Governor Stitt Says State Might Sue Federal Government Over McGirt Jurisdiction Interpretation

Friday, July 2nd 2021, 6:14 pm
By: News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt says the state is considering suing the federal government over its interpretation of the Supreme Court's ruling on tribal jurisdiction.

It comes after a video call the Governor had with the U.S. Department of the Interior this week.

"Basically they just ripped away from the sovereignty of the state of Oklahoma," said Governor Stitt in a phone conversation with News on 6.

The Governor says the federal government's interpretation of the Supreme Court's McGirt decision is completely off-base.

That decision ruled, in part, that reservations were never disestablished in eastern Oklahoma.

“This is absolute overreach,” said Stitt. “This is not what the Supreme Court said…and where does this stop?"

The Governor says the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement notified the state of Oklahoma in April, that because of the McGirt decision, the federal government will take over mining jurisdiction on Indian Land - specifically the Muscogee Nation.

“My concern is McGirt was limited to criminal only,” said Stitt. “And so this is the first example of the Biden administration, a federal agency, coming in and expanding this to civil regulations."

The Governor says the state has had jurisdiction over mines for more than 100 years.

He cites page 39 of the McGirt decision that says the court only decided on the major crimes act.

On Wednesday, the Governor confronted US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland about it during an annual virtual meeting.

"Why did that happen and why did we move it into civil so quickly?" asked the Governor on Wednesday.

"What I can tell you today is that based on legal advice we are moving forward to ensure that the office of surface mining will exercise their jurisdiction over Indian land,” said Haaland replying to the Governor. “I know that's not an answer you want to hear."

Governor Stitt says he worries mine jurisdiction is just the start and predicts the feds could take other civil matters away from Oklahoma.

"You talk about agriculture, zoning, everything is up in question, taxation," said Stitt.

He says they're now trying to set up meetings in DC and working with attorneys to potentially file a lawsuit.

The US Department of the Interior sent us this press release when asked for comment.