Washington, July 10 (IANS) 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.
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.