Cherokee Nation to no longer fly Oklahoma flag, citing tribal sovereignty
In this 2019 photo, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. speaks during a news conference in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
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In a powerful move, the Cherokee Nation will no longer fly the Oklahoma flag on tribal property. The United States flag, along with the Cherokee flag, will remain.

The order was signed by Cherokee Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. All Oklahoma flags must be removed from land owned or leased by the Cherokee Nation by September 1.

However, if the Cherokee Nation hosts an Oklahoma dignitary, the flag will fly. Additionally, if the tribe is honoring service in the Oklahoma National Guard, the Oklahoma flag will be on display.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Hoskin Jr wrote a statement for NewsChannel8, stating “The Cherokee Nation remains a close partner and ally of the state of Oklahoma, and the executive order is not intended to send any message to the contrary. The Cherokee Nation is a sovereign entity with jurisdiction over our reservation, and the use of the Cherokee Nation flag on our land should reflect the strength and determination of the Cherokee people over these 113 years.”

He continued, “The Oklahoma state flag remains in use at events involving Oklahoma government leadership or honoring visiting dignitaries and service in the Oklahoma National Guard.” 

Tribal Sovereignty vs Oklahoma’s attempts to overreach

The news comes amidst tension between the sovereign nation and Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, who is actually enrolled as a Cherokee citizen. Governor Stitt has consistently voted against local and statewide support for the most populous Indigenous nation in Oklahoma. 

At least 141,000 Cherokee citizens live on or near the reservation in Oklahoma. Additionally, the tribal nation is the most populous in the United States, with nearly 400,000 citizens.

Meanwhile, Stitt’s status as an enrolled member of the Cherokee tribe is hotly contested. The governor’s tie to the sovereign nation hinges on one relative, who Cherokee officials have claimed actually bribed officials to confirm he was a member of the Cherokee tribe. 

The tension between the Cherokee Nation and Governor Stitt goes back to Stitt’s 2019 attempts not to renew tribal gaming compacts. The governor has also tangled with the tribe over the McGirt ruling, with which he disagrees. 

Change takes effect this Fall

In 2019, Stitt unsuccessfully attempted to avoid renewing the Cherokee Nation’s gaming compact with the state, which was set to automatically renew in 2020. The Cherokee Nation sued Stitt, and in a win for the tribe, a federal court in Oklahoma ruled that the gaming compact would automatically renew.

The McGirt ruling, which holds that criminal jurisdiction on tribal lands are a matter for tribal law enforcement and federal law enforcement rather than Oklahoma, is another source of tension. Governor Stitt regularly expresses his unhappiness with the Supreme Court’s ruling on the matter. 

Meanwhile, the move to avoid flying the Oklahoma flag suggests the sovereign tribal nation expresses its independence from the state that has consistently attempted to limit tribal sovereignty. Governor Stitt has not yet commented on the decision, which will go into effect this Fall. 

Erika Stone is a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Oklahoma, and a graduate assistant at Schusterman Library. A Chess Memorial Scholar, she has a B.A. in Psychology...