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Kiowa - Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock

Reservation lands were divided into separate plots that were distributed to individual tribe members under the General Allotment Act of 1887. Once each tribal member was allotted a plot, the remaining land was sold and the profits went into a trust for the tribe that was managed by the federal government. The idea behind the act was that allotment would force the tribal members to farm by limiting any ability to hunt, and the rest of the reservation could be opened to eager settlers. The Kiowa were strongly opposed to the act. Chief Lone Wolf, a nephew of Gui-pago, threatened to go to war if the act were forced on the tribe.

Congress formed a three-member commission in 1889 to negotiate allotments for 20 reservations in Oklahoma. The commission was known as the Jerome Commission after its chairman, David Jerome. The commission arrived at Fort Sill to negotiate allotment of the Kiowa and Comanche reservation in 1892. The commission proposed that the land be divided into 160-acre plots, but the Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867 called for 320-acre plots if the land were ever to be divided. The Medicine Lodge Treaty also stipulated that three-fourths of the men of the tribe needed to approve the sale of any tribal land. Eventually the Jerome Commission obtained enough signatures to approve allotment, althoughA’piatan, the opposition leader, accused the commission of fraud.

It took eight years for Congress to ratify the Jerome Agreement. During that time thousands of Euro-American settlers illegally rushed into Kiowa lands. These settlers robbed the reservation’s stone, timber, and minerals while establishing farms. As the Rock Island Railroad line  was finished through the northern part of the reservation, small towns started to develop. Congress approved a modified version of the Jerome Agreement in 1900, but Lone Wolf was still determined to fight it. He hired an attorney to contest the Jerome Agreement, and an injunction was filed against the Secretary of the Interior, Ethan Hitchcock. The federal courts ruled against Lone Wolf.

Lone Wolf continued his lawsuit against Hitchcock. The case went before the United States Supreme Court. The court ruled in favor of the United States in 1903. Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock set a troubling precedent against the rights of Native Americans. The justices determined that Congress had authority over tribes and that any rights or powers reserved for a tribe by agreements like the Medicine Lodge Treaty could be eliminated by Congress at any point in time. The justices also held that the motives of Congress could not be examined in court. Tribal concerns were deemed a political issue as opposed to a legal issue. Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock set a dark precedent; tribes had no legal recourse to defend their rights against Congress.

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Entry: Kiowa - Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: September 2015

Date Modified: December 2017

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.