Both state and tribal leadership are in the nation’s capital on Wednesday, for a Supreme Court case that could change the way some crimes are prosecuted in Green Country. On Wednesday, the high court listened to oral arguments for Oklahoma vs Castro Huerta; a follow up to the 2020 landmark case McGirt vs Oklahoma.
Wednesday’s arguments come nearly two years after that case was decided, which ruled Indian reservations in the eastern part of Oklahoma were never disestablished at statehood, meaning cases involving native defendants or victims cannot be prosecuted by the state on tribal land.
Following the ruling, Governor Kevin Stitt expressed concerns about some cases being thrown out and going unprosecuted. He talked to News On 6 about it last year. "Basically they just ripped away the sovereignty of the state of Oklahoma," said Stitt.
The tribes saw it differently. "The most important case in Indian law in generations," said Chuck Hoskin Jr, the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation back in 2021.
In the months that followed, the state filed several appeals looking to overturn McGirt or get more clarity, saying the ruling has produced chaos in the courts. The Supreme Court denied most of the appeals.
However, one of the exceptions was the case argued Wednesday in Oklahoma vs Castro Huerta. Victor Castro Huerta, who is not native, was convicted of neglecting his 5 year-old native step daughter so severely she weighed just 19 pounds, but that state case was thrown out.
Now, this Supreme Court case is simply asking one question, whether any state has the authority to prosecute non-Natives who commit crimes against Native Americans on tribal land. If the justices side with Oklahoma, it would narrow the scope of the 2020 ruling. A final decision will come this summer.