Tribal Leaders Respond To Attorney General's Recommendation On Sovereignty

Wednesday, October 21st 2020, 5:19 pm
By: Erick Payne, News On 6

Three months after the Supreme Court's ruling on tribal jurisdiction, state leaders are suggesting a path forward.

Oklahoma’s Attorney General wrote a letter to Congress recommending federal legislation to help Oklahoma and tribes deal with the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on tribal jurisdiction.

The Cherokee Nation Chief and the Tulsa County District Attorney said the recommendation lays out a solid framework for how to better handle cases.

In a letter to Oklahoma's congressional delegation, State Attorney General Mike Hunter recommends federal legislation to authorize state and tribal compacts.

He said this would "enable the state to exercise criminal jurisdiction on reservation land concurrently with federal and tribal authorities."

Hunter points to examples like child welfare, where federal law allows the state joint-jurisdiction if there is a compact with the tribe. Hunter also recommended state leaders develop a process with the Five Tribes to focus on civil issues.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Junior said the recommendation is a good beginning.

"This gives us McGirt, plus some enhancements, a way under federal law to really work through any issues we might want to work through with the state of Oklahoma," Hoskin said. "That's what tribes do best, and that's why I'm so encouraged by it."

Chief Hoskin said there's solid communication among the tribes, state and federal governments. He said they're engaging with leaders on every level to fix current issues, but ensure any new legislation won't harm tribal sovereignty.

Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said leaders should work out a solution quickly.

"It's paramount at least in my line of work, to get a very quick resolution and I'm very hopeful that these tribes will enter into a compact that will allow us to continue doing what we're already experts at doing," Kunzweiler said.

Meanwhile, the Muscogee Creek Nation said at first look, it appears what AG Hunter is proposing already exists under federal law.