Report calls for immediate $35M budget increase to cover initial expenses stemming from McGirt decision

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Commission for the Protection of Cherokee Nation Sovereignty established by the Principal Chief after the U.S. Supreme Court McGirt ruling, has issued its first recommendations on expanding the tribe’s courts, attorneys and marshal service.

In July, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Muscogee Creek Nation’s reservation was never disestablished. The Supreme Court’s reasoning in this case applies to all Five Tribes. Since the Supreme Court’s decision, Cherokee Nation’s Office of the Attorney General has identified more than 100 cases which may be dismissed by the state court of appeals and sent to either Cherokee Nation or federal courts for prosecution.

Appellate decisions could come by the end of the year.

“We must do everything in our power to protect our sovereignty, and we must continue to be ready for the challenges ahead and work with our partners on the ground while preparing to operate and expand our court system to prosecute more of these criminal cases on our lands,” said Cherokee Nation Attorney General Sara Hill, a member of the commission. “First, we must ask the Tribal Council for an increase in the budget so that we can begin the expansion of our court system, attorneys, marshal service, victim services, detention facilities and other necessary changes as our reservation land is acknowledged by the state and cases involving Native perpetrators are dismissed, and we begin trying those cases in our tribal courts.”

In order for the expansion and restructuring, the Commission recommends:

  • A $15.6M budget increase to restructure and expand the Cherokee Nation court system. It could expand the district court system from one district court to up to ten separate districts; add security, juvenile court services, technology and more.
  • A projected $3.5M increase for the Attorney General’s office for more staffing to prosecute cases.
  • Increase the Marshal budget and detention costs by an additional $16.25 million. This would add 12 marshals and increase detention facility costs.
  •  Look at grants or funding for expansion of victim service programs.
  • Grants or funding for reentry type programs.
  • Update the Cherokee Nation criminal code to closely align with the Oklahoma Criminal Code so that law and order is consistent and the transition is as seamless as possible for officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys and the court.
  • That the Principal Chief engage with members of Congress who may be contemplating legislation and oppose any legislation that would disestablish tribal reservations.
  • That the Principal Chief discuss with state and federal elected leaders whether or not additional compacts, intergovernmental agreements or MOUs are needed or should be authorized to address civil, criminal, and other issues on the Cherokee Reservation.

The Commission is made up of internal cabinet members, law enforcement, Tribal Councilors, department heads and judges and meets monthly.

Download letter from Cherokee Nation Principal Chief