The Major Crimes Act Of 1885 Essay

The Major Crimes Act Of 1885 Essay

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The Major Crimes Act was an important piece of legislation regarding the jurisdiction of Indian tribes on U.S. soil, and was passed on March 3, 1885. It was one of the concluding sections of the Indian Appropriations Act of 1885, which sought to deal with Indian American relations of the latter-19th century. The Major Crimes Act law was passed by Congress, following the General Crimes Act of 1817. The Major Crimes Act expanded on the General Crimes Act by detailing what could constitute as a crime under the federal jurisdiction of the United States if they were to be committed by a Native American in a Native American territory. It also added the caveat that crimes committed between two Native Americans would also count under federal jurisdiction as well. Ultimately, the law was an avenue for the United States government to still control much of what happened on Native American land, which violated the principle of their sovereignty.

A large part of the reason why The Major Crimes Act was passed was due to the decision of Ex parte Crow Dog in 1883. The case involved the shooting death of beloved Brulé Lakota tribal chief Siŋté “Spotted Tail” Glešká in 1881. He was shot and killed by Lakota sub chief Kȟaŋǧí “Crow Dog” Šúŋka on The Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, on August 5, 1881. The case was brought up as a murder charge, but proved to be fraught with issues since the act took place on an Indian reservation. Typically, the Native American people were free to try the case per their tribe or reservation rules, yet the United States government intervened on this matter. Crow Dog was eventually arrested and taken to Fort Niobrara, Nebraska to be tried in a Dakota Territorial court in Deadwood, South Dakota. Crow Dog was ...


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...o secret that the hostilities between Native Americans and American settlers were reaching new heights. The westward expansion of the nation brought about mass warfare between the two communities of the nation. However, as American citizens, their fights with the Native Americans spilled over into the legal sector and supplied them with enough legal ammunition to justify the subjugation and jurisdiction of these people whom they were fighting against. When the Major Crimes Act was passed and had its day in court, it was upheld, ultimately giving precedence for the further mistreatment of Native peoples. Laws and cases passed through the decades until efforts were made to halt the further suppression of these people. The policy of the Major Crimes Act was designed to give the United States power over Native Americans, while claiming their sovereignty at the same time.

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