Governor Stitt is a member of one of the five major tribes in Eastern Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation, making his outspoken opposition to Native American tribal sovereignty all the more shocking. courtesy @GovStitt on Twitter

Kevin Stitt attacks tribal sovereignty again

The Oklahoma Governor uses MLK Day for his personal agenda.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt has never been short of controversy when it comes to his interactions with Native American tribes within the state. An enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, Stitt has come under fire from his own tribe and their neighboring tribes for his stance on the McGirt v. Oklahoma ruling from last year.

This ruling confirmed that a major portion of Eastern Oklahoma is still considered the reservation land of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole, and therefore prosecution of crimes committed by Native Americans falls primarily under the jurisdiction of the tribal court systems, as well as federal judiciary as per the Major Crimes Act of 1885.

The governor has spoken out publicly against the ruling, citing concerns that “The Supreme Court’s McGirt decision created a public safety threat for tribal and non-tribal members. As governor, it’s my first priority to ensure the safety of 4-million Oklahomans.” The Cherokee Nation replied that they were prepared for the decision, working hard to ensure that safety of citizens will be maintained and claiming that for decades now Oklahoma had illegally exerted authority to prosecute Native Americans on reservation land. The acknowledgement of such is a step towards progress, despite Stitt’s misgivings about it.

However, Stitt has taken a new approach to his outspoken opposition to the McGirt ruling. During a Martin Luther King Jr. Day speech, he invoked the name of this hero of the Civil Rights Movement in the midst of reiterating previous points, predicting that King might be “disgusted” by the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“I believe that freedom fighters like Dr. King would be astounded, maybe even disgusted by the McGirt ruling,” stated Stitt. “Because the ruling created two sets of rules for Oklahomans, based on their race. In eastern Oklahoma right now, there is not equal protection under the law.”

There are a couple issues with the statement made by Governor Stitt to address. First of all, the Muscogee Nation is correct in saying that Dr. King “…stood for truth and justice. [Stitt’s] pouting and dishonest fear-mongering about the effect of tribal sovereignty exhibit neither.” Governor Stitt is not Dr. King by a long shot. The tribal members and leadership desire to revitalize and sustain the cultures that they have built for themselves after their forced relocation to Oklahoma centuries ago, and to deny them this is the exact opposite of equal rights for all Americans. That being said, to put words in the mouth of one of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement leaders who fought so hard for equality and to compare this situation to that fight is truly “disgusting” and dishonorable to the memory of this great man.

Second, it is clear that Stitt’s priorities are not in alignment with the needs of the people of Oklahoma. Cherokee Nation Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. has stated that the governor should “… redirect his hysterics over tribal sovereignty into something productive.” What does Oklahoma gain by destroying Native American sovereignty when efforts could be focused on issues such as funding problems for public schools, or any number of other problems? Instead of a discussion on addressing more pressing situations, Governor Stitt seems hellbent on dragging McGirt v. Oklahoma through the mud, revoking Native American hunting and fishing licenses and other negative actions directed towards Native Americans, a people that Stitt claims as his own.

In a recent meeting between the leaders of the tribes in Eastern Oklahoma, Gary Button, a chief of the Choctaw Nation, said, “We need to desperately see who we’re going to support for governor in this upcoming election.” It appears that the principal chiefs of Oklahoma, a voice representing at least 400,000 people in the state, will be looking to unseat Governor Stitt in the 2022 election, and this justified desire may be in the best interest of these cultural groups.

Post Author: Logan Guthrie