The Supreme Court has handed a big win to the sovereignty of Native American tribes. The Court’s ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma—that Congress did not disestablish Indian reservations when Oklahoma became a state in 1907—means that the eastern half of the state is now “Indian Country” and in large part under the rule of tribes like the Creek and the Cherokee. Liberals cheered. Neal Katyal, who served as solicitor general under President Obama, tweeted: “So good to see Tribes winning at SCOTUS.”
It’s strange for Democrats to cheer for sovereignty of Natives just because they have been mistreated in history and because President Trump and Oklahoma Republicans took the other side. Tribes are hardly bastions of liberal ideas in a host of areas, and they have a complicated history, to say the least.
For one thing, the tribes that will benefit from McGirt fought for the Confederacy and enslaved Africans. The Cherokee owned slaves and denied membership to the descendants of slaves—the so-called Cherokee freedmen—until forced to accept them in 2017, under the order of a federal district court.
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