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July 23, 2020
This Land
The Ruling

In This Episode

The Supreme Court has ruled, delivering a historic decision on the reservation status of Eastern Oklahoma. Rebecca Nagle talks to the lawyer who argued the case at the High Court, Native law professors, scholars, and journalists to break down the significance of this decision and share what it means to the future of Muscogee (Creek) Nation and all Five Tribes.

 

Transcript

 

Rebecca Nagle: “OK, this is it. Hitting the refresh button. It’s 8:59 a.m..” On the morning of July 9th, 2019, I was sitting at my kitchen table with the Supreme Court’s website open on my browser.  “I, uh honestly, my stomach is, I’m a wreck.”

 

Rebecca Nagle: Waiting for them to post their opinion in one of the most important cases for Native land and treaty rights and half a century. “I’m a mess. Oh, man.”

 

Rebecca Nagle: Knowing their decision could determine the land rights of five tribes in Oklahoma, including mine. “Come on, load. It’s 9:01 a.m.. OK, McGirt v. Oklahoma. Who wrote it? [Screams]

 

Rebecca Nagle: In this episode, I’m going to walk you through what that opinion said, and what it means for tribes in eastern Oklahoma. But first, I need to tell you the story of how we got here. On January 4th, right after the New Year, hundreds of people filed into the auditorium at River Spirit Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

 

[clip of male voice] My fellow Muscogee Creek Nation brothers and sisters, as we gather here today, it’s a great honor for me to be able to a part of this—

 

Rebecca Nagle: It was the inauguration of Muscogee Creek Nation’s democratically elected chief. One of the first speakers was poet laureate Joy Harjo, a citizen of Muscogee Creek Nation and the first Native American to receive that honor.

 

[clip of Joy Harjo] We stand together like pine trees leaning into wind because we were here before these times of eroding human spirit, and we’ll be here after.

 

Rebecca Nagle: Muscogee Creek Nation is the fifth largest tribe in the United States. Its reservation in eastern Oklahoma spans 11 counties and is roughly the size of Connecticut. But this land in eastern Oklahoma is not their original homeland.

 

[clip of Joy Harjo] When we stand together, we remember we come from those who kept moving through test of history.

 

Rebecca Nagle: Until the 1830s Muscogee people lived in what is now the southeastern corner of the United States. After the Indian Removal Act, the US military rounded up Muscogee citizens by gunpoint and forced them on a death march to Oklahoma, in what is now called the Trail of Tears.

 

[clip of Chief David Hill] Our ancestors survived the world’s worst act in the country’s history, our forced removal.

 

Rebecca Nagle: This is newly-elected Principal Chief David Hill.

 

[clip of Chief David Hill] Our ancestors survived broken promises, broken treaties, and broken intent to erase our Muscogee people from history. Yet your ancestors persevered. We, the Muscogee Nation are the outcome of the strength and the resiliency of those who came before us.

 

Rebecca Nagle: When Muscogee people were removed to Indian country, they were promised this land would be theirs forever. But for over a century, Oklahoma pushed those treaty rights aside. Last week, all that changed.

 

[clip of Chief David Hill] The Muscogee Creek Nation will remain resolute, stand firm against an attempt to weaken our nation, whether it’s at the state capital or before the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.. As a nation, we have nurtured what was given to us by our creators and our ancestors. In today’s modern world, our resiliency continues.

 

Rebecca Nagle: You’re listening to This Land, a podcast about broken promises, tribal land and murder. From Crooked Media, I’m your host, Rebecca Nagle, citizen of Cherokee Nation. Last summer, we brought you the story of one court case posed to determine the future of half the land in Oklahoma and the treaty rights of five tribes. Since then, so much has happened. Let me fill you in: In 2018, the Supreme Court heard the case of Patrick Murphy, a man sentenced to death by the state of Oklahoma for murder. Murphy claimed Oklahoma didn’t have jurisdiction to prosecute him because the crime occurred on the reservation of his tribe: Muscogee Creek Nation. Oklahoma, claimed that reservation no longer existed. Last June, the Supreme Court was scheduled to issue its decision, but then it didn’t happen.

 

Ian Gershengorn: At the end of the term, as you know and your listeners know, the court ended up not deciding it and kicking it over for re-argument.

 

Rebecca Nagle: This is Ian Gershengorn, Patrick Murphy’s lawyer.

