Oklahoma attorney explains Supreme Court ruling for American Indian reservations

Supreme Court rules 5-4 Thursday for a large portion of eastern Oklahoma to remain an American Indian reservation.
Supreme Court rules 5-4 Thursday for a large portion of eastern Oklahoma to remain an American Indian reservation.
Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 7:37 PM CDT
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SHERMAN, Texas (KXII) - This morning the Supreme Court ruled that nearly half of Oklahoma remains an American Indian reservation.

“The decision isn’t surprising to me,” said Oklahoma attorney, Mike McBride.

“The McGirt case I think is probably the most important Supreme Court decision in the history of Oklahoma quite frankly,” said McBride.

The case justices decided Thursday involved 71-year-old Jimcy McGirt, who is serving a 500-year prison sentence for molesting a child. Oklahoma state courts rejected his argument that his case does not belong in Oklahoma state courts and that federal prosecutors should instead handle his case.

McBride has been in practice for nearly three decades, representing Indian tribes.

“There’s a lot of history involved, but Congress never disestablished those reservation boundaries. That’s what this case is all about,” said McBride.

Reservation boundaries that were part of treaty provisions dating back to 1866. The Supreme Court ruling Thursday impacts the 5 big tribes of Eastern Oklahoma; the Muscogee (Creek), Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole Nations.

“It’ll be less of an impact on non-Indians within these reservation areas. The biggest impact would be on Native Americans that reside in the reservation,” said McBride.

The court ruled 5-4 that Oklahoma prosecutors do not have authority to pursue criminal cases against American Indian defendants for crimes that occurred within these reservations.

All 5 tribes released a joint statement reacting to the ruling, and say they will continue to share their commitment with the state to ensure justice is served to offenders on their land.

“They all have very similar treaty provisions of 1866, and so those other 4 tribes can also assert similar arguments about their reservation boundaries,” said McBride.

In a statement on its website, the Choctaw Nation said the decision strengthens its position that it has and has always had a reservation. All crimes committed on tribal lands will be prosecuted either at the federal, state or tribal level. It will no have impact in the tribes’ dispute with Governor Kevin Stitt over the gaming compact.

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