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Tribal members react to Rep. Cole new bill

Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 11:04 PM CDT
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Oklahoma (KXII) - On Wednesday, The Supreme Court announced they could reconsider the McGirt ruling, due to the changes the bench has seen since it was made last year.

In the meantime, a local lawmaker has proposed legislation in hopes of filling some of the holes left by this decision, in case it still stands.

State Representative Tom Cole’s bill would allow the Chickasaw and Cherokee Nations to enter into an agreement with the state, that would allow the state to prosecute crimes committed on Native land, by or against their members.

It’s a partnership designed to help the tribes handle the enormous caseload that’s suddenly in their laps, thanks to McGirt.

“But each sovereign has to make its own decision, Chickasaw and Cherokee made the decision we want to proceed down this path,” Greetham said.

Representative Tom Cole introduced a new bill to get Chickasaw and Cherokee Nations to partner with the state when dealing with tribal criminal cases.

“It really boils down to on the limitation of our availability to address the issue on a full array of options federal statue ties our hands, so we think the best option is for folks on the ground to be able to work it out so our number one ask to congressman is we want to work with you to figure out a way to increase the option for tribes to address the real challenges we are facing.” Greetham

This law only affects Chickasaw and Cherokee Nations.

Choctaw Nation Chief, Gary Batton, said he opposes this bill, for two reasons.

“Limitation of sovereignty and then we believe there’s an avenue that already exists in 25 US code 1321,” Batton said.

He’s talking about a pre existing statute in the U.S. code that gives any state in the U.S. the right to try criminal cases committed on tribal land that’s within the boundaries of the state, with the tribe’s permission.

Chief Batton said he hasn’t spoken with Governor Kevin Stitt about the agreement, but did raise his concerns to Representative Cole.

“He understands and he even has said he hopes that this is just an avenue to begin discussion on how we can work together to hopefully address the McGirt ruling,” Batton said.

Chief Batton said Choctaw Nation’s main focus is public safety.

Chickasaw Nation Senior Counsel, Stephen Greetham, iis ready for the new bill and said that there is more work to be done.

“The victims’ family that are distressed and retraumatized by uncertainties in this area is unacceptable so we all have a duty to put our back into it and figure out a way to move forward and to make sure we are doing right by our community.” Greetham

“But each sovereign has to make its own decision, Chickasaw and Cherokee made the decision we want to proceed down this path,” Greetham said.

Choctaw Nation put out a statement regarding yesterday’s announcement to reconsider the McGirt ruling.

It said, in part, “Last year, we were encouraged by the McGirt ruling affirming that our reservation boundaries were never disestablished, and goes on to say the nation plans to prosecute every person who commits a crime under their jurisdiction.” Choctaw Chief Gary Batton said.

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