Gov. Stitt Critical Of Chief Hoskin's Plan To Amend Major Crime Bill

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. recently announced his intention of working, either through the courts or through Congress, to update the Major Crimes Act, which Congress passed in 1885 to clarify that the federal government would have jurisdiction in certain crimes involving Native Americans.

Monday, February 26th 2024, 5:53 pm



-

Leaders of the Cherokee Nation have undertaken an effort to change federal law so that descendants of Cherokee Freedmen are afforded the same legal rights as the tribe’s blood members. And that is not sitting well with Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. recently announced his intention of working, either through the courts or through Congress, to update the Major Crimes Act, which Congress passed in 1885 to clarify that the federal government would have jurisdiction in certain crimes involving Native Americans.

"Well, it’s not surprising that Hoskins [sic] Is trying to change the justice system in Oklahoma; he’s been trying to do that for a long time," said Gov. Kevin Stitt (R-OK) in an interview this past Friday, "but I’ve been very clear that we have to have one set of rules, regardless of your race."

What Chief Hoskin is trying to do is make a narrow -- and what he feels should be a simple -- tweak to the Major Crimes Act so that it does not discriminate against Freedmen descendants, whom the Tribe now treats as full and equal citizens. Specifically, he says, the law's requirement of a blood quantum to prove tribal membership is outdated and, in the case of Freedmen, prejudicial since, in most cases, they are not Cherokee by blood.

"If that’s the case, we have a separate system of justice for them, and that’s just not right; it’s intolerable," said Chief Hoskin in a Zoom interview Friday, "so, we’re just asking the United States to catch up with the Cherokee Nation in terms of equality."

The Major Crimes Act gives the federal government jurisdiction in a list of mostly violent crimes committed by Indians in Indian country, which, in Oklahoma, now comprises nearly half of the state, thanks to the Supreme Court's 2020 McGirt decision. Because of the blood quantum requirement, Freedmen committing major crimes currently are subject to state prosecution, but that would change if Hoskin is successful.

"To all of a sudden be outside of prosecution, it’s just preposterous," Gov. Stitt said. "And that’s really what Chuck Hoskins [sic] Is trying to advocate for -- he thinks that any person with Indian heritage, or now he’s thinking that he can put another race in that bucket of classification that is immune from prosecution by the state of Oklahoma, and I just fundamentally disagree with that.

Hoskin says he has come to accept that he and the governor have fundamentally different worldviews. "Governor Stitt doesn't see a world in which Tribal sovereignty exists. He sees it as a burden," said Hoskin.

"No one is escaping justice," Hoskin went on. "I mean, this reminds me of how he responded to McGirt, that somehow there was chaos and that people were not being held accountable for breaking the law -- it wasn’t true then, it’s not true now."

Hoskin said one way to potentially get the law changed is to find the right case -- one with a Freedman descendant who was prosecuted by the state of Oklahoma -- and appeal it up through the courts. He indicated there is one they are looking at that could fit the bill.

He says this is not about skirting justice; it's about fairness and equal justice.

"But I also don’t want people misled by the Governor that somehow this is going to mean less justice," Hoskin emphasized. "It will mean the proper justice, the proper venue."

A second potential option to get the law changed is to try and get Congress itself to change the law. Hoskin says he will pursue that path, hopefully getting some guidance and help from Oklahoma's delegation, but is well aware that it could be time-consuming, with no guarantee of success.

Governor Stitt believes Hoskin's actions are aimed at dividing the state, and he says the majority of Oklahomans see through it and don't approve.

"Remember, I won all of those counties in the Cherokee area," Stitt said, "the Cherokee people are with me. It’s just a few people at the top of the government that are trying to fly around in their private jets, and they’re taking advantage of the whole system."

In response, Hoskin says he also won all those counties.

"[And it was] after I went out to the Cherokee people and said, 'Governor Kevin Stitt is the most anti-Tribal sovereignty governor in history of the state, and one of my reasons that people should keep [us] is we'll defend the Cherokee Nation against Kevin Stitt.' And we won in a landslide."

logo

Get The Daily Update!

Be among the first to get breaking news, weather, and general news updates from News on 6 delivered right to your inbox!

More Like This

February 26th, 2024

July 19th, 2024

May 20th, 2024

April 8th, 2024

Top Headlines

July 23rd, 2024

July 23rd, 2024

July 23rd, 2024

July 23rd, 2024