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Justice in a New WorldNegotiating Legal Intelligibility in British, Iberian, and Indigenous America$
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Brian P. Owensby and Richard J. Ross

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781479850129

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479850129.001.0001

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Covering Blood and Graves

Covering Blood and Graves

Murder and Law on Imperial Margins

(p.213) 7 Covering Blood and Graves
Justice in a New World

Nancy O. Gallman

Alan Taylor

NYU Press

Gallman and Taylor take up murder at the boundary zones between the Iroquois and British settlers and between Spanish Florida and the Lower Creeks and Seminoles. Despite contrasts between the legal systems of the empires—civil law and inquisitorial procedure on the Spanish side, common law and trial by jury on the British side—indigenous groups came to similar conclusions regarding murder. Specifically, Native leaders rejected execution of the guilty, as proposed by English law, or other punishments, from execution to imprisonment to exile, under Spanish law. They opted instead to resolve matters by “covering the grave,” or giving gifts by the culpable party to the aggrieved party in lieu of revenge. This practice was less likely to spark a blood feud and enabled indigenous groups to preserve corporate autonomy in the face of pressures to conform to imperial norms. Though reluctantly, imperial officials often went along with this in order to keep the peace.

Keywords:   British settlers, Iroquois, Spanish law, English law, blood feud, indigenous groups, corporate autonomy, local alliances, murder

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