Okmulgee, Okla.— Today, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation (“Nation”) filed suit against the City of Tulsa in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma.
The Nation’s suit alleges that Tulsa is deliberately and unlawfully prosecuting tribal citizens for conduct occurring within the Nation’s Reservation boundaries despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma, which affirmed that the Nation’s treaty-defined reservation boundaries remain intact, and that states and their political subdivisions accordingly have no criminal jurisdiction over Indians within those boundaries absent congressional authorization.
Tulsa’s ongoing prosecutions therefore violate federal law, infringe on the rights of Tribal citizens within the Nation’s jurisdiction, and interfere with the Nation’s federally protected right to self-government, including the functioning of its own comprehensive and robust criminal justice system.
The Mayor of Tulsa has recently stated that litigation is not the preferable means to resolve Indian country jurisdictional issues, and the Nation fully agrees. However, Tulsa is presently asserting criminal jurisdiction over individual Indians in the state and municipal courts, and aggressively so, notwithstanding clear and binding precedent against its practices. Tulsa cannot reasonably expect the Nation to stay on the sidelines while Tulsa attacks its sovereignty within the Nation’s Reservation in cases to which the Nation is not even a party.
Principal Chief David Hill stated: “Our Nation has always been a leader in the fight to defend tribal sovereignty. We continue to welcome government-to-government cooperation with the City of Tulsa. But we will not stand by and watch the City disregard our sovereignty and our own laws by requiring Muscogee and other tribal citizens to respond to citations in Tulsa city court because of the City’s make-believe legal theories.”
Geri Wisner, the Nation’s Attorney General, further explained: “We filed this suit today because the City of Tulsa is willingly and knowingly violating federal law. There is no legal basis for current city policies dealing with citizens of tribal nations and we are asking the court to require the city to follow the law.”
Today’s suit embodies these convictions, and the Nation looks forward to defending its sovereignty in federal court.