STILWELL, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation signed an agreement with the city of Stilwell this week that acknowledges the tribe’s intent to donate revenue from traffic citations back to the municipality.
The City of Stilwell is the 30th municipality within the Cherokee Nation Reservation to sign such an agreement with the tribe, ensuring the town does not lose funding sources after the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt ruling and the 10th Circuit’s recent Hooper decision.
The city of Stilwell will collect fines from traffic tickets given to tribal citizens and keep all but $30.
“The Cherokee Nation believes in partnerships with our local, state and federal partners especially when it comes to public safety. This agreement with the city of Stilwell allows them to retain revenue from traffic tickets, making the process more efficient and meeting our overall objective of making sure we work as a team for Cherokee citizens and non-citizens alike, as we all take on this very important responsibility of protecting citizens,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “This agreement is one of 30 that we have signed across the reservation and we hope more municipalities come on board.”
Under the agreement, the city of Stilwell will be able to retain fees and fines associated with traffic stops of Native citizens in the form of a donation, in recognition and exchange for the policing and administrative functions provided by the municipality.
“As a Cherokee Nation citizen, it is very moving for our town to be at this point,” said Stilwell Mayor Jean Ann Wright. “It just strengthens the bonds we have built between the Cherokee Nation and city of Stilwell. I couldn’t be more excited to see this come to fruition.”
Every policing agency within the Cherokee Nation Reservation has a cross-deputization agreement with the Cherokee Nation allowing for the continued enforcement of laws, including traffic violations. Most of these agreements have been in place for decades.
“All around we have a shared responsibility when it comes to public safety, this agreement with the city of Stilwell will be helping individuals,” said Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “We want to make sure that people understand how much we value our government-to-government relationships because it is very important that we continue to partner with towns across the reservation.”
Other towns to sign municipal agreements with Cherokee Nation to retain, in the form of a donation, the fees and fines for traffic citations issued to Native Americans include Adair, Bernice, Chelsea, Chouteau, Colcord, Foyil, Gans, Gore, Hulbert, Jay, Kansas, Locust Grove, Marble City, Muldrow, Muskogee, Owasso, Porum, Pryor, Salina, Talala, Vian, Vinita, Warner, Watts, West Siloam Springs and Westville.
Chief Hoskin said that across the 7,000-square-mile Cherokee Nation Reservation, citizens of tribal nations are subject to Cherokee Nation laws relating to a variety of matters, including public safety laws.
“Irrespective of whether we have an agreement of any sort in place in any particular community within our reservation, it is important to understand that Cherokee Nation has a comprehensive criminal code substantially similar to the State of Oklahoma’s code,” Chief Hoskin added. “This means that wild and irresponsible claims that tribal citizens are not subject to traffic laws are simply false.”
The formal signing between the Cherokee Nation and the city of Stilwell follows a recent 10th Circuit court ruling in the Hooper v. City of Tulsa case, which reaffirmed that state and municipal agencies do not have jurisdiction over municipal violations committed by tribal citizens within tribal reservations.