TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Council of the Cherokee Nation unanimously approved Monday a resolution authorizing the tribe to sign agreements with city municipalities within the Cherokee Nation Reservation to donate revenue from traffic and misdemeanor citations of ticketed Natives back to those municipalities.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said the tribe wants city municipalities to succeed, and not lose funding sources after the July 2020 McGirt ruling and subsequent Hogner ruling.

The McGirt and Hogner decisions acknowledged the state has no jurisdiction over Natives committing crimes on the Cherokee Nation Reservation. Since the Hogner ruling in March 2021, when Natives are ticketed for speeding or are issued other fines for traffic or misdemeanor offenses in cities within the reservation by municipal law enforcement, those agencies send the fines to the Cherokee Nation.

“We don’t want the cities around us to lose important revenue streams that help pay salaries and make city upgrades on the heels of the McGirt decision,” Chief Hoskin said. “These agreements will give our partners, who help us with law and order on the reservation, the cushion to continue helping their communities. These agreements will also ensure that our local law enforcement partners continue to provide needed policing to our communities.”

The MOA will be in effect for one year and will allow the municipality to retain all fees and fines except for a small fee that will be sent to the tribe, which will be equal to the current fee the municipality remits to the state on traffic and misdemeanor tickets.

The Cherokee Nation Marshal Service patrols and ensures safety across the Cherokee Nation Reservation and relies on help from more than 70 cross deputization agreements with law enforcement agencies across the reservation.

The resolution will authorize the tribe to enter into written agreements with municipalities in the Cherokee Nation that allow the municipalities to retain, in the form of a donation, fees and fines associated with Cherokee Nation traffic and misdemeanor offenses, in exchange for the policing and administrative functions provided by the municipality, the resolution states.

These agreements recognize that in order to keep local communities safe, Cherokee Nation needs the community policing provided by local law enforcement who are properly cross deputized with the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service. Cherokee Nation also recognizes that fees and fines associated with traffic citations and misdemeanors provide revenue to help fund those local law enforcement agencies. Cherokee Nation further recognizes the administrative costs associated with municipal court systems. Cherokee Nation wishes to enter into agreements that would allow municipalities to continue to provide these services.

“There is no way every citizen living within our reservation could have the protection they need and deserve without the help of these cross deputizations by other law enforcement agencies,” Marshal Shannon Buhl said. “We have always coexisted and continue to help each other, and they truly are our life blood protecting our Cherokee citizens, and all citizens.”

In other business, the Tribal Council:

  • Approved an act establishing a monthly stipend for Cherokee Nation Tribal Youth Council members.
  • Confirmed the nomination of Suzanne Sullivan as a board member of the Economic Development Trust Authority Board of Directors.
  • Confirmed the nomination of Wilfred C. (W.C.) Gernandt III and Elmer Tadpole as governing board members of the Cherokee Nation Comprehensive Care Agency (PACE).
  • Confirmed the nominations of Russell Feeling and Rufus King as governing board members of Tsunadeloquasdi Cherokee Immersion School Board.

The next Tribal Council meeting will be held on Monday, June 14 at 5 p.m. at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah.