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The Treatment of Native Americans within the Frontier Judicial System, Walla Walla County

By Dale Raugust


The federal Indian Intercourse Act of 1834 established the criteria under which Native Americans would be subject to prosecution within the American court system. Tribal jurisdiction was restricted to crimes committed by Indians against Indians within the borders of the reservation. Interracial crime, even if it occurred within tribal borders was reserved for the federal courts while interracial crime outside of the reservation borders was reserved to State and Territorial courts. At the same time Washington territorial laws made Native American witnesses incompetent when they were testifying against a white person. Thus an Indian could never convict a white person of theft or rape or any other crime unless there was a white person who was willing to verify the Indian’s testimony. Other races were not subject to this rule, only Indians.

ESSAYS

Indian/White relations in Southeastern Washington, 1800-1860. This essay is a general overview and history of Indian/white relations in Southeastern Washington from the time of Lewis and Clark to the beginning of the Civil War.

Walla Walla in the 1860s. This essay provides an overview of society in Walla Walla during the 1860s.
Native Americans in Court for Murder: 1860s Walla Walla. Two specific cases in which Native Americans were charged with murder are examined. Original court records are reviewed as well as the newspaper coverage of the trials.

DOCUMENTS AND SOURCES

Overview: How were Native Americans treated within the United States Federal and Territorial Court systems? Were they able to receive fair trials? What crimes were tried within the Federal and Territorial court system and which crimes were handled by tribal authorities? This overview provides a brief description of and links to the documents and sources used to create the above articles. The index to the paper frontier court records can be found online at www.digitalarchives.wa.gov. The newspapers listed below and other frontier papers are available online at the following link: www.secstate.wa.gov/history/newspapers.aspx

Stanislaus Transcripts. Territory of Washington vs. Stanislaus and Puk-el-pett-sa, United States District Court, First Judicial District, County of Walla Walla, WAL 119. The paper records are located at the Washington State Digital Archives in Cheney Washington as part of the “frontier records” for Walla Walla County. These records can be viewed by the public by request. At this time the records are not available online, however, a partial transcript of the Stanislaus case in included as part of the project.

Sha-poon-mash transcripts. United States vs. Sha-poon-mash, United States District Court, First Judicial District, County of Walla Walla, WAL 23. As with the Stanislaus records, these records are located at the Washington State Digital Archives in Cheney, Washington. A partial transcript of relevant documents is available at the above link.

Washington Statesman, October 24, 1863, 3:1: This article briefly announced the sentence received by Sha-poon-mash for his conviction of murder. He was sentenced to be hung on November 20, 1862

Washington Statesman, 11-14-1863. In this article the newspaper announced that the conviction of Sha-poon-mash had been appealed and that the sentence had been stayed.

Washington Statesman, 4-9-1864, 2:5. This article indicated that five Indians were in jail including Sha-poon-mash. By this time the conviction of Sha-poon-mash had been overturned by the Territorial Supreme Court so Sha-poon-mash was being held for his retrial.

Washington Statesman, 4-9-1864, 2:4. In the same issue as the above article it was reported that Stanislaus and Puk-el-peet-sa, two Okanogan Indians were being transported to Walla Walla to stand trial for murder. The article summarized the charges against the two Indians.

Washington Statesman, 6-3-1864 2:2. This article described the execution of Stanislaus for murder.