DescriptionA Highly Important Autograph Book from the 1882 Trial of Crow Dog. An amazing collection of autographs, along with a great ledger-style drawing, from this historic affair.
Crow Dog, a Sioux leader on the Rosebud reservation, stood accused of the murder of Spotted Tail, Chief of the Sicangu/ Brule Lakota. Normally crimes which took place on reservation land were dealt with by traditional tribal justice. However, Crow Dog was arrested under federal authority and tried in the District Court of Dakota Territory in Deadwood. The arrest was an attempt to advance the government plan to remove such cases from tribal authority in order to "civilize" the Indian population.
The case caused quite a sensation, as evidenced by the fact that some of the autographs in the book are by California residents who presumably traveled to Deadwood to watch the trial.
The book contains the identified X-marks of most of the Indians who testified at the trial. On one double-page are autographs of the entire jury and officers of the court. From a comment in the book by U.S. Attorney Hugh Caulfield, it seems likely that the owner was one of the jurors. But the most amazing page is a colorful drawing by Crow Dog himself. It is very similar to the one in the autograph book held by the Adams Museum in Deadwood. Sometimes erroneously described as Crow Dog's version of the killing, the drawing is in fact probably a generic depiction of Sioux bravery in battle. The warrior being lanced can be identified as Crow by his hair style and other details, and at the moment of the murder - by shooting - Crow Dog was actually seated in a wagon.
An article in the Black Hills Daily Times reported that Crow Dog and two other Indians being held in the jail would "while away their spare moments by filling out autograph books for their pale-faced friends." At least three similar versions of the drawing are known, all in trial-related autograph books like this one.
The Crow Dog case was an important one in the history of American jurisprudence. His conviction and sentence to death by hanging were overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, which affirmed the right of the Rosebud Agency to dispense their own justice in this case. As a result of the Court's decision, Congress passed a Major Crimes Act in 1883, reserving Federal Jurisdiction for five categories of crimes committed by Indians on a reservation.
This autograph book is in excellent condition and constitutes an important artifact from a major episode in the evolution of relations between the Native American peoples and the U.S. government. The lot is accompanied by a three-page letter of authentication and expertise by Associate Professor Ross Frank, Director of the Plains Indian Ledger Art Digital Publishing Project in the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of California San Diego.
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