 

Ian Gershengorn: And then in a very unusual situation, having kicked it over for reargument, the court didn’t schedule it for reargument, didn’t schedule it in October, didn’t schedule it in November.

 

Rebecca Nagle: But in December, the court made a shocking announcement.

 

[news clip] The US Supreme Court is scheduled to hear an Oklahoma man’s appeal today after he said his case should not have been tried in state court.

 

Rebecca Nagle: They decided to hear a totally different case.

 

[clip] In 1997, Jimcy McGirt was convicted and sent to prison for the rest of his life for raping his wife’s four year old granddaughter. The rape McGirt committed happened within the boundaries of Creek Nation’s historic territory.

 

Rebecca Nagle: McGirt is also a tribal citizen, of Seminole Nation of Oklahoma. His alleged crime, and Patrick Murphy’s are both egregious. But states don’t have jurisdiction over crimes committed by Indians on Indian land. Only tribes and the federal government do.

 

Ian Gershengorn: Mr. McGirt, having learned of the Murphy case in the 10th Circuit and the victory there, with the help of fellow inmates, you know, so-called jailhouse lawyers, filed a pro se handwritten petition in the Oklahoma State Court. He lost in the state court and then he filed a handwritten pro se cert petition in the Supreme Court.

 

Rebecca Nagle: And on December 13th, 2019, the Supreme Court announced they would hear his case.

 

Ian Gershengorn: So he didn’t have a lawyer up until and through his Supreme Court cert petition.

 

Rebecca Nagle: That lawyer became Ian Gershengorn. But if the Supreme Court was already deciding this issue with Murphy, why would they choose to hear a second and basically identical case? If you remember in Murphy, Justice Gorsuch recused himself because he had dealt with the case in the lower court. So the Supreme Court was down to just eight justices, an even number that seems to have left them with a tie vote.

 

Ian Gershengorn: What the court was doing was looking for another case that presented the same legal issue, but would do so in a context in which Justice Gorsuch was not recused.

 

Rebecca Nagle: Which brings the total number of justices back up to nine. So the case that would ultimately decide Native land and treaty rights in our state became McGirt v. Oklahoma.

 

[clip of Justice Roberts] You’ll hear argument first this morning in case 189526, McGirt versus Oklahoma.

 

Rebecca Nagle: This is Chief Justice Roberts speaking on a conference call. Like all our lives, the Supreme Court’s term was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. The transition to at-home hearings came with a few awkward moments.

 

[clip of Justice Roberts] Thank you, Counsel. Uh, Justice Gorsuch.

 

[dead air]

 

Rebecca Nagle: But it also made history: for the first time ever the public could listen live. That Monday morning I was sitting at my desk with C-SPAN open on my computer. It felt like everyone in Indian country was tuned in. Angel Ellis, Creek citizen and reporter for Muscogee Media, the tribe’s newspaper, was listening from her home in Okmulgee County.

 

Angel Ellis: I was watching it online and I had my headphones on and I’m staring at my computer screen. Occasionally I start talking to my computer screen, and my kids look at me like, well has Mom gone crazy, or is she just, you know, kind of having a rant? It was kind of strange to be watching people talk about your tribe and components of their history, and maybe they do or maybe they don’t always understand. It was a really surreal experience. I felt like I was experiencing history and my dining room table.

 

[clip of Ian Gershengorn] Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the court.

 

Rebecca Nagle: This is Ian Gershengorn making his opening statement.

 

[clip of Ian Gershengorn] The decision below must be reversed because the text makes clear that Congress never terminated the Creek Reservation and never transferred federal criminal jurisdiction to Oklahoma.

 

Rebecca Nagle: For all the different facets of this case, the legal question presented to the Supreme Court is actually quite simple: did Congress ever pass a law that ended the reservation? Muscogee Creek Nation citizen and federal Indian law professor Lauren King, says no.

 

Lauren King: When Congress set goals for negotiators going out to Creek Country in 1893, it told them to seek cession. But when those agents returned, they informed Congress that the Creek refused to cede any portion of their land. And so when Congress finally acted, it chose allotment, not cession, and used the precise language the court has already held in numerous cases is insufficient to disestablish the reservation.

 

Rebecca Nagle: King is the chair of the Native American Law Practice Group at the law firm Foster Garvey. And while she is an expert in this area, she spoke to us as a citizen, not as a representative of her tribe.

