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What power should states have on Native American land?

The Supreme Court upended centuries of Indian law in its June ruling in Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta.
The Supreme Court upended centuries of Indian law in its June ruling in Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta.

In late June, the Supreme Court handed down a decision that expands the states’ authority over Native land. The conservative court ruled 5-4 in favor of Oklahoma in the case, allowing states to charge non-Indians who commit crimes against Indians on tribal land.

According to Justice Neil Gorsuch, who wrote the dissent, the ruling in Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta is “an embarrassing new entry into the anti-canon of Indian law … Truly, a more ahistorical and mistaken statement of Indian law would be hard to fathom.”

Justice Brett Kavanaugh disagreed.

“The Court today holds that Indian country within a State’s territory is part of a State, not separate from a State,” he wrote. “As a matter of state sovereignty, a State has jurisdiction over all of its territory, including Indian country.”

The ruling changes how crimes will be prosecuted and by whom. But it also has larger implications for the meaning of Indigenous sovereignty.

Copyright 2022 WAMU 88.5

Avery Kleinman