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United States. Office of Indian Affairs / Annual report of the commissioner of Indian affairs, for the year 1884
([1884])

Report of the commissioner of Indian affairs,   pp. [III]-LV ff. PDF (21.4 MB)


Page XV

REPORT OF THE COMMISSIONER           OF INDIAN    AFFAIRS.      XV 
had duplicated his crime by murdering the United States deputy mar- 
shal who had him in charge. 
Still another and more recent case is that of Spotted Tail, junior, and 
Thunder Hawk, who killed White Thunder (all of them Sioux Indians), 
the Rosebud Agency on the Sioux reservation. Under the decision 
in the Crow Dog case, this office had no alternative but to reluctantly 
order the prisoners, who, in the first instance, had been placed in the 
custody of the military, back to the reservation. In regard to this af- 
fair the agent reports as follows: 
The quietude and monotony of affatirs at the agency was broken on the evening
of 
May 29, by the killing of Chief White Thunder by Spotted Tail (son of the
late 
Chief Spotted Tail) and an Indian named Thunder Hawk. My information, obtained
principally from Spotted Tail after the fracas, is that White Thunder, feeling
aggrieved, 
went to Spotted Tail's camp, and took therefrom seven horses and other propeity-;
Spotted Tail going to his camp and seeing some of his horses dead on the
road, he, 
with two others, Thunder Hawk and Long Pumpkin, went to and commenced firing
into the camp of White Thunder's friends, during which White Thunder received
two rifle shots, one from Spotted Tail in the leg and another from Thunder
Hawk in 
the breast, from which he soon died. Long Pumpkin was thought to be mortally
wounded; he has progressed till the present time with prospects of final
recovery. 
The father of White Thunder was also less seriously wounded, but on account
of 
extreme age may not recover. Six horses were killed in the affray. The next
morn- 
ing Spotted Tail and Thunder Hawk answered my summons and appeared before
me 
for examination. I sent them to Fort Niobrara. They have been kept prisoners
at 
the fort since that time. 
If there is no law to punish or detain offenders of such character in durance,
they 
should not be returned to the place of their crimes, where the friends and
relatives of 
the murdered reside, and who stand ready, whenever afflicted with "bad
hearts" or 
are ilmourning," to avenge the offense, endangering the lives of many,
and good gov- 
ernment of all. I look upon this trouble as an outgrowth of the return to
this agency 
of "Crow Dog" (the murderer of Chief Spotted Tail, August, 1881),
imprisoned, tried, 
convicted, and condemned for this crime; afterwards on the decision of the
United 
States Supreme Court, "that the court had no jurisdiction over Indian
offenders 
against Indians," he was released and returned here, feeling of more
importance than 
the highest chief of the nation. His presence from the time of his return
has been 
the cause of jealousy and heartburning; it has at different times appeared
as though 
trouble would result from this cause. "White Thunder" had become
one of the pro- 
gressive men among the Indians; had recently induced a number of his band
to leave 
the vicinity of the agency to form a new camp where good farms could be made,
and 
by his example induced them to go to work. His death will be a loss to his
people, 
as also to the whites, to whom he was a good friend; his influence was on
the side of 
good government, law and order. 
Other instances may be cited, but enough have been given to show 
the necessity for an amendment of the law in this particular. The aver- 
age Indian may not be ready for the more complex questions of civil 
law, but he is sufficiently capable to discriminate between right, and 
wrong, and should be taught by the white man's law to respect the per. 
sons and prolperty of his race, and that under the same law he himself 
is entitled to like protection. 
In this connection I desire to call your attention to the importance of 
establishing a United States court in the Jndian Territory, in accord- 


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