Choctaw Lighthorse Police

CNO continues to enforce law and order, despite claims from Oklahoma Governor

By Kendra Germany-Wall
March 5, 2024

On December 22, 2023, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt announced a new task force aiming to “protect public safety,” adding that “…the McGirt decision has created confusion and tension among those that work to serve that function.”

The December 22 executive order signed by Stitt created the One Oklahoma Task Force.

This task force will be comprised of 13 members, including appointees from the governor’s office, county jail trusts, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, and representation from tribal governments.

No tribal leader has been guaranteed a seat.

This announcement was made after a disagreement between Muscogee Lighthorse Tribal Police and Okmulgee County Jail staff earlier this year when Muscogee Lighthorse Police tried to arrest a jailer accused of assaulting an officer.

Tribal officers tried to take the jailer into custody, and a fight erupted when the Okmulgee County Jail refused to receive them.

The State has been at odds with tribal governments for years following the McGirt Ruling and the April 2021 Sizemore Decision, which applied the US Supreme Court’s McGirt Ruling (2020) to the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) and affirmed the sovereignty of the Five Tribes.

Within 45 days, Stitt wants the task force to produce a report with recommendations for what the legislature and other state agencies should do to solve a quote “broken system” created by the McGirt decision. He also wants to see agreements between jails, sheriff’s offices and tribes.

Tribal Response

Following the governor’s announcement, the Five Tribes released a joint statement, rejecting the task force.

“Dear Governor Stitt,

As the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes (ITC), an organization that unites the tribal governments of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole Nations, we are dedicated to advancing public safety for our citizens and all of our neighbors in Oklahoma. We welcome opportunities to collaborate with state, federal, local, and tribal governments towards this goal. We have a long track record of this collaboration, both before and after the McGirt v Oklahoma decision.

While we hope the State of Oklahoma will join our collaborative approach, we must stand in opposition to Governor Kevin Stitt’s task force on McGirt as presented in Executive Order 2023-32. After reviewing the language of the Executive Order and structure of the proposed task force, we conclude that it is designed to divide rather than unify and to make political points rather than seek genuine solutions. This task force cannot adequately serve the public good unless these flaws are corrected.

At its core, the McGirt v Oklahoma decision is a pro-public safety ruling. By restoring tribal jurisdiction that the State had illegally usurped for well over a century, the decision has increased police and prosecutors and empowered tribal courts to enforce the law and deliver justice for victims. Rather than cause uncertainty and wreak havoc, as the Executive Order claims, the McGirt decision has finally restored legitimate legal jurisdiction under clear federal laws and the U.S. Constitution.

Unfortunately, rather than focusing on how to incorporate tribal authority to benefit the public, the State has wasted time and energy trying to evade, reject, or delay compliance with the law.

We call on you and the State of Oklahoma to make a good faith effort at practical solutions for working with tribes to improve public safety. That means setting aside politicized rhetoric and denials of tribal sovereignty. The structure of any task force must also reflect respectful government-to-government dialogue with each of the 38 unique tribes in Oklahoma. The State has no authority to mandate any Tribe to defer to another Tribe to speak on its behalf.

When we have a willing partner at the State of Oklahoma, we are fully prepared to move forward. We are eager to work with our friends and neighbors to improve coordination in public safety efforts. What we cannot do is participate in an effort that spreads falsehoods about the law, attempts to minimize tribal voices, and engages in political attacks instead of constructive government-to-government dialogue.”

Choctaw Nation Continues to Uphold the Law

The Choctaw Nation has been upholding law and order successfully within the Nation’s boundaries since McGirt and Sizemore went into effect.

Check out some of the 2023 CNO Judicial System statistics below:

CNLP recently honored several of its members for going above and beyond the call of duty.

Officer Christian Minyen saved an infant from choking, Officer Brenton Hall and Officer Robert Rocha saved someone who tried to commit suicide, Officer Danny Smith and Sergeant Jeff Bryant both used Narcan to revive someone who overdosed, Sergeant Jacob Heath revived a man with his defibrillator, and Sergeant Cody Donoley and officer Zach Chavez performed CPR and used a defibrillator to save a life.

Exercising Your Sovereignty

Tribal elections are instrumental in upholding our sovereignty. Eligible tribal members not currently registered to vote will receive voter registration packets in the mail.

To vote in the next Choctaw election, please complete the packet and return it to the Voter Registration Department.

To view your current Voter Registration information, visit the Chahta Achvffa Member Portal.

Registering to vote in state and local elections is an essential part of exercising your sovereign rights as well.

For information on how to register your state, visit here.

In 2023, the Tribal Prosecutor hosted eight roundtable meetings with the following agencies participating:

  • Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation
  • Haskell County Sheriff’s Office
  • Oklahoma Highway Patrol
  • Poteau Police Department
  • Choctaw Lighthorse Police
  • Choctaw Juvenile Services
  • Arkoma Police Department
  • Atoka County Sheriff’s Office
  • Atoka Police Department
  • Durant Police Department
  • Bokchito Police Department
  • Johnston County Sheriff’s Office
  • District 19 District Attorney Investigator
  • Tushka Police Department
  • Haileyville Police Department
  • Latimer County Sheriff’s Office
  • Calvin Police Department
  • Coalgate Police Department
  • Bryan County Sheriff’s Office
  • Calera Police Department
  • Wilburton Police Department
  • Spiro Police Department
  • Keota Police Department
  • Panama Police Department
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation

Choctaw Lighthorse Police (CNLP) 2023 Statistics

  • Of the 37,696 calls for service, 3,738 were Agency Assist (law enforcement agencies other CNLP, such as sheriff’s departments, municipal agencies and Oklahoma Highway Patrol).
  • Of the 5,152 taken or generated, 217 tribal members were arrested, and 96 non-tribal members were arrested.

CNO Judicial System Cases Filed in 2023

  • Felony – 784
  • Misdemeanor – 807
  • Traffic and Wildlife Tickets – 1396
  • Civil – 57
  • Small Claims – 7
  • Protective Orders – 178
  • Divorce – 143
  • Paternity – 34
  • Adoption – 42
  • Adult Guardianship – 16
  • Minor Guardianship – 93
  • Juvenile Deprived – 22
  • Juvenile Delinquent – 18
  • Juvenile Supervision – 2
  • Juvenile Treatment – 0
  • Total = 3599