Recently, Cherokee Nation hosted a special group of legal experts from across America. Almost 40 U.S. attorneys gathered in northeast Oklahoma for part of a two-day educational forum. Cherokee Nation is proud to have these federal attorneys visit our headquarters located on sovereign tribal land. They hail from across the nation, and the majority of them work in districts that in some way involve Indian tribes or tribal lands.
They are members of the Department of Justice’s Native American Issues Subcommittee. Trent Shores, who chairs the subcommittee and is a Choctaw Nation citizen, knows the dialogue between federal attorneys and tribal governments is an opportunity for continuing education. We thank them all for coming to Indian Country to engage firsthand in discussing important public safety issues, which are so critical to tribal communities. Better knowledge of sovereign tribal nations and the government-to-government relationship we have with the federal and state government is vital for long-term legal and law enforcement success.
This DOJ subcommittee is important for all tribal citizens nationwide. Its willingness to hear tribal needs, and then implement and execute policies to make our communities safer, has generational impacts. Legal issues in Indian Country and on tribal land often present thorny issues of jurisdiction, so we appreciate these practicing legal experts listening to our concerns.
It was through these types of sessions that DOJ supported improvements to tribal justice systems in the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 and the Violence Against Women Act of 2013, which helped close a jurisdictional gap in our communities with respect to non-Indian perpetrators.
Public safety is a goal we all share, and having the financial resources to address the problems facing our communities is also critically important.
Cherokee Nation’s marshals, our law enforcement department, is a vital part of our communities within the tribe’s 14-county tribal jurisdiction and the tribe’s more than 7,000 square miles of trust, restricted and fee lands.
As the state of Oklahoma continues to face looming budget shortfalls, the Cherokee Nation and our marshals fill important funding gaps. We work with our partners in state, county and municipal law enforcement to provide manpower, supplies and funding in communities where Cherokee Nation citizens live, work and raise their families. This ensures safety needs are met, and we are blessed that Cherokee Nation is able to step up and help alleviate some of that financial strain.
Positive relations are about more than money. They are about the relationships we have with the men and women who serve and protect the people. The value of these partnerships is immeasurable. Our cross-deputization efforts have worked and continue to save lives, especially as we battle the opioid epidemic in northeast Oklahoma.
The cooperation of local law enforcement, sheriffs’ departments, police departments, district attorneys and Cherokee Nation Marshal Service is a nationally recognized model. I couldn’t be prouder of our marshals or our Attorney General’s office as they work hand in hand to make our communities safer and more secure.
—Bill John Baker
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief