Sovereignty on Trial: The Tragedy at Goingsnake

Cherokee Nation Owned
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April 5, 2022–April 8, 2023

This exhibit looks at what has been called the Goingsnake Massacre on its 150th anniversary. On April 15, 1872, Cherokee Nation citizen Ezekiel Proctor was on trial in a Cherokee Nation court for the murder of Cherokee Nation citizen Mary “Polly” Hildebrand when a U.S. Marshal’s posse sent to arrest Proctor interrupted the trial. A shootout broke out leaving 11 men dead or fatally wounded, including a deputy U.S. Marshal. Proctor’s trial and its aftermath became the centerpiece of long-standing jurisdictional debate between the federal court and Cherokee Nation. That debate continues into the present even after the Supreme Court’s 2020 ruling that the reservation of Muscogee Nation in Oklahoma was never disestablished. The decision ultimately impacted Cherokee Nation and its jurisdiction in criminal matters.

Photo courtesy of the Talbot Library and Museum, Colcord, Oklahoma

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