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…or no federal court for you!

It started out as a juicy divorce case, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indian Territory in October 1894. It ended up as a major fight over citizenship and what court had the right to hear the case that went all the way to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

And it absolutely has implications for records of and research into the citizenship status and lives of women who married members of the recognized tribes.

The case: Raymond v. Raymond, 1 Indian Terr. 334 (U.S. Ct. App., Indian Territory, 1896),1 reversed 83 F. 721 (8th Cir. 1897).2

Raymond v. Raymond

The case began when Eliza E. Raymond went to the federal trial court in Indian Territory in 1894 looking for a divorce and alimony from her husband, Jesse B. Raymond. She got what she wanted: a divorce, permanent alimony of $20 per month, and even an award that Jesse pay her attorney’s fees. And Jesse appealed.

The facts before the United States Circuit Court for Indian Territory, which decided the case in October 1896, make this fun reading:

• Jesse, “a Cherokee Indian by blood,” and Eliza, “a white woman and a citizen of the United States, were married in the Cherokee Nation, where he resided, on the 5th of June, 1893, according to the laws and usages of said Nation.”3

• According to Eliza, the day after the marriage, Jesse “abandoned her without cause” and, by August 1893, “he contracted a pretended marriage with one Miss Carrie Buchanan; and … has been living with her in adultery since that date.”4

• Rubbing salt in her wounds, the scorned wife said, Jesse forged a set of court papers in her name before the Circuit Court of the Cherokee Nation in August 1893, claiming that he’d abandoned her for more than 12 months. He was there when the case was called, but — since she didn’t know anything about the case — she wasn’t. He said he was guilty, and since she wasn’t there, the divorce was entered with no alimony or property division.5

• Eliza told the United States Court that the Cherokee Nation suit was “a fraud, a pretense, and a forgery,” that Jesse had a lot of property, and she wanted alimony and costs of her suit.6

Now the case had some other twists and turns. Since everybody agreed that Eliza became a member of the Cherokee Nation by virtue of her marriage to Jesse, she also went and got herself naturalized back to be a citizen of the United States before she filed the federal divorce case. That, she said, was enough to give United States courts the power to hear her case. Jesse, of course, disagreed, and said Eliza was a member of the Cherokee Nation and bound by the action of the Cherokee Nation court.7

Ultimately, the federal trial court found for Eliza. Jesse took the case to the U.S. Circuit Court for the Indian Territory. It agreed with the trial court: Eliza, “being a naturalized citizen of the United States, and not any longer a member of the tribe of Cherokee Indians, could sue in the United States Court for the Indian Territory, and that the court had jurisdiction of the cause.”8 And since Jesse hadn’t put in any evidence countering Eliza’s claim of fraud in the Cherokee Nation court, it agreed that the trial court properly set that decision aside.9

Not so fast, said Jesse. He took the case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit on the ground that “both of the parties to the suit were members of the Cherokee Tribe of Indians, and that the courts of that tribe had exclusive jurisdiction over all suits and controversies between them.”10

And he won.

In November 1897, the U.S. Court of Appeals looked to the treaties between the United States and the Cherokee Nation and federal laws on tribal courts to conclude that there was “no doubt that the United States court in the Indian Territory is expressly excluded from the right to hear and determine civil suits to which members of the Cherokee Nation are the sole parties.”11

But, the Court said, the reason had nothing to do with Eliza’s citizenship, and going into court to get herself naturalized as a U.S. citizen didn’t change the outcome — or her citizenship.

“(A) citizen of the United States who becomes a member of one of the civilized Indian tribes by adoption does not thereby denationalize himself, and does not become an Indian,” the Court said. “He remains a citizen of the United States. … His adoption into one of these tribes has the effect to bestow on him the privileges and immunities of its members, and subjects him to the laws and usages of the tribe, but it has no greater effect. It deprives him of the right to appeal to the federal court for redress for civil injuries he sustains from members of the tribe of his adoption, but it confers upon him the right to have these wrongs redressed in the courts of his adopted tribe.”12

The Court put the matter into this perspective: “(A)doption into an Indian tribe has an effect upon his right to sue in the federal court analogous to that of a change of citizenship from one state to another. A native-born citizen of the state of Missouri has the right to the determination in a federal court of every controversy involving the requisite amount which he may have with a citizen of the state of Illinois. If, however, he becomes a citizen of the state of Illinois, he thereby surrenders that right, and is compelled to submit his controversies with the citizens of that state to its own judicial tribunals. Nor does he cease to be a citizen of the United States because he changes his residence from Missouri to Illinois.”13

Bottom line of the case: unlike the later law that stripped an American-born woman of her citizenship if she married a non-citizen,14 an American citizen woman who married into one of the recognized tribes did not lose her American citizenship. But she did lose her right to sue in federal court.

Bottom line for genealogists: Look for records of American-born women who married into the tribes in the tribal courts.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “A question of citizenship,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 11 Feb 2022).


  1. Raymond v. Raymond, 1 Indian Terr. 334 (U.S. Ct. App., Indian Territory, 1896); digital images, Google Books ( : accessed 11 Feb 2022).
  2. Raymond v. Raymond, 83 F. 721 (8th Cir. 1897); CaseLaw Access Project, ( : accessed 11 Feb 2022).
  3. Raymond v. Raymond, 1 Indian Terr. 334, 335.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid., 335-336.
  6. Ibid., 336.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid., at 340.
  9. Ibid., at 341-342.
  10. Raymond v. Raymond, 83 F. 721.
  11. Ibid., at 723.
  12. Ibid., at 724.
  13. Ibid.
  14. See generally Judy G. Russell, “Becoming unAmerican,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 16 Sep 2016 ( : accessed 11 Feb 2022).
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