Judge: 1868 Sioux treaty covers pain, suffering

A nearly 150-year-old treaty between the United States and a number of Indian tribes requires the U.S. government pay for the treatment and other losses of a Sioux woman sexually assaulted by an Army recruiter, a federal judge ruled.

Judge Francis M. Allegra said in a ruling Tuesday in Washington that Lavetta Elk, 26, was entitled to more than $590,000 in damages under treaty language that requires reimbursement to members of Sioux Tribes injured by “bad men among the whites, or among other people subject to the authority of the United States.”

The ruling marked the first time that the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 was found to cover non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, said Elk’s lawyer, Adam Horowitz.

He said it opened the door for other tribes with similar treaty language to file claims for pain and suffering if they have been intentionally injured a federal employee.

A military proceeding found that Kopf had committed an indecent assault on Elk, and he was reduced in rank and removed from recruiting duties, according to court records.

In the lawsuit, the government acknowledged that Kopf had assaulted Elk but it argued Elk was entitled only to damages for treatment expenses.


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