Standing Bear takes aim at legal challenge to McGirt

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

The principal chief of the Osage Nation issued a statement Oct. 25, sharply criticizing municipalities and other organizations, and Oklahoma state political leaders who are attempting to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn its landmark July 2020 decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma.

In McGirt, the court ruled that a large portion of eastern Oklahoma remained Native American reservation property because Congress failed to take the actions necessary for disestablishment. One result is that federal and tribal courts now have jurisdiction over many criminal cases that formerly were handled by state courts.

The Associated Press reported Saturday, Oct. 23 that the Oklahoma cities of Tulsa and Owasso, as well as law enforcement and business entities, and the states of Texas, Kansas, Louisiana and Nebraska had filed briefs in support of Oklahoma state government's request that the U.S. Supreme Court overturn its McGirt decision.

Standing Bear issued a statement the following Monday, saying the following:

“The city of Tulsa has filed a legal case opposing the Oklahoma Indian Nations. They challenge the United States Supreme Court decision which says the reservation of the Muscogee Nation still exists.

"The Osage Nation opposes the officials who made this happen. We support the United States Constitution which contains clauses recognizing the Indian tribal nations. We reject the loud and boisterous statements from a generation of Oklahoma leaders which pays lip service to the Indian nations when seeking investment and monetary support, but then turns on us and works against progress.

"As courts continue to affirm tribal nation reservation boundaries, it is worrisome that these few, but influential Oklahoma state and local leaders, are fighting to weaken us. An attack on one Native Nation’s sovereignty is an attack of all Native Nations. An Osage shield adorns the State Flag of Oklahoma. It is a symbol of our efforts to protect all Oklahomans. To attack us contradicts our gestures of goodwill.”

There are now six Native American nations that have been recognized by the Oklahoma court system as being covered by the U.S. Supreme Court's holding in McGirt. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Oct. 21 issued a ruling that added the Quapaw nation to the list, along with the Muscogee (Creek), Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole nations.

The Osage Nation recently made an argument in a court brief that it, also, should be covered by McGirt. The amicus, or friend of the court, brief in which the Osage Nation made its argument was filed in a case that was dismissed when the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals decided that McGirt had no bearing on criminal cases in which all appeals had been exhausted. The result of that limitation on the application of McGirt had the effect of effectively rejecting the Osage Nation's argument for the time being.