Yesterday morning the Supreme Court ruled in McGirt v. Oklahoma that because Congress did not formally disestablish the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation formed in the 19th century, the land in eastern Oklahoma remains a reservation for purposes of federal criminal law. Following the landmark decision, Indian Country Today has compiled a list of answers of what the ruling means for Oklahoma Natives and the rest of Indian Country.
The White House released a message for the 50th Anniversary of the Federal Policy of Self-Determination. The message highlights the current administration’s efforts to serve Native people like the establishment of Operation Lady Justice and the Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives, the $8 billion in CARES Act funds for Indian Country, and creating the Tribal Transportation Self-Governance Program. Read the full statement here.
The Navajo Nation has surpassed over 8,000 positive cases of COVID-19 after the Navajo Department of Health reported 61 new positive cases and four more deaths bringing the total number of COVID-19 positive cases for the Navajo Nation to 8,042. Meanwhile, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe announced 15 new positive COVID-19 cases on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, bringing the total number of confirmed cases on the reservation to 27.
President of the Navajo Nation Jonathan Nez used line-item vetoes on two bills distributing funds from a federal coronavirus relief package. President Jonathan Nez said in a statement that he vetoed $73 million in specific expenditures because council members attempted to “include pet projects and frivolous spending.”
Largely due to COVID-19, tribes in Wisconsin are lagging behind the rest of the state in Census response rates with only two of every ten households responding on average, compared to the state average of seven out of ten household response rate. Some census operations were put on hold as governments across the country put stay-at-home orders in place.
Keep reading for a full news update.
Presidential Message on the 50th Anniversary of the Federal Policy of Indian Self-Determination
The White House, July 8
On July 8, 1970, President Richard M. Nixon issued his “Special Message to the Congress on Indian Affairs,” which served to herald a new era in Federal Indian policy: Indian Self-Determination. My Administration has taken historic measures to build upon the legacy of the ISDEAA. In addition to signing the first-ever Presidential Proclamation recognizing missing and murdered indigenous peoples, I was proud to sign an Executive Order establishing both Operation Lady Justice and the Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives.
A Cartoonish Native American Towering Over Durango Has Divided The City. Should “The Chief” Stay Or Go?
The Colorado Sun, Nancy Lofholm, July 9
He has a wide grin under a big nose. A single feather dangles beside one of his braids. His hand is raised in a howdy-friendly wave. And his bow legs and moccasins are planted atop a commercial sign. He is “the chief,” a two-story-tall metal depiction of a Native American that has been part of the downtown Durango skyline since the 1940s. The chief used to be lit up in neon and pointing to a Native American-themed diner that served pancakes and fried chicken. He now stands in a parking lot just off Main Avenue pointing to a gallery that sells Native American art across the street.
Navajo Nation Surpasses 8,000 COVID-19 Cases
Native News Online, Levi Rickert, July 9
On Thursday, the Navajo Department of Health, in coordination with the Navajo Epidemiology Center and the Navajo Area Indian Health Service, reported 61 new COVID-19 positive cases for the Navajo Nation and four more deaths. The total number of deaths has reached 386 as of Thursday. Reports from all 12 health care facilities on and near the Navajo Nation indicate that approximately 5,731 individuals have recovered from COVID-19. 62,185 people have been tested for COVID-19. The total number of COVID-19 positive cases for the Navajo Nation is 8,042.
Cheyenne River Reservation Sees Spike In COVID-19 Cases
Native News Online, July 9
The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe on Tuesday announced 15 new positive COVID-19 cases on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. The additional cases bring the total number of confirmed cases on the reservation to 27. “The spike in cases is the result of one of our tribal citizens going to a medical facility off the reservation and was exposed to someone who had the virus,” Remi Bald Eagle, spokesperson for the tribe, told Native News Online on Wednesday.
‘Hard-to-count’ Native American Tribes Lag Behind Rest Of Wisconsin In Census Response
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Sarah Volpenhein, July 9
Wisconsin has the nation’s second-highest response rate to the census behind Minnesota, with nearly seven in 10 households having submitted responses. But in most tribal areas in the state, response rates are lagging far behind, with as few as two in every 10 households responding, more than three months since the constitutionally-required, decennial count began. U.S. Census officials point to disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic as part of what’s driving the low response rates. Some census operations were put on hold as governments across the country put stay-at-home orders in place.
Landmark Supreme Court Ruling Affirms Native American Rights In Oklahoma
The New York Times, Jack Healy, July 9
A 5-4 decision declaring that much of eastern Oklahoma is an Indian reservation could reshape criminal justice in the area by preventing state authorities from prosecuting Native Americans. The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that much of eastern Oklahoma falls within an Indian reservation, a decision that could reshape the criminal justice system by preventing state authorities from prosecuting offenses there that involve Native Americans.
