“We celebrate and hold sacred the sovereignty of the Muscogee Nation and our inherent authority to exercise jurisdiction within the borders of our reservation.” -Principal Chief David W. Hill
Liz Gray/Managing Editor
TULSA, Oklahoma – An in-person Inter-tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes was held July 9 at River Spirit Casino.
This tribal meeting of the FCT was the first to be conducted in-person since the beginning of the pandemic.
The date was a significant one for the host, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, as it coincided with the anniversary of the monumental US Supreme Court decision confirming the sovereign nation’s reservation status.
Representatives from the MCN National Council and Second Chief Del Beaver joined Principal Chief David Hill on stage as he made a proclamation prior to general session in honor of the day, declaring July 9 as Muscogee Nation Sovereignty Day.
“Generations of Mvskokvlke (Muscogee) will always look to this historic day as a reminder of our remarkable past, our perseverance and survival and our inherent right to exist as a sovereign nation that pre-dates both the United States and Oklahoma,” Hill said.
“We celebrate and hold sacred the sovereignty of the Muscogee Nation and our inherent authority to exercise jurisdiction within the borders of our reservation.”
According to a press release from the Muscogee Nation, the tribe has taken actions to support jurisdictional authority and efforts to work collaboratively with non-tribal entities toward the safety and economic prosperity of all peoples within Oklahoma.
This includes cross-deputization agreements with law enforcement, doubling their police officers, bolstering law enforcement budget as well as increasing the MN Attorney General Office’s budget, added District Court judges to the Muscogee Nation Tribal Bench and amended Tribal Code in critical areas.
During presentations, Riyaz Kanji, a partner at Kanji & Katzen PLLC discussed his involvement with the Supreme Court case.
“Our job as lawyers is to supply the court with the tools it needs to get for that investigation, but the motivating the court…to want to rule in a particular way that’s the key…” Kanji said.
He attributed three factors to the successfulness of arguing for the Nation’s sovereignty: the fact that all five tribes were already engaged in the exercise of robust governmental authority throughout their reservations, cooperated so closely with each other and had a history of intergovernmental cooperation with the state.
Presenters from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bryan Newland and Eddie Streater discussed national plans from the federal government to address issues facing Indian Country such as internet access, missing and murdered Indigenous people and boarding schools.
Indian Health Service Rear Admiral Travis Watts provided an update on COVID-19, reporting over 60% of vaccinations in Oklahoma are attributed to the Five Tribes. Watts also discussed the Delta Variant and the importance of vaccination for adolescence.
“The Delta Variant is about 60% more contagious than the Alpha variant,” Watts said. “We are going to see an uptick of Covid cases and it’s here in our country.”
“Really now the focus in our vaccines are in the 12-15 year olds.”
Seven resolutions were passed during the general session including an urge to Congress to allocate additional resources for the McGirt response, supporting federal and state efforts to address the MMIP crisis, urging Congress to swiftly pass the Durbin Feeling Native American Language Act and Save Oak Flat Act, supporting teaching the complex history of tribal nations and the United States and the Department of the Interior’s federal Indian boarding school initiative, and supporting President Joe Biden’s Indian Health Service budget request for fiscal year 2022.
The next Inter-tribal Council meeting will be hosted by the Choctaw Nation Oct. 6-8.