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Muscogee Nation sues City of Tulsa, accusing it of violating McGirt precedent

Downtown Tulsa
Mick Haupt
Downtown Tulsa

The Muscogee Nation is suing the City of Tulsa, accusing the city of unlawfully prosecuting tribal citizens despite the McGirt v. Oklahoma ruling.

The lawsuit names Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, Police Wendell Franklin and City attorney Jack Blair. The nation is seeking injunctions against the city because they say Tulsa continues to prosecute Native people for traffic offenses committed within the tribal nation's reservation boundaries.

This is despite a 10th Circuit ruling in Hooper v. City of Tulsa telling local police Native people must be prosecuted in tribal court.

Muscogee Nation writes in its filing that between the beginning of the year and through the end of October, Tulsa hasn’t referred a single traffic citation to tribal courts, while other municipalities in the reservation have filed 1,083.

"Our Nation has always been a leader in the fight to defend tribal sovereignty," Principal Chief David Hill said in a written statement. "We will not stand by and watch the City disregard our sovereignty and our own laws by requiring Muscogee and other tribal citizens to respond to citations in Tulsa city court because of the City’s make-believe legal theories."

Muscogee Nation attorney general Geri Wisner says her office has tried to work with city officials to resolve any issues over who has the power to prosecute traffic offenses.

"However, we walk away unsuccessful in trying to reach any kind of agreement," she said. "It's about tickets. It's about traffic. And at the end of the day, it is simply about money."

City officials say they’re committed to working with the tribes, reiterating Bynum’s comments at a recent city address. However, the case is continuing as the city continues its fight to collect traffic tickets from Native drivers in federal court.

This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.

Allison Herrera is a radio and print journalist who's worked for PRX's The World, Colorado Public Radio as the climate and environment editor and as a freelance reporter for High Country News’ Indigenous Affairs desk.
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