Muscogee citizens said they saw generations of contempt embedded in the hyperbole.
“There were a lot of scare tactics: We’re going turn the prisoners loose, give us your tax dollars, your land is our land,” Mr. Salsman, the Muscogee press secretary said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
The court’s decision will reshape how the criminal-justice system treats Native Americans by preventing state or local authorities from prosecuting Indigenous people who commit crimes on reservation land. Tribal or federal courts will now deal with their cases. The decision could also touch off a wave of new appeals from Indigenous people convicted by state courts.
When the Muscogee (Creek) Nation filed a brief with the Supreme Court arguing that the court honor the 19th-century treaties that created the reservation, it took pains to point out that the tribe already runs a fully functioning government. The Nation runs three hospitals, a police force and tribal court system and several casinos, which make up a major part of its $350 million budget, according to court filings. The Muscogee (Creek) attorney general pointed out that its police force regularly works with other law-enforcement agencies, and spent 12 hours last winter helping a sheriff’s office track down a non-Native suspect in a double murder.
“Our pride comes from understanding our responsibilities to our fellow Creek citizens and to the community as a whole,” said Jonodev Chaudhuri, a lawyer in Washington, D.C., who is also the Nation’s ambassador. “What it means to be Creek: It means having an obligation to respect our traditions, our culture, and to learn as much as I can about our history.”
Its complicated chapters are tied up in America’s history of slavery and racism. Members of the Five Tribes brought enslaved people West with them. During the Civil War, neutral Muscogees were attacked by Confederate troops and ultimately fought both for the Union and Confederacy during the Civil War, according to the tribe.
After the war, emancipated slaves known as Creek Freedmen settled in the Greenwood area of Tulsa. It blossomed into one of the wealthiest concentration of Black businesses anywhere in America, known as “Black Wall Street,” until white residents slaughtered more than 300 Black residents and torched the area in 1921, one of America’s most notorious racist massacres.
The Muscogee lost nearly half their lands in an 1866 Reconstruction treaty, and over the following decades saw them splintered off and sold to private owners. State officials began denying that there had ever been a Creek reservation on land that became Oklahoma.
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