 

Lauren King: The test of whether Congress has broken the United States promises has not been met here, and that means our reservation still exists. Any other result would require the Supreme Court not only stepping out of its authority and legislating from the bench, but yet again breaking a promise to the Muscogee Creek Nation after all that we’ve already been through.

 

Rebecca Nagle: Last year, the state tried to get around this question by arguing that even though there wasn’t a specific law where Congress ended the reservation, that was still what Congress intended to do. But in McGirt, Oklahoma came back with something totally different. Here is Solicitor General Mansinghani.

 

[clip of SG Mansinghani] Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the court. Oklahoma has jurisdiction over the eastern half of the state because it never was reservation land.

 

Rebecca Nagle: Now, Oklahoma saying the reservation never existed in the first place. So what land rights is Oklahoma proposing Muscogee Creek nation had after their multiple treaties with the United States. According to their solicitor general, it was what’s called a dependent Indian community, basically tribal citizens living on something other than a reservation. It’s an idiosyncratic interpretation of the law and during oral arguments, no one was really buying it. Even the federal government, which argued against the tribes alongside Oklahoma, didn’t agree. Here’s their lawyer, Edwin Kneedler, in an exchange with Justice Sotomayor.

 

[clip of Justice Sotomayor] I, I haven’t figured out whether you’ve accepted the Oklahoma suggestion about the dependent Indian community exemption or argument. Are you endorsing that argument?

 

[clip of Edwin Kneedler] No, not, not, not in terms, uh we’re not.

 

Lauren King: It makes you kind of laugh—

 

Rebecca Nagle: King again.

 

Lauren King: —because the attorney is put into a difficult position where he’s asked by a justice, do you agree? And so he has to say in an eloquent and tactful way that he doesn’t agree.

 

Rebecca Nagle: So if Oklahoma scrapped its original argument and its new argument was basically dead on arrival, doesn’t that mean an easy win for the tribes? You would think so but during oral arguments, the laws and the text weren’t the only things weighing on the justices minds. They kept coming back to the potential consequences of the case, the scariest one being the idea that past convictions would automatically get thrown out.

 

[clip of Justice Ginsburg] What makes this case hard is that there have been hundreds and hundreds of prosecutions, some very heinous offenses under state law.

 

Rebecca Nagle: That’s Justice Ginsburg. Mansinghani was ready to affirm her fears.

 

[clip of SG Mansinghani] Let me put some solid numbers on this. We have currently over 1700 inmates whose crimes were committed in the former Indian Territory who identify as Native American. So the state presumptively would not have jurisdiction over those people and have to release them.

 

Rebecca Nagle: Oklahoma has thrown out wildly different numbers in the history of these two cases, but here’s what’s interesting: they have never provided any public record of where those numbers came from.

 

Ian Gershengorn: One of the most frustrating pieces of the argument and of the briefing was that Oklahoma and the Solicitor General’s Office never provided any backing for any of the numbers that they came up with.

 

Rebecca Nagle: This is Ian Gershengorn again.

 

Ian Gershengorn: Whatever data they had, they hadn’t given it to the court. They hadn’t given it to us. It had not been subject to adversarial testing.

 

Rebecca Nagle: Curious about how accurate these claims were last fall, I decided to create a public record myself. With the help of a paralegal, I sent open records requests to the counties that would be impacted by the Supreme Court’s decision.  “Hi. I was calling, I’m trying to send an email to you guys. An email that was listed on the website bounced. I tried sending it twice . . . “

 

Rebecca Nagle: We looked up trial and appellate court dockets, got arrest information from police departments and county courthouses and spent months crunching the numbers. “Yeah. Hey, I, I had just called, I think we just spoke, and so I emailed it to _____@gmail.com and that also bounced.”

 

Rebecca Nagle: Our main source of data came from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

 

[phone hold recording] Thank you for your patience while holding . . . Please continue holding. We’ll be with you in a moment.

 

Rebecca Nagle: They sent us a list of 1,887 Native inmates incarcerated for offenses that occurred in a county within the treaty territory of one of the five tribes. This is the total number of people that could possibly be impacted by the Supreme Court’s decision. But who actually qualifies for a new trial is more complicated, not because of any laws about reservations, but because of the laws governing the criminal appeals process. Ironically, the law that applies here also comes from Oklahoma. In response to the Oklahoma City bombing, Congress passed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act in 1996. The rules I created are pretty technical, but basically, if you’re convicted in state court and you either lose your appeal or decide not to appeal, you have a year to petition the federal courts to hear your case. After that, it’s too late. Here is Matthew Fletcher, law professor at Michigan State University and citizen of Grand Traverse [Bay] Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

 

Matthew Fletcher: If you don’t raise your jurisdictional claim early on in your criminal case, you’ll lose it forever. Even if it means that you spend 50 years in jail from a court that didn’t have jurisdiction over you. You lose that right to make that claim.

