Staying Informed Essential to Sovereignty
H.R. 2606, more commonly known as the Stigler Act Amendments of 2018, was signed into law on Dec. 31. This law overcomes the blood quantum requirements that have been in place since 1947. There are many other cases, bills and pieces of legislation that could potentially impact the Choctaw Nation.
As tribal members, we have the unique situation of being members of two nations. Even though we belong to a sovereign nation, legislation at the federal level can change the very essence of what tribal sovereignty means.
Being a sovereign nation means we have a governing responsibility to our citizens and our geographical area. Our sovereignty is an inherent right and the critical component in keeping the Choctaw Nation thriving.
I urge you, as tribal members, to stay informed on legislation affecting not only the Choctaw Nation but Indian Country as a whole.
Here are a few things going on at the federal level that affects the Choctaw Nation right now.
Congress unanimously passed the Stigler Act Amendments of 2018, which became law Dec. 31. This law overturns the blood quantum requirements that have been an injustice since 1947. This legislation is a tremendous win for members of the Five Tribes. Native people will be able to protect tribal lands and maintain generation-to-generation ownership of lands, which have been passed down to us from the days of the original enrollees.
Another case to be aware of takes place in a Texas courtroom. In October 2018, a federal judge declared the Indian Child Welfare Act unconstitutional. The ICWA, created in 1978, addressed the predatory adoption of Native American Children and prioritized the placement of Native children with family, tribal or Native Homes. The federal judge ruled that the ICWA violates the 14th Amendment by treating Native children differently because of their race. Sure, we are Native by “race,” but that doesn’t mean we get “special” provisions just for being Native. We have these protections because the U.S. made agreements with our tribal governments to protect our tribes for generations. Because of this, the relationship between the United States and the Choctaw Nation is a political one, and not one based on race.
The ICWA was designed to protect the best interest of Native children and to safeguard the stability of Native culture, tribes, and families for generations to come. Our children are the future of the Nation. We will continue pressing for a positive outcome, and we hope you do the same.
The Carpenter v. Murphy case will soon make its way before the U.S. Supreme Court. In this case, a plaintiff from the Muscogee (Creek) Nation argues that Congress never extinguished the Five Tribes’ rights to administer their nations. He suggests Oklahoma doesn’t have jurisdiction over its eastern half, and that the Five Tribes remain the legally constituted governments in their regions. While we don’t believe a ruling in the plaintiff’s favor would produce the drastic changes some pundits suggest, the Choctaw Nation would find itself newly empowered in certain respects. We at the Choctaw Nation will be monitoring this case closely, and I encourage you all to do the same.
There are many other cases, bills and pieces of legislation that could potentially impact our nation. I encourage you to seek out information and stay informed. Our ancestors worked extremely hard for us to have the ability to not only be members of a sovereign nation but to be voting citizens of the U.S. as well.