McGirt v. Oklahoma and the Past, Present, and Future Reservation Boundaries

“Unlawful acts, performed long enough and with sufficient vigor, are never enough to amend the law.” So reads McGirt v. Oklahoma, the most important reservation boundary case in the history of the Supreme Court, But before McGirt, courts often rewarded unlawful acts with reservation diminishment. This Essay first places McGirt in the context of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s century-long fight to restore sovereign rights illegally denied after allotment, and the even longer fight by the Muskogee Nation and others to survive the trail of broken treaty promises. It then corrects the false assumptions about the past and present of reservation boundaries that led the Court to turn lawbreaking into law.

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