To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Observercast

Stitt’s ‘Box Canyon With No Exits’

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I’ll bet our tone deaf dandy of a governor wishes he had just stayed in bed a couple of days ago instead of tooling up the Turner Turnpike to T-Town for what turned out to be a disastrous one way dialogue with several hundred of his constituents, most of whom also happen to be Native Americans.

Logistically and visually, Gen. George Custer himself could have told Stitt he was walking into a box canyon with no exits but it probably wouldn’t have done any good. Stitt thinks he can talk his way out of every predicament which, for the most part, he creates himself.

Let me explain.

Although Kevin claims he is a member of the Cherokee Nation he acts more like a member of the 7th Cavalry from the 19th century. As a gesture of, I guess, good faith toward tribal members concerning the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling known as McGirt, our governor’s office arranged for a two-hour public hearing on the topic in the heart of Indian Country.

Stitt, plus four elected Eastern Oklahoma district attorneys, served as panelists and hundreds of Native Americans in the audience quickly recognized they had no voice among the speakers. No chiefs or governors of their tribes, which are sovereign nations, were seen in the room, let alone on the dais and, therefore, things quickly got out of hand.

The event, scheduled for two hours, mercifully ended before just one when Stitt and the DAs waved white flags and made a run for the doors. And it was there that Gov. told Nondoc reporter Tres Savage what most everybody has already figured out: He wants the McGirt opinion not just modified but completely repealed and, since it is viewed as the greatest victory for tribes since Little Big Horn, he should have anticipated the less-than-warm welcome he and others received.

By the way, no smoke from peace pipes seen in the convention hall but plenty filled the air coming out the ears of the attendees.

For full disclosure, Stitt and the four district attorneys, all of whom are white men, were poorly treated by some in the audience. A few were unruly, disruptive and behaviorally challenged but since they have been mistreated, abused, robbed, even murdered by “The System” for generations and centuries, it would be hard to have predicted anything else.

Now, the important question for all Oklahomans to answer is: What’s next? And the possible responses thereto depend on whom you ask. Following are just a few of the challenges already known.

First, Stitt wants The Supremes to repeal their 5-4 opinion completely. That’s about as likely as The Five Tribes [the word “Civilized” has been dropped] who were forced here from the southeastern United States, getting their lands back in Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and a few other states as well. Ain’t going to happen. Minor modifications to the court ruling? Maybe. Repeal? Never.

Second, our state keeps trying to play the dominant role in adjudicating crimes committed on tribal lands by tribal members. That too isn’t going to happen either. Why? Because the federal and tribal governments themselves have long been the main players in such matters and McGirt reaffirmed, and solidified, that relationship.

Does that create even more mayhem in their courts – federal and tribal ones? Yes. Do the five Supremes who affirmed McGirt much care? Doesn’t seem like it.

Third, some think this crisis will be settled soon. No way. Oklahoma does not have an Attorney General right now due to Mike Hunter’s resignation. Ryan Leonard, Stitt’s lead negotiator with at least five of our 39 tribes, has $10 million of your tax money appropriated by the Legislature to do his legal work. The tribes have billions and dozens of the best lawyers in America to represent them. Sounds like Little Big Horn again.

Fourth, Stitt and his previous attorneys hired to battle the tribes have never won a case [think gaming compacts] and there is little evidence Leonard, who is the son of retired federal Judge Tim Leonard and wife Nancy, will even be remotely ready to argue this complex and convoluted legal nightmare anytime soon. Winning it is even a more distant possibility due to overlapping and conflicting law, precedent, treaties, customs and statutes.

Fifth, if you think our congressional delegation, led by Chickasaw Nation member Tom Cole, is about to side with Clueless Kevin in this matter, I’ve also got a guaranteed formula for you to win at blackjack in the casinos. Just send me a stamped, self-addressed envelope and $25 to …

Stitt led with his glass chin in Tulsa, got it shattered, so why would our seven federal lawmakers stick theirs out for him? They wouldn’t, shouldn’t and won’t.

Sixth, and closely related to fifth above, our tribes donate huge amounts of money to both state and federal legislators. Why would they cut off their noses, native or otherwise, to defend the indefensible, meaning Stitt, to whom the tribal leaders will contribute exactly nothing to in his upcoming re-election contest. They will do the exact opposite.

In closing, McGirt, the plaintiff who brought just one of the many cases related to tribal jurisdiction as it pertains to criminal activity, remains in state custody for now. That won’t last forever, but the confusion, disturbances and myriad of questions related to the decision in his name may – or at least as long as the “sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow.”

Native Americans obviously remember and treasure those last words. Apparently Gov. Stitt has never even heard of them.

Cal Hobson
Cal Hobson, a Lexington Democrat, served in the Oklahoma Legislature from 1978-2006, including one term as Senate President Pro Tempore.