 

Rebecca Nagle: Given that strict statute of limitations, how many people would qualify? We couldn’t look up the appeals record of all 1,887 people, so we decided to examine four groups: everyone convicted of first degree murder or rape, everyone with death or life sentences, and a sample group of people who would get out in about five years. Of the over 300 inmates we researched, less than 10% would qualify for federal habeas relief, less than 10%. So while Oklahoma says:

 

[clip of SG Mansinghani] So, we’re talking here about potentially around 30—over 3,000 inmates, we may have to turn over.

 

Rebecca Nagle: My research showed the overwhelming majority wouldn’t even qualify for a new federal trial. I actually published these findings before the oral arguments in the Atlantic, which is why I was surprised to hear Oklahoma’s lawyer circle back to these wacky numbers. Here’s King again.

 

Lauren King: The numbers that Oklahoma kind of spouted out at oral argument, I would call this kind of bar-napkin math.

 

Rebecca Nagle: The court wasn’t just worried about Oklahoma losing jurisdiction. They were also concerned about tribes gaining it. Specifically over all the non-native people who live in eastern Oklahoma.

 

[clip of Justice Alito] Well, what would you say to those people when we, if we decide this case in your, in your favor? Won’t they be surprised to learn that they are living on the reservation?

 

Rebecca Nagle: This is Justice Alito.

 

[clip of Justice Alito] Am I correct in more than 90% of the people who lives in the area directly affected by this case are not members of the tribe?

 

Rebecca Nagle: Alito is basically saying how could there possibly be a reservation on land where the majority of residents are not Native? When Kavanaugh chimed in, racial demographics was the topic of almost every question he asked. As Fletcher puts it:

 

Matthew Fletcher: Justice Kavanaugh seemed obsessed with the year 1890.

 

[clip of Justice Kavanaugh] Given the demographics as of 1890, my understanding is that as of 1890, it was already predominantly non-Indian. By 1890, Indian Territory was predominantly white.

 

Rebecca Nagle: Kavanaugh seems to be saying: look, the area was majority white in 1890, so Congress couldn’t have intended for the tribe to maintain their reservation. And since the area is still majority white, you know what that means. Kavanaugh isn’t the only federal judge who thinks this way.

 

Matthew Fletcher: Every time he would see a brief in the tribal jurisdiction case, the brief really doesn’t even argue the law just says: come on, how could you possibly let Indian tribes have jurisdiction over the white man? Seriously, that’s the whole thrust of the argument. And they win 90% of the time.

 

Rebecca Nagle: At 9 a.m. Oklahoma time on Thursday, July 9th, the Supreme Court of the United States posted their decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma. “OK, McGirt v. Oklahoma”

 

Rebecca Nagle: I clicked on the PDF and starting scrolling.  “Who wrote it? [screams]  Yes! Oh, wait. Wait.”

 

Rebecca Nagle: For half a second, in my overwhelm, I thought maybe I had read something wrong. I mean, could this really be true?  “Yes!” [screams]

 

Rebecca Nagle: It was, we won. [yells] When Lauren King woke up that morning, her phone was blowing up.

 

Lauren King: It was a string of text messages.

 

Rebecca Nagle: I spoke to her a few hours later. She told me what it was like to read the decision for the first time.

 

Lauren King: I ran to my computer and I pulled up the decision. I skipped past the syllabus and I read that part on page 1 and I just, I can’t read it without crying. And I just started crying and I read through the rest of the decision and it was just more tears. More tears.

 

Rebecca Nagle: Could you read that opening paragraph the Gorsuch wrote?

 

Lauren King: Yeah. “On the far end of the Trail of Tears was a promise. Forced to leave their ancestral lands in Georgia and Alabama, the Creek Nation received assurances that their new lands in the West would be secure forever. In exchange for ceding all their land east of the Mississippi River, the U.S. government agreed by treaty that the Creek country west of the Mississippi shall be solemnly guaranteed to the Creek Indians. Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of federal criminal law. Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word.”

