Oklahoma tribal members protest over state’s new jurisdiction agreement

Published: Aug. 1, 2020 at 9:12 PM CDT
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SHERMAN, Texas (KXII) - A group of tribal members in Oklahoma held a protest Saturday outside Choctaw Casino in Durant in response to Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter’s recent proposed tribal agreement clarifying state and tribal jurisdiction.

The group wants the state to honor their original treaties.

Members of several tribes want to be recognized as nations by the state, not reservations. This distinction would give them a say of what happens on their land.

They also want tribal leaders to lose their authority to sign away their sovereignty.

“Tribes that were located here in the 1830′s as part of the trail of tears were promised something by the federal government and that is that you would have the land as long as the grass grows and the rivers flow,” said Eric Reed, a tribal law attorney.

The five tribes were originally considered nations, but over time both the state and federal government bypassed the agreements. Overruling local control.

“We need to start thinking as a nation, not a reservation, not just some corporate entity that has some kind of special relation with the government,” said David Hill, a member of the Choctaw American Indian Movement. “We don’t want the compact going back to business as usual. A lot of the different tribal governments are used to business as usual, they’re more like CEO’s than they are chiefs or leaders of nations.”

Last month the Supreme Court ruled there was a geographic distinction between the borders of the sovereign land of native tribes and land belonging to the state.

“Even though we’re not reservations we are Indian territory, and each of our nations have our own separate and distinct boundaries,” Reed said.

The ruling gives tribal leaders more authority to enforce the law of their land. They now have criminal jurisdiction over federally enrolled Indians within Indian territories. As well as jurisdiction over tribal properties.

“It’s highly unusual and a blessing that they finally ruled in our favor and finally recognized that we’re a nation,” Hill said.

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