The Chickasaw Nation has been at the forefront of the pushback against Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, which at its core, is about money. Prior to the McGirt decision, Stitt’s attempt to renegotiate the gaming compacts between the tribal nations and the state, which expired in 2019 as he was taking office, did not go well. Oklahoma is home to the most Indian Casinos and Gaming Centers in the country. As Stitt pushed to increase the state’s share and mimic the agreements reflected in other states, the tribes objected to both the terms and the timeline.
A total of 33 tribes currently operate 143 casino sites across the state, for a total annual impact of nearly $9.8 billion.
This is very big money for little Oklahoma.
Why the Tribes Dislike Stitt: Casinos, Crime & Cannabis
The Chickasaw Nation has been at the forefront of the pushback against Stitt, which at its core, is about money. Prior to the McGirt decision, Stitt’s attempt to renegotiate the gaming compacts between the tribal nations and the state, which expired in 2019 as he was taking office, did not go well. Oklahoma is home to the most Indian Casinos and Gaming Centers in the country. As Stitt pushed to increase the state’s share and mimic the agreements reflected in other states, the tribes objected to both the terms and the timeline.
A total of 33 tribes currently operate 143 casino sites across the state, for a total annual impact of nearly $9.8 billion. This is very big money for little Oklahoma.
The idea that the any tribal money might be used to accuse anyone else of increasing crime in Oklahoma would be less than self-reflective. While the gambling industry will gladly provide data accompanied by illogical narratives to suggest a decrease in crime occurs with the introduction of casinos, the communities themselves frequently have a very different set of observations. In February of 2022, a suspected serial killer called a detective and family member from the Cherokee Casino in Tahlequah, and confessed to two murders.
An additional disagreement between Stitt and the tribes over hunting and fishing compacts furthered the divide, leaving some to believe a recent Supreme Court case, McGirt v. Oklahoma, was more about pushback related to revenue than criminal jurisdictions.
The McGirt Decision
In 2021, Stitt spoke out forcefully against the release of criminals strangely determined by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in the case McGirt v. Oklahoma to be outside of state jurisdiction and within the bounds of one of the Native tribes of Oklahoma. These lands include Tulsa and a portion of eastern Oklahoma roughly the size of South Carolina that have been bought and sold privately for generations.
If, in fact, the tribes of Oklahoma are proven to be behind the group’s attack on Stitt as soft on crime, the hypocrisy would be immeasurable given McGirt, a member of the Creek Nation, was a convicted child rapist granted a new trial based on tribal claim to the land where he was first tried.
Jimcy McGirt, regardless of his heritage, is a monster. He is a lifelong child molester with victims in multiple Oklahoma counties. McGirt, in 1989, while in his 30’s, was convicted on two counts of forcible oral sodomy involving children in Oklahoma County. In 1997, while in his 40’s, he was convicted of first degree rape by instrumentation, lewd molestation, and forcible sodomy of a then 4-year-old in Wagoner County.
While serving his two 500-year sentences and a sentence of life without parole, McGirt’s time in prison was not spent reflecting on his heinous behavior, but in filing endless grievances, legal petitions and appeals of petitions reflecting his dissatisfaction with the treatment he received while incarcerated, with all related legal fees paid by the state’s taxpayers.
Court records show more than 25 filings with McGirt as petitioner, appellant or his own attorney as he argued mistreatment related to everything from an unresolved “sinus infection complaint” to “unequal treatment” for being denied emergency leave to visit his mother in the hospital because he was accurately deemed a threat to the community.
McGirt, now 73, has only concern for his own circumstances and remains void of any remorse about his actions or compassion for the children he has harmed in such a devastating way, yet his latest, self-authored attempt to avoid the punishment he deserves was used to argue that the state did not have jurisdiction to prosecute him, as a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, because he molested the child on Indian lands, claiming Congress had never disestablished the reservation. Nearly a century and a half ago at the time of Oklahoma’s formation as a state, Native and non-Native peoples made a joint decision to abandon the reservation system to live as Oklahomans with mutual respect for the many sub-cultures within the new state.
Nevertheless, multiple tribal governments of Oklahoma supported McGirt’s latest sociopathic thinking and were more than willing to place MGirt’s victims aside, including the Seminole child he molested in Wagoner County, if it gave them more power over much of the state.
In 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in McGirt’s favor, recognizing McGirt’s identity over his atrocities, and causing a tidal wave of injustice for victims across Oklahoma, as the decision was quickly determined to also include the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole Nations.
Inexplicably, yet predictably based on history and the current popularity of identity politics, the Supreme Court recognized the reservation in the McGirt case as an independent nation outside of the legal jurisdiction of the state, while somehow retaining the federal government’s right to intercede on the same land. Though specifically designed by the nation’s founding fathers not to do so, the Supreme Court has repeatedly been swayed on critical topics by the thinking of the day. In the same way the culture of the 1970’s resulted in a faulty and now overturned Roe vs. Wade ruling, the current wave of wokism has burdened all of Oklahoma with the McGirt ruling.
