Oklahomans Have Questions About McGirt? Tribes And Attorney General Have A FAQ For That

Aug 21, 2020

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter recently spoke on a panel at the Oklahoma Association of Narcotics Enforcers about the impact the McGirt v. Oklahoma decision will have on Oklahoma law enforcement.

The virtual event was attended by more than 1,000 people and specifically addressed the questions regarding the Violence Against Women Act and property rights.

Hunter says the landmark Supreme Court ruling has created confusion and thinks that Congressional action is necessary to clear up any issues of jurisdiction.

“Unfortunately, many of the questions we received by law enforcement do not have clear legal answers. That is why legislation from Congress is needed to bring clarity," Hunter said.

After the panel, Hunter released a list of Frequently Asked Questions.

Some of those questions included:

  • Do I still own my own house in Eastern Oklahoma? Answer: Yes.
  • Will people living in the reservation still have protection from criminals? Answer: Yes.
  • Will any prisoners be automatically released? Answer: No.

Hunter's FAQ specifically addressed prosecution under the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA. If tribes have enacted VAWA provisions, they can prosecute non-Native citizens for violence committed against Native women.

“I encourage Oklahomans who have questions about this decision to review this document and educate themselves about what the ruling means for them," Hunter said.

The Supreme Court ruling is nearly one month removed and there has been much discussion about an agreement in principle between the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and Hunter released a week after the decision on July 9. MCN and the Seminole Nation eventually pulled their support for the agreement citing concerns over sovereignty and jurisdiction. In late July, Muscogee (Creek) Nation announced the Mvskoke Reservation Protection Commission.

“As the only tribal nation whose lands were directly at issue in the Supreme Court case, we are mindful of our responsibility to play a primary leadership role in ensuring that the Court’s decision results in greater prosperity and safety for all,” Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill said in a release about the Commission.

One of the key aspects of the Reservation Protection Commission will be to collaborate with other tribes, state and county officials to make sure criminal jurisdictions issues are addressed and that there is cooperation in Eastern Oklahoma.

Muscogee (Creek) Nation released their own FAQ for its citizens and addresses some of the same questions on Hunter's FAQ.

  • Will this ruling change any existing agreements between the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and the State of Oklahoma? No.
  • Are we still considered citizens of Oklahoma? Yes.

Muscogee (Creek) Nation's FAQ addresses the different types of crimes and how they will be prosecuted. Native on Native crime, for example would be prosecuted in tribal court if it was a misdemeanor. For felonies-federal court. Non-Native on Native Crime would be tried in federal court.

Choctaw Nation also posted an FAQ for its citizens. Even though the ruling directly affects the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, the other four tribes have similar treaties and there were similar questions among their citizens.

Both the Attorney General's office and the leaders of the Five Tribes agree there is a lot to work out. But, many citizens and tribal leaders, including Principal Chief Hill don't think Congressional action is necessary.

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