 

Rebecca Nagle: How did you feel reading that?

 

Lauren King: The tears streaming down throughout the opinion, because he says so many things that we know in our hearts is true in the law and it’s so often not reflected in the court decisions. I had to kind of wonder to myself, you know, why is this? Why am I so emotional here? But it’s happened time and again that courts just seem to want to divest tribal people of their rights and they manufacture these new creative interpretive rules and other pretexts to get them there. And you saw it in the dissent. You see four out of the nine justices that want to create a new a new rule to get them to where they want to be. So Indian people have lost so much as a result of this creativity from the courts. And today, the court didn’t accept Oklahoma’s and the United States’ invitation to do that yet again to Indian people. And to see the words written, what we always knew and felt, there’s not words to describe how meaningful that is.

 

Rebecca Nagle: So you had faith the last time we talked that Ruth Bader Ginsburg would side with your tribe. But to be honest, I had my doubts. Why do you think Ginsburg voted the way that she did today?

 

Lauren King: I agree with you that she probably was the swing vote. That was my prediction as well, is that she would be the deciding vote, which way the five-four would go. And she has a past history of, of ruling against the tribes in some very important cases. And I think maybe what held the day for her—she seemed to be concerned about the practical consequences—was the fact that on the ground, the Muscogee Creek Nation already has a lot of agreements in place with other jurisdictions and has a long history of cooperating with the state. And so those practical concerns are ameliorated by that. And so maybe if I was a fly on the wall, that would have been the thing to get her to the majority at the end of the day.

 

Rebecca Nagle: Though, Ginsburg was arguably the real swing vote, it was not her name that dominated headlines about the case.

 

[overlapping news clips] Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion—Justice Gorsuch joined justices—in a five to four decision Judge Gorsuch sided with the court’s liberal wing—

 

Rebecca Nagle: Justice Neil Gorsuch, a conservative justice, a Trump appointee, not only sided with the tribe, but authored one of the most pro-tribal decisions in the history of the court. How did that happen?

 

Ian Gershengorn: Justice Gorsuch is very much a textualist.

 

Rebecca Nagle: This is Ian Gershengorn again, Jimcy McGirt’s lawyer. I spoke to him by phone the day after the decision came down.

 

Ian Gershengorn: And our argument was the treaties created the reservation as plainly as they could, and there was no statute from Congress that disestablished the reservation or changed that. And given that, that’s the end of the story and that was how Justice Gorsuch saw it.

 

Rebecca Nagle: What’s striking to me is how what he does is really just apply the law and the statute. Could you talk about how that is actually ground breaking in federal Indian law?

 

Ian Gershengorn: Well, first, let me talk about how it’s not groundbreaking in any other area. I mean, nobody thinks if Congress passes a statute that says X, that if a state chooses to act in a different way and say, oh, actually, the statute says Y, that the court would buy that. Right? And so, you know, the real question in our minds was, is there some reason to think there’s a different rule when the statutes happen to govern Indians? And, you know, when you phrase it like that, it seems like the answer, you know, should be pretty straightforward.

 

Rebecca Nagle: The last thing I want to know is just practically what happens next for Mr. Murphy and Mr. McGirt?

 

Ian Gershengorn: The most immediate thing from Mr. Murphy’s perspective is that he no longer faces the death penalty. The question about how the case proceeds then depends on what the U.S. attorney’s office, who’s the federal prosecutor would like to do. And so, you know, we’ll see what happens with them.

 

Rebecca Nagle: Talking to King and Gershengorn answered most of the questions that I had about the case. But there was one question particularly salient to me that remained unanswered. The decision affirmed the reservation of Muscogee Creek Nation, but what about the other four tribes, including mine. For that I called fellow Cherokee Nation citizen and legal scholar Stacy Leeds. She worked on one of the briefs for the case.

 

Stacy Leeds: So in the majority opinion that he authored, it was very narrowly tailored to the facts before the court, and so it was this question about Muscogee Creek Nation’s boundaries. I think conventional wisdom and the dissent all think that it does apply to all five tribes. The attorney general’s office put out a statement saying that the federal, state and tribal authorities would work together and chart this new course. And then, of course, all of the five tribes also put out their individual or collective statements to that effect. So I think that everyone presumes on the ground that this is a decision legally binding on the Muscogee Creek Nation, but applicable to the five tribes in eastern Oklahoma.

