Cherokee National Prison (Part3)

U.S. Interior Department Agent reports in Indian Territory noted that "there are 43 men of the Indian police force of the agency distributed throughout the agency." An equal division of the territory to be protected would give about 712 square miles to each officer. They cooperated with both Indian officers and the U.S. deputy marshals and State officials, hunting refugees from justice and made many needed arrests of persons who by for the force, with general authority, would escape.

There were six occupants in the jail on April 8, 1877, "having to serve from four to fifteen years each."

In December of 1877, a notice was published that said, "Hereafter the convicts. . . will be known by their uniform-streaked and striped."

January, 1878 news articles say convicts of the national prison are to be taught mechanical arts, such as shoemaking, blacksmithing, wagon making as soon as the shops are put in. Sixkiller is making preparations in February of '78 to put in and cultivate about thirty or forty acres of corn with his convict force, within a short distance from town. Other enterprising projects by Sixkiller continued through early 1879.

High Sheriff Sixkiller served until June 7, 1879 when he, along with his newly appointed deputy, Cullos Thorne, were arrested and charged with the murder of Jeter Thompson. In a letter to the Principal Chief, Executive Secretary J.F. Thompson stated, "It is the wish of George Downing Johnson and family of deceased that you appoint someone to take Sixkiller's position until the mitigation, and trial is over because [it] might be used for the advantage of the accused. Anyone acceptable to you and not related to either of the parties would give satisfaction." He suggested Samuel H. Downing for prison operations.

Sixkiller initially refused to relinquish the prison informing Downing that it would take an act of force. Downing detailed Sixkiller's insubordination in a five page letter to the Chief. In a July 1st letter to Sixkiller, Chief Thompson repeats his demand to turn over the books, papers and records of the National Prison stating a deadline of the 2nd of July, 1879. The chief warns that a second failure to comply with his demand will find Sixkiller to be held responsible. Sixkiller complied.

David Row calls for a thorough examination of the condition of the National Prison on July 22, 1879. On November 25th, a special committee of the council was appointed to investigate the affairs of Sixkiller.

Sixkiller retained attorneys S.S. Stephine and James M. Bell to "attend to any and all business connected in any way with the office of High Sheriff and the National Prison during the last few years ending in November, 1879." Eventually acquitted of the murder and released, Sixkiller never regained his position.

The June 7, 1897 Act of Congress that required all original offences committed by citizens of the Cherokee Nation on or after January 1, 1898, should be tried regardless of citizenship by the United States court; along with an Act of Congress approved June 28th, 1898, that abolished the Cherokee courts on and after July 1, 1898; and the burden of the $8,000 annual expense to the Cherokee Nation marked the beginning of the end to the National Prison.

The Cherokee National Council resolution approved by Principal Chief T.M. Buffington on November 28, 1899 and entitled "An Act for the Purpose of disposing of certain jail property belonging to the Nation and for other purposes," was submitted by the Secretary of the Interior to the President of the United States for executive action on December 20, 1899 and duly approved on December 22. It was placed on file in the Office of Indian Affairs at Washington.

Info provided by the Cherokee Nation Cultural Resource Center cultural@cherokee.org