QUAPAW, Oklahoma - The Quapaw Nation today responded to the Supreme Court of the United State's ruling in Oklahoma v. Castro Huerta. The case presented a jurisdictional question about whether the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction to prosecute certain major crimes in Indian Country or whether the federal government and the state of Oklahoma have concurrent jurisdiction to prosecute those crimes.
fIn a 5-4 ruling delivered by Justice Brett Kavanaugh and joined by Roberts, Thomas, Alito and Barrett, the high court dramatically expanded states' ability to prosecute crimes on Indian land. The Court’s majority opinion stated, "The Federal Government and the State have concurrent jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed by non-Indians against Indians in Indian country." The ruling is a reversal of the precedent set in the landmark McGirt v. Oklahoma ruling only two years ago, which cited more than 120 years of federal law granting federal courts "exclusive jurisdiction" to try "all criminal causes for the punishment of any offense."Justice Neil Gorsuch, who authored the majority opinion in McGirt v. Oklahoma, led a scathing dissent in Castro v. Huerta. Justices Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan joined him. He dissented, in part, by saying:“This Court has no business usurping congressional decisions about the appropriate balance between federal, tribal, and state interests. If the Court’s ruling today sounds like a legislative committee report touting the benefits of some newly proposed bill, that’s because it is exactly that. And given that a nine-member court is a poor substitute for the people’s elected representatives, it is no surprise that the Court’s cost-benefit analysis is radically incomplete. The Court’s decision is not a judicial interpretation of the law’s meaning; it is the pastiche of a legislative process.”Quapaw Nation Business Committee Chairman Joseph Tali Byrd joined Gorsuch's scathing review of the majority opinion.
"Today, the United States Supreme Court rendered a decision that is an affront on tribal sovereignty and erodes centuries of well-settled federal Indian Law. By inserting itself into an area reserved specifically for Congress, SCOTUS signals that plenary power is no longer absolute when it comes to Indian affairs," Chairman Byrd said.Byrd graduated from the University of New Mexico School of Law and earned a Masters of Jurisprudence in Indian Law from the University of Tulsa College of Law. He served as a law clerk at the Department of Justice in Washington D.C. and the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico.
"The Quapaw Nation remains steadfast and committed to ensuring public safety for all citizens within our reservation and will continue to work with the state of Oklahoma in a concurrent jurisdiction framework."
Chairman Byrd currently serves as the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Eastern Oklahoma liaison to the Biden administration on the Tribal Nations Leadership Council (TNLC). The TNLC confers with the Attorney General's Department of Justice on expanded criminal jurisdiction, taxation, tribal sovereignty and more. The BIA's Eastern Oklahoma Region includes nearly 20 tribes and all six tribes - Muscogee (Creek), Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Seminole and Quapaw - whose reservations were reaffirmed under McGirt and other similar cases since 2020.
The Quapaw Nation is the gateway to Indian Territory. Based in Ottawa County, Oklahoma, it borders Kansas and Missouri and is a stone’s throw from Arkansas. It’s also the first tribal reservation visitors encounter as they enter Oklahoma driving west on Interstate-44. Learn more at www.quapawtribe.com.