Gov. Stitt uses MLK Jr.'s legacy to denounce Supreme Court's McGirt ruling and tribal sovereignty
'Comparing it to slavery today on MLK Day. How insulting. I’ll tell my son, my daughter and my grandchildren, 'Don’t ever give up your power because colonizers tell you to.' '
Oklahoma Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt has opened up a new line of offense against the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 McGirt decision by claiming that Martin Luther King Jr. would have been been opposed to the ruling on race-based grounds.
"I believe that freedom fighters like Dr. King would be astounded, maybe even disgusted, by the McGirt ruling,” Stitt said yesterday at an Oklahoma City gathering focused on MLK Jr.’s legacy, according to local news reports.
“The ruling created two sets of rules for Oklahomans based on their race,” the governor continued. “In Eastern Oklahoma, right now, there is not equal protection under the law."
Stitt gave no indication that he understands that Native Americans and tribes have a special status rooted in federal, treaty, trust and tribal law that is based on political — not race-based — distinctions. The governor’s spokesman has not responded to requests for comment from Indigenous Wire on whether the governor understands the difference.
Stitt, himself a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, has been against the ruling since the moment it was handed down, largely because he fears it takes too much authority away from the state, while restoring it to tribes given that their treaties were never extinguished. Chaos has resulted, he has argued.
The high court’s ruling, supported by liberal and conservative justices, found that the reservations of several tribes in the state were never disestablished. The decision meant that the state does not have jurisdiction to prosecute major crimes involving tribal citizens in much of eastern Oklahoma, including within Tulsa.
The governor has complained that the federal government has been using the ruling to shortchange his state’s interests by working directly with tribes on various issues beyond criminal jurisdiction matters. He and other state lawmakers have painted tribes as not up to the task of carrying out the duties that the Supreme Court says is under their purview.
Various lawsuits from Oklahoma and Stitt attempting to roll back McGirt have been unsuccessful to date.
Stitt, meanwhile, has been quite successful in uniting tribes — some with diverging interests — against his leadership.
“Let’s be clear, @GovStitt, you are no Martin Luther King Jr,” the official Twitter account of the Muscogee Nation posted soon after Stitt’s MLK Jr. Day statement. “He stood for truth and justice. Your pouting and dishonest fear-mongering about the effect of tribal sovereignty exhibit neither.”
“You simply can’t make this stuff up,” added Chuck Hoskin Jr., the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, on Facebook. “The idea that Dr. King would join Governor Stitt’s effort to fuel #McGirt hysteria and destroy the reservations of Indian nations is absurd. If today is a day to join together to shine light on darkness, here is some darkness.”
“What a noxious person our Governor is,” Ben Barnes, chief of the Shawnee Nation wrote on Facebook.
January Hoskin, the Cherokee Nation First Lady, added some context for both Native and non-Native citizens after her husband’s post: