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Oklahoma Governor, Tribes At Odds Over McGirt Impact Panel

Flickr / Blogtrepreneur

On Tuesday night, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt will host a community impact panel in Tulsa to examine the effects of last year's historic U.S. Supreme Court decision that the Muscogee Nation's reservation boundaries were never disestablished.

The McGirt v. Oklahoma ruling applied to only the Muscogee Nation initially, but since last summer, numerous cases have passed through the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals that have affirmed the boundaries of the other four major tribal nations' reservations.

The ruling meant that felony crimes committed by Native Americans within the Muscogee Nation's reservation boundaries were subject to federal and tribal, not state prosecution, and certain felony crimes committed by non-Native people are also subject to federal and tribal prosecution as well.

Stitt disagrees with the ruling and maintains that reservations were disestablished upon statehood and when tribal land was decentralized due to the Allotment Act. Stitt has said that Oklahoma has become a "lawless state" because of McGirt, and it’s scaring away businesses.

The community impact panel includes several district attorneys, including Tulsa’s Steve Kunzweiler. The panel has been sharply criticized because no tribal leaders or representatives are slated to present alongside Stitt or the DA's.

Leaders of two of the tribal nations — the Muscogee Nation and the Chickasaw Nation — both reported getting an email from Stitt's office to "save the date" for July 13th, but said the email contained no other details.

The Native Alliance Against Violence, an Indigenous-led non-profit based in Norman, was listed among possible participants on the panel. A spokesperson for NAAV said they were asked to participate, but declined.

A press release from the organization said, "The NAAV did not participate in organizing this forum and was not asked to provide input... The NAAV hopes that the forum's focus will be on the victims and how to help them feel supported and access services and not be exploited for political purposes."

A statement from the Chickasaw Nation said they didn't receive notification about the event either.

“The Chickasaw Nation Office of Tribal Justice Administration received a preliminary save-the-date notice to the scheduled political event. No formal invitation was received, no one invited our participation in the program, in development of the program or participation in the panel. Representatives from our Office of Government Relations and Strategic Partnerships will attend as we continue to work with our intergovernmental partners to maintain public safety."

Allison Herrera covered Indigenous Affairs for KOSU from April 2020 to November 2023.
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