By Jack Healy and Adam Liptak – The New York Times
A 5-4 decision declaring that much of eastern Oklahoma is an Indian reservation could reshape criminal justice in the area by preventing state authorities from prosecuting Native Americans.
The Supreme Court ruled that much of eastern Oklahoma falls within an Indian reservation, a decision that could reshape the criminal justice system by preventing state authorities from prosecuting offenses there that involve Native Americans.
The 5-to-4 decision, potentially one of the most consequential legal victories for Native Americans in decades, could have far-reaching implications for the people who live across what the court affirmed was Indian Country. The lands include much of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s second-biggest city.
The case was steeped in the United States government’s long history of brutal removals and broken treaties with Indigenous tribes, and grappled with whether lands of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation had remained a reservation after Oklahoma became a state.
A New Map of Oklahoma
The Supreme Court ruled that much of eastern Oklahoma falls within an Indian reservation.
The decision puts in doubt hundreds of state convictions of Native Americans and could change the handling of prosecutions across a vast swath of the state. Lawyers were also examining whether it had broader implications for taxing, zoning and other government functions. But many of the specific impacts will be determined by negotiations between state and federal authorities and five Native American tribes in Oklahoma.