McGirt v. Oklahoma
The Supreme Court's decision in the case of McGirt v. Oklahoma was truly one for the ages! And now we have to figure out exactly what it all means. It's often the case that the court will release a decision, and it then takes years to figure out what it means. Sometimes the lower courts have to get involved before we gain any clarity.
In this case a lot of what happens next will be driven by us, or at least that's my hope and intention. We've identified five broad categories of questions we see arising from McGirt: law enforcement, judicial, taxation, regulatory, and Indian child welfare. I've formed a Choctaw Nation McGirt Task Force to begin looking at these five categories. Each of the five categories includes lots of questions. At this point I'm still of the belief that there is no rush to move towards federal legislation. This decision will impact our tribe and its members from now on so I want to make sure we assess every opportunity to maximize our sovereignty and protect our citizens all while being a good neighbor.
We now live in a culture where we want and expect answers fast. That's probably not going to happen here — I want to make sure we don't somehow reverse any aspect of tribal sovereignty. Some of what we'll be looking at appears to have several sides to it. Have you seen some of the beautiful quilts and handcrafts on display at Tvshka Homma on Labor Day? This is like one of those quilts — it takes different threads and colors to assemble a pattern. Pull just one thread and you unravel the quilt. We'll have to tread carefully.
I want to give you an update regarding the CARES funds we have received.
These dollars came from the federal government for our use in responding to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. We're pulling together data and hope to have it for you soon. As a reminder, we already have existing programs in place to assist you with your rent or mortgage payment, put food on the table, continue your education, and learn more about how to keep your businesses afloat during these challenging times. We're working as fast as we can to get disbursements out the door. So apply today! If you're not sure you're eligible, you should think about applying, and we can tell you whether we're able to assist you.
We got a surprise last week: we were informed that the federal government is going to close out the 2020 U.S. Census a month early. It was scheduled to end on Oct. 31 but will now conclude on Sept. 30. The Census Bureau says it will still achieve an accurate count, but I'm not entirely sure that's possible. The 10.5 counties of the Choctaw Nation reservation are considered hard-to-count areas because it's largely rural. Because the Census Bureau can't tell us the number of Choctaw tribal members who have filled out the Census (we won't be able to find out this data until after the Census closes), we're surveying our tribe to see how many people say they have.
As of this week, approximately 33,000 of our tribal members say they've done so. That's out of a total tribal population of over 200,000. We are behind! Have you filled out your 2020 census yet? Please let your voice be heard by filling out the Census. You can fill it out at 2020census.gov or call 844-330-2020. Time is running out!
Looking back at the actions we've taken during the COVID-19 pandemic, I feel like they've all been what we needed to do, and we took them at the right time. Looking down the road, we've decided to cancel most regularly scheduled public activities through the end of December. These include our traditional Veterans' Day lunches, Thanksgiving lunches, and Christmas lunches, among other things. We'll be converting these lunches to curbside delivery, and we'll deliver Veterans' coats directly to their homes. We will keep the spirit of these occasions alive even if we can't be in the same place together.