Guest Column | An attack on tribal sovereignty
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s continues to attack McGirt v. Oklahoma, falsely claiming tribal citizenship is based on race and repeatedly called it an “Indian card.” The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in McGirt was a landmark decision for Native treaty rights. The decision by the highest court is celebrated as a major win for tribes and their inherent rights to govern themselves.
Stitt and his administration have been using scare tactics and misinformation to polarize Oklahomans and undermine tribal sovereignty. The United States Supreme Court is expected to review McGirt sometime this month.
By Crystal Echo Hawk
We are outraged by Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s hypocrisy and blatant race baiting.
He deliberately continues to dog whistle and galvanize his base who clearly don’t understand the concept of tribal citizenship or tribal sovereignty.
Governor Stitt is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Despite the lies he told during an interview this week to Tucker Carlson on Fox News, including that tribal citizenship is based on race and repeatedly calling it an “Indian card,” he knows very well that none of this is true.
Tribes are governmental and political entities, not racial groups. Tribal citizenship is a political status and not a racial classification. This is a principle embedded in U.S. law from the very beginning and explicitly recognized by the Supreme Court.
Tribal nations pre-date the United States and the tribes that remain in existence today have persevered through centuries of violent atrocities and policies designed to eradicate tribes altogether.
If you are a citizen of a tribe today, that means at one point one of your grandparents survived a massacre, a forced removal, or some other form of genocide. Being a citizen of a tribal nation isn’t a joke, and it’s much more than a Sam’s Club card.
But this is a deeper, more nefarious issue. Governor Stitt is spreading lies and using race baiting to appeal to his right-winged, racist base to get reelected.
Stitt is leveraging McGirt to appeal to his base because he thinks that disinformation and scare tactics are the best way to maintain control over Oklahoma.
He has weaponized McGirt, falsely claiming that it has created a public safety crisis, when it has not. In reality, the court’s decision in McGirt in no way alters or changes the federal law previously in place governing which sovereign can prosecute which crime on tribal reservations.
Stitt’s comments are an attack on tribal sovereignty because he is threatened by our autonomy. He does not care about the epidemic of violence currently raging against Native peoples, he only cares about power and is more than willing to deceive Oklahomans in the process.
Stitt’s attempt to deflate the significance of citizenship in a tribal nation is not new, nor is it original. He’s following the playbook designed and set out by President Andrew Jackson who, like Stitt, attacked and denigrated tribal citizenship.
Just as Stitt advocates for a world where tribes no longer maintain their historic borders or sovereignty within the subsequently formed Oklahoma state, Jackson advocated to eliminate all tribes within the newly formed United States.
President Jackson’s efforts to eliminate tribes and their citizens ultimately failed, but in the process they caused serious harm. Governor Stitt’s attacks cause harm too, and they will continue unless he is voted out of office.
We need to vote racism and bigotry out of office this year, starting with Governor Stitt and his anti-Native administration.
The Native electorate is powerful. Come election season, we will support the candidates who will honor the federal government’s promises and uphold tribal nations’ inherent right to exist and govern.
Crystal Echo Hawk is founder and executive director of IllumiNative.