2020-07-10 13:20:56

“Most Important Indian Law Case in Half a Century”: Supreme Court Upholds Tribal Sovereignty in Oklahoma

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court has ruled that much of eastern Oklahoma, constituting nearly half the state, is Native American land, recognizing a 19th century U.S. treaty with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, a Trump nominee, joined the court’s liberal wing in a narrow 5-4 ruling that found state authorities cannot criminally prosecute Indigenous peoples under state or local laws.

The court’s bombshell decision — which also impacts the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole Nations — is a major victory for Indigenous sovereignty and treaty rights.

“It’s a landmark case, and probably the most important Indian law case in the last half a century to come down from the court,” says lawyer Sarah Deer, a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma and a professor at the University of Kansas.

“The language of the decision itself goes far beyond Oklahoma.”

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