“Supreme Court Ruling: Nearly Half Of Oklahoma Under Tribal Control”

“Millions of acres in the eastern half of Oklahoma remain part of a Native American reservation for criminal law purposes, the Supreme Court said today in a sharply divided ruling that could have implications for oil and gas development in the state.

This morning's 5-4 decision put an end to a stalemate over whether 3 million acres of land, including part of the city of Tulsa, remained within the boundaries of Indian Country under an 1832 treaty struck with the Creek Nation after the U.S. government forced members of the tribe from their lands in Georgia and Alabama. The decision also recognized four other reservations in the state, bringing the total reservation land to 19 million acres.

“Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of federal criminal law,” Justice Neil Gorsuch, joined by the court's four liberal justices, wrote for the majority. “Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word.””

Niina H. Farah reports for E&E News July 9, 2020.