TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation has signed an agreement with the town of Vian to donate revenue from traffic and misdemeanor citations back to the municipality.
In May, the Council of the Cherokee Nation unanimously approved granting authority to enter these agreements, which are intended to ensure city municipalities do not lose funding sources after the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt ruling, and the subsequent Hogner ruling, recognized the Cherokee Nation reservation remains intact and that the state of Oklahoma does not have jurisdiction on its land. Since the ruling, local fines and fees against tribal citizens have been sent to the Cherokee Nation.
Under the agreement, Vian will be able to retain fees and fines associated with Cherokee Nation traffic and misdemeanor offenses in the form of a donation, in recognition and exchange for the policing and administrative functions provided by the municipality.
“The Cherokee Nation has always been committed to working with our partners at the local level to ensure that everyone on our reservation is supported with the resources they need,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “Local law enforcement agencies are critical to our public safety system, and it is important that they do not lose out on funding following McGirt, and that municipalities can continue to fund local services. We are grateful for our productive and cooperative relationships with our municipal partners and look forward to continuing to work together to jointly protect tribal citizens and everyone living on our reservation.”
These agreements, of which the Cherokee Nation expects to sign more over the coming months, will ensure that municipalities on the Cherokee Reservation receive the same amount of their fees and fines as those under the jurisdiction of the state of Oklahoma.
“We just appreciate everything the Cherokee Nation does not just on the law enforcement side but for the people and the communities. We are happy to get on board with this and just want to do what we can to help make a smooth transition for the tribe because as long as the tribes are doing good in Oklahoma, Oklahoma is doing good,” said Dennis Fletcher, Mayor of Vian. “Vian and Cherokee Nation have had a great working relationship for the past 10 years and we just want to do our part to continue building that relationship.”
In addition to supporting local law enforcement, the Cherokee Nation has taken numerous steps to expand its justice system following McGirt. The tribe has now filed more than 1000 cases in tribal court since the ruling, 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.
The Cherokee Nation also 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.