Muscogee Creek Lighthorse Tribal Police (in order of appearance, left to right) Jerry Wittman, Richard Fixico, Trillia Riley, Barbara Sands & Daniel Wind III – Native News Online photo by Mark Charles
Published December 8, 2015
WASHINGTON – The Muscogee (Creek) elders tell stories of Lighthorsemen. Warriors who traveled lightly on horseback and acted as protectors for their people. Authors, such as Art T. Burton (Oklahoma State Trooper Magazine) report that as early as 1808, the Cherokee Nation passed an act appointing ‘regulators’ to suppress horse stealing, robbery and to protect widows and orphans. In 1844, after being relocated to Oklahoma, the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole all enacted laws to create ‘lighthorse companies’ based on this model.
In 2003, the non-native employee of a Dollar General store located on the Choctaw Reservation in Mississippi was accused of sexually molesting a 13-year-old tribal member. “The tribe’s attorney general took measures to exclude the Dollar General employee from the reservation, but the United States Attorney never initiated criminal proceedings. The youth and his family brought various civil claims against the employee and Dollar General in tribal court. Dollar General contested the Choctaw tribal court’s jurisdiction on four separate occasions – at the lower tribal court level, at the Choctaw Supreme Court, in the federal district court, and at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit – and lost on each occasion.” (From SCOTUSBlog)
This case threatens the safety of native women and children nationwide. After lower Federal courts upheld tribal sovereignty, Dollar General asked the Supreme Court to declare that Indian Tribes have no civil jurisdiction over non-Indian defendants, even when they are accused of sexually assaulting Native women and children on tribal lands. (Quilt Walk for Justice press release)
On Monday, December 7, 2015, while the Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments regarding tribal sovereignty and legal jurisdiction, a rally was held outside the court building in Washington, DC. More than 100 people from dozens of tribes throughout Turtle Island gathered to show support to the Choctaw people. Songs were sung, stories were shared, speeches were made, and prayers were given.
Native victims of abuse addressed the crowd. Native lawyers, judges, advocates, and leaders shared their expertise. Elders spoke with wisdom, patience, and understanding. And 3 Lighthorsemen, in full tribal police uniform, and 2 Lighthorse office staff from the Muscogee (Creek) Nation stood watch over the crowd. Practically, they were providing security for the event. Symbolically, they were protecting the people, the women and our children from violent physical and sexual abuse perpetrated on our lands, and from the legal threat to tribal sovereignty, which was being argued just across the street.