Sah-quah v. Nah-Ki-Klan was legal case held in Sitka, Alaska in 1886 regarding the issue of slavery’s practice within Tlingit Indian society. The case not only raised the issue of slavery’s practice in Alaska and by the Tlingit, but also the issue of Alaska Native citizenship, rights, sovereignty, and Tlingit law. The case is often cited by legal scholars as an example of how the American legal system interfered with and attacked Tlingit sovereignty.
The background for the case began in the spring of 1886 when a Tlingit man named Sah-quah, who was a slave in the Tlingit community of Sitka, escaped from his owner. Sah-quah fled and engaged the American settlers at Sitka and asked for legal protection from his Tlingit owners. The resulting case of Sah-quah v. Nah-Ki-Klan began circa April 19, 1886 when Sah-quah, as plaintiff, appeared in the District of Alaska, which was presided over by District Judge Layfayette Dawson. On May 8, 1886 at a subsequent hearing Judge Dawson ruled that the Thirteenth Amendment and the 1866 Civil Rights Act abolishing slavery applied to the “uncivilized tribes” of Alaska. Sah-quah was set free.
Sah-quah vs. Nah-Ki-Klan, April 19, 1886, Sitka, Series: Journal, 1884-1900, District of Alaska, US District Court. Original ledger held by the Alaska State Archives.
“In re Sah Quah, District Court, D. Alaska, May 8, 1886,” 31 F.327, in 31 Federal Reporter 327 (US District Court, Alaska: West Publishing Company, 1886). Available online at Alaska’s Digital Archives: http://vilda.alaska.edu/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/cdmg21&CISOPTR=2276&REC=2
William L. Paul Sr. “The Real Story of the Lincoln Totem: A Persistent Myth Disemboweled, Plus Some Little Known Tlingit History,” The Alaska Journal 1, no. 3 (Summer 1971): 2-16.
Sidney L. Harring, Crow Dog's Case: American Indian Sovereignty, Tribal Law, and United States Law in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1994): 223-228.
David S. Case, Alaska Natives and American Law (Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press, 2002).