It’s A Hard Bargain: The Choctaw Tribe Takes Dollar General To The Supreme Court


Publish Date:
May 19, 2016
  • Kunkel, Declan
The Politic
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Forty years after the Mississippi Burning trials rocked the United States, the town of Philadelphia, Mississippi is back in the spotlight. The dusty little town of 7,477 residents sits at the heart of the once great Choctaw nation, much reduced over the centuries by steady, state-sponsored encroachment on its land. This year, the Choctaw will go before the Supreme Court as it once again fights to preserve its autonomy, this time from the reach of corporate America.

A local Dollar General store sits on tribal trust land inside the Choctaw reservation near the town of Philadelphia, Mississippi. In late 2003, management agreed to bring young members of the tribe into the store as a part of the Choctaw job training program. The program placed young residents into various internships with the hope that the teenagers would learn valuable skills.

Gregory Ablavsky, Assistant Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, told The Politic, “The U.S. and the Attorney General are not in the habit of prosecuting low level crime.” Unfortunately for Roe, he said, cases like sexual assault and criminal matters are usually deemed “low level,” and the Attorney General’s office simply does not take notice.

“Federal prosecution tends to be directed toward elaborate criminal enterprises, and drug cartels. They venture into terrorism and complicated cases, rather than simple criminal charges,” said Ablavsky, the professor at Stanford Law. According to him, the sheer time and procedure involved in litigation in tribal courts makes the Justice Department reluctant to get involved.

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