Mary Kathryn Nagle's play 'Sovereignty' on Oklahoma stage June 18

Mark Trahant

Cherokee Nation brings nationally acclaimed 'Sovereignty" to the Joint for a one-night engagement

News Release

Cherokee Nation

CATOOSA - The Cherokee Nation will host a staged reading of Mary Kathryn Nagle’s new play, “Sovereignty,” Monday, June 18 at the Joint in the Hard Rock Casino located in Catoosa. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online at The reading of the play begins at 7:30 p.m. and doors open at 6.

“Sovereignty” recently opened in Washington, D.C., at Arena Stage, garnering national attention and praise across the United States, including articles in the New York Times, the American Theatre Magazine, the National Law Journal, and the Tulsa World. This will be the first presentation of “Sovereignty” in Oklahoma.

Set in both the 1830s and today, “Sovereignty” explores the fight Cherokee Nation leaders brought to the United States Supreme Court, when in 1832, the court declared the Nation’s criminal jurisdiction over non-Indian American citizens on Cherokee lands to be both exclusive and inherent.

The play goes back and forth in time, and some scenes are set in the future, when a non-Indian challenges the constitutionality of Cherokee Nation’s restored criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians under the 2013 Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”).

Nagle, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and direct descendant of John Ridge, wrote “Sovereignty” as a commission for the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., where the play premiered on Jan. 24, 2018.

“The continued survival and sovereignty of Cherokee Nation is front and center in this play,” said Nagle. “It’s an honor to bring “Sovereignty” home to my fellow Cherokee Nation citizens, and an incredible blessing to be able to share it with the sovereign governments of the United Keetoowah Band and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.”

The reading will be held in conjunction with Tri-Council, a time when all three Tribal Councils (the Cherokee Nation, the United Keetoowah Band, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians) come together and exercise their inherent sovereignty as sovereign Cherokee tribes.

The cast features nationally acclaimed Cherokee Nation actress DeLanna Studi (recently seen in her own play “And So We Walked,” at the prestigious Portland Center Stage) and Native Voices at the Autry Ensemble member Darrell Dennis, several actors who starred in “Sovereignty,” at Arena Stage, including Jake Hart, Joseph Carlson, and Todd Scoffield, as well as other Cherokee Nation citizens, including Candice Byrd and Robert Lewis, and finally—but certainly not least—a locally acclaimed Tulsa-based actor Steve Barker, most recently known for his role as Denny McAuliffe in David Blakely’s “Four Ways to Die” (Heller Theatre).

The June 18 performance of “Sovereignty” is timely as the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council just voted to implement VAWA’s restored tribal criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians implemented this restored tribal criminal jurisdiction in 2015.

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About Mary Kathryn Nagle:

Mary Kathryn Nagle is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She currently serves as the Executive Director of the Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program. She is also a partner at Pipestem Law, P.C., where she works to protect tribal sovereignty and the inherent right of Indian Nations to protect their women and children from domestic violence and sexual assault. Nagle has authored numerous briefs in federal appellate courts, including the United States Supreme Court. Productions include Miss Lead (Amerinda, 59E59, January 2014), and Fairly Traceable (Native Voices at the Autry, March 2017), Sovereignty (Arena Stage), and Manahatta (Oregon Shakespeare Festival). In 2019, the Rose Theater (Omaha, NE) will produce her new play Return to Niobrara, and Portland Center Stage will produce the world premiere of Crossing Mnisose.  Nagle has received commissions from Arena Stage (Sovereignty), the Rose Theater (Return to Niobrara, Omaha, Nebraska), Portland Center Stage (Crossing Mnisose), Denver Center for the Performing Arts, and Yale Repertory Theatre (A Pipe for February).


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