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Tribal court in Oregon orders runaway whipped

An American Indian tribe has turned to its tradition of whipping disobedient children to discipline a teenager who kept running away from home.

A tribal juvenile court judge ordered the punishment for the 17-year-old girl, who was given five strokes with a belt last month after a number of offenses over two years.

It was unclear what other offenses the girl committed; court officials either did not return telephone calls or declined to discuss the case. Officials from the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation would not identify the teenage girl or the whipper.

Although disciplining children by whipping has roots in ancient Northwest Indian culture, this was the first time in recent memory a whipping had been imposed on the reservation _ home to the Wasco, Warm Springs and Paiute tribes.

Federally recognized tribes can apply their own laws in certain cases because they are considered to be sovereign nations.

Indian law contains a Bill of Rights with most of the same provisions as the U.S. Constitution, including a ban on cruel and unusual punishment, but tribes have wide leeway to interpret that provision, said Charles F. Wilkinson, a law professor at the University of Colorado and co-author of the textbook Federal Indian Law.

"Cruel and unusual may not mean the same thing on the reservation as it does in San Francisco," Wilkinson said.

Indian families traditionally do not use corporal punishment, said Louie Pitt Jr., director of governmental affairs for the Warm Springs tribes.

Still, Pitt defended the whipping as appropriate. "We feel all of our codes are part of the Creator-given tradition."