By Gwyneth Easley
A link to the podcast website.
In 2000 Patrick Murphy was convicted of murder by the state of Oklahoma and was sentenced to death. Now that decision is being heard by the Supreme Court, and its decision will impact five tribes of Oklahoma and nearly half the land in Oklahoma. This is the basis for Rebecca Nagle’s podcast “This Land.”
Nagle did not go to school for journalism. She went to art school in Philadelphia studying textiles and then moved to Tahlequah to be closer to home where she started writing. In November of 2018, when the 10th Circuit ruled in favor of Murphy, she submitted a story to the Washington Post about the Patrick Murphy case. Then Crooked Media reached out to her to do a podcast.
Writing a podcast was difficult for Nagle. She was used to writing online stories and writing for the ear is different than writing for the eyes. She said it was also different to write with a team than it had been to freelance, because there were more people reading and providing feedback to her script.
The story for “This Land” was also very personal to Nagle. Her tribe, the Cherokee Nation, is one of the tribes that will be affected by the outcome of the Supreme Court decision. The argument is that the decision that sentenced Murphy to death was not the jurisdiction of the State of Oklahoma, because only tribes and the federal government can prosecute on Indian land. If the Supreme Court agrees it will be the largest return of tribal land in US history. This is an issue that is very personal for Nagle.
In 1839 a Cherokee leader named John Ridge was pulled from his bed and was stabbed 89 times in his front yard while his family watched. He was killed because he signed the Cherokee Nation’s removal treaty which traded the Cherokee Nation’s ancestral lands for uninterrupted sovereignty in Oklahoma. A promise which was not kept. Ridge was Nagle’s great great great grandfather.
According to Nagle, through allotment the Cherokee Nation lost 74 percent of their land in Oklahoma, and land continues to be lost when it is sold to a non-indigenous person, inherited to someone who is less than half blood quantum or when the land owner lifts the restrictions so that they can qualify for a mortgage. The overarching question that the Supreme Court will answer is whether or not the land that the Patrick Murphy murder was committed on still tribal land.
Nagle discovered the Murphy case while reading about it on Facebook. It was from there that she began researching the case on a Supreme Court blog called Turtle Talk. Another challenge that Nagle faces was making the legal vernacular understandably and compelling for an audience.
Some of the advice that Nagle gave for aspiring journalists: is to pitch stories as frequently as they can and write and submit stories to as many publications as they can. She got her start writing for the unpaid Huffington Post blogs and by freelancing.