The U.S. Supreme Court recently issued an opinion giving states concurrent jurisdiction with the federal government over major crimes in Indian Country.
The 5 to 4 ruling overturns precedent, laws, and traditions going as far back as 200 years.
Tribal leaders will hold a virtual roundtable Thursday to determine how to move forward.
An attorney with the Native American Rights Fund says the opinion impacts tribes throughout the country, as Victoria Wicks reports.
Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its McGirt ruling that restored historical reservation boundaries in Oklahoma.
As a result, almost half of that state, including Tulsa, is now Indian Country.
Before that decision came out, the state of Oklahoma tried and convicted Victor Castro-Huerta for child neglect.
After the McGirt ruling, Castro-Huerta appealed his conviction, saying the state did not have jurisdiction because the crime occurred in Tulsa, on tribal land, and the young victim is Cherokee.
The Supreme Court disagreed and found that the state has concurrent jurisdiction with the feds over a non-Indian even under these circumstances.
The situation in Oklahoma is extremely unusual, with a large and sudden increase in tribal land mass and on-reservation population.
Oklahoma argued that federal prosecutors have been overwhelmed with felony cases, and so the state needs to step in, but NARF attorney Melody McCoy says the recent opinion affects more states than Oklahoma, which was joined by Texas as an amicus.
“There’s 35 states around the US that have federally recognized tribes within their borders. I’m not convinced that every single state has the same level of and type of interest that Oklahoma and Texas have.”
McCoy says there are 574 federally recognized tribes of varying sizes and relationships with states, and it will fall to their leaders to find ways to protect tribal sovereignty and keep their citizens safe.
Cherokee Nation citizen Dwight Birdwell received the Medal of Honor Tuesday for his service during the Vietnam War.
President Joe Biden awarded the 74-year-old with the military’s highest honor during a ceremony at the White House.
“Member of the Cherokee Nation, Birdwell credits the Cherokee veterans who came before him and encouraged him to serve. And, I might note Native American communities a larger percentage serve in the United States Armed Forces at a higher percentage rate than any other cohort in America. In any other cohort in America. After leaving the Army, Birdwell continued to build a legacy of service in his community in Oklahoma.”
Specialist 5 Birdwell’s Army troop was involved in an attack in Saigon in 1968. His tank commander became incapacitated and many of the unit’s vehicles were disabled or destroyed.
Birdwell moved the tank commander to safety. He was wounded when he took command and continued fighting, remained on the battlefield after running out of ammunition, and aided in evacuating the wounded. Birdwell says receiving the recognition is a great honor.
“It brings respect, honor to the Cherokee Nation and its people. Brings honor, respect to the 25th Infantry Division U.S. Army, and the unit I served with in Vietnam. I know it makes my family proud and it lets the world know that I served with dignity, pride and brought no shame to the Cherokee people.”
Birdwell served on the Cherokee Nation’s highest court for more than a decade and continues to practice law today. He was one of four soldiers honored on Tuesday.
Wednesday’s Google Doodle celebrates Native comedian Charlie Hill who was born 71 years ago today.
The Oneida comedic great appeared on “The Tonight Show” and “The Richard Pryor Show”, taking Hollywood by storm early in his career.
He’s credited for leading the way for Native Americans in comedy.
Hill passed away in 2013 after battling cancer.
Listen to his family, friends in Indian Country and in Hollywood, reflect on his life and career shortly after his passing on Native America Calling.
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