Tribal governments, indigenous communities, and national Indian organizations are applauding yesterday’s landmark decision in McGirt vs Oklahoma, a Supreme Court case that treaty-defined boundaries of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation still remain in full force today.
Through treaty, the United States “solemnly guarantied” the Muscogee (Creek) Nation their reservation as a “permanent home” in exchange for leaving their eastern homelands (Treaty with the Creeks (1832) and Treaty with the Creeks (1833)). In a later treaty, the United States reaffirmed that the reservation was “forever set apart as a home for said Creek Nation” (Treaty with the Creeks (1866)).
Today’s historic decision by the United States Supreme Court reaffirms that understanding. In issuing the opinion of the Court, Justice Neil Gorsuch said, “Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of federal criminal law. Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word.”
“Through two terms of the United States Supreme Court, and as many cases and fact patterns, this question has loomed over federal Indian law. This morning, NCAI joins the rest of Indian Country in congratulating the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and proudly asserting that its lands remain, and will forever be considered, Indian country – as guaranteed in their treaty relationship with the United States,” said NCAI President Fawn Sharp.
NARF Executive Director John Echohawk responded to the decision, “In this case, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation had to fight long and hard to protect their homelands, which were promised in their treaty agreements with the United States. In holding the federal government to its treaty obligations, the U.S. Supreme Court put to rest what never should have been at question. We congratulate the Nation on its success.”