Indian Country Summary of Responses to Oklahoma v. Castro

Sadie Vermillion

Policy Research Assistant

On June 29, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) delivered a decision that reverberated throughout all of Indian Country. In the case of Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta, the Court held that “the Federal Government and the State have concurrent jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed by non-Indians against Indians in Indian country.” In response to this decision the American Indian Policy Institute is providing consolidated resources in one place for those interested in learning more about the Castro-Huerta decision and implications for Tribal sovereignty. 

The decision in Castro-Huerta directly contradicts long-settled legal precedent surrounding Tribal criminal jurisdiction and is a monumental step backward in the inherent sovereignty of Native Nations. In the 2020 case of McGirt v. Oklahoma, the Court reaffirmed the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s treaty reservation boundaries and held that the State did not have criminal jurisdiction over crimes involving Indians within those boundaries. McGirt also reaffirmed that a state cannot diminish or disestablish reservation boundaries unless Congress has clearly expressed an intent to do so. In Castro-Huerta, the Court ignored these principles. 

  • On Thursday, July 7, 2022,  Native American Rights Fund (NARF)  and National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) held a Tribal leader virtual roundtable to discuss the ramifications of the Castro-Huerta v. Oklahoma ruling and potential next steps to defend Tribal sovereignty. This webinar provided an overview of the Supreme Court decision as well as comments from Tribal leaders and legal experts about how the decision will impact Tribal nations. For the full video recording of the roundtable discussion, visit “The Castro-Huerta Decision: Understanding the Case and Discussing Next Steps” on NCAI’s Youtube channel. 

  • Speakers:

    • Fawn Sharp, President, NCAI

    • John Echohawk, Executive Director, NARF

    • Zach Schauf, Partner, Jenner & Block

    • Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Cherokee Nation

    • Principal Chief David Hill,  Muscogee (Creek) Nation

    • Jonodev Chaudhuri, Principle, Chaudhuri Law

    • Elizabeth Hidalgo Reese, Assistant Professor of Law, Stanford Law School

    • Melody McCoy, Staff Attorney, NARF

  • On Thursday, July 7, the Indian Legal Program (ILP) at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University held a webinar on Rebalancing Federal-State-Tribal Power.  For the full video recording of the webinar, visit “Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta: Rebalancing Federal-State-Tribal Power” on the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law vimeo page. 
  • Speakers:

    • Derrick Beetso, Director, Indian Gaming and Self-Governance, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law

    • Stacy Leeds, Foundation Professor of Law and Leadership, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law

    • Robert Miller, Professor of Law, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law

    • Kevin Washburn, Dean and Professor of Law, University of Iowa College of Law

  • For access to the CLE materials, visit “OK v. Castro-Huerta CLE materials” in the ASU dropbox. 

  • On July 11, 2022 at 1pm ET/12pm CT/11am MT/10am PT, NAC held a live, call-in program called “What’s next after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Castro-Huerta ruling”.  Native America Calling's live program allowed for additional perspectives on the ruling and discussed the strategies Tribes are considering for the future.

  • Guests:

    • Rebecca Nagle, writer, advocate, and host of This Land podcast

    • Robert Miller, Professor of Law, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law

    • Elizabeth Hidalgo Reese, Assistant Professor of Law, Stanford Law School

  • On July 6, 2022 at 1pm PT,  the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law  held a zoom event on the Castro-Huerta case and the attack on Tribal sovereignty. UCLA’s School of Law webinar heard from the nation’s leading legal practitioners and scholars about how this case came to be and what we might expect in the wake of its holding. For the full recording of the webinar, visit “Castro-Huerta v. Oklahoma and the Attack on Tribal Sovereignty: Where Do We Go From Here?” on UCLA’s School of Law’s youtube page. 

  • Speakers:

    • Angela R. Riley, Director, Native Nations Law and Policy Center

    • Riyaz Kanji, Founding Member and Directing Attorney, Kanji & Katzen

    • Carole E. Golberg, Jonathan D Varat Distinguished Professor of Law Emerita, UCLA School of Law

    • Sara Hill, Attorney General, Cherokee Nation

The above list is not exhaustive but gleans an excerpt of the ways in which Indian country is coming together in the wake of this inconceivable SCOTUS decision.his is only the beginning of what will be a hard-fought conflict to maintain the inherent sovereignty of Native Nations now and in the future. AIPI will continue to be a resource to Indian Country and add resources to an ongoing list being developed and to be released at a future date.