Her assailant, Army Staff Sgt. Joseph Kopf. saw his rank reduced, and he also was removed from recruiting duties, and Elk was awarded compensation, but only for her treatment, the AP’s Chet Brokaw reports here in the Mitchell, S.D., Republic.
Elk then sued under the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, which – according to a federal judge’s ruling in April – requires that compensation also include her lost income, emotional distress and pain and suffering.
The ruling by Judge Francis M. Allegra of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington required the government to pay Elk $650,000 in damages. The government appealed that ruling, a settlement this week leaves it intact.
Allegra ruled that the “treaty language that requires the government to reimburse Sioux tribe members who are injured by ‘any wrong’ done by ‘bad men among the whites, or among other people subject to the authority of the United States,’” Brokaw writes.
Specifically, the treaty states:
If bad men among the whites, or among other people subject to the authority of
the United States, shall commit any wrong upon the person or property of the
Indians, the United States will, upon proof made to the agent and forwarded to the
Commissioner of Indian Affairs at Washington City, proceed at once to cause the
offender to be arrested and punished according to the laws of the United States,
and also reimburse the injured person for the loss sustained.
Horowitz says the April ruling is the first time a court has applied the treated to damages for pain and suffering.
“It creates a very strong precedent for Native Americans to use a treaty that in the past had largely been ignored,” he tells Brokaw. “It’s a new remedy essentially that previously had not been available to them.”