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Seneca John Title
Seneca Tribe HistoryIndian-White RelationsLife and LiveliehoodDeath of Seneca JohnDeath of Seneca John-Another ViewDismissal of Coonstick's CaseSeneca John's Grave MarkerSeneca John Suggested Reading
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Dismissal of
Coonstick's Case

While the U. S. Government claimed and exercised ultimate sovereignty over all reservations, it conceded and allowed complete personal independence to the individual occupants, and complete municipal or civil jurisdiction to the tribes in all matters pertaining to their own manners, customs and laws, including punishment for crimes and offenses against them. They were in respect to these matters an independent sovereignty, or power. This was clearly recognized by the Judges of the Supreme Court held in Sandusky County in 1828 at Lower Sandusky, as is learned from a statement related by Judge David Higgins in Knapp's History of the Maumee Valley. He was Judge of the Common Pleas Court from 1831 to 1837 and familiar with the facts related. He says he was informed that Seneca John was tried by a council of head men, and that upon full investigation was condemned to die, and Coonstick was required to execute his brother. During a session of the Supreme Court (1828) someone in Lower Sandusky caused the arrest of Coonstick for murder, on complaints before a Justice of the Peace. The facts in the case being presented to the Judges of Supreme Court, they decided that the execution of Seneca John was an act completely within the jurisdiction of the Seneca Council; and that Coonstick was justified in the execution of a judicial sentence which he was the proper person to carry into effect. The case was dismissed and Coonstick discharged. No record, however, of the case is found, but there is no doubt as to the fact stated. Thus, Seneca John, though he was killed on a false charge prompted by jealousy, yet as the form of the law of the tribe had been followed in his trial and condemnation, his execution was not regarded as murder in the legal sense. It was, however, cold blooded murder morally. Here as formerly, in a bigoted portion of so-called civilized people, of our own country, cold blooded murders were committed in the name of punishment for this so-called crime of witchcraft.

(Excerpted from "Seneca John, Indian Chief," by Basil Meek, in The Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly, vol. 31, no. 2, 1922)

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