Ex parte Crow Dog


DECIDED BY: Waite Court (1882-1887)

ARGUED: Nov 26, 1883
DECIDED: Dec 17, 1883

Facts of the case

In 1883, the USA Supreme Court decided Ex parte Crow Dog case regarding conviction of the murder of one member of Indians by another this member.

Crow Dog a subchief of the Brule Lakota killed Spotted Tail a Lakota chief by shooting him in their native living territory in Dakota in 1881 year. There were controversial points of views whether it was a murder with self-protection purpose. Firstly, the criminal was resolved by the council of tribe in accordance with the traditional rules of Sioux as Crow Dog agreed to the payment of compensation in amount of 600 dollars and eight horses to the Spotted Tail`s family. However, the representative of the USA Bureau of Indian Affairs was engaged in the incident and putted the murderer under arrest and accused him in criminal under the federal law.

The State Court of Dakota condemned the Crow Dog and imposed death sentence despite on his claiming of the anti-Indian position of the government.

The study case reflects that the case was revised by the Supreme Court that rejected the argument of previous decision citied to the Act of 1874 that had the purpose to establish the application of USA legislation to the territory of Native Americans. The last main rulings of the Court proved that state courts were not empowered with the rights to judge cases with both Indian parties and that had been already revised by the tribal trial. Under this Crow Dog was released from criminal liability.

The case brief underlines the significance of this case, which leads to the approving of the Major Crimes Act in 1885, which extended federal jurisdiction on several hard crimes including its commitment by an Indian against another Native American on their native territory.


Did federal law grant the Dakota Territory court jurisdiction over the murder for which Crow Dog was convicted?