170 U.S. 1 (1898), 106, New York Indians v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 106
Citation:170 U.S. 1, 18 S.Ct. 531, 42 L.Ed. 927
Party Name:New York Indians v. United States
Case Date:April 11, 1898
Court:United States Supreme Court

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170 U.S. 1 (1898)

18 S.Ct. 531, 42 L.Ed. 927

New York Indians


United States

No. 106

United States Supreme Court

April 11, 1898

Argued March 2-3, 1898



The provision in the Treaty of June 15, 1838, with the New York Indians, that the United States will set apart as a permanent home for them the tract therein described in what afterwards became the State of Kansas, was intended to invest a present legal title thereto in the Indians, which title has not been forfeited and has not been reinvested in the United States, and the Indians are not estopped from claiming the benefit of such reservation.

It appears by the records of the proceedings of the Senate that several amendments were there made to said treaty, including a new article; that the ratification was made subject to a proviso, the text of which is stated in the opinion of the Court, and that in the official publication of the treaty, and in the President's proclamation announcing it, all the amendments except said proviso were published as part of the treaty, and it was certified that "the treaty, as so amended, is word for word as follows," omitting the proviso. Held that it is difficult to see how the proviso can be regarded as part of the treaty, or as limiting at all the terms of the grant.

[18 S.Ct. 531] This was a petition by the Indians who were parties to the Treaty of Buffalo Creek, New York, on January 15, 1838, 7 Stat. 550, to enforce an alleged liability of the United States for

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the value of certain lands in Kansas set apart for these Indians and subsequently sold by the United States, as well as for certain amounts of money agreed to be paid upon their removal.

These claims were referred, under the Act of March 3, 1883, known as the "Bowman Act," to the Court of Claims. That court reported its findings to the Senate January 16, 1892, and thereupon, on January 28, 1893, Congress passed an act to authorize the Court of Claims to hear and determine these claims and to enter up judgment as if it had original jurisdiction of the case, without regard to the statute of limitations. There was a further provision that from any judgment rendered by that court either party might appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States.

The petition, which was filed on February 10, 1893, set forth, as the substance of the treaty that the claimants ceded and relinquished to the United States all their right, title, and interest in and to certain lands of the claimants at Green Bay, State of Wisconsin, and in consideration of such cession and relinquishment, the United States, in and by the said treaty, agreed and guarantied as follows:

First. To set aside as a permanent home for all of the claimants a certain tract of country west of the Mississippi River, described by metes and bounds, and to include 1,824,000 acres of land, the same to be divided among the different tribes, nations, or bands of the claimants in severalty, according to the number of individuals in each tribe, as set forth in a certain schedule annexed to the said treaty, and designated as "Schedule A," upon condition that such of the claimants as should not accept, and agree to remove to the country set apart for them within five years, or such other time as the President might from time to time appoint, should forfeit to the United States all interest to the lands so set apart.

Secondly. The United States agreed to protect and defend the claimants in the peaceable possession and enjoyment of their new homes, and to secure their right to establish their own government, subject to the legislation of Congress respecting trade and intercourse with the Indians.

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Thirdly. The United States agreed that the lands secured to the claimants by the treaty should never be included in any state or territory of the Union.

Fourthly. The United States agreed to pay to the several tribes or nations of the claimants, hereinafter mentioned, on their removal West, the following sums, respectively, namely: to the St. Regis tribe, $5.000; to the Seneca nation, the income annually of $100,000, being part of the money due said nation for lands sold by them in New York, and which sum they authorized to be paid to the United States; to the Cayugas, $2,500 [18 S.Ct. 532] in cash, and the annual income of $2,500; to the Onondagas, $2,000 in cash, and the annual income of $2,500; to the Oneidas, $6,000 in cash, and to the Tuscaroras, $3,000.

Fifthly. The United States agreed to appropriate the sum of $400,000, to be applied from time to time by the President of the United States for the following purposes, namely, to aid the claimants in removing to their new homes, and supporting themselves the first year after their removal; to encourage and assist them in being taught to cultivate their lands; to aid them in erecting mills and other necessary houses; to aid them in purchasing domestic animals and farming utensils, and in acquiring a knowledge of the mechanic arts.

