At a young age, I remember being told by a teacher that if there are five or more native Americans in a group, it is legal to shoot them, because it is considered a war party. The teacher told me that this was an old law which is still in effect today.

I found a few references, but I don't know how credible they are:

  • Dumb Laws Web Site

    • South Dakota:

      If there are more than 5 Native Americans on your property you may shoot them.

    • Spearfish, South Dakota:

      If three or more Indians are walking down the street together, they can be considered a war party and fired upon.

  • Stupid Laws Web Site

    • Iowa:

      You may shoot Native Americans if more than five of them are on your property.

    • South Dakota:

      If there are more than 5 Native Americans on your property you may shoot them.

    • Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania:

      A group of 5 or more Native Americans are to be considered a raiding party and may be killed on the spot.

Could this actually be true? If it is, then does that mean there would be no repercussions for murdering a group of innocent people in cold blood?

(I hope nobody is evil enough to go out and do this.)

  • 11
    The fact that those sites list different states automatically makes me suspicious that this is total BS.
    – cpast
    Dec 24, 2014 at 22:37
  • 9
    Some of these claims can be true but they have nothing to do with Native Americans. It can be legal to shoot someone on your property, even if he is alone, and regardless of his race, it's called home defense.
    – vsz
    Dec 25, 2014 at 17:54
  • 1
    @vsz I think the assumption is that "on your property" rather than "in your home" means it applies even if they are outside and there is no fence or sign.
    – Random832
    Dec 26, 2014 at 13:44
  • 2
    This is one of those things that is so absurd that it is hard to argue it at first. Murder is illegal everywhere, anytime, by anyone against anyone. No exceptions except for self defense in limited cases. No law stating so is valid, full stop, regardless if it is "on the books" or not.
    – geoO
    Jan 13, 2015 at 19:30
  • 5
    Check the facts here. In no locality in the US is it legal to use deadly force to protect any property of any kind, including your home. HOWEVER, if you can prove your life was in danger (and many people are in prison after losing this argument), then there are cases where self defense that resulted in loss of life of the assailant will allow you to not go to prison for murder. There are some states and situations such as involving car-jacking (again surrounding a preponderance of evidence that your life was in danger) where this kind of self defense is authorized. Apr 29, 2016 at 17:55

2 Answers 2


Even if such a law were still on the books somewhere in the U.S., it would be superseded by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which states (emphasis added):

Section 1: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

All people within the jurisdiction of any U.S. state are ensured equal protection under the law, so any law saying that it's legal to shoot native Americans in a situation where it wouldn't otherwise be legal to shoot someone would be unconstitutional and unenforceable. Such a law would certainly be struck down by the courts if a case arose in which it were judicially reviewed.

[D]oes that mean there would be no repercussions for murdering a group of innocent people in cold blood?

Absolutely not, for the above reasons.

  • 9
    Are Native Americans citizens, subject to American jurisdiction?
    – ChrisW
    Dec 25, 2014 at 10:50
  • 9
    @ChrisW Yes: justice.gov/otj/about-native-americans
    – Alan Munn
    Dec 25, 2014 at 13:31
  • 4
    @ChrisW -- "jurisdiction" in the last clause does not refer to personal jurisdiction; that is, it doesn't matter whether the person claiming the protection of the state is himself subject to state laws or not. If you shoot a foreign diplomat (i.e. someone who, unlike an Indian, is not personally subject to the state's jurisdiction) in Oklahoma, you can be tried by the State of Oklahoma (unless Federal prosecutors takes the case, of course). Dec 25, 2014 at 20:32
  • 4
    @Malvolio The 14th Amendment doesn't stop states from extending equal protection to those who aren't subject to US jurisdiction; it just doesn't require it (for diplomats specifically, the United States has obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations to protect them). The clause does mean "personal jurisdiction," which is why children of diplomats aren't citizens of the United States.
    – cpast
    Dec 25, 2014 at 22:30
  • 9
    Note that the clause in question says that a state may not deny equal protection to "any person within its jurisdiction," not "any citizen within its jurisdiction."
    – reirab
    Dec 26, 2014 at 5:13

This 2005 Keloland news article tackles the claims about South Dakota, especially Spearfish, South Dakota.

It showed there was no such law in Spearfish.

Spearfish Mayor Jerry Krambeck said, "And of course we researched as far as back as we possibly could and this was totally false."

And there was was no such law in South Dakota:

Several websites also accuse the state of South Dakota of having a war party law. However, officials in Pierre say there's no such law on the books.

Nevertheless, Spearfish then passed a resolution saying that there isn't any law to that effect, but even if there was it was officially overturned.

So, for at least one of the places where this is claimed, it's false. I couldn't find good info about the others.

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