SCOTUS Expands State Power Over Native Land in Okla.

Image copyright: AP [via Al Jazeera]

The Facts

  • On Wed., SCOTUS ruled 5-4 that Oklahoma can prosecute non-Native Americans for crimes committed on tribal land when the victim is Native American.

  • In 2015, Victor Manuel Castro-Huerta was charged by state authorities for neglect of his five-year-old stepdaughter, who is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. However, the conviction was rejected by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on the grounds that state courts didn't have jurisdiction in Native American territory.

The Spin

Pro-establishment narrative

This decision is a big victory for the power of Oklahoma state, now able to prosecute non-Natives on Native American territory, and do justice in new jurisdictions. The ruling will also likely reduce the burden of federal prosecutors as the state of Oklahoma becomes able to charge and convict on Tribal land.

Establishment-critical narrative

This ruling is a disappointment for Native lawyers and advocates of Native American rights. The Court has failed in its duty to honor the traditional rights of Native Americans, undermined tribal sovereignty, and highlighted the tension between Oklahoma state and its indigenous members.

Establishment split



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