By a supplemental article, the St. Regis Indians were allowed to remove to the said country if they so desired, but were exempted from obligation so to do.

The Treaty of Buffalo Creek, having been duly assented to by all the parties thereto, was afterwards, on, to-wit, the 4th day of April, A.D. 1840, duly proclaimed, and, certain disputes thereunder having arisen, it was afterwards modified in some particulars not having reference to the matter of this claim, and as so modified was again proclaimed, on, to-wit, the 26th day of August, 1842.

The petition further alleged that at the time of the making

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of the Treaty of Buffalo Creek aforesaid, and for many years prior thereto, the claimants owned and occupied valuable tracts of land in the State of New York, and had improved and cultivated the same and resided thereon, and from the products thereof chiefly sustained themselves.

That the President of the United States never prescribed any time for the removal of the claimants, or any of them, to the lands, or any of them, set apart by the Treaty of Buffalo Creek, and no provision of any kind was ever made for the actual removal of more than about two hundred and sixty individuals of the claimant tribes, as contemplated by the said treaty, and of this number only thirty-two ever received patents or certificates of allotment of any of the lands mentioned in the first article of the said treaty, and the land allotted to those thirty-two was at the rate of 320 acres each, or 10,240 acres in all.

That after the conclusion of the said Treaty of Buffalo Creek, the United States surveyed and made part of the public domain the lands at Green Bay ceded by the claimants, and sold or otherwise disposed of and conveyed the same, and received the consideration therefor.

That the lands west of the Mississippi River secured to the claimants by the said Treaty of Buffalo Creek were set apart by the United States and designated upon the land maps thereof as the "New York Indian Reservation," and so remained until in or about the year A.D. 1860, at which time the United States surveyed, and made part of the public domain the lands aforesaid, and the same were sold or otherwise disposed of by the United States, which received the entire consideration therefor, and the said lands thereafter were, and now are, included within the territorial limits of the State of Kansas. The said lands at the time the same were so appropriated by the United States were of great value, to-wit, of the value of $1.25 per acre and upwards.

That the action of the United States in appropriating the said lands as aforesaid was in pursuance of the proclamation of the President, of date December 3 and 17, 1860, and grew

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out of an order of the Secretary of the Interior of the 21st day of March, A.D. 1859, and between the said last-mentioned date and the proclamation of the said lands aforesaid, the claimants employed counsel to protect and prosecute their claims in the premises, and asserted that the United States had seized upon the said lands contrary to the obligations of the said treaty, and would not permit the said claimants to occupy the same or make any disposition thereof, and the claimants have steadily since asserted said claim in the premises.

That of the sum of $400,000, agreed by the Treaty of Buffalo Creek to be appropriated by the United States for the purposes aforesaid, only the sum of $20,477.50 was ever so appropriated, except as hereinafter stated, and of this sum only $9,464.08 was actually expended.

The petition further alleged that the Tonawanda band had been paid $256,000 for their interest in the land, that settlement had also been had with the Senecas, and that a special act had been passed, authorizing the Court of Claims to find the facts and enter up judgment, without interest, and that the statute of limitations should not be pleaded as a bar to any recovery.

The petition concluded with a demand for a judgment for the value of the lands, and for the amounts that were to be paid in cash.

The Court of Claims found the facts stated in the margin, *

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together with others which are not deemed material to the consideration of the case, and also found, as a conclusion of law from these facts, that the petition should be dismissed, whereupon the claimants appealed to this Court.

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BROWN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BROWN, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the Court.

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The facts in this case are somewhat complicated, but the real question involved is whether the cessions of the Kansas lands to [18 S.Ct. 533] these Indians ever took complete effect, or whether the failure, or rather the refusal, of the Indians to remove to

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the lands set apart for them within five years worked, ipso facto, under the third article of the treaty, a forfeiture of their...

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