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Cherokee playwright Mary Kathryn Nagle targets 'racist narrative'

Mary Kathryn Nagle, an attorney and citizen of the Cherokee Nation, is a campaign to overturn a U.S. Supreme Court decision that limits tribal sovereignty, The Washington Post reports.

But Nagle isn't content on fighting Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe only in the courts or in policy circles. The critically-acclaimed playwright is using her new production, "Sovereignty," as a way to challenge the 1978 ruling.

“I can explain why the jurisprudence is wrong,” Nagle tells the Post of the decision. “But I also know that Brown v. the Board of Education didn’t happen in a vacuum. There was a whole movement going on across the country to change the narrative around racism. So, same thing: We have to change the racist narrative that supports Oliphant.”

In Oliphant, the Supreme Court held that tribes, due to their status as "domestic dependent nations," cannot exercise criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians. The ruling has left Indian women vulnerable to domestic violence and other crimes, attorneys and advocates like Nagle have said.

In recognition of the high rates of victimization, Congress began to chip away at Oliphant with the Violence Against Women Act of 2013. The law recognizes that tribes have the "inherent" authority to punish non-Indians, but only for a limited set of crimes and in a limited set of circumstances.

“Not many Americans know the facts,” Nagle said at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. “That’s one of the reasons why I wrote ‘Sovereignty.’”

"Sovereignty" is running at the Arena Stage in D.C. through February 18.

Read More on the Story:
Friends and playwrights tell stories that call for action on stage (The Washington Post January 25, 2018)

Related Stories:
Cherokee playwright Mary Kathryn Nagle secures U.S. Artists Award (January 22, 2018)
Mary Kathryn Nagle debuts 'Sovereignty' play at theater in nation's capital (January 17, 2018)