Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton/Mvskoke Media Correspondent
Tribal town states it has shared jurisdiction in reinstated reservation
WASHINGTON — The federal government is pushing back against an Oklahoma tribal town’s claims that it has equal authority over a recently reinstated reservation.
On Friday afternoon, attorneys for the U.S. Department of the Interior, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and acting Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs John Tahsuda filed a motion with the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia to dismiss a lawsuit from the Kialegee Tribal Town.
Citing 18th and 19th century Creek treaty rights and the Creeks’ traditional organization, KTT argues in its lawsuit that it is a successor in interest to the pre-removal era Creek Confederacy, a loose coalition of more than 40 communities.
The tribal town uses that position to maintain that it – along with the other Oklahoma-based tribal towns with federal recognition — has shared jurisdiction over the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s recently reinstated reservation in eastern Oklahoma.
The reinstated MCN reservation is a reference to the reservation status described in the recent Murphy v. Royal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision.
‘There is no authority that supports that only the Muskogee can exercise jurisdiction over treaty lands,’ KTT attorney Dennis Whittlesey wrote. “No treaty or court opinion has ever held that the Muskogee exercise exclusive jurisdiction over the lands obtained by the Creek Nation at the conclusion of its tragic saga of bait-and-switch with the government of the United States. History makes clear that the Creek Nation, as a whole, paid dearly for the relatively small carve-out it ultimately received.’
In the motion to dismiss, acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Wood contends KTT did not establish in its initial complaint how the federal government, Zinke or Tahsuda waived their sovereign immunity, thus prohibiting the federal court system from having jurisdiction over the matter.
‘Plaintiff’s [Kialegee Tribal Town] complaint only asserts unspecified allegations as to what Federal Defendants’ position may be,’ Wood wrote. ‘These base allegations do not provide the information necessary to know what discrete final agency actions are being challenged and reviewed.’
As of Monday, a deadline has not been set for KTT to file a rebuttal to the federal government’s motion to dismiss nor has a date been set for oral arguments.
The Wetumka-based tribal town initially filed its complaint in August in the aftermath of a raid on a restaurant and dance hall on a Muscogee (Creek) allotment in Broken Arrow less than a mile from where the Kialegees previously attempted to open a casino in late 2011.
With more than 100 electronic gaming machines allegedly found on the property and a gaming license nowhere in sight, the allotment’s owner, enrolled KTT member and former MCN National Council Rep. Bim Stephen Bruner, was arrested for operating an unlicensed gaming facility. Separate raid-related litigation against Bruner is still pending in MCN tribal court.
The National Indian Gaming Commission and its chairman, Jonodev Chaudhuri, were originally named as defendants in the Kialegees’ suit, but were dropped when the tribal town filed an amended complaint in October. The NIGC has twice declined to issue KTT a gaming permit for a proposed Broken Arrow casino.