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The Muscogee (Creek) Nation initiated legal action on Wednesday by filing a federal lawsuit against the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The tribe asserts that Tulsa law enforcement persistently issues citations to Native American drivers within the tribe’s reservation boundaries, undeterred by a recent federal appeals court ruling.
This ruling declared that issuing traffic tickets to Native American drivers within reservation boundaries is beyond their jurisdiction and is in violation of federally protected tribal sovereignty.
In June, the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Tulsa lacks the jurisdiction to prosecute Native Americans within tribal jurisdiction.
The court sided with a Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma citizen cited for speeding in 2018
The lawsuit filed in federal court on Wednesday names the city, Mayor GT Bynum, Police Chief Wendell Franklin, and City Attorney Jack Blair as defendants.
This legal action marks Oklahoma’s latest dispute regarding tribal sovereignty. It follows the 2020 US Supreme Court ruling, which affirmed the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation, extending across a large area of Tulsa.
Muscogee (Creek) Nation continues to fight for sovereignty
The lawsuit contends that by issuing citations to Native American drivers within reservation boundaries without referring the citations to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation for prosecution, the city of Tulsa is infringing on their right to be self-governing.
The document notes that while other municipalities within the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s boundaries have referred over 1,000 traffic citations to the tribe for prosecution, Tulsa has refused to do so.
Federal lawsuit challenges “make-believe legal theories”
As stated in the lawsuit, “Tulsa’s prosecution of Indians for conduct occurring within the Creek Reservation constitutes an ongoing violation of federal law and irreparably harms the Nation’s sovereignty by subjecting Indians within the Creek Reservation to laws and a criminal justice system other than the laws and system maintained by the Nation.”
Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill emphasized, “We will not stand by and watch the City disregard our sovereignty and our own laws by requiring Muscogee and other tribal citizens to respond to citations in Tulsa city court because of the City’s make-believe legal theories.”
According to The Guardian, a spokesperson for Mayor Bynum stated that the lawsuit is unnecessary, saying, “This latest lawsuit is a duplication of several lawsuits that are already pending in state and federal courts to decide these issues.”