Six briefs filed in Murphy case in support of Oklahoma

Six briefs filed in Murphy case in support of Oklahoma
(MN File Photo) Six briefs have been filed in the Carpenter v. Murphy U.S. Supreme Court case in support of the State of Oklahoma.

Jessica McBride/Managing Editor

Floyd states Nation not taking measures in anticipation court upholds previous ruling

WASHINGTON — The case that could potentially update the boundaries for the State of Oklahoma and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and define Indian Country and reservations took a hit, with six amicus briefs filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the State of Oklahoma.

The briefs were filed by the United States, the states of Nebraska, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wyoming and the Governor of Maine, the Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association and several Oklahoma district attorneys, the International Municipal Lawyers Association, the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association and the Environmental Federation of Oklahoma and the State Chamber of Oklahoma.

Read the case documents here.

The question before the Supreme Court in the Carpenter v. Murphy case is whether the 1866 MCN boundaries constitute a reservation under U.S. law. The case name, previously known as Royal v. Murphy, changed due to Mike Carpenter becoming the interim Oklahoma warden.

The briefs bring up several previously stated points such as any reservation status dissolved during allotment and Oklahoma statehood and that an MCN reservation was never created, as well as some new points.

‘Unlike many other tribes in the West… the Creek Nation did not receive its territory as a traditional reservation from the public domain. Rather, the “United States *** grant[ed] a patent, in fee simple, to the Creek nation of Indians,” with the right of perpetual self-government,’ the brief from the U.S. Solicitor General states.

According to, fee simple is ‘the highest form of real estate ownership that is recognized by law, in which the owner can enjoy the property to its fullest extent and is only limited by zoning laws or other similar restrictions.’

The amicus brief states the land granted to MCN was not reserved from the public domain and after statehood, was not returned to the U.S. and proceeds not distributed among tribal members.

It states Congress transformed Indian Territory through a series of statutes such as the allotment acts and acts dismantling tribal courts.

‘Congress envisioned that the agreements would “overthrow *** the communal system of land ownership” and “extinguish [] the tribal titles, either by cession to the United States or by allotment and division in severalty,’ the brief states.

Congress then vested the U.S. courts with exclusive criminal and civil jurisdiction and enforced the laws of the U.S. and Arkansas on all persons regardless of race.

In 1901, the U.S. and MCN entered into an agreement to allot tribal lands and terminate the tribal government within five years.

‘The Agreement directed the Creek Nation’s principal chief to execute a deed to each allottee conveying “all right, title, and interest of the Creek Nation and of all other [Creek] citizens” in the land. The principal chief was likewise to execute such a deed for the conveyance of town sites and other lands under the Agreement.

‘And all such conveyances were to be approved by the Secretary of the Interior, “which shall serve as a relinquishment to the grantee of all the right, title, and interest of the United States” in such lands,’ the brief states.

It states the Five Civilized Tribes were excluded from the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.

‘…because that Act “was more adapted to Indian[s] living on reservations, *** and not Indians [in Oklahoma] residing on allotments,’ the brief states.

The brief from the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association defines a reservation as federally-owned land reserved for tribal occupancy.

‘The tribe does not own the “reservation” land, and it depends on federal ownership for a “right [that] amounts to nothing more than a treaty right of occupancy,” ’ it states.

The brief concludes that because the Five Civilized Tribes owned their land in fee simple status, it was not a reservation.

In a July 25 interview with ‘Mvskoke Radio,’ MCN Principal Chief James Floyd discussed the Carpenter v. Murphy case.

“The Royal versus Murphy case, as it presently stands, that’s a capital murder case of appeal of a death sentence and so the tribe is a party to that in that we’re supporting the appeal because it deals with the sovereignty of the Nation and so I think a lot of people think, ‘well it’s a Creek Nation case.’

“It’s really not a Creek Nation case, it’s an individual who’s a defendant and who’s been convicted and who’s in prison and facing a death sentence. And so it’s that appeal of the Murphy case that’s going before the Supreme Court,” he said.

Floyd said the Nation is not currently looking to recruit more police officers in anticipation that the Supreme Court would uphold the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court’s ruling that the MCN has a reservation.

“Because I think that’s where the speculation exceeds the case and that’s where the talk kind of has no boundaries so to speak… when you just deal this case down, it’s just basically an appeal of a death sentence. And that’s a capital crime. And so that’s really what the case is about.

“And so in that regard we don’t see anything changing in regard to the Nation, especially anything overnight. And I think that’s been the misnomer of the case is that everything’s going to change, but we’ll let that go before the Supreme Court, make the arguments the defender will make and we’ll see where that goes,” Floyd said.

According to the Supreme Court’s website, the respondent’s brief from Patrick Murphy’s counsel is due Sept. 7.

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