With only tribes and the federal government, not the state, retaining jurisdiction over major crimes involving tribal members occurring on reservation land (approximately 45% of the state), the likelihood of prosecution in these cases plummeted.
Alexander B. Gray, an expert at the American Foreign Policy Council, former Trump administration Chief of Staff of the National Security Council, fourth generation Oklahoman and recent U.S. Senate candidate, summarized the insanity of the decision:
“The consequence of this disastrous jurisprudence is hard to overstate, both practically and philosophically. Over 18,000 criminal cases have been moved to Federal jurisdiction since McGirt, overwhelming a federal court system that is completely unprepared to handle this volume of cases traditionally handled at the state level. Justice is also being undone in numerous cases, with murderers, rapists and more being let out of prison, free to commit additional crimes. The victims are Natives and non-Natives alike; too often, it is tribal citizens who are bearing the brunt of this crime wave unleashed by the nation’s Highest Court.”
The response to Gray’s expression of the facts in this case has been both emotionally based and threatening:
Native Oklahomans are Oklahomans
For those outside of Oklahoma, the perception of life in the state can often be misconstrued as two worlds, significantly separated from one another, with the tribal nations having a separate infrastructure from Oklahoma’s other towns and communities. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Native Oklahomans live and work in communities across the state, side-by-side with non-Native neighbors. They attend public schools, drive on the same roads and highways, and generally share most major aspects of daily living with their non-Native counterparts. Oklahomans are most often visually indistinguishable as belonging to one group or the another.
The lands called into new criminal jurisdiction by the McGirt decision include dozens of cities, towns and communities, such as Tulsa, McAlester and Ardmore, that have no relation to tribal governments and include millions of people of varied heritages. Governor Stitt expressed his concerns for all Oklahomans in the wake of the McGirt decision.
In contradiction to the messages of the Conservative Voice of America, the McGirt decision fallout is proving Stitt to be the champion of law and order, with the tribes choosing power, identity politics and control over protecting their own.
While federal prosecution is necessary and possible in these cases, the FBI field office in Oklahoma City reports being overwhelmed with new cases since the decision. With a typical annual caseload of around 50, the FBI office has been flooded with thousands of cases post-McGirt, causing them to select the most serious cases for prosecution and release those they do not have the manpower to pursue. Lawlessness applauds and victims are abandoned.
Tribal Governments, Identity Politics and Selective Sovereignty
While the tribes would like to pick, choose and retain veto power over which state-funded services are provided on the lands affected by the McGirt decision, Stitt sees things differently in maintaining that all Oklahomans deserve safety and protection. The tribes may be responding to that disagreement by joining the Steal Team and adding their own dark money entity to the many already gunning for Stitt.
As the conflict continues, the need for a defined authority willing to consistently arrest and prosecute criminals in eastern Oklahoma in the wake of McGirt is impossible to deny. According to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation’s (OSBI) 2020 Uniform Crime Report (most recently released data) for the state, eastern Oklahoma continues to see more than it’s share of the state’s violent crime.
During 2020, with less than a year under the McGirt ruling, the report reveals several alarming, year-over-year changes related to crime in Oklahoma, including a 15.3% increase in murders, a 10.3% increase in aggravated assaults, and a 14.3% decrease in overall arrests.
“In 2020, law enforcement agencies reported 92,109 arrests, and of those arrests, 93.4% were adults. When comparing 2020 arrests to 2016 (five years prior), all arrests (juvenile and adult) have decreased 22.7%, and when compared to 2011, all arrests have decreased 38.5%. From 2011-2020, all arrests have decreased each year by an average of 5.2% per year, and the largest decrease (14.3%) occurred in 2020.” – OSBI 2020 Uniform Crime Report
Most alarming, given the loss of state jurisdiction over crimes involving Native Oklahomans, the report revealed a 220% increase in the number of ‘American Indians’ murdered in 2020 over 2019 (10 in 2019; 32 in 2020). The tragic effects of the McGirt decision were felt immediately and most profoundly by Native Oklahomans. Neither the tribes nor the federal government can show they’ve implemented a solid and observable strategy for quelling the violence, leaving no one responsible or accountable.
Unlike the state government, which is responsible for the maintenance of law, order and criminal prosecution where it has jurisdiction, the tribes have enjoyed a relationship with state and county courts based on options, yet ultimately not true responsibilities for tribal nations.
If the story of McGirt teaches us anything, it’s that the merging of identity politics and the criminal justice reform movement has created an illogical and dangerous pathology that leaves the innocent, particularly tribal Oklahomans and their children, to be targeted, and places all law-abiding citizens at greater risk. The internal divisiveness of identity politics is showing as tribal citizens process the changes, with many being unsupportive of blocking the state from prosecuting crimes against them.
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