TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation has filed its 1000th case in Cherokee Nation District Court since the Supreme Court McGirt ruling and subsequent Hogner decision found that its reservation had never been disestablished, and that the state of Oklahoma had been improperly prosecuting cases outside of its jurisdiction for over a century.
The case, in which a Craig County defendant physically abused his wife, was dismissed in April following the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals decision finding the McGirt ruling applies to the Cherokee Nation. In anticipation of this ruling, the Nation was already hard at work to ensure its justice system was prepared for case transfers and an expanded case load, while fully preserving tribal sovereignty. The victim has filed for a protective order and supports the continued efforts to prosecute the abuser.
“Since Indian Country’s victory in McGirt, the Cherokee Nation has made two priorities crystal clear: we will fight to protect every piece of our hard-earned sovereignty, and we will stand with victims and families to keep everyone on our reservations and our neighbors throughout Oklahoma safe,” said Cherokee Nation Attorney General Sara Hill. “By preparing proactively for case dismissals, expanding our judicial system capacity, and working closely with state, local and federal partners, our tribe has been able to continue to prosecute criminals and ensure continued justice.”
Before the McGirt decision, the Cherokee Nation would on average file six cases per month. The tribe’s 1000 cases filed over the past five months demonstrate the success of proactive post-McGirt preparations and its continued commitment to public safety while fully protecting sovereignty.
The Cherokee Nation has also invested $10 million to expand its justice system. The tribe has added an additional eight marshals, for a current total of 37, and has hired two additional district court judges, six more prosecutors and several more victim advocates in the wake of the McGirt ruling.
“The McGirt decision that acknowledged our reservations were never disestablished is the single most impactful ruling in Indian Country in generations,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “We continue to work through all the challenges and meet our obligations under McGirt and are working daily to help protect citizens, support victims and families and remain the good partner in Oklahoma that we have always been.”
In addition to the Cherokee Nation’s work to file cases in tribal courts, and to support federal investigations and prosecutions, the Cherokee Nation continues to support narrow federal legislation that would protect 100 percent of the Nation’s sovereignty in the wake of the historic McGirt decision, and authorize tribal-state compacting on criminal subject matter jurisdiction. The Cherokee Nation and Chickasaw Nation Criminal Jurisdiction Compacting Act of 2021would strengthen tribal sovereignty by giving the Chickasaw Nation and the Cherokee Nation more options to address gaps in criminal jurisdiction, allowing for limited compacts with the state solely when both the tribe and state agree to do so. The legislation would apply only to the Chickasaw and Cherokee Nations, and would not affect other tribes.