The Cherokee Nation has filed more than 400 criminal cases since its eastern Oklahoma reservation was formally recognized last month and needs help from Congress to meet jurisdictional obligations that reach into 14 counties, reports the Oklahoman. Cherokee Nation Attorney General Sara Hill said the tribe will need financial aid to expand its criminal justice system, but also needs federal legislation allowing more flexibility in how cases are prosecuted. She renewed the tribe’s call for congressional authority to negotiate a compact with the state regarding criminal jurisdiction on the reservation. Hill told reporters on Tuesday that 440 cases had been refiled in its tribal court. Last week, the Choctaw Nation said it was prepared to file 125 cases in its court.
Members of the Five Tribes had been preparing for months — hiring more marshals, prosecutors, judges and victims’ advocates and coordinating with local law enforcement officials. Hill said the Cherokee Nation invested $10 million in the effort and is seeking a $2 million federal grant to hire special assistant U.S. attorneys who can file cases in tribal and federal courts. Cherokee Nation officials had been talking to the Oklahoma congressional delegation about legislation that would preserve the tribe’s sovereignty but allow state prosecutors to handle some cases involving Native Americans. The Chickasaw Nation also supports the approach of allowing each tribe to negotiate separately with the state on jurisdiction. In a statement to The Oklahoman last month, Senator Jim Inhofe said he was “working with state officials, the tribes and the delegation to find solutions that ensure criminals are prosecuted and brought to justice. Our number one priority continues to be the safety of each and every Oklahoman.