Members of Oklahoma's congressional delegation should ignore a letter from a conservative think tank that wants Congress to formally disestablish five tribal reservations that make up the eastern half of the state.
The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs argue this must be done in order "to ensure fairness, certainty and unity for all Oklahomans." Leaders of the Oklahoma City-based think tank contend the U.S. Supreme Court decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, which determined the land conveyed by treaty to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation "remains an Indian reservation for the purposes of federal criminal law," will stoke "bitterness and revenge" by "two sets of rules" and "new injustices."
The arguments set out in the organization's five-page letter dredges up arguments dismissed by Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch and four other justices who signed on to the 5-4 decision. OCPA, following the Oklahoma Tax Commission's lead, appears to be stirring a pot of discontent and sowing confusion in an attempt to advance some private business interest — it would be no surprise to find the oil and gas industry's fingers in this pot.
During the appeals of the state's convictions of Jimcy McGirt and Patrick Murphy, lawyers arguing for the state of Oklahoma exaggerated and overstated claims of the turmoil that might ensue if the court ruled the way it did in McGirt. But the high court notes the tribes that make Oklahoma their home have partnered with the state already on issues OCPA contends will become a problem: taxation, gaming and regulatory issues like vehicle registration, and hunting and fishing licenses.
Where there are no agreements in place, there are legal doctrines "designed to protect those who have reasonably labored under a mistaken understanding of the law." Rather than falling prey to the fear mongering, it would be wise to look toward the law for guidance as we sort through any uncertainty that might arise as a result of the McGirt decision.
Broken promises litter the landscape of American history. We must demand our leaders in Congress rise above that sad part of the past.