An American Indian Inmate's Struggle for Freedom

Jonathan Larrabee

This is to correct a century-plus-long legal error that has been and continues to be perpetuated upon the Great Sioux Nation and all Indians alike. The lesson is that all treaties are specific unto themselves.

On page 20 of the November 30, 2011 issue of This Week From Indian Country Today, a feature article by Tristan Ahtone addressed "bad laws" and "overlapping jurisdiction" beginning with the now famous U.S. Supreme Court decision in Ex parte Crow Dog (1883). What is being misunderstood is that the U.S. Supreme Court did not release Crow Dog for lack of federal jurisdiction "over Indian-on-Indian crime in Indian country." NO! It is clear the Supreme Court having closely examined the Sioux-specific Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868) and the Sioux-specific Act of 1877 found that the federal courts lacked jurisdiction over Crow Dog for Sioux-on-Sioux crime in Sioux country. Crow Dog is a Sioux-specific case dealing with rights and protections of the Sioux treaty only. Sioux are the only people who can claim benefit from Crow Dog and their treaty and only if their case is Sioux on Sioux in Sioux country. This is why every time a non-Sioux Indian tries to avail themself of Crow Dog's Sioux-specific rights they are denied by U.S. courts. What could be more clear? The Sioux have no more right to claim redress under (e.g.) the Cherokee-specific treaties than Cherokee to Sioux.

The Sioux treaty of 1868 is still in effect and Crow dog was not "struck back" upon by the Major Crimes Act of 1885. The tenet of law is the specific is never undone by the general and Crow Dog could not be more specific. As well, Article VI, cl 2 of the U.S. constitution makes all treaties "supreme law of the land." In either circumstance the Sioux specific treaty and Crow Dog remain law for Sioux on Sioux crimes in Sioux country.

Thousands of Sioux members have been and continue to be persecuted—prosecuted without jurisdiction in violation of the treaty of 1868 in light of Crow Dog, and the U.S. knows it. How many Sioux men and women suffer now in State and Federal prisons or are "convicted felons" due to the ex-jurisdictional application of the Major Crimes Act?

I have taken up this fight to correct this ongoing injustice as I suffer because of it. I have contacted a lawyer in Philadelphia. Richard H. Maurer who has agreed to help me in this ongoing war against my people. All Indians have specific rights and protections in their respective treaties which their forefathers suffered and died to attain. No ex post facto law or statute or act can nullify these rights...FIGHT FOR THEM as I am, for my Sioux specific rights the Great Sioux Nation and people.

Jonathan Larrabee, enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, has been incarcerated in various U.S. penitentiaries since his conviction for second-degree murder. He is hoping to be transferred to a federal correctional institution by 2014.

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ojibwe's picture
I have no idea what this article is about. It begins clearly somewhere in the middle of a long story, but I do not know what that story is. It is clear that the Sioux people complain and appear to suffer more than any of the other hundreds of American Indian tribes.
piqua's picture
Funny that Ojibwe is complaining about someone "complaining" by trying to put their view forward.
danielcardenas's picture
Mr. Larrabee, may or may not be correct with his assertion that the US lacks federal criminal jurisdiction over Lakota people. But that does not negate the fact that as he puts it, "Thousands of Sioux members" sit in Federal prisons for crimes they committed. Is he suggesting that these people are innocent? As we are all aware, tribes all across this nation, including the Lakota Nation, do not have the resources or the capacity to try and imprison thousands of their members. Many reservations are already lawless and to compound the problem with one more issue, does not solve crime in Indian Country. Right or wrong, I am happy that the Feds come in when they do to bring some justice to Indian Country.