Principal Chief David Hill and Second Chief Del Beaver (Facebook: Principal Chief David Hill)
Shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its 5-4 ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma, determining that nearly half (47 percent) of Oklahoma was Tribal land pursuant to an 1886 treaty, five Tribes and Oklahoma’s Attorney General Mike Hunter announced an agreement-in-principle on how to best move forward. The five Tribes involved in the agreement were the Muscogee (Creek), Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole Nations.
That agreement-in-principle now appears to be in jeopardy, as Muscogee (Creek) Principal Chief David Hill and Seminole Nation Chief Greg Chilcoat have withdrawn and come out against it. The primary issue appears to be the agreement-in-principle’s call for congressional legislation that recognizes Tribal sovereignty while also “affirming continuity of the State of Oklahoma’s jurisdiction within Eastern Oklahoma but outside of Indian trust or restricted lands.”
“I want to inform you that Muscogee (Creek) Nation is not in agreement with the proposed Agreement-in-Principle document released yesterday by the State of Oklahoma,” Principal Chief Hill wrote in a July 17 letter to Muscogee (Creek) Nation citizens. “I very much believe that collaboration between federal, state, and Tribal governments is critical and necessary following the Supreme Court’s decision in McGirt. That collaboration, however, does not require congressional legislation.”
“The Nation will continue to pursue all appropriate intergovernmental agreements to ensure public safety within its borders, as intergovernmental agreements are the hallmark of respect among sovereigns,” he continued. “In fact, many such agreements already exist and we will continue to build upon them, but the Muscogee (Creek) Nation will oppose any proposed legislation that diminishes the Nation’s sovereignty.”
“The Seminole Nation has not been involved with discussions regarding proposed legislation between the other four tribes and the State of Oklahoma,” said Seminole Nation Chief Greg Chilcoat in a separate statement. “Furthermore, the Seminole Nation has not engaged in any such discussions with the State of Oklahoma, including with the Attorney General, to develop a framework for clarifying respective jurisdictions and to ensure collaboration among tribal, state and federal authorities regarding the administration of justice across Seminole Nation lands.”
Oklahoma’s Attorney General, Mike Hunter, is standing by his call for legislation. In a statement issued after the Muscogee (Creek)’s withdrawal, he said, “legislation is necessary to clarify the criminal and civil uncertainty created by the McGirt decision.”
“It is my hope that both the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and the Seminole Nation will recommit to our agreement on legislation that preserves public safety and promotes continued economic growth,” he continued.