The US Supreme Court said this week that a large swath of eastern Oklahoma in the US remains an American Indian reservation, a decision with potential implications for nearly 2 million residents and one of the most significant victories for tribal rights in years.
The land at issue contains much of Tulsa, the state’s second-largest city. The question for the court was whether Congress officially eliminated the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation when Oklahoma became a state in 1907.
In a 5-to-4 decision invoking the country’s long history of mistreating Native Americans, the court said “we hold the government to its word” and the land Congress promised to the Creek Nation is still Indian land.
“If Congress wishes to withdraw its promises, it must say so. Unlawful acts, performed long enough and with sufficient vigour, are never enough to amend the law,” wrote Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was joined by the court’s liberal justices.