The five tribes of Oklahoma – the Cherokee, Chikaso, Choctaw and Seminole, and the Muskogee nation – proudly maintain their traditions. The US Supreme Court ruled that approximately half of the state of Oklahoma belongs to them – Native Americans.
The judges ruled that the entire eastern part of the state, including its second largest city, Tulsa, should be recognized as part of the reservation. The verdict passed on Thursday in the McGirt v. Oklahoma case – it is seen as one of the most serious cases against Native Americans in recent decades.
This decision means that some members of the tribe found guilty in state courts for crimes committed on the land in question can now challenge them. Only federal prosecutors will have the right to prosecute Native Americans in the area.
About 1.8 million people, of whom about 15% are Native Americans, live on land that spans three million acres. The decision was made on the basis of the Trail of Tears – the forcible resettlement of 19th century Native Americans, including the Creek nation, to Oklahoma. Then the US government announced that the new land would belong to the tribes forever.
Jimcy McGirt, now 71 years old, was convicted in 1997 in Wagoner County for raping a four-year-old girl. He did not dispute his guilt in the Supreme Court, but argued that only the federal authorities should have the right to prosecute him. McGirt is a member of the Seminole Nation.