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United States. Office of Indian Affairs / Annual report of the commissioner of Indian affairs, for the year 1883

Report of the commissioner of Indian affairs,   pp. III-LXXI ff. PDF (28.2 MB)

Page XIV

general subject, which indeed seemed to require further legislative con-
sideration. Thereupon the Department, upon the recommendation of 
this office, availed itself of the Attorney-General's suggestion, aud, under
date of the 24th July last, requested that the United States attorney for
the district of Kansas be directed to take the necessary steps for the 
trial of the prisoner before the United States district court at Wichita,
Kans., to which, by act of Congress of January 6, 1883. is committed 
jurisdiction over all that part of the Indian Territory lying north of the
Canadian River and east of Texas and the one 1iundredth meridian, not 
set apart and occupied by the Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole tribes 
(22 S tat., 400). 
In the mean time the prisoner, Johnson Foster, had been removed from 
the guard-house at Fort Reno by a United States deputy marshal en 
route to Fort Smith, Arkansas, there to be tried for horse-stealing and 
other minor offenses previously pending against him. The deputy 
secured a strong guard of troops to assist in escorting the prisoner be-
yond the limits of the agency, notwithstanding which a small party of 
young Arapahoes made a bold dash when about 15 miles out from the 
agency. and came very near getting their man, but finally abandoned 
the attempt. I am since officially informed by the agent that while on 
the road to Fort Smith and near the Osage Agency, Foster succeeded 
in brutally murdering McWeir, the marshal's assistant, and in making 
his escape. At last accounts he was at large. 
Of course, in the event of his recapture, having now murdered a white 
man, there can be no failure of justice for want of jurisdiction in the 
United States court, but I have purposely referred to this case in detail
as a glaring instance of the injustice of a law which, by remitting the 
trial and punishment of a murderer of one of their own race to the 
Indians themselves, recognizes the forfeiture of a few ponies or other 
property to the murdered man's relatives as a sufficient atonement for 
the crime. I do not undertake to say that the position contended for 
by this office in the Johnson case would have been wholly tenable be- 
fore the United States court. In that respect I am bound to defer to 
the opinion of the honorable Attorney-General, although he admitted 
that the question was one by no means free from doubt; but I do ven- 
ture to maintain that this case pre-eminently shows that it is high time
that crimes among Indians should be defined by United States laws, 
and the Department be relieved from all possible chance of future 
embarrassment by reason of the exception contained in the statute re- 
ferred to. What is required is a law for the punishment of crimes and 
offenses among the Indians themselves, one which shall make the Indian 
equally secure with the white man in his individual rights of person and
property, and equally amenable for any violation of the rights of others.
On the 10th of April last you gave your official approval to certain 
rules governing the "'court of Indian offenses," prepared in this

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