ROGERS COUNTY, Okla. — Mixed reaction Thursday following the Supreme Court’s decision to essentially reverse part of the landmark McGirt ruling.
The Muscogee Creek Nation sent out a statement Wednesday but took time to speak with FOX23 via zoom to share their disappointment and perspective.
The Rogers County Sheriff and District Attorney also spoke with us sharing their praise for ruling and what it means for tribal members who are victims of crime by non-tribal members on tribal land.
“It is a win mostly for tribal citizens,” says Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton.
Sheriff Walton says it simply means they can protect tribal citizens by arresting non-tribal members who commit crimes on tribal lands and reservations and make sure they can help see the case through.
“More than anything it gives tribal citizens a justice system now,” he said.
Jason Salsman is the Press Secretary for Muscogee Creek Nation. He says they are going back to the drawing board.
“It is literally in our DNA as native people. When we have a step-back we use it to take a breather, compose ourselves and take that many more steps forward.
For the first time in two years, Rogers County District Attorney Matt Ballard says he can take the person the Sheriff’s office arrested, build a case against them and file charges. He says many cases would have gone to his desk before 2020.
“It is in the hundreds, hundreds of cases. A lot of victims who are out there who were not able to get justice because of this and this gives us the opportunity to step up, go to court, and hold people accountable,” Ballard explained.
Salsman says the last two years those cases went where they were supposed to.
“I think we have those victim advocacy lines, and those services and I think that is a commitment from our tribe to make sure our victims are taken care of,” he said.
But many have not been as the federal courts were jammed and criminals left unpunished.
Ballard explains, “In the Supreme Court’s opinion the federal filing rates have been 21 to 31 percent. There are a lot of cases that they do not have resources to file. We do.”
Salsman feels differently and believes the tribes were working to get funding and build the system they wanted.
“We understand there are facts about the situation where we do need to close some of those cracks,” Salsman said. “We have a history. I think and feel we could do it better and we could do it on our own.”
Either way, sheriff Walton says -- they are there to help.
“Being a Cherokee citizen myself I am not willing to give up a criminal justice system that protects my family,” Walton said.
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