Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock
LONE WOLF V. HITCHCOCK
LONE WOLF V. HITCHCOCK, 187 U.S. 553 (1903). Article 5 of the U.S. Constitution places American Indian affairs and policies solely in the hands of the federal government, and throughout the nineteenth century the Supreme Court rearticulated and affirmed this "government to government" relationship. Treaties between the federal government and Indian nations became the primary mechanism for adjudicating differences, ending wars, and ceding lands. Once ratified by Congress, treaties became law, the foundation for Indian rights. In Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock, the Supreme Court undermined the legal supremacy of Indian treaties and placed Indian affairs under the plenary power of the U.S. Congress.
The Kiowas and Comanches dominated the southern Plains for much of the Spanish, Mexican, and early American periods. Following increased white migration and conflict, the Kiowas and Comanches signed the Treaty of Medicine Lodge in 1867, which created a sizable reservation for them in Indian Territory. Article 12 of the treaty states that no further land cessions would occur "unless executed and signed by at least three fourths of all the adult male Indians" within the reservation and that no individuals would lose access to their existing treaty lands. With the passing of the Dawes General Allotment Act of 1887, Congress systematically attacked the communal land base of all Indian reservations, and in Indian Territory government agents pressured Comanche and Kiowa groups to allot their reservation lands. Government agencies lacked the signatures of a three-fourths majority of Indians, and Lone Wolf and other Kiowa-Comanche landholders who had lost access to their treaty lands following allotment sued. In Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock, the Supreme Court affirmed the rulings of the lower courts and ruled that Congress has "the power … to abrogate the provisions of an Indian treaty" and that Article 12 of the Medicine Lodge Treaty did not protect the Kiowa-Comanches from congressional rulings.
Placing Indian affairs under the power of Congress, the Supreme Court set the landmark precedent that treaties were not immune from congressional acts. Throughout the twentieth century, Congress passed numerous acts that violated Indian treaties, including the termination era laws of the 1950s and the 1960s, which attempted to "terminate" the federal trust status of Indian lands and communities.
Clark, Blue. "Lone Wolf" v. "Hitchcock": Treaty Rights and Indian Law at the End of the Nineteenth Century. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994.
Prucha, Francis Paul. The Great Father: The United States Government and the American Indian. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984.
"Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 23, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/lone-wolf-v-hitchcock
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