Major Crimes Act (American Indians Ready Reference)
Article abstract: The Major Crimes Act gave the U.S. government, rather than tribal courts, criminal jurisdiction to prosecute fourteen major crimes committed by one reservation Indian against another.
The Major Crimes Act gave the U.S. government jurisdiction over serious crimes committed by Indians on tribal lands. Congress reacted strongly to the Ex parte Crow Dog (1883) decision, in which an Indian who killed another Indian was released by the federal government because it lacked federal jurisdiction in Indian country. Two years after the Crow Dog incident, Congress passed the Major Crimes Act, which gave the United States the right to prosecute Indians for seven crimes: murder, manslaughter, rape, assault with intent to kill, arson, burglary, and larceny. This law applied to any Indian who committed a crime against another Indian on a reservation. Over the years, the list of criminal offenses expanded to include kidnapping, maiming, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault resulting in bodily injury, incest, theft, and sexual abuse. Indians accused of lesser crimes are tried in tribal court. However, federal court decisions narrowed the act so it covers only enrolled Indians who commit crimes on their own reservations. This act transformed the relationship between tribes and the federal government by limiting tribal sovereignty and the power of tribal courts and making it nearly impossible for tribes to deal with serious...
(The entire section is 229 words.)
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