The U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt v. Oklahoma decision affirming the existence of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation is a landmark ruling that recognizes the sanctity and durability of U.S. treaties that assure tribal sovereignty. But before the ink was dry on this monumental decision, politicians began pressing the Supreme Court to reverse itself, which the Court will consider in conference on Jan. 7.
Stepping in now would damage the Court, condone bad behavior by the State, and rob Oklahomans of the opportunity for more safety and prosperity.
Adherence to judicial precedent is a core element of the American judicial system. It promotes predictability in the law and separates the courts from the other political branches of government. Judicial rulings by the Supreme Court create precedents that are to be followed by lower courts and are expected to withstand Court personnel changes and changes in the overall political climate.
Indian law cases are no different. In fact, because much of federal Indian law is based on various Supreme Court rulings rather than statutes, adherence to precedent plays a far greater role in establishing stability in the legal framework applicable for tribal governments and the exercise of governmental authority on Tribal lands.
As Principal Chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, I am well aware how many years of federal court rulings have shaped the dynamics and legal relationships between our Tribal government and the people, Indian and non-Indian, who live and work on Tribal lands.
In affirming the existence of our Nation’s reservation, the Court’s decision created jurisdictional clarity that offers us a roadmap for collaboration with local officials to have more economic development, more police on the streets, and more courts to prosecute crimes. We’ve worked with local officials and made significant strides toward creating this future.
Should the Supreme Court ignore precedent and overturn or modify this decision, all this progress will be lost at the expense of public safety in Oklahoma and the Court’s integrity.
The Supreme Court reversing or modifying its decision now would also reward extremely bad faith behavior by Oklahoma. In the year and a half since the Court’s ruling in McGirt, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has not held a single meaningful discussion with tribes to discuss ways we can work together to implement it. Instead, he and his allies have used inflammatory rhetoric, misdirection and overt obstruction tactics to convince the public that McGirt has caused “chaos.”
McGirt hasn’t caused havoc, and the citizens of Oklahoma know it. A recent poll showed that a mere 23 percent of voters agreed with Gov. Stitt that McGirt was the most pressing issue facing the State. However, the Governor and the State of Oklahoma just might create their own form of chaos on the Muscogee Reservation if they are allowed to continue to attack the validity of a judicial precedent established by the Supreme Court just one term ago.
The citizens of Oklahoma aren’t buying the State’s contrived doomsday scenarios, and neither should the Supreme Court. The time is long past due for Gov. Stitt to shut down his political campaign of obstruction and work with us to embrace a better future. This January, I hope the Supreme Court will take the opportunity to tell him so.
David Hill is the Principal Chief for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.
Justice to review Indian Country, seminole producer, 5/22/18
Concerning AG Michael Hunter’s appeal to Supreme Court. Native people are not ignorant of congressional legislation and policy. For years, decades, centuries, natives have appealed to congress, ‘the right of the people to petition the government for a redress of grievances.’ usually laws and regulations, taxation and regulatory issues concerning native people. These attempts (congressional) have been met with; ‘there is nothing we can do,’ they say, ‘you have to change the law,’ or ‘it takes an act of congress,’ knowing full well that marginalized natives have no standing in implementing change through the electoral process.
In many court hearings (judicial) i have heard the judge review and recite the rule of law of the case, giving a glimmering ray of hope to appellants, then at the very end the judge would overrule everything he had just recited and rule against natives.
We now have a case before the Supreme Court of the United States…will the court fabricate and write new law (usually reserved to congress) or will they uphold the rule of law and precedence stemming from at least 1776 and which reaffirmed earlier colonial actions.
AG Hunter states, ‘state and federal law [along with 110 years of precedence] give state courts jurisdiction in such cases…NOT SO…hasn’t the Oklahoma State Attorney General ever heard of the ‘MAJOR CRIMES ACT,’,,,or that Oklahoma had opportunity to assume ‘legal jurisdiction over natives,’ in Oklahoma, when federal legislation proposed PUBLIC LAW 280, authorizing the same. Oklahoma, in their arrogance failed to respond, ‘waiving’ that particular federal right…as far as his statement of 110 years of precedence, i offer 112 years of constitutional law.
The OKLAHOMA CONSTITUTION, 1906, Article 1, Section 3 (disclaimer), “Unappropriated public lands – Indian Lands – Jurisdiction of the United States”
….to wit, ‘The people inhabiting the State do agree and declare they they FOREVER DISCLAIM all right and title in or to any unappropriated public land lying with the boundaries thereof, and to all lands lying within said limits owned or held by any INDIAN..TRIBE..or NATION; and that until the title to any such public land shall have been extinguished by the United States, the same shall be and remain subject to the jurisdiction, disposal, and control of the United States. Land belonging to citizens of the United States residing without the limits of the State shall never be taxed at a higher rate than the lands belonging to residents thereof. No taxes shall be imposed by the State on land belonging to or which may hereafter be purchased by the United States or reserve for its use.”
I am no attorney, but just saying
all my relations, mvto…evan haney
I stand with the Creek Nation!
I find it so insulting and degrading when I hear the governor and many citizens of the state of Oklahoma cry foul in regards to the McGirt ruling. They say it has brought chaos to the state of Oklahoma without ever acknowledging the atrocities and chaos the state of Oklahoma brought against the Native Nations in Eastern Oklahoma, as well as Native People in general, because of their decisions to ignore treaties and wrongfully assert authority where they had none. The same old message….”What we do to you, you cannot do to us.” Sickening!!!🤢🤮
In reality, we are not trying to do to them what they did to us. We just want our rightful recognition and our right according to the treaties to be our own sovereignty.
The McGirt decision should be upheald,As aMother of an only beloved son,just 16 yes old murdered ,shot in the back by cowards in a drive-by shooting…I feel the pain of these victims families,to endure a see-saw outcome within the Supreme Court would be devastating.Native American s have overcome, endure Ed and respectfully treasured this land as a mom is to her child Nature is healing and to take the dignity of our values as a political play is demeaning.R.I.P.