It's been a month since the Supreme Court ruling on the McGirt v. Oklahoma case, which made all major crimes on Creek Nation land fall under federal or tribal jurisdiction.
The Supreme Court's McGirt ruling has impacted cases across Oklahoma. Now, the Cherokee Nation is bringing together its brightest minds to face the changes head on.
"We've been thinking about this since before McGirt came out – ‘how do we handle this?’ ‘what's our best next move?’” Cherokee Nation Chief Chuck Hoskin Junior said.
He said he created a commission to answer these questions. The Commission for the Protection of Cherokee Nation Sovereignty will analyze and examine how the McGirt decision will impact the Cherokee tribe.
"Because there's a tremendous responsibility to exercise sovereignty. Cherokee Nation is up to it, but we got to have the best analysis of the facts," Chief Hoskin Jr. said. “To do that you need the best minds looking at it, giving good advice and make decisions about how to deploy resources and build that capacity, and so that’s what this is about.”
The commission will include the chief and deputy chief, tribal councilors, judges and Cherokee Nation Attorney General Sara Hill, who will head a task force to communicate with outside law enforcement and federal prosecutors.
"The ruling definitely has the potential to change the volume and the number of cases and I think for that to really be effectively done, we have to work very collaboratively with all the other agencies in Oklahoma,” Hill said.
“I’m not worried at all about us being able to expand and meet the challenge head-on,” said Luke Barteaux, presiding District Court Judge. Barteaux is also part of the commission and said he brings over 11 years of criminal justice experience to the table.
“For the commission to be able to produce a report that’s worth having to expand the court they need all the relevant information and I can give the commission that information,” Barteaux said.
Chief Hoskin Junior also asked the council to apply for federal funding to expand staffing due to the increased workload.
"It means that we're going to have a lot of opportunities to do things differently, and to make Oklahoma a different place than it was before, for the good," Hill added.
The Cherokee Nation is also trying to establish its own reservation with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. If that happens, thousands more criminal cases could be affected.