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Oklahoma Court Affirms Reservations Of Cherokee, Chickasaw Nations

left to right: Shaun Bosse and Travis Hogner.

In two cases on Thursday, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled the tribal boundaries of the Cherokee and Chickasaw Nations were never disestablished by Congress.

First, the court ruled that the Chickasaw Nation has jurisdiction, not the state, in the case of a man on Oklahoma's death row.

The court granted post-conviction relief to Shaun Bosse, who was sentenced to death in 2012 for the murder of Katrina Griffin and her two children in McClain County.

The ruling means that the Chickasaw Nation, and by extension the federal government, have jurisdiction to try crimes involving Indigenous citizens when they happen within the nation's boundaries. Bosse's victims were citizens of the Chickasaw Nation.

Following similar rulings with the other four tribes involved in the McGirt v. Oklahoma U.S. Supreme Court decision, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals found that the Chickasaw Nation's reservation was never disestablished, granting them authority in Bosse's prosecution.

Stephen Greetham, Chickasaw Nation's senior legal counsel, said that Bosse's case will now head to the Western District of Oklahoma, but that doesn't mean Bosse has a chance at freedom.

"This case is not about Bosse walking free," said Greetham. It's a matter of whether he's in a state prison or a federal prison."

Governor Bill Anoatubby of the Chickasaw Nation released a statement on Thursday saying that the ruling affirms the tribal nation's treaty homeland and that they are committed to working with prosecutors to ensure justice for Bosse's victims.

In another win for tribal sovereignty, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals also affirmed the Cherokee Nation's reservation boundaries were never disestablished.

The ruling stems from the case of Travis Hogner., a 47-year-old convicted in December 2017 of being in possession of a firearm after a former felony conviction. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

Hogner filed for post-conviction relief saying the state had no right to try his case. He is a citizen of the Miami Nation and his crime occurred within the Cherokee Nation's reservation boundaries.

The ruling comes now that the statute of limitations for Hogner’s crime has expired, meaning he will be released.

Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. says the nation will be reaching out to victims' families.

"What I want people to know is that the Cherokee Nation believes that everybody living in our reservation deserves a blanket of protection," said Hoskin Jr.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said in a statement that these cases stress the need for congressional legislation to allow tribal nations to compact with the state on criminal jurisdiction matters.


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Allison Herrera is a radio and print journalist who's worked for PRX's The World, Colorado Public Radio as the climate and environment editor and as a freelance reporter for High Country News’ Indigenous Affairs desk.
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