Friday, April 19, 2019

The Thin Blue Line: Lighthorse Police

Flag of the Cherokee Nation
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

By Alanna Radle Rodriguez and Judge Rodriguez

Thank you for joining us this month as we conclude our series about first responders in our great state.

First allow us to say: we wish to pay our respects to the brave men and women of our military, and let them know our thoughts and prayers are with them, particularly those currently on deployment outside our country and away from their families.

However, we also wish to add our gratitude to those that serve outside of our military forces as well. Also called The Thin Blue Line, this group of dedicated public servants serve to keep us, our families, and our property safe. Our hats are off to you, and our gratitude for all you do.

Over the last few months, we have been delving into the history of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and of the various police departments here in this great state. This month, we look into the history of the Lighthorse Police. This is a group that, historically speaking, is quite rich and diverse.

The term “Lighthorse Police” covers both an actual department and units within the different departments located in each of the “5 Civilized Tribes”. The first of the Lighthorse police was created in Georgia, during the late 18th century by the Cherokee tribe. They were named after the unit commanded by Colonel Harry “Lighthorse” Lee during the American Revolution. His unit was called the Lighthorse due to the speed and maneuverability in which they moved. An interesting tidbit, Col. Lee was actually the uncle to Robert E. Lee.

Col. Henry Lee, Lighthorse Unit Commander
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The Cherokee Lighthorse were tasked with keeping tribal laws. After the ratification of the Constitution, the Cherokee were given provenance in keeping their own laws. Many of these laws were identical to the laws of the US, including, rape, murder and theft.

During the War Between the States (WBTS), the Lighthorse became the backbone of the cavalry inside the army. They were, also, tasked with keeping the peace inside their respective nation, during the war as well. This created conflict inside the tribe as well, especially when approximately half of the tribe went to the north after the schism in 1862.

After the WBTS, the tribesmen went back to their homes and continued on, as if little had happened, as though the conflicts continued inside the tribe, which led to needing the Lighthorse be kept as a stronger form of peacekeeping force.

Each of the “Five Civilized Tribes” has historically had their own Lighthorse as their own independent police force. That is, until they lost their reservation lands in the late 1880’s. Even now, most of the tribes still have “Lighthorse” as part of their internal police forces. The “Lighthorse” groups of the different tribes are considered to be an elite part of the tribal police, much like SWAT is in most other departments, in that they have specialized training and weapons they utilize.

Thank you for visiting us this month as we wrap up our venture into the history of the different law enforcement agencies in this great state of Oklahoma. If you have further questions about any of these agencies, then we invite you to contact them through different means, either Facebook, telephone, or their different websites. Join us next month as we look at the historical facts behind the seven different land runs that occurred in our great state, Oklahoma.

Born and raised in Edmond, Oklahoma, Alanna Radle Rodriguez is the great-great granddaughter of one of the first pioneers to settle in Indian Territory. Judge was born and raised in Little Axe, Oklahoma, the son of A.F. Veterans. Judge and Alanna love the history of the state and relish in volunteering at the 1889 Territorial Schoolhouse in Edmond. Her second and third published story, part of a collaborative novella titled 18 Redbud Lane, came out March 2019. Alanna and Judge live with her parents in the Edmond area. They are currently collaborating on a historical fiction series that takes place in pre-statehood Oklahoma.


  1. This was really interesting! Thanks for bringing Lighthorse to our attention!

  2. I saw one of the current Lighthorse Police interviewed on the news several weeks ago. :)