Principal Chief James Floyd of the Muscogee Nation. Photo: Muscogee Creek Nation
Law | National

Muscogee Nation welcomes decision affirming the boundaries of its reservation





The Muscogee (Creek) Nation is welcoming a federal court decision that confirms the boundaries of its reservation in Oklahoma remain intact.

By a unanimous vote, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday said Congress never "disestablished" the reservation even though portions were parceled out during the allotment era. In a statement to The Tulsa World, Chief James Floyd called the 126-page decision a "complete and unqualified victory."

“Today’s unanimous decision is a complete and unqualified victory for not only the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, but all of Indian Country,” Floyd said in the statement to the paper. “The court endorsed every principal argument that the Nation advanced to find that Congress did not disestablish the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation boundaries and that its 1866 boundaries remain intact."

The state argued the opposite as it asserted authority over an Indian allotment where Patrick Dwayne Murphy, a Muscogee citizen, is accused of murdering a fellow citizen in 1999. He was sentenced to death for the crime but the 10th Circuit vacated his conviction because the land is considered Indian Country, subject to federal jurisdiction.

“Everyone has always assumed there were no reservations in Oklahoma and this is the first time we’ve gotten the 10th Circuit to say, yes the reservation is still there, Congress never took action to disestablish or diminish it,” Klint Cowan, an attorney for the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, whose leaders submitted a brief in the case, told The World

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter is reviewing the decision, The Oklahoman reported. He could step aside and let the federal government prosecute Murphy. He could also ask the 10th Circuit for a rehearing or pursue an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Just last year, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Nebraska v. Parker. By a unanimous 8-0 vote the justices held that the reservation of the Omaha Tribe had not been diminished.

The ruling also reaffirmed the criteria used in diminishment cases. The foremost factor is whether Congress has disestablished a reservation, something that the 10th Circuit said did not happen with respect to the Muscogee Nation.

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case, Murphy v. Royal.

Read More on the Story:
Experts: Court ruling overturning Native American man's murder conviction, death penalty could have huge implications (The Tulsa World August 8, 2017)
Court overturns Oklahoma man's murder conviction, death sentence (The Oklahoman August 8, 2017)
Appeals Court Overturns McIntosh County Man's Conviction, Sentence (AP August 9, 2017)

10th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision:
Murphy v. Royal (August 8, 2017)

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Muscogee Nation citizen wins reversal of death penalty conviction in Oklahoma (August 8, 2017)
Appeals court hears slew of Indian cases amid focus on Supreme Court nominee (March 23, 2017)