It’s unfortunate organizers, including Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office, didn’t handle their “McGirt v Oklahoma Community Forum” in a better manner.

The ruling is a huge issue for the state of Oklahoma, with the court determining a large swath of eastern Oklahoma remains an American Indian reservation and that state prosecutors lack the authority to pursue criminal charges in cases in which the defendants or victims are tribal citizens. It could have impacts far beyond those legal issues as well.

But, in setting up the forum, organizers did not ask any tribal representatives to attend and speak. Stitt did say said his office emailed attorneys general for the Cherokee, Choctaw and Muscogee nations on June 3 notifying them about the forum. But the tribes said they did not receive a meaningful invitation.

So, a forum that had the potential to make progress on a complicated process devolved into a waste of time. Tribal members in the audience held up signs reminding Stitt the forum was taking place on “Indian land,” and also brandished red cards when he or other panelists said something they deemed objectionable.

In the end, Stitt cut the forum off early, ending it an hour before it was scheduled to end.

The state and tribes are going to have to work together to solve all the issues brought up by the Supreme Court’s McGirt ruling. Unfortunately, the governor has lost credibility and trust with the tribes. Last year, Stitt drew the wrath of tribal leaders when he said gaming compacts between the tribes and the state had expired and needed to be renegotiated completely. Things haven’t gotten any better with the relationship since.

The state needs a leader who can work with the tribes to iron out details of how we all move forward, but Stitt appears lost on how to connect and work with the tribes. It doesn’t help matters that the state is in flux at the upper levels of the legal system after Attorney General Mike Hunter stepped down.

Enid News

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