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How the Supreme Court upended a century of federal Indian law

Half of Oklahoma is set to become tribal reservations, but what does that mean for crimes committed on those lands?

The Muscogee Creek National Council Supreme Court in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. Shane Brown/High Country News

When police officers found the bodies of two children inside a hot pickup truck in Tulsa, Oklahoma, blame quickly fell on their father. Dustin Lee Dennis was supposed to be watching the 3- and 4-year old; instead, he slept the June afternoon away while they climbed into the truck, prosecutors said.

The children died June 13 from heat exhaustion as the temperature outside rose to 94 degrees. Tulsa County prosecutors charged Dennis with second-degree murder and felony child neglect.

But a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court upended the case. The court ruled July 9 that, under treaties dating back two centuries, much of eastern Oklahoma is Indian Country. That means tribal law and federal law, apply there in criminal cases involving Native citizens — not state law.

Read more: https://www.hcn.org/articles/indigenous-affairs-justice-how-the-supreme-court-upended-a-century-of-federal-indian-law

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High Country News

High Country News

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