Spoken by Madonna Thunder Hawk – Lakota Peoples’ Law Project Organizer.
Lost in the tumult in Mr. Audience of One’s tax issues at the Supreme Court was another momentous and far reaching decision.
The Supreme Court ruled that the American government must abide by treaties it signed with the Native American population in the 19th century. Nearly half the State of Oklahoma will now be controlled, in large part, by descendents of its original inhabitants and rightful owners.
The Court has sent a strong message. Treaties, agreements and boundary lines are important and have the force of law.
Excerpted from Washington Post 7.9.2020
In a 5-to-4 decision invoking the country’s long history of mistreating Native Americans, the court said “we hold the government to its word” and the land Congress promised to the Creek Nation is still Indian land.
“If Congress wishes to withdraw its promises, it must say so. Unlawful acts, performed long enough and with sufficient vigor, are never enough to amend the law,” wrote Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, who was joined by the court’s liberal justices.
To hold otherwise would be to elevate the most brazen and longstanding injustices over the law,” Gorsuch said, “both rewarding wrong and failing those in the right.”
The dissent, led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., warned of significant upheaval in the criminal justice system, and in other areas of government such as taxing and zoning. But state and tribal leaders downplayed those concerns and said they are negotiating an agreement to address jurisdictional issues.
Most directly, the ruling means that federal officers, not state authorities, have the power to prosecute tribal members for major crimes committed in the defined area. Less certain is how the decision affects the authority of state and city leaders when it comes to imposing taxes, zoning laws and other regulations.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter and leaders of five tribal groups issued a joint statement after the ruling indicating they have made “substantial progress toward an agreement” to submit to Congress and the Justice Department that would put in place a “framework of shared jurisdiction.”