John P. LaVelle

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Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta is an unprecedented attack on the autonomy of Native American nations in the United States. The Supreme Court held that Oklahoma had jurisdiction over a crime committed by a non-Indian perpetrator against an Indian victim within the Cherokee Reservation’s boundaries. The decision posits that states presumptively have jurisdiction, concurrent with the federal government, over crimes by non-Indians against Indians in Indian country. But this proposition is at war with a bedrock principle of Indian law, namely, that reservations are essentially “free from state jurisdiction and control,” a policy that “is deeply rooted in the Nation’s history.” That principle has stood the test of time, with the high court itself guarding tribes’ autonomy and sovereignty in celebrated Indian law cases dating to the nation’s founding.