Cherokee National Prison (Part4)

The council act said the agreement entered into by and between the U.S. and Cherokee Commission of January 14, 1899 provided in Sec. 78 that immediately upon ratification of the agreement, the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation had the authority and was directed to grant absolute and unconditional pardon to all persons who had heretofore been convicted in the courts of the Cherokee Nation of a violation of Cherokee laws. It stated that the agreement was ratified by a vast majority of citizen voters of the Cherokee Nation.

Additionally, the council act included that the prisoners incarcerated in the national jail had served sentences for more than a year and because of the uncertainty under the existing state of affairs, further supplies had been declined to be longer furnished which of itself necessitated closing the jail. Pending a change in the affairs of the country, it was desirous so far as the public morals would permit, to give all equal opportunity in caring for his share of the common property and they hoped that the prisoners in the jail, when liberated, would lead exemplary lives and make good and useful citizens.

Absolute and unconditional pardons were granted the following persons incarcerated in the jail at Tahlequah, Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory.

James Wolf
William Clark
William Linn
Dan Rogers
Lee Tehee
Will Wildcat
George Beck
Don Ross
James Shirley
Robert Austin
Keener Vann
Ross Benge
Mose Fielding
Jesse Rogers
John Watts
Will Sawnie
Sam Squirrel
Walter Wofford


And all other persons who had heretofore been convicted or indicted by the courts of the Cherokee Nation of a violation of Cherokee laws, and the full rights of citizenship was restored to each of them.

At the end of the following fiscal year, the Cherokee National Prison was closed. The building was soon converted for use by the tribal government for other purposes. Today, in 2000, the building is used by the Cherokee Nation as a home for the Cultural Resource Center and is designated as a National historical site. The third floor no longer exists, nor do the stockade walls and original gallows.

The Cherokee Nation District Court was re-established in 1991 along with the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service under a new self-governance act. The Judicial Branch of the Cherokee Nation operates under the authority of the Judicial Appeals Tribunal which is also known as the tribe's supreme court. The Supreme Court and District Court are located in the historic Cherokee Capitol Building on the Cherokee Square in downtown Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The National Prison is located on the corner of Choctaw and Water Streets.

Centuries of restoration and rebuilding the Cherokee Nation is a testament to the strength and resilience of our people.

In 1875, the Cherokee National Council codified "An Act in Relation to Crimes and Misdemeanors" that included laws governing the following:

Treason and conspiracy, murder and manslaughter, excusable and justifiable homicide, assault with intent to kill, burglary, robbery and larceny, rape, mayhem, arson, perjury, abortion, poisoning, bribery, embezzlement, forgery and counterfeiting, escape of prisoners, guards, introducing and vending of liquors, houses of ill-fame, gambling, marking branding stock, offenses against health, disturbing public assemblies, malicious trespassing, false pretense, burning prairie or woods, weights and measures, betting on elections, public roads, destroying pecan trees, principals and accessories, slander and libel, Sundays, violation of, damages, skinning dead cattle, game, prairie hay, fish, and more.

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