ELK Essay (History)

ELK Essay (History). This is 400 words essay + sources


The Elk case demonstrates how pre-Civil War court decisions continued in the post-war years to influence the definition of “citizen” and civil rights. Read carefully the decision and opinions offered in the Elk case. Below is a link to a web site where the case information is located. I strongly suggest that you print out the Elk case (to help you read it closely).

First, clarify in your own mind the basis for the Court’s decision regarding John Elk’s rights and privileges in the US in the 1880s.

Several key cases, especially the Dred Scott case, and federal laws and amendments were mentioned in the Elk case. (A link to Dred Scott is provided below.) Note especially Justice Taney’s remarks in the Scott decision. After the Civil War, many believed that the 13th Amendment (that ended legal slavery) and the 14th Amendment (that extended citizenship rights) settled some of the questions at issue in the Dred Scott case. And, yet, the Scott decision continued to influence judicial rulings (such as Elk) well after the Civil War.

Second, think about what the Elk decision says about the influence of Reconstruction Era legislation as plaintiffs, such as Elk, tested the meaning and power of new constitutional amendments, and laws regarding citizenship and civil rights.

Elk v. Wilkins available through:


Dred Scott Case:



Respond to the following:

1. Why do you think John Elk wanted to vote in the 1880 Omaha election?

2. On what bases did Elk argue that he had a right to vote?

3. What did the majority of the US Supreme Court justices decide about Elk’s status and rights? What were the bases of their decisions?

4. Was Elk’s racial status a factor in the outcome of the case?

5. According to Justice Taney (see the Dred Scott decision), was the status of American Indians like or unlike the status of slaves of African descent? What did the framers of the federal constitution intend regarding the status of Indians?


Watch the Ghost Dance documentary (Ghost Dance, written by Ken Burns, 1996, 1 hour, in Alexander Street database, Ellis Library, Research Databases). Do this ASAP!

In your essays (see directions below), be sure to reference Chapter 18, lectures, the “Ghost Dance” documentary, the Elk and Dred Scott cases (links below), and the Omaha articles when applicable.

Do not use any other sources except these!! Absolutely no Wiki or other short-cut info sites!!

ELK Essay (History)


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