U.S. Marshals Museum highlights Cherokee history
Cherokee Nation Marshal Service Director Shannon Buhl speaks at The Blue Lion in Fort Smith, Arkansas, during his presentation on the CNMS history for the Jurisdiction and Judgment lecture series at the U.S. Marshals Museum. The three-part series highlights Fort Smith history while having an emphasis on the CN. STACIE BOSTON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
A map of Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, sits on display during Cherokee Nation Marshal Service Director Shannon Buhl’s presentation for the Jurisdiction and Judgment lecture series put on by the U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith, Arkansas. STACIE BOSTON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
FORT SMITH, Ark. – The U.S. Marshals Museum is presenting a three-part lecture series called Jurisdiction and Judgment that highlights Fort Smith history and its connection to the Cherokee Nation.
The first lecture in the annual series was held March 6 at The Blue Lion and looked at the connection between the CN Marshal Service, formerly Lighthorsemen, and U.S. marshals. Shannon Buhl, CNMS director, led the lecture speaking of the tribe’s role in historical law and order.
Buhl said in the late 1800s Fort Smith and Indian Territory were the “deadliest” spots in the history of the U.S. marshals. He said U.S. marshals’ deaths helped bring together the partnership with the Lighthorsemen.
“More U.S. marshals were killed here and in Indian Territory than any other time in history,” he said. “Judge (Isaac) Parker partnered with the Cherokee Nation. They partnered a Lighthorsemen with a U.S. marshal in Indian Territory. We have approximately 13 marshals on the federal memorial wall, 12 of which was killed during that timeframe.”
After Oklahoma statehood in 1906, Buhl said the Lighthorsemen were disbanded and did not resurface until late in the 20th century. They were renamed the CNMS.
“The Cherokee Nation Marshal Service is the oldest law force entity in the state of Oklahoma. We were here before statehood as Lighthorsemen,” he said. “But we’re also, at the same time, one of the newest law enforcement entities in the state of Oklahoma because we got remodeled. The modern day Marshal Service was (formed) after the Ross v. Neff decision...”
Ross v. Neff was a 1986 case in which the 10th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruled that Oklahoma did not have criminal jurisdiction over Indian Country within the CN.
Buhl said the name pays homage to when the tribe and U.S. marshals served together.
“(Former Chief) Wilma Mankiller and her advisors looked at what we should be called. They looked at many names that we’ve been in the past and they decided…to call this new department the Marshal Service, back to that kinship and that brotherhood we had with the U.S. marshals where both sides died in that timeframe,” he said.
Buhl said the tribe has always touted law and order. “Law and order in the Cherokee Nation predates the U.S. Constitution. The tribe has always been a nation of laws. Even before removal. We’re not like a normal governing agency. We believe in sovereignty. We believe in the right of our people. We believe in the protection of our culture and way of life.”
Leslie Higgins, U.S. Marshal Museum director of education, said the second lecture on April 2 would focus on Cherokee Bill, or Crawford Goldsby, an outlaw who was hanged in 1896 in Fort Smith for murder and robbery.
The last lecture on May 7 will focus on the U.S. marshals’ involvement in the Goingsnake Massacre, a shootout that occurred during a trial in the Cherokee court system in 1872 in the Goingsnake District. Ezekial “Zeke” Proctor was being tried for killing Polly Beck and wounding Jim Kesterson in a shooting incident. The Cherokee and U.S. courts were in dispute regarding jurisdiction, and therefore U.S. marshals were sent to arrest Proctor if he was acquitted. However, shooting broke out in the courtroom during the proceedings, killing eight of the marshals’ posse and three Cherokees.
Each lecture is from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. and is free to the public. However, registration is requested. The series is also streamed live. For more information or to register, visit www.facebook.com/marshalsmuseum
or call 1-479-709-3766.