US Supreme Court Rules That Almost Half Of Oklahoma Belongs To Native American Tribes

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US Supreme Court Rules That Almost Half Of Oklahoma Belongs To Native American Tribes

In a landmark case, the US Supreme Court has ruled that around half of the US state of Oklahoma officially belongs to the Native American tribes who have historically inhabited the area. The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 in favour of this position.

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch said of the ruling:

"Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of federal criminal law. Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word."

The ruling means that huge swathes of the landlocked state are under the legal control of the Native population, including the large city of Tulsa, the state's second most populated habitation.

The legal ruling is not just symbolic, it has huge consequences for the governance and legal system of the state. This includes the fact that tribe-members living in the designated area may be exempt from paying state taxes.

It also means that Native Americans who have been convicted in a state court may have their convictions overturned as it is now deemed that these arrests took place illegitimately.

One such case which has resulted in significant publicity is the conviction of Jimcy McGirt, who in 1997 was convicted of the rape of a 4-year-old girl. McGirt is a member of the Seminole Nation. A result of the new law, could be that he is released from prison. In such a scenario, it would need to be decided on legal grounds whether he could instead be tried by a Federal court.

Chief Justice John Roberts, who opposed the ruling, said:

"The State's ability to prosecute serious crimes will be hobbled and decades of past convictions could well be thrown out. The decision today creates significant uncertainty for the State's continuing authority over any area that touches Indian affairs, ranging from zoning and taxation to family and environmental law."

The threat that many convicted Native American criminals, of which there may be several thousand, could be released has been downplayed by the tribal leaders themselves who welcomed the new ruling. In response to fears over the release of criminals, the leaders of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole and Muscogee Nation tribes, released a statement in which they claim that they will work together with federal authorities to guarantee safety and make sure the rule of law is maintained. The statement read:

"The Nations and the state are committed to implementing a framework of shared jurisdiction that will preserve sovereign interests and rights to self-government while affirming jurisdictional understandings, procedures, laws and regulations that support public safety, our economy and private property rights."

Around 1.8 million people currently live in the area now designated as Native land.

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Thinking Humanity: US Supreme Court Rules That Almost Half Of Oklahoma Belongs To Native American Tribes
US Supreme Court Rules That Almost Half Of Oklahoma Belongs To Native American Tribes
In a landmark case, the US Supreme Court has ruled that around half of the US state of Oklahoma officially belongs to the Native American tribes who h
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