Cherokee Nation partners with U.S. Marshals Museum for remembrance event


Zeke Proctor was a Cherokee sought for the accidental death of Polly Beck in 1872, and his attempted arrest by U.S. marshals sparked the historic Goingsnake Massacre. Proctor was acquitted in court and eventually became a sheriff.

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. —The Cherokee Nation is partnering with the future U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith, Ark., for a two-day “Honoring the Heroes of Our Past” event.

On Friday, Nov. 8, from 9:30 a.m. to noon in Tahlequah is a free seminar on the Cherokee involvement with the U.S. Marshal Service and Goingsnake Massacre of 1872.

On Saturday, Nov. 9, at 11 a.m. in Fort Smith, Ark., is a Hall of Honor Cornerstone Dedication Ceremony to honor about 250 fallen U.S. marshals, along with other events and a 6 p.m. reenactment of Judge Parker’s courtroom.

“We have a responsibility to continue retelling and sharing our history with our citizens and our neighbors,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “We have established a great partnership with the U.S. Marshals Museum, and this will be a unique chance to learn more about an important chapter in history for both the Cherokee Nation and for the U.S. marshals. I am proud we can offer these educational opportunities during Native American Heritage Month.”

The Cherokee Nation’s Nov. 8 program will kick off inside the Tribal Council Chambers at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex, 17675 S. Muskogee Ave, with an invocation by Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd. Guest speakers will tentatively include Chief Baker, Cherokee Nation Marshal Director Shannon Buhl, U.S. Marshal Director Stacia Hylton, and author and historian Robert Ernst. The seminar is free and open to the public. It will also be live streamed at

The Cherokee Nation is encouraging descendants of the Goingsnake Massacre to attend the Tahlequah seminar. The Goingsnake Massacre of April 15, 1872, was a gunfight involving U.S. marshals out of Van Buren, Ark., and Cherokee citizens.

The incident centered on the accidental shooting and death of Polly Beck at the hands of Cherokee Zeke Proctor. According to Ernst, who wrote the book “Deadly Affrays: The Violent Deaths of the U.S. Marshals,” Proctor aimed to kill James Kesterson for leaving his children and wife, who was Proctor’s sister. Beck stepped in front of Kesterson and, following her death, historians say U.S. deputy marshals and a posse went to arrest Proctor, which resulted in a shootout. Eleven were killed, including both U.S. marshals and Cherokee citizens.

“The Cherokee Nation has a deep and colorful history with the U.S. Marshal Service. Many of the men serving as U.S. deputy marshals out of the Fort Smith federal court during the frontier era were Cherokee,” said Catherine Foreman-Gray, history and preservation officer for the Cherokee Nation. “It is important for us to honor these men who made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Descendants and those with questions about the Nov. 8 seminar in Tahlequah can contact Foreman-Gray at 918-316-2432 or

A full schedule for Saturday, Nov. 9, in Fort Smith is available at For more information, please call the U.S. Marshals Museum office at 479-709-3766 or email

Cherokee Nation News Release
Julie Hubbard - 918-207-3896 

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