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SCOTUS rules states can prosecute non-Natives for crimes against Indigenous people on tribal lands

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Shallow depth of field image taken of yellow law enforcement line with police car and lights in the background.

A divided Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that states can prosecute non-Natives for crimes against Native people on tribal lands, a ruling that critics called a "disaster" for tribal sovereignty and an "act of conquest."

Cronkite News Digest reports that before the court's 5-4 ruling, only tribal and federal courts had been allowed to prosecute crimes committed on tribal lands against Indigenous people.

But Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote that states do not need "a permission slip" to try non-Natives for crimes committed within their borders, even if they were committed on tribal lands.

In a biting dissent, Justice Neil Gorsuch called the ruling an "unlawful power grab" that gives free rein to states that have historically been the "deadliest enemies" of tribes within their borders.