By Eamonn Burke
In a major win for Native American rights, the Supreme Court decided in a ruling yesterday that roughly half of the state of Oklahoma are Native American conservation lands. The case was brought about by a convicted rapist named Jimcy McGirt, a member of the Seminole nation, who claimed that he could not be prosecuted by the state of Oklahoma because the assault occurred on lands claimed by the Muscogee Creek Nation.
Although the federal government can still prosecute the people of this land – about 1.8 million in population (15% Native American) and 3 million acres in size – they are protected from the state and may even be exempt from state taxes.
It was Neil Gorsuch, a Trump appointee, who tipped the 5-4 vote to the liberals, citing the Trail of Tears as precedent and reasoning that “Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word.” Tribal leaders of the Five Tribes of Oklahoma favored the ruling. Republican Chief Justice John Roberts, however, believes that the decision will damage the Oklahoma state court’s authority.
The 71 year old McGirt accused of raping a young girl in 1997 was spared of a prison sentence but could still be tried in federal court.