Half of Oklahoma Is Native American Land

(130728) -- NEW YORK, July 28, 2013 (Xinhua) -- A native Indian in traditonal dress performs during the pow wow in New York City, the United States, July 27, 2013. Over 40 Indian tribes will present themselves during New York City 's oldest and largest three-day pow wow intertribal native American dance competitions starting from July 27. A modern Pow Wow is a historically traditional event where native American people compete in dancing and singing, and non-native American people meet to honor American Indian culture. (Xinhua/Wang Lei) (srb)

In a landmark case, the US Supreme Court has ruled that about half of Oklahoma state belonged to the Native Americans.

Thursday’s decision in McGirt v Oklahoma is seen as one of the most far-reaching cases for Native Americans before the highest US court in decades, the BBC said in a report.

The ruling means some tribe members found guilty in state courts for offences committed on the land at issue can now challenge their convictions.

On Thursday, the Justices decided 5-4 that an eastern chunk of the state, including its second-biggest city, Tulsa, should be recognised as part of a reservation.

Jimcy McGirt, who was convicted in 1997 of raping a girl, brought the case citing the historical claim of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation to the land where the assault occurred.

The ruling overturned McGirt’s prison sentence.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, a conservative appointed by President Donald Trump, sided with the court’s four liberals and also wrote the opinion.

A native Indian in traditonal dress performs during the pow wow in New York City, the United States. (Xinhua/Wang Lei) (srb)

He referred to the Trail of Tears, the forcible 19th Century relocation of Native Americans, including the Creek Nation, to Oklahoma, the BBC report added.

The US government said at the time that the new land would belong to the tribes in perpetuity.

Justice Gorsuch wrote: “Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of federal criminal law.

“Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word.”

In a joint statement, the Five Tribes of Oklahoma – Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole and Muscogee Nation – welcomed the ruling.

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