 

Rebecca Nagle: And so, so are you telling me that this morning I woke up on a reservation?

 

Stacy Leeds: You have always been on a reservation, sister. It’s just that the people around you all recognize that now.

 

Rebecca Nagle: So now that Muscogee Creek Nation won, what happens? You know, what is happening on the ground with convictions, with future prosecutions, with this huge question of criminal jurisdiction?

 

Stacy Leeds: Tribal courts are here. They are staffed up. They’re going to have to ramp up their capacity. But it’s not as if they’re going to be created whole cloth out of nothing. Right? You know, people who practice law tend to be licensed in the state of Oklahoma and the Creek Nation and the Cherokee Nation and the attorneys all swap between all the judges and all of the different jurisdictions. And the people who are doing this in the trenches they’re not concerned about this at all. So it just means that they’re going to have more cases in one court and less cases in the other. But they’re still going to be practicing the same kind of law that they always have.

 

Rebecca Nagle: Angel Ellis was in the newsroom at Muscogee Media when the decision came down. Though she had been following the case and reporting on it for years, she wasn’t prepared for how the good news would hit home.

 

Angel Ellis: I feel like if I was watching this, like for any other indigenous group in the world, any other, if I’d seen this play out and I knew the impact, I would feel the same way because it’s like this has been the standard all over the world for indigenous people. It’s been stomp, trod, move over and just railroading and to finally have just a little bit of affirmation to go our way, has made all the difference, like in the way you carry yourself. You know, like it’s not a matter of pity or need. We know who we are, but we just don’t want to fight to be that way anymore. So to get one win can fuel you up and fill your cup long enough to keep going.

 

Rebecca Nagle: Yeah, that never happens.

 

Angel Ellis: Not hardly at all. And I don’t think that indigenous people ask a lot, like it’s not a huge ask. I’ve never met anybody in my community who thinks that they’re owed a whole lot of anything, like they’re very much do it yourself, pull yourself up by the bootstraps. They’ve had to be. The tenacity is there. They just don’t want you to choke them out while they’re trying. You know, that’s, that’s it. Like, don’t step on me on my way. That’s it. Like and I think that most people get that respect, you know, are willing to give it in the world. It’s just that these mechanisms that are set in place that want to, you know, take advantage, take the land, take the resources—that’s where the people get crushed and sort of have other people from other communities stand up for is an incredible thing, really.

 

Rebecca Nagle: If your ancestors were alive today to see this happen, what do you think they would say?

 

Angel Ellis: It has been entrenched in us for generations and generations in my family that no matter what the rest of the world sees you as, you are Muscogee and that’s inside you. And so I think that they would just kind of be high fiving us all and saying it’s about time that the rest of the world acknowledged too.

 

Rebecca Nagle: During the 1828 presidential election, candidate Andrew Jackson’s slogan was: the will of the people. As the first populist president, he campaigned on the promise of removing all tribes to west of the Mississippi. But when it came time to get his signature policy through Congress, the votes were tight. The Indian Removal Act sailed through the Senate, but not the House of Representatives, where northern states had more votes. White northern women, in one of the first political actions led by women in the U.S., organized a massive petition drive and nearly defeated the bill. But by political horse trading, Jackson squeaked it through. On May 26th, 1830, the Indian Removal Act passed the House 102 to 97, a margin of just five votes. Its passage laid the groundwork for the removal of southeastern tribes from their homelands to Indian Territory, in what can only be described as a death march. Andrew Jackson’s government promised in this bitter exchange that these new lands would belong to our tribes for forever. That promise would be broken time and again in creative and legal and brutal ways. Sadly, it’s not that surprising. History repeats itself as the saying goes. But on Thursday, for once, it didn’t. By the same knife’s edge as the policy that led to our removal, this time the tide went our way. By one vote, the court upheld what our tribes have always held to be true: the legal right to our land never ended, and despite the grave injustices of history, we are still here.

 

Rebecca Nagle: This Land is written and hosted by me, Rebecca Nagle, citizen of Cherokee Nation. From Crooked Media, Sarah Geismer, Lyra Smith and Tanya Somanader are the executive producers. Sidney Rapp is our fact checker. Our theme song is composed by Jarod Tate, citizen of Chickasaw Nation. Podcast Art by Keli Gonzalez, citizen of Cherokee Nation. Additional Production Support from Alison Falzetta. Thank you so much for listening.

 

This Land