Indianz.Com > News > ‘An attack on tribal sovereignty’: Tribal organizations respond to U.S. Supreme Court ruling
Fawn Sharp
Fawn Sharp serves as president of the National Congress of American Indians, a position she won at the organization’s annual convention in 2019. She is seen here at that meeting, which took place in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Photo by Kevin Abourezk
NARF/NCAI Joint Statement on Castro-Huerta v. Oklahoma SCOTUS Ruling
Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The following is the text of a June 29, 2022, news release from the Native American Rights Fund and the National Congress of American Indians.

Washington — Today, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, overturned the long-held understanding that states do not have authority to prosecute non-Indians who commit crimes against Indians in Indian country. The Court, in Castro-Huerta v. Oklahoma, held that “the Federal Government and the State have concurrent jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed by non-Indians against Indians in Indian country,” which strikes against tribal sovereignty and jurisdiction to protect tribal citizens. The consequences of the decision–for Tribal Nations, the federal government, and states–will take time to unravel.

“The Supreme Court’s decision today is an attack on tribal sovereignty and the hard-fought progress of our ancestors to exercise our inherent sovereignty over our own territories,” said National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) President Fawn Sharp. “It was only a few months ago that Congress loudly supported tribal sovereignty and tribal criminal jurisdiction with the passage of the Violence Against Women’s Act, reaffirming the right of Tribal Nations to protect their own people and communities, but make no mistake, today, the Supreme Court has dealt a massive blow to tribal sovereignty and Congress must, again, respond.”

John Echohawk, Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) agreed. “Unauthorized and unconsented intrusions on tribal sovereignty are antithetical to tribal sovereignty and tribal treaty rights.”

The Castro-Huerta case was a continuation of the 2020 McGirt decision, which reaffirmed the reservation lands of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and, in effect, reaffirmed that much of Oklahoma remains Indian country to this day for legal purposes. In response, the state of Oklahoma has filed multiple suits trying to overturn or weaken the McGirt decision. With today’s decision, Oklahoma has not only weakened a component of the McGirt case, but has fundamentally altered the long-established understanding of how criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians functions with respect to the federal government, state governments, and Tribal Nation governments.

In the dissent, Justice Gorsuch stated: “Where this Court once stood firm, today it wilts. After the Cherokee’s exile to what became Oklahoma, the federal government promised the Tribe that it would remain forever free from interference by state authorities. Only the Tribe or the federal government could punish crimes by or against tribal members on tribal lands. At various points in its history, Oklahoma has chafed at this limitation….Where our predecessors refused to participate in one State’s unlawful power grab at the expense of the Cherokee, today’s Court accedes to another’s.”

Read the Opinion:

Tribal Leader Virtual Roundtable: July 7
NARF and NCAI will continue to analyze the decision and its consequences. NARF and NCAI will hold a tribal leader virtual roundtable on Thursday, July 7, 2022, at 2 p.m. EDT to discuss the ramifications of the case and potential next steps to defend tribal sovereignty.

About the National Congress of American Indians
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) is the oldest, largest, and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the United States. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies. NCAI promotes an understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people, and rights. For more information, visit

About the Native American Rights Fund (NARF)
NARF is a non-profit 501c(3) organization focused on applying existing laws and treaties to guarantee that federal and state governments live up to their legal obligations to Native Americans. Since 1970, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) has provided specialized legal assistance to Indian tribes, organizations, and individuals nationwide to assert and defended the most important Native rights. In hundreds of major cases, and NARF has achieved significant results in critical areas such as tribal sovereignty, treaty rights, natural resource protection, voting rights, and Indian education. Like us on Facebook and follow us Twitter @NDNrights to learn about the latest fights to promote justice and protect Native American rights.

U.S. Supreme Court Decision in Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta
Syllabus | Opinion [Kavanaugh] | Dissent [Gorsuch] | Complete Document

U.S. Supreme Court Documents in Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta
Questions Presented | Docket Sheet: No. 21-429 | Oral Argument Transcript | Day Call

Syllabus – Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta

Opinion [Kavanaugh] – Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta

Dissent [Gorsuch] – Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta

Full Document – Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta

Related Stories
U.S. Supreme Court decision in Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta (June 29, 2022)
Chuck Hoskin: Cherokee Nation stands up for sovereignty (June 6, 2022)
Supreme Court confirms leak as ‘authentic’ amid uncertainty for Indian Country (May 3, 2022)
SCOTUSblog: Supreme Court takes up Indian Country jurisdiction case (May 2, 2022)
Gaylord News: Tribes united as Supreme Court takes up sovereignty case (April 28, 2022)
U.S. Supreme Court – Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta (April 27, 2022)
Gaylord News: Oklahoma tribes defend sovereignty as Supreme Court weighs big case (April 26, 2022)
Supreme Court takes up contentious Indian Country case on final day of session (April 26, 2022)
Supreme Court nominee advances with show of support for tribal sovereignty (April 5, 2022)
Supreme Court hears cases with high stakes for Indian Country (February 21, 2022)
Gaylord News: Supreme Court takes another look at Indian Country dispute (January 31, 2022)
Chuck Hoskin: Cherokee Nation deserves to be treated with respect (January 31, 2022)
Supreme Court surprises by taking up contentious Indian law case (January 21, 2022)