On the surface-level at least, this seems like a major victory for native rights and may actually be, even if the overarching presence of the federal regime remains. If the lumpenproletariat (the most oppressed social class) is the class vanguard in the struggle against the state, Native American tribes (the most oppressed ethnic communities) would have to be the ethnic vanguard.
By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday recognized about half of Oklahoma as Native American reservation land and overturned a tribe member’s rape conviction because the location where the crime was committed should have been considered outside the reach of state criminal law.
The justices ruled 5-4 in favor of a man named Jimcy McGirt and agreed that the site of the rape should have been recognized as part of a reservation based on the historical claim of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation – beyond the jurisdiction of state authorities.
The decision means that for the first time much of eastern Oklahoma is legally considered reservation land. More than 1.8 million people live in the land at issue, including roughly 400,000 in Tulsa, Oklahoma’s second-largest city.
Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the ruling, joining the court’s four liberals in the majority.
Gorsuch referenced the complex historical record that started with the forced relocation by the U.S. government of Native Americans, including the Creek Nation, to Oklahoma in a traumatic 19th century event known as the “trail of tears.” At the time, the U.S. government pledged that the new land would be theirs in perpetuity.
“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,” Gorsuch wrote.
Gorsuch rejected the state’s arguments, which he said would require turning a “blind eye” to the federal government’s past promises.
In a joint statement, the state, the Creek Nation and the other four of what is known as the “Five Tribes” of Oklahoma said they were making “substantial progress” toward an agreement on shared jurisdiction that they would present to the federal government. The other tribes are the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole.