Courts of Indian Offenses were the first courts in Indian Country resembling the Anglo-American legal system. Indian nations had previously regulated criminal behavior using social and religious rites, mediation, and restitution; beginning in the 1880s, however, the courts established a forum for prosecuting criminal charges, including many traditional Indian customs and religious practices newly outlawed under the courts’ criminal code. Courts of Indian Offenses arose not in express statutory authorization, but in the early administrative practices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

After decades ...

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