Supreme Court Holds Much Of Oklahoma Is Native American Land
ABC News, Lauren Lantry, July 9
The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling on Thursday, held that nearly half of Oklahoma – home to 1.8 million residents – is Native American territory, saying any Native American resident on Native American land cannot be tried in state criminal court, and instead must be tried in federal court. “Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of federal criminal law,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion.
“Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word,” he wrote.
Justices Rule Swath Of Oklahoma Remains Tribal Reservation
AP News, Sean Murphy, July 9
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a large chunk of eastern Oklahoma remains an American Indian reservation, a decision that state and federal officials have warned could throw Oklahoma into chaos. The court’s 5-4 decision, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, means that Oklahoma prosecutors lack the authority to pursue criminal cases against American Indian defendants in parts of Oklahoma that include most of Tulsa, the state’s second-largest city.
In Landmark Decision, Supreme Court Rules That Nearly Half Of Oklahoma Is Indian Land
Native News Online, July 9
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that a significant swath of eastern Oklahoma remains American Indian land for certain legal purposes. The case, which was first argued more than a year ago and then pushed to the Supreme Court, is a major victory for tribal sovereignty and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. In a 5-4 decision, the country’s highest court ruled that Congress never “disestablished” the 1866 boundaries of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, which encompasses three million acres and includes most of the city of Tulsa. The ruling reaffirms that the land promised to the tribe by treaty remains rightfully theirs.
Supreme Court Ruling ‘Reaffirmed’ Sovereignty
Indian Country Today, Kolby KickingWoman, July 9
In a decision being hailed as a win for tribal sovereignty, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a large portion of eastern Oklahoma remains a reservation. In the 5-4 decision, the nation’s highest court said Congress never explicitly “disestablished” the 1866 boundaries of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. “Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of federal criminal law. Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word,” according to the majority opinion written by Justice Neil Gorsuch. Gorsuch was joined in the majority by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
Q&A: What Does McGirt Ruling Mean?
Indian Country Today, July 9
The nation’s top court ruled Thursday that a large portion of eastern Oklahoma remains tribal land, saying Congress never explicitly “disestablished” the 1866 boundaries of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. The decision was hailed as a win for tribal sovereignty but also raised questions about its potential implications. Here’s a look at what the ruling does and doesn’t do.
‘Good Day To Be Indigenous’: High Court Ruling Cheered
Indian Country Today, July 9
In a close decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday in favor of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in recognizing its treaty-defined borders. The ruling was hailed as a win for sovereignty, and is being celebrated by many in Indian Country. Here’s a look at what people are saying.
Navajo Nation President Vetoes Items From Federal Virus Aid
AP News, July 9
The president of the Navajo Nation used line-item vetoes on two bills distributing funds from a federal coronavirus relief package. The Navajo Nation Council passed two bills calling for the use of $93.1 million and $42 million from the $600 million the tribe received from the federal government May 6. President Jonathan Nez said in a statement that he vetoed $73 million in specific expenditures because council members attempted to “include pet projects and frivolous spending.” On Saturday, Nez eliminated $72 million from the $93.1 million approved by the council.
‘Model United Nations: Indigenous’ Is Offering Free Summer Programming
Indian Country Today, Nathan Balk King, July 9
These times call for activism, and for the youth to stand up and be the leaders and change-makers for our generation. Students all over the world learn about the United Nations and international systems of diplomacy and policy through the peer-based mentorship program, Model United Nations, or MUN. I got involved in the Model United Nations program and served as a delegate at the national high school conference in March 2018. I attended a school in Massachusetts with a very active model United Nations club and It was an amazing experience traveling to New York City, meeting delegates from around the world, and putting our months of hard work and preparation into action.
Seattle Advocates: Get Police Out Of Handling Homeless
Indian Country Today, Joaqlin Estus, July 9
The National Coalition to End Urban Indigenous Homelessness wrote to the mayor of Seattle this week demanding the removal of the Seattle police department from a team handling homelessness. It recommended that the $2.6 million that goes to police to address the issue instead go to organizations that specialize in serving Indigenous people experiencing homelessness.
Native Sports: From The ‘Rez To The Pros
Indian Country Today, Patty Talahongva, July 9
The coronavirus pandemic may be raging around the country, still colleges and universities are signing athletes to teams. If you want to know the latest news about which Native athlete has signed a letter of intent, you can check NDNsports. For 20 years this web based group has closely followed Native athletes in sports such as baseball, basketball, football, lacrosse, and running, to name a few. Brent Cahwee is the co-founder and he joins us today to talk about the number of Native athletes who are competing in sports at universities across the country.