TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Council of the Cherokee Nation met Monday, March 15 and appointed a new Cherokee Nation district judge as part of the tribe’s ongoing efforts to ensure criminal justice is served following the historic McGirt decision in 2020 and last week’s ruling from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, which will likely lead to the dismissal of hundreds of state criminal cases in the Cherokee Nation Reservation.
Councilors on Monday appointed Nathan Barnard as a District Judge of the Cherokee Nation. In recent months, the Council has also appointed Amy Page as a District Judge of the Cherokee Nation and Rex Earl Starr as a Cherokee Nation Supreme Court Justice.
“In light of recent and long-overdue court decisions providing recognition of the Cherokee Nation’s reservation, and ultimately all of the Five Tribes, we are committed to ensuring Cherokee citizens and all members of our communities are protected,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “I commend the Council of the Cherokee Nation for appointing these judges and helping us to bolster our criminal justice system. We must continue to be ready to take action and help victims and their families and, whenever possible, file charges in our tribal court system. These judicial appointments are a critical part of that process.”
The Cherokee Nation Attorney General’s office has already filed more than 300 cases in tribal court that were slated for dismissal by state courts.
The Council of the Cherokee Nation in December 2020 unanimously approved overhauling the tribe’s criminal code based on recommendations from the Commission for the Protection of Cherokee Nation Sovereignty, which was established by Chief Hoskin after the McGirt ruling to make recommendations on expanding the tribe’s courts, attorneys and Marshal Service.
“I’m proud of the work that the Council and administration have done to prepare for the impact of McGirt and to protect our sovereignty,” said District 9 Tribal Councilor Mike Shambaugh, who is on the commission.
The Cherokee Nation has invested $10 million in additional funding to expand its marshal service and to hire tribal judges, prosecutors and victim advocates in the wake of the McGirt ruling.
In other business, the Council of the Cherokee Nation also took the following actions:
• Approved the naming of the J.W. Sam – Gadusi Building in Catoosa
• Approved the donation of surplus items to Briggs and Woodall public schools
The next regular meeting of the Council of the Cherokee Nation is scheduled for Monday, April 12 at 6 p.m.