Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Fairbanks Offers Look into Cheyenne Judicial System / during Symposium

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Fairbanks Offers Look into Cheyenne Judicial System / during Symposium

Article excerpt

KEYWORD-HTI In the quest fornationhood or the recognition of a people as a nation, three things must be realized to confer nation status on that group.

It must have a distinct population, defined territory, and a government capable of entering into contracts with other governments.

The nationhood of the American Indians and their different tribes was the focus last week of an Indian law symposium held in Oklahoma City which focused on the differences between Indian law on the reservation and federal law as esposed by the U.S. government.

One of the more interesting aspects of the symposium however, was the history lesson provided by Robert Fairbanks, founder of the Oklahoma Indian Law Review.

Fairbanks, in research he did for Columbia University, studied the history of the Cheyenne Nation in the 1800s, the nation's break-up at the hands of the whites and the eventual subjugation of Indian law to that of federal law.

But Fairbanks also offers a look into the judicial system of the Cheyennes of old.

The Cheyenne Nation, Fairbanks said, are a particularly interesting tribe because of past relations with the U.S. government and because of the way Cheyenne society was developed.

In earlier times, the tribe had a definite territory, a definite population and a sophisticated governmental structure that worked well in the resolution of disputes.

Fairbanks cited several case studies in which members of the tribe resolved their disputes with relatively little trouble, maintained `face' and upheld tribal law.

The Cheyenne nation, a federation of 10 distinct bands, was governed by the Council of Chiefs, also known as the Council of Forty-Four.

This was the supreme tribal authority for the Cheyennes and was responsible for implementing tribal constitutional provisions and formulating policy decisions.

Below the chiefs in rank were the six soldier societies charged with police and military powers. These societies - Fox Soldiers, Dog Soldiers, Elk Soldiers, Shield Soldiers, Bowstring Soldiers, and Northern Crazy Dogs - were theoretically subordinate to the Council of Chiefs.

Power was shared to some extent between the Council of Chiefs, the military societies and the chiefs of the 10 separate bands themselves.

Judicial power among the Cheyenne was shared between the Council of Chiefs and the chiefs of the soldier society-in-charge.

The council retained original jurisdiction over matters of prime importance and was empowered to to require an advisory opinion from the soldier society. …

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