Supreme Court Says States Can Handle Some Reservation Crimes

In Featured, News by Candy Keown

In the U.S. Supreme Court decision of Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta, declaring in a 5–4 opinion authored by Justice Brett Kavanaugh that, for the first time in United States history, states have the authority to exercise criminal jurisdiction over crimes committed against Native victims on tribal lands. The state of Oklahoma is a non-PL 280 state. Castro-Huerta, a non-Indian, had been charged with criminal neglect with regards to his stepdaughter, a citizen of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Castro-Huerta committed his crime against a Cherokee child, within the borders of the Cherokee Nation. In the opinion, the Supreme Court once again ignores long standing precedent in siding with the state of Oklahoma.  Legal scholars are assessing what this means to tribal sovereignty and our ability to keep our communities safe from predators.  While any impact to sovereignty does harm to us all, Alaska will not see a direct change in direction because the State of Alaska, as a PL 280 state, has authority to prosecute these cases and often does not.

Alaska Tribes will now be able to share prosecution of perpetrators of child abuse victims who are native as part of the Pilot Project under VAWA 2022.  For more information about the Pilot Project, please contact or

Here is an article on the decision if you are interested in reading more about it.