In 2004, the Washington Historical Court of Justice and Inquiry—a one-time, quasi-legal public history event—symbolically exonerated Nisqually Indian war leader Chief Leschi of the 147-year-old charge of murder. The judges determined that Leschi, who was captured following the 1855–56 Puget Sound War and indicted on criminal charges in territorial court, was a “legal enemy combatant” who had been unjustly denied the protections afforded to prisoners of war under international law. This article examines the Historical Court judges' decision in the context of the US War on Terror and detainment of so-called illegal enemy combatants. The Historical Court sought justice for Leschi by acknowledging his legal warrior status, but failed to interrogate the cultural assumptions that lead US officials to categorize certain enemies—in 1857 as well as 2004—as exceptional and outside of regular applications of law.

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