The US supreme court has ruled that a large part of eastern Oklahoma remains a Native American reservation, a decision state and federal officials warn could throw the entire state into chaos.
Jonodev Chaudhuri, the ambassador of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and a former chief justice of the tribe’s supreme court, said the state’s argument that such a ruling would cause legal havoc was overblown.
Forrest Tahdooahnippah, a Comanche Nation citizen and attorney who specialises in tribal law, said the ruling’s short-term implications are largely confined to the criminal context and that serious felonies committed by Native Americans in parts of eastern Oklahoma will be subject to federal jurisdiction.
The case centred on an appeal by a Native American who claimed that state courts had no authority to try him for a crime committed on reservation land that belongs to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation
The supreme court failed to reach a decision last term when it reviewed a federal appeals court ruling in a separate case that threw out a state murder conviction and death sentence
In that case, the appeals court said the crime occurred on land assigned to the tribe before Oklahoma became a state and Congress never clearly eliminated the Creek Nation reservation it created in 1866
Oklahoma state courts rejected his argument that his case did not belong in Oklahoma state courts and that it should be handled by federal prosecutors
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