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Oklahoma tribal leaders request funding for public safety following 'McGirt' decision

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Delegate-Designee to U.S. House of Representatives for the Cherokee Nation Kim Teehee.
Kim Teehee
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Delegate-Designee to U.S. House of Representatives for the Cherokee Nation Kim Teehee in 2022.

Two Oklahoma tribal nation leaders were on Capitol Hill this week to stress the importance of public safety funding almost four years after the McGirt v. Oklahoma ruling.

The McGirt ruling had a significant impact on Indian Country, particularly on the Cherokee and Muscogee nations, whose leaders testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee on Tuesday.

The Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Chuck Hoskin Jr., and Muscogee Nation's Self-Government Coordinator, Carson Ball, addressed Congress, requesting increased funding for law enforcement.

“Since the McGirt decision Cherokee Nation has dramatically scaled up its criminal justice system, boosting spending by $35 million annually to strengthen our law enforcement capabilities and meet the massive 380 percent increase in felony and misdemeanor case filings,” Hoskin Jr. wrote in a submitted testimony.

He noted the tribe has filed more than 10,000 criminal cases since the McGirt ruling, which is a significant increase compared to 100 annually before the ruling.

Ball expressed similar concerns regarding the growing responsibilities that followed the Supreme Court’s decision. One example he gave was the monetary support needed for the nation’s police.

“Our Lighthorse Police, which is our law enforcement, currently they receive about 4 million a year,” Ball said. “We ran the minimum amount they would need to be at capacity — for both the size of the reservation, mixed with urban and rural, and for just the amount of criminal activity we are seeing — we are looking at 12 million.”

That’s a third of what Ball says is needed to maintain its police force.

Public witness hearings before Congress continued on Wednesday. Multiple tribal leaders attended the congressional testimonies, speaking out about issues like health care and the environment.

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Sarah Liese reports on Indigenous Affairs for KOSU.
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