Thursday, April 30, 2009

Judge Says Woman Must Be Paid Damages Based on 1868 Sioux Treaty

Judge Says Woman Must Be Paid Damages Based on 1868 Sioux Treaty

Matthew Gruchow

A Native American woman from Rapid City has won a historic ruling in federal court based on a century-old treaty between the U.S. government and the Oglala Sioux Tribe after she was sexually assaulted by a military recruiter.

The U.S. government will have to pay Lavetta Elk, formerly of Rapid City, nearly $600,000 in damages after she was sexually assaulted by Army recruiter Staff Sgt. Joseph Kopf in his car January 2003, according to court documents. Judge Francis Allegra based the ruling on a “bad men” provision in the April 29, 1868 treaty between the government and the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

That provision of the Fort Laramie Treaty “provides that if ‘bad men’ among the whites commit ‘any wrong’ upon the person or property of any Sioux, the United States will reimburse the injured person for the loss sustained,” according to court documents filed Wednesday.

The judgement against the U.S. government based on the treaty is unprecedented, said Adam Horowitz, Elk’s Miami-based lawyer. It also is a marked change in interpretation of Indian treaties which have historically been construed negatively, he said.

“Never before has this treaty been used to bring such a claim,” Horowitz said. “It creates precedent for Native Americans who belong to tribes with treaties like this in effect.”

Elk, who was 19-years-old at the time of the assault, now is married and lives with her family in California. She could not be reached for comment.

Read more in Thursday's Argus Leader.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here's hoping that others who've been hurt by federal employees will be inspired by Lavetta's courage to come forward, take action, expose predators and protect others.

David Clohessy
National Director, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
7234 Arsenal Street
St. Louis MO 63143
314 566 9790 cell, 314 645 5915