Attorney General, 5 Tribes Form Agreement Following Federal McGirt Ruling

Thursday, July 16th 2020, 9:55 pm

The Oklahoma attorney general has reached an agreement with five tribes, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling concerning tribal jurisdiction.

If Congress approves, this agreement will allow Native Americans involved in a criminal or civil case, that occurred on tribal land, to be tried in Indian or federal courts.

Read: Hunter: State, Tribes Working To Settle Uncertainties Caused By Supreme Court Ruling

"We think this agreement ensures there's a public safety priority for the tribes in the state," said Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter. "The state would resume criminal jurisdiction, but they would share that jurisdiction with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and the federal government."

Hunter said investigators will need to have cross-deputization to be able to make arrests in tribal jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, some wonder if previous convictions will be overturned, possibly leading to hundreds or thousands of new trials.

The attorney general said while it's a possibility, those in custody must weigh their options.

"Whether they are better off finishing their term, or whether being re-tried in federal court is a chance they want to take," said Hunter.

The attorney general's office said they were charged with finding a path forward after the Supreme Court's decision of McGirt v. Oklahoma.

But the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs takes issue with the agreement and said it's too broad and could have further implications.

They argue Oklahoma law dictates Governor Kevin Stitt should be leading the discussion.

"This is going to relate to civil matters, regulatory and environmental matters. Their agreement says they are going to grant broad civil jurisdiction to these five native nations that have come to an agreement with the attorney general," said Jonathan Small, President of Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.

The attorney general's office responded to those claims Thursday evening:

“Mr. Small’s comments are disappointing and a misrepresentation of the state’s meetings with the tribes and the terms of the agreement. The agreement ensures an orderly process to clarify state and tribal jurisdiction, particularly in areas in public safety and commerce. The meetings between the state and tribes merely recommend a framework, knowing that Congress, not the attorney general or the tribes, has final say as to the legislation.” – Communications Director Alex Gerszewski

Again, Congress still needs to approve the agreement and then it will move to President Donald Trump’s desk.