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TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Council of the Cherokee Nation on Thursday passed legislation designed to address the opportunities and challenges created by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last month in McGirt v. Oklahoma.

Since the historic decision that ruled a significant swath of eastern Oklahoma remains American Indian land for certain legal purposes, there has been concern about its implementation.

Yesterday’s legislation, labeled the “Cherokee Nation Reservation, Judicial Expansion and Sovereignty Protection Act,” will protect the sovereignty of Cherokee Nation and its land, as affirmed by the high court’s decision, while protecting the health and welfare of Cherokee citizens and neighbors throughout the state of Oklahoma.

The Act went into effect immediately upon passage.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. said the passage of the Act made clear that the Cherokee Nation is committed to affirming its sovereignty, while taking the necessary steps to expand our capacity and resources in the wake of the McGirt decision.

“Alongside the recently established sovereignty commission, today’s action will enable us to ensure our law enforcement and public safety systems can continue to function effectively as we respond to this historic Supreme Court victory for Indian Country,” Hoskin said in a statement. 

The Act authorizes the expansion of Cherokee Nation’s judiciary, prosecution staff and marshal service to ensure adequate court, prosecution and law enforcement capacity, incarceration and rehabilitation services, as well as other important resources.

It will allow key Cherokee Nation agencies to enter into agreements, evaluate resources, and for courts to appoint referees who meet the Constitutional and statutory requirements for appointment. It also allows the Cherokee Nation to go after grants or federal funding for adequate staffing and resources.

The legislation passed unanimously.

“The Cherokee Nation is committed to fighting for our rights and our sovereignty, and with this act we can continue to do so while ensuring our communities have the resources and capacity they need,” District 9 Tribal Councilor Mike Shambaugh said. “I look forward to working with my fellow Council members, Chief Hoskin, and all of the Cherokee Nation to continue to address the challenges presented by the court decision and fight for the best outcomes for our people.”

On August 13, Chief Hoskin established the Commission for the Protection of Cherokee Nation Sovereignty. Alongside the Act, the commission will make recommendations and examine related areas on how the Cherokee Nation can best respond to the McGirt decision.

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Levi Rickert
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Levi "Calm Before the Storm" Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected].