Indian Depredation Claims and Native American Policy, 1796-1920.
Fearing frontier violence, in 1796 early national leaders developed a policy to preserve peace on the frontiers by providing a legal mechanism under which settlers and Indians alike could receive compensation for wrongs committed against each other. For the next 124 years, claims filed under this policy chugged their way through the War and Interior Departments, in and out of Congress, and finally before the United States Court of Claims and, on appeal, to the U. S. Supreme Court. Little used by Indians, who infrequently resorted to this alien legal process, white Westerners used the policy to supplement or “insure”—yes, like an insurance policy—their life in the West. Based on his book Indian Depredation Claims, 1796-1920 published by the University of Oklahoma Press, Skogen will provide a background to the policy, discuss its implementation, and provide case studies about settlers using it to honestly or fraudulently gain compensation under it.