The Supreme Court yesterday, in the decision of McGirt v Oklahoma, held that, when trying “[a]ny Indian” in “the Indian country” (as the old treaty stated), Oklahoma did not have jurisdiction and the person would have to be tried in federal court.
Despite sensationalist headlines, this decision did not return land to the natives; it only upheld a treaty that provided that federal law would apply to certain serious crimes.
Jimcy McGirt, who is an enrolled member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, cannot be tried under Oklahoma law for his offenses (which involve serious sexual offenses). He has to be tried in a federal court.
The good news is that it affirmed a treaty that had long been ignored, so it is still a very good decision. The treaty “solemnly guarantied” the land to the tribe, “forever set apart as a home for said Creek Nation,” “no portion [of which] shall ever be embraced or included within … any Territory or State.”
The dissenters, Republican appointees all, basically said, “Yeah, well, we’ve been ignoring that for so long it doesn’t really matter any more” and things along those lines.
Anyway, the point is that the decision did not just hand all that land back, but it did acknowledge that at least in one respect, the treaty should be followed. Hopefully, it will lead to more power given back to the natives in the future.