United States Indian Police

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U.S. Indian Police badge ca. 1890

The United States Indian Police (USIP) were organized in 1880 by John Q. Tufts the Indian Commissioner in Muskogee, Indian Territory, to police the Five Civilized Tribes. The USIP recruited many of their police officers from the ranks of the existing Indian Lighthorsemen. Unlike the Lighthorse who were under the direction of the individual tribe, the USIP was under the direction of the Indian agent assigned to the Union Agency. Many of the US Indian police officers were given Deputy U.S. Marshal commissions that allowed them to cross jurisdictional boundaries and also to arrest non-Indians.

In 1886 two Indians killed Sam Sixkiller who was the popular Captain of the US Indian Police and a Deputy U.S. Marshal commissioned by the Judicial District of Western Arkansas. After the killers escaped indictment by the tribes, Congress passed a law (24 Stat., 463.) giving the United States district courts jurisdiction over any Indian who committed a crime against a federally appointed Indian police officer or United States Deputy Marshal.

Other Indian police[edit]

There were basically two other types of police officers on the reservations:

  • Indian tribal police
    Several Indian tribes replaced hereditary chiefs with constitutional governments. These tribes hired police officers under a number of different titles—sheriffs, constables, regulators, lighthorsemen, etc.—to enforce tribal laws.
  • Indian agency police
    Many tribes had no recognizable governments and therefore no tribal laws. On these reservations, the Indian agent assigned to the tribe hired Indian police from among tribal members to effect law and order according to Federal, agency, and treaty rules. These were considered federally appointed police officers. The Indian police that killed Sitting Bull were of this kind.

See also[edit]