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In a stunning blow to Oklahoma’s state government, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that much of eastern Oklahoma is located on an Indian reservation.

The opinion was also an acknowledgment by the nation’s highest court that the U.S. government has, time and time again, broken promises to Indian tribes. The Supreme Court’s opinion means that at least for the matter of this land, the government must keep its commitment.

“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,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion.

“While there can be no question that Congress established a reservation for the Creek Nation, it’s equally clear that Congress has since broken more than a few of its promises to the Tribe,” he wrote. “Not least, the land described in the parties’ treaties, once undivided and held by the Tribe, is now fractured into pieces.”

The Muscogee (Creek), Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminole and Chickasaw Nations — which make up the Five Civilized Tribes — were hoping for a ruling that would uphold their sovereignty and the status of their lands as reservations, which currently make up around 19 million acres and nearly the entire eastern half of Oklahoma, including much of Tulsa.

“The Supreme Court reaffirmed today that when the United States makes promises, the courts will keep those promises,” Ian Heath Gershengorn, who argued a related case before the Supreme Court, said in a statement. “Congress persuaded the Creek Nation to walk the Trail of Tears with promises of a reservation — and the Court today correctly recognized that this reservation endures.”


The tribes and the state of Oklahoma have been waiting on a decision on the matter for years.

In a joint statement, the Five Tribes of Oklahoma - Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole and Muscogee Nation - welcomed the ruling.

They pledged to work with federal and state authorities to agree shared jurisdiction over the land.

"The Nations and the state are committed to implementing a framework of shared jurisdiction that will preserve sovereign interests and rights to self-government while affirming jurisdictional understandings, procedures, laws and regulations that support public safety, our economy and private property rights," the statement said.
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Responses to "US Supreme Court rules half of Oklahoma is Native American land"

  1. Well, I will not hold my breath until that comes to pass. Of all the peoples living in North America (including Canada) the PEOPLE that deserve restitution for the horrible treatment endured and all the lands stolen from them it is the entire INDIAN nation of tribes! Have they not endured enough suffering so that the invaders could live free and prosper?

  2. Rward3726 says:

    Now enforce ALL previous treaties!

  3. Unknown says:

    Bout time!

  4. CLS says:

    Land transfer could surely come to pass unless you have to deal with a blue state, then corruption & decline will rule the day...just sayin!

  5. Unknown says:

    CLS: It's the BLUE States that hold compassion and equality in their moral obligations and by-laws for Democracy. Majority of Republican States want everything for themselves, are racists, and have denied the virus, shelter-in-place guidelines to eradicate the virus, social distancing and refusal of mask wearing. Don't tell us about Blue States, as you don't know what you are talking about! it is about time the Native American's get their land and promises kept by all people and States, whether Blue or Red!

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