Oklahoma Media Center news organizations have published 234 Promised Land stories covering the statewide collaborative’s shared topic: documenting ramifications of a landmark Supreme Court ruling last year.
OMC collaborators unanimously decided last spring to cover how the McGirt v. Oklahoma decision affects both tribal and non-Indigenous residents in the state. In 2020, the court decided a big part of eastern Oklahoma remains an American Indian reservation, meaning Oklahoma prosecutors lack authority to pursue criminal cases against Indigenous defendants in portions of the state.
Forty-nine stories were published in July, the month marking the first anniversary of the historic court decision.
The story-sharing project surpassed the 200 mark in August, which totaled 52 stories.
Here are five significant pieces published by OMC news organizations on the subject in 2021:
“Here’s how Cherokee Tribal courts are handling the surge in cases due to the McGirt ruling,” by Curtis Killman, Tulsa World: This article observed the Cherokee Nation’s justice system in a story redistributed by the Cherokee Phoenix tribal publication. The McGirt ruling resulted in skyrocketing federal and tribal caseloads and court costs as state courts conversely dealt with a flood of appeals from inmates seeking to overturn their state convictions and sentences.
“Federal notice on surface coal mining a ‘significant loss of power by Oklahoma’,” by Joe Tomlinson, NonDoc: This article explained how, since the ruling, the Oklahoma Conservation Commission and Oklahoma Department of Mines had only enforcement authority and authorization to conduct “routine” regulatory activities over active and abandoned coal mines within the Muscogee Nation. Previously, the state agencies also made and implemented rules regarding surface coal mining and reclamation.
“When police shoot tribal citizens on Muscogee Nation land, families ask ‘who’s held accountable?’,” a collaborative partnership between The Frontier and KOSU. Allison Herrera’s KOSU report showed how some families of Indigenous people shot by police have trouble getting information.
“Oklahoma court: McGirt ruling should not be applied retroactively to criminal cases,” a breaking news report by K. Querry-Thompson, KFOR. This article explained how the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals issued a ruling that the McGirt decision should stand but be applied only to criminal cases moving forward. The article also included reactions from some tribes.
“Daughter of murdered woman feels ‘beyond blessed’ by new decision on McGirt ruling,” by Kristen Weaver, News on 6: This article explored how the ruling did not apply to people who were previously convicted in state court. In the article, a Claremore woman whose mother was murdered 15 years ago said she has peace knowing the killer won’t be set free.
Throughout its ongoing Promised Land coverage, OMC has partnered with the Oklahoma-based Native American Journalists Association to provide ethics and best-practices training on Indigenous issues for journalists throughout the state.
Besides guidance from NAJA, Ryan Leonard, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s special counsel for Native American affairs, discussed the state’s perspective in an on-the-record session with OMC collaborators.
Robert L. Miller, an Arizona State University law professor and citizen of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, also spoke to OMC about his forthcoming book on the “bombshell” McGirt decision. Assuming the court doesn’t reverse the case — and Congress doesn’t pass a bill to change the effects of the McGirt ruling — Miller told OMC’s collaborating journalists that “you and I will be writing about McGirt 30 years from now.”
OMC’s mission is to support and strengthen Oklahoma’s local journalism ecosystem and spur innovation through statewide collaboration that benefits diverse audiences. Launched by the Inasmuch Foundation and Local Media Association in 2020, OMC is working to establish its own 501(c)(3) nonprofit tax status in 2021.
Visit the OMC website for more information on Promised Land.