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Politics and Government

Oklahoma Gov. Stitt's appearance on Fox News draws backlash, ire from tribal leaders

Governor Kevin Stitt (R) Oklahoma
Office of the Governor
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Gov. Kevin Stitt

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt is drawing criticism from tribal leaders after an appearance on Fox News Wednesday night.

Stitt told host Tucker Carlson that someone could "show their Indian card" and get a criminal conviction overturned. He was referencing cards that show citizenship in the six Oklahoma-based tribes that have jurisdiction to prosecute crimes that happen on their lands following the 2020 Supreme Court decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma.

Carlson falsely claimed in the segment that citizenship in those tribes is based on race. In reality, citizenship was determined by the Congressionally-created Dawes Commission in the late 1800s. And most of the crimes affected by the 2020 Supreme Court ruling have been re-prosecuted by federal prosecutors or tribal courts.

Tribal leaders including Choctaw Chief Gary Batton are responding to the Governor’s comments. Batton said the Governor is choosing to spread falsehoods, misinformation and racist ideas instead of cooperating with the tribes to ensure public safety.

“The Choctaw Nation has added more than 120 new public safety positions since the McGirt ruling, including 38 police officers, and our prosecutors filed 622 felony cases in 2021,” Batton said. “While some cases have moved from state to tribal or federal courts, the Choctaw Nation and other tribes are doing their duty and holding perpetrators accountable.”

Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. of the Cherokee Nation said he wasn't sure why Stitt was talking about the decision through a racial paradigm.

"Unfortunately, it has this effect of diminishing the already low knowledge base in this country about what it means to be Native American," said Hoskin. "Political classification, sovereign nations — I can say that for months and months and months. He goes on one of the most popular primetime cable news shows, and it really infects the country with this ignorance."

The issue is back in the news because the U.S. Supreme Court is set to consider in late April whether the state should have concurrent jurisdiction over non-Indians when they commit crimes on reservation land.

"Tribal nations, along with our intergovernmental partners, continue to ensure the safety of our communities and our neighbors, and we have expanded our criminal justice systems to handle our increased obligations,” Hoskin said. “We have dozens of agreements in place that allow law enforcement officers to continue to do their jobs, and we are disappointed the Governor continues to lie and denigrate that work.”

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.

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