Now That East Oklahoma Is the Res, FBI’s Casework Explodes
A year ago, before the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling that affirmed that much of the eastern half of the state of Oklahoma is tribal land, the FBI there handled about 50 criminal cases a year involving Native Americans. Now, the Oklahoma City Field Office manages thousands of cases.
The exponential growth was the result of the sudden expansion of FBI’s federal criminal jurisdiction since the court ruling on July 9, 2020, which reaffirmed the existence of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Reservation. The landmark ruling, which determined that the U.S. government never disestablished the American Indian reservations there in the early days of Oklahoma’s statehood, reverted nearly 45% of the state back to Native American reservation land. That, in turn, transitioned criminal jurisdiction from the state back to the FBI.
The FBI investigates the most serious crimes in Indian Country, including murders, rapes, and child sexual abuse. In most of eastern Oklahoma, criminal cases that were handled by state and local authorities are now under federal jurisdiction—including closed cases that are being re-opened because of new questions about their jurisdiction. The expanded federal role has made the Oklahoma City Field Office one of the FBI’s busiest.