Commission On Cooperative Sovereignty Shares Findings On McGirt Implications

Thursday, October 22nd 2020, 6:21 pm

A Governor-appointed commission that studied the effects of the recent McGirt Supreme Court decision on Oklahoma presented their findings on Thursday.

Governor Kevin Stitt appointed the "Commission on Cooperative Sovereignty" back in July, and it’s made up of business leaders, law experts and politicians, but no tribal leaders.

Their goal was to evaluate how McGirt, which takes away the state's criminal jurisdiction on the Creek Reservation, would impact Oklahoma in the future.

The commission is calling their findings "One Oklahoma" - ensuring that the state honors tribal sovereignty but does not divide Oklahoma into separate groups.

The commission said they want to make sure that Oklahomans, regardless of race or tribal affiliation, share in the funding of common services, like roads and taxes.

The Governor said the McGirt ruling is causing a lot of uncertainty about Indian affairs and questions like zoning and family law. Members of the commission said that businesses are hesitant to move to Oklahoma right now because of this uncertainty.

"One set of rules is essential to us being a top ten state,” said Governor Stitt. “We need to protect the social and economic fairness that we've all enjoyed as a state for the past 113 years. Can you imagine what would happen over the next 113 years if we had 39 different sets of rules?"

The Governor is referring to the 39 different tribes in the state. Several of them listened in.

Muscogee Creek Nation Principal Chief David Hill released a statement, critical of the findings:

“We listened with an open mind to Governor Stitt and the presentation of the report of his Oklahoma Commission on Cooperative Sovereignty and walk away with more questions and concerns.If fairness were the standard as the Governor states, our tribes would still be on our ancestral lands, not here in Oklahoma. But we can’t rewrite history, and neither can the Governor. His claim that enacting statehood in 1906 eliminated separate tribal reservations is blatantly false and unsupported by decades of laws.The Governor’s recommendations sadly promote the radical arguments of the special interest supported Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), which recently called for the disestablishment of Indian reservations in Oklahoma. Many other states with large reservations have worked collaboratively with tribal nations to address a wide array over intergovernmental matters without resorting to federal legislation that undermines sovereignty. We believe that Oklahoma and tribal nations can engage in that same effort.The governor and his team repeatedly said they don’t have many answers. Given the lack of consultation with our Nation and others, it’s little wonder that they are struggling to find solutions. We asked the Governor over three months ago to work with us to forge partnership agreements that secure the health, safety, well-being and prosperity of all Oklahoma citizens but we never heard back. Even for a Commission that lacked any tribal voices and representatives, the anti-Indian bias that flows through the Governor's recommendations is shocking. It is clear that current law allows us to work as partners with the state to address any and all changes prompted by the Supreme Court decision. Demands for Congress to enact a one-size-fits-all federal mandate won’t solve anything but will undermine tribal sovereignty throughout the Nation. We stand ready, willing and able to work with state and local officials. So, if the Governor is serious about finding real solutions that benefit all Oklahomans, our invitation to work together remains open and we’ll await his call.”

You can read the full report here.