isn’t part of the “agreement”:
“The Seminole Nation has not formally approved the agreement-in-principle announced by the other four tribes. To be clear, the Seminole Nation has not been involved with discussions regarding proposed legislation between the other four tribes and the State of Oklahoma. Furthermore, the Seminole Nation has not engaged in any such discussions with the State of Oklahoma, including with the Attorney General, to develop a framework for clarifying respective jurisdictions and to ensure collaboration among tribal, state and federal authorities regarding the administration of justice across Seminole Nation lands.”
The Chickasaw Nation is currently working on a statement.
The Cherokee and Choctaw nations have not returned requests for comment.
The attorney general’s office has said it will send a clarification.
UPDATE 5:20 P.M.: The Choctaw Nation hedged on the announcement from the attorney general, saying the nation would not stand for any reduction of sovereignty:
“The Choctaw Nation, working in unity with leaders of other tribal nations, is actively shaping the congressional response to the historic McGirt ruling to ensure we preserve the magnitude and integrity of the monumental win in future federal legislation. We are looking at ways to expand our sovereignty with the McGirt decision while balancing meeting the needs of our citizens and the communities in which they reside. Our commitment is to strengthen not weaken our tribal hard-earned rights to self-government. The best way to protect this is by having a ‘seat at the table’ during any legislative discussions. Be assured, we will not acquiesce our rights to self-determination through our sovereignty to anyone or any government body. Working together, we stand the highest possibility to achieve historical advancements for our citizens and honor our ancestors who dreamed and fought for this day,” states Chief Gary Batton, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
That makes three of the five tribes walking back their nations’ involvement in the attorney general’s “Agreement in Principle.”
UPDATE 5:29 P.M.: The attorney general just released the following statement:
Attorney General Mike Hunter today released the following statement after the Muscogee (Creek) Nation withdrew from the agreement in principle for proposed federal legislation.
“Since the Murphy case went before the U.S. Supreme Court over two years ago, we have been meeting regularly with the Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations to discuss potential legislation, so Chief Hill’s statements today come as a stunning and regrettable reversal of commitments and assurances to me. This is neither in the best interest of the state of Oklahoma nor its tribal citizens. Legislation is necessary to clarify the criminal and civil uncertainty created by the McGirt decision. I am deeply disappointed in Chief Hill for withdrawing from this process. It is my hope that both the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and the Seminole Nation will recommit to our agreement on legislation that preserves public safety and promotes continued economic growth.” – Attorney General Mike Hunter
The Cherokee Nation has issued a long statement that appears to affirm the nation’s desire to allow state courts to have at least partial jurisdiction over Natives. In effect, the agreement would codify the nation’s government’s freedom from state interference while allowing the state to have jurisdiction over its citizens. In part, it reads:
let me be clear about this in developing legislation, Cherokee Nation will never agree to undo what ultimately the McGirt decision affirmed. We will protect our reservation boundaries and our sovereignty. As we always have, we will continue to work with the State of Oklahoma and our federal partners to ensure the safety of the public. ...
For decades, the Cherokee Nation has entered into cross-deputization agreements with Oklahoma towns, cities, counties and other law enforcement agencies. These agreements created a stable and comprehensive law enforcement presence both on and off the reservation. The decision in McGirt has not changed that: you should still call 9-1-1 in case of an emergency, and you will receive the same service as before the Court’s ruling.
Under the agreement in principle, a similar jurisdiction sharing would occur and affirm the tribe’ s sovereignty and jurisdiction throughout the reservation. Tribal courts will maintain criminal jurisdiction over individuals throughout the reservation boundaries. State courts will also have jurisdiction to enforce state criminal laws and arrest and prosecute both Indians and non-Indians who commit crimes on the reservation (emphasis added). By pooling our resources and sharing jurisdiction, communities across the reservation will be more safe and secure. This also ensures the offenders are held accountable for the crimes they commit on the reservation.
Under the agreement in principle, however, the civil jurisdiction of the Five Tribes is affirmed throughout the reservation. The tribal courts will retain jurisdiction to hear disputes between citizens, the Cherokee Nation may pass civil regulations within the reservation. This broad acknowledgment of tribal authority within the reservation boundary ensures that the Cherokee Nation’s sovereignty is protected.
This would mean that an Indian living on the reservation could still be required to follow state regulations that require any dog to be on a leash in a city park, for instance. But it would not permit state officials to dictate how the tribe governs itself, its own citizens, or its businesses.