Chickasaw Nation weighs in after mandate stayed in key “Indian Country” case

Collaborator: Brittany Harlow
Published: 04/05/2021, 1:54 PM
Edited: 04/06/2021, 12:37 PM
(TISHOMINGO, Okla.) During our interview with Stephen Greetham, Senior Counsel to the Chickasaw Nation, he wanted to make one thing abundantly clear. “We didn’t bring the case,” Greetham said. “We didn’t choose the consequences. Federal statute did.” The case in question is Shaun Michael Bosse v. The State of Oklahoma. “That’s the case that came down here in Chickasaw Nation,” Greetham said. “That’s a non-Indian family who brutally murdered a Chickasaw family. We take no pleasure in the fact that he has now been able to capitalize on the McGirt ruling and have his state conviction tossed out. We grieve with the family on that.” But, Greetham said, their jurisdiction is what it is. “We would rather be able to sit down with the state and compact and figure out an appropriate way that we can work together as the primary jurisdictions on the ground as to how to handle these cases,” Greetham said. “But we would need Congress to enact a statute that would allow us in that narrow subject area to do a compact on that.” Greetham said the Chickasaw Nation can compact with the state on policing and jailing, but not prosecuting major crimes like murder. That’s because of legislation back in 1885 regarding the Major Crimes Act (Section 1153 of Title 18). Click here for more information: “Because those federal statutes provide for exclusive federal jurisdiction, our hands are tied,” Greetham said. Last summer, the US Supreme Court ruled in McGirt v. Oklahoma that the State of Oklahoma has no legal jurisdiction over crimes involving American Indians committed on tribal lands, because their reservations had never been disestablished by Congress. On March 11, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals backed up the Supreme Court’s McGirt decision, reversing the Bosse judgement and sentence and staying their mandate for 20 days. On the final day of that stay, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter filed a motion for a rehearing in the case, stating it was warranted because the court overlooked arguments and reached a conclusion that conflicts with the state’s post-conviction statutes. “We continue to believe the state has jurisdiction over non-Native Americans on tribal reservation lands, even if the federal government also has jurisdiction,” Hunter said in a press release. “Exclusive federal jurisdiction only applies to Native Americans.” Hunter also asked the Court of Criminal Appeals to further stay the mandate, which some law enforcement offices interpret to affect all inmates with pending cases tied to tribal nations. Click here to read the motion: Counsel for Bosse objected to the filing and made motions to strike the petition for rehearing and further stay of the mandate the following day. The Chickasaw Nation also asked the court to take their thoughts on the matter into consideration via an amicus brief. “We don’t think there’s reason to retry the case,” Greetham said. “However, transitioning from the jurisdictional errors of the past several generations to what federal law requires is not something you do with the flick of a switch. There are multiple police and law enforcement offices on the state, federal and tribal level that are all coordinating right now. And there are hundreds of criminal defendants that are now making motions for release in courts throughout Chickasaw Nation. “ Thus, Greetham said, they asked the court to extend the stay of the mandate for 60 days. For now, the stay has been extended until the Court of Criminal Appeals makes a decision on what happens next. A ruling is expected any day. No matter what happens, Greetham said, the Chickasaw Nation recognizes there’s a lot of work involved and they’re going to get it done. “I challenge the notion that there’s some irredeemable problem that there’s only one solution to,” Greetham said. “There’s all sorts of solutions. The one we select and are advocating for is we want Congress to let us compact on it. And if Congress does not allow us to, the federal government’s going to have to step up and we’re going to be pushing them to do so. And we would look to our state partners to likewise be working with us to make sure the federal government is appropriately pushed to do what it needs to do.” As for any misconceptions about the Chickasaw Nation or those dating back to the Major Crimes Act itself, Greetham said they are ready to take those on, too. “There’s this myth of this disappearing Indian,” Greetham said. “That somehow tribes are not a part of today. When Governor Stitt pulled together his Commission on Cooperative Sovereignty, one of the criticisms that was leveled on the report that came out of that, I believe it came from Chief Hoskin of Cherokee Nation, was Governor Stitt is very comfortable talking about tribes as part of the past. What he needs to recognize is tribes are part of the present and they’re going to be part of the future.” “I’m proud to work for the Chickasaw Nation and Governor Bill Anoatubby and we set a pretty high bar as far as the work we do. So, anyone who wants to suggest that we aren’t up to this, clearly doesn’t know the Chickasaw Nation or what they’re talking about.” Related story:


This story has no comments yet