Indigenous Organizers Call SCOTUS Ruling ‘Disrespectful,’ Law Enforcement Moving Forward

Wednesday, June 29th 2022, 6:34 pm

TULSA, Oklahoma -

A massive Supreme Court decision under-cutting the power of McGirt. 

Justices siding with Oklahoma, giving the state more power when it comes to prosecuting crimes involving Native Americans. 

The 2020 McGirt Ruling put half of the Sooner State back in Indian Territory, meaning any crimes committed on that land would need to be prosecuted in tribal or federal courts.  

Wednesday, a new Supreme Court ruling limited that decision.  

RELATED: US Supreme Court Hears Oklahoma Vs Castro-Huerta Case 

McGirt v Oklahoma affirmed the sovereignty of tribal nations established in the late 1800’s. 

That had some implications for the criminal justice system – and changed who could prosecute which sort of citizen, and where.  

In July of 2020 the McGirt v Oklahoma decision restored the 1866 boundaries of the Muscogee Reservation, putting a large swath of the state back in Indian Territory. 

That meant state law enforcement had to first determine a victim and suspects tribal affiliation before investigating, which some say led to back-logs. 

The new decision walks some of that back, allowing Oklahoma officials to prosecute crimes on tribal land, involving tribal victims, if a non-tribal member committed that crime. 

District Attorney Jack Thorp says his office will immediately begin working on a backlog of cases.  

“It will be huge for victims, it will be huge for law enforcement because this takes some of the problems they have had trying to determine whether or not a person is tribal,” Thorp said.  

But, over the past two years tribal courts and agencies have beefed up their manpower in the wake of McGirt. 

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin said Wednesday they are “disappointed in this ruling.”  

He says tribes “will continue to seek partnership and collaboration with state authorities while expanding our own justice systems.” 

Indigenous community organizer Sarah Gray is getting people together to push back.  

"To see such disrespect from the Supreme Court is really frustrating,” she said.  

Tribal members are protesting the decision, calling it an attack on sovereignty.  

"We have to keep coming together and showing folks that we're paying attention and we're engaged and we're not just going to let our sovereignty be stolen from us,” Gray said.  

Gray is gathering the community together Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at the Center of the Universe in Tulsa before marching to City Hall.