OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan. 22, 2021) – In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on July 9, 2020, in McGirt v. Oklahoma, which recognized the continued existence of the Creek reservation for purposes of the Major Crimes Act, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt today has welcomed the leaders of the Five Civilized Tribes to enter into formal negotiations with the state to address and resolve the potential issues that have arisen because of the watershed McGirt ruling.
“As the commonly-elected Governor for all 4 million Oklahomans, it is critically important that the State of Oklahoma and the leaders of Oklahoma’s tribes impacted by the McGirt decision begin negotiations, in earnest, to resolve the potential ramifications of this ruling,” said Gov. Stitt. “Under Oklahoma law, which is consistent with Oklahoma’s Constitution, the Governor of Oklahoma has the authority to negotiate and enter into cooperative agreements on behalf of the state with Oklahoma’s Native American tribes. Oklahoma law also allows me to designate a lead negotiator for the state, and for this role I am designating Ryan Leonard, Special Counsel for Native American Affairs.”
The governor continued, “As all who have read the Supreme Court’s opinion know, the McGirt decision was limited to matters of criminal jurisdiction. In that regard, ensuring the public safety of all Oklahomans and providing certainty and adequate resources for the men and women in law enforcement in eastern Oklahoma is of paramount importance. As things stand today, crimes are going unpunished, and convicted criminals are seeking to be set free. We can’t allow this to happen.”
“Some have also suggested that McGirt may potentially be expanded to civil issues that could negatively impact the state’s tax base, as well as undermine certain regulatory and zoning authority in eastern Oklahoma. As both an Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, my response to those suggestions is that Oklahoma’s future success is dependent upon our common values of certainty, fairness and unity being embraced by all. Working together is how we make Oklahoma a Top Ten state.”
Governor Stitt and other state officials have been in discussions with tribal leaders for many months concerning the potential impacts of the McGirt ruling.
“Now is the time to roll up our sleeves to resolve the issues raised by McGirt in a manner consistent with the best interests of all Oklahomans,” Stitt said.