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On July 9, 2020, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma. Although the only actual effect of that decision was on Mr. McGirt’s state court criminal conviction, rendering it invalid in light of the continuing existence of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation, the implications of McGirt reverberated throughout Oklahoma and the nation. By rejecting Oklahoma’s arguments that the march to statehood had resulted in the implicit disestablishment of the Creek’s reservation (and, by analogy, those of the neighboring and similarly situated Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole Nations), Justice Gorsuch’s opinion on behalf of the Court’s majority reaffirmed that nearly all of eastern Oklahoma remains Indian Country. The governments of those Five Tribes now face the practical challenges posed by reclaiming territorial sovereignty mostly denied to them for over a century.


This paper is copyrighted by the author(s). It is available to the public through a collaboration between The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Native Nation Center at The University of Oklahoma. For more information, please visit: and

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