187 U.S. 553 (1903), 275, Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock

Docket Nº:No. 275
Citation:187 U.S. 553, 23 S.Ct. 216, 47 L.Ed. 299
Party Name:Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock
Case Date:January 05, 1903
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 553

187 U.S. 553 (1903)

23 S.Ct. 216, 47 L.Ed. 299

Lone Wolf



No. 275

United States Supreme Court

January 5, 1903

Argued October 23, 1902




The provisions in article 12 of the Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867 with the Kiousa and Comanche Indians to the effect that no treaty for the cession of any part of the reservation therein described, which may be held in common, shall be of any force or validity as against the Indians unless executed and signed by at least three-fourths of all the adult male Indians occupying the same, cannot be adjudged to materially limit and qualify the controlling authority of Congress in respect to the care and protection of the Indians and to deprive Congress, in a possible emergency, when the necessity might be urgent for a partition and disposal of the tribal lands, of all power to act if the assent of three-fourths of all the male Indians could not be obtained. Congress has always exercised plenary authority over the tribal relations of the Indians and the power has always been deemed a political one not subject to be controlled by the courts.

In view of the legislative power possessed by Congress over treaties with the Indians and Indian tribal property, even if a subsequent agreement or treaty purporting to be signed by three-fourths of all the male Indians was not signed and amendments to such subsequent treaty were not submitted to the Indians, as all these matters were solely within the domain of the legislative authority, the action of Congress is conclusive upon the courts.

As the Act of June 6, 1900, as to the disposition of these lands was enacted at a time when the tribal relations between the confederated tribes of the Kiowas, Comanches, and Apaches still existed, and that statute and the statutes

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supplementary thereto dealt with the disposition of tribal property and purported to give an adequate consideration for the surplus lands not allotted among the Indians or reserved for their benefit, such legislation was constitutional, and this Court will presume that Congress acted in perfect good faith and exercised its best judgment in the premises, and as Congress possessed full power in the matter, the judiciary cannot question or inquire into the motives which prompted the enactment of such legislation.

In 1867, a treaty was concluded with the Kiousa and Comanche tribes of Indians, and such other friendly tribes as might be united with them, setting apart a reservation for the use of such Indians. By a separate treaty, the Apache tribe of Indians was incorporated with the two former-named, and became entitled to share in the benefits of the reservation. 15 Stat. 581, 589.

The first named treaty is usually called the Medicine Lodge Treaty. By the sixth article thereof, it was provided that heads of families might select a tract of land within the reservation, not exceeding 320 acres in extent, which should thereafter cease to be held in common, and should be for the exclusive possession of the Indian making the selection, so long as he or his family might continue to cultivate the land. The twelfth article of the treaty was as follows:

Article 12. No treaty for the cession of any portion or part of the reservation herein described which may be held in common shall be of any validity or force as against the said Indians unless executed and signed by at least three-fourths of all the adult male Indians occupying the same, and no cession by the tribe shall be understood or construed in such manner as to deprive, without his consent, any individual member of the tribe of his rights to any tract of land selected by him as provided in article III (VI) of this treaty.

The three tribes settled under the treaties upon the described land. On October 6, 1892, 456 male adult members of the confederated tribes signed, with three commissioners representing the United States, an agreement concerning the reservation. The Indian agent, in a certificate appended to the agreement, represented that there were then 562 male adults in the three tribes. Senate Ex.Doc. No. 27, 52d Congress, second session,

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page 17. Four hundred and fifty-six male adults therefore constituted more than three-fourths of the certified number of total male adults in the three tribes. In form, the agreement was a proposed treaty, the terms of which, in substance, provided for a surrender to the United States of the rights of the tribes in the reservation, for allotments out of such lands to the Indians in severalty, the fee simple title to be conveyed to the allottees or their heirs after the expiration of twenty-five years, and the payment or setting apart for the benefit of the tribes of two million dollars as the consideration for the surplus of land over and above the allotments which might be made to the Indians. It was provided that sundry named friends of the Indians (among such persons being the Indian agent and an army officer) "should each be entitled to all the benefits, in land only conferred under this agreement, the same as if members of said tribes." Eliminating 350,000 acres of mountainous land, the quantity of surplus lands suitable for farming and grazing purposes was estimated at 2,150,000 acres. Concerning the payment to be made for these surplus lands, the commission, in their report to the President announcing the termination of the negotiations, said (Senate Ex.Doc. No. 17, second session, 52d Congress):

In this connection, it is proper to add that the commission agreed with the Indians to incorporate the following in their report, which is now done:

The Indians upon this reservation seem to believe (but whether from an exercise of their own judgment or from the advice of others the commission cannot determine) that their surplus land is worth two and one-half million dollars, and Congress may be induced to give them that much for it. Therefore, in compliance with their request, we report that they desire to be heard through an attorney and a delegation to Washington upon that question, the agreement signed, however, to be effective upon ratification no matter what Congress may do with their appeal for the extra half million dollars.

In transmitting the agreement to the Secretary of the Interior, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs said:

The price paid, while considerably in excess of that paid

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to the Cheyennes and Arapahoes, seems to be fair and reasonable, both to the government and the Indians, the land being doubtless of better quality than that in the Cheyenne and Arapahoe reservation.

Attention was directed to the provision in the agreement in favor of the Indian agent and an army officer, and it was suggested that to permit them to avail thereof would establish a bad precedent.

Soon after the signing of the foregoing agreement it was claimed by the Indians that their assent had been obtained by fraudulent misrepresentations of its terms by the interpreters, and it was asserted that the agreement should not be held binding upon the tribes because three-fourths of the adult male members had not assented thereto, as was required by the twelfth article of the Medicine Lodge treaty.

Obviously, in consequence of the policy embodied in section 2079 of the Revised Statutes, departing from the former custom of dealing with Indian affairs by treaty and providing for legislative action on such subjects, various bills were introduced in both Houses of Congress designed to give legal effect to the agreement made by the Indians in 1892. These bills were referred to the proper committee, and before such committees the Indians presented their objections to the propriety of giving effect to the agreement. (H.R.Doc. No. 431, 55th Congress, second session.) In 1898, the Committee on Indian Affairs of the House of Representatives unanimously reported a bill for the execution of the agreement made with the Indians. The report of the committee recited that a favorable conclusion had been reached by the committee "after the fullest hearings from delegations of the Indian tribes and all parties at interest." [23 S.Ct. 218] (H.R.Doc. No. 419, first session, 56th Congress, p. 5.)

The bill thus reported did not exactly conform to the agreement as signed by the Indians. It modified the agreement by changing the time for making the allotments, and it also provided that the proceeds of the surplus lands remaining after allotments to the Indians should be held to await the judicial decision of a claim asserted by the Choctaw and Chickasaw

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tribes of Indians to the surplus lands. This claim was based upon a treaty made in 1866, by which the two tribes ceded the reservation in question, it being contended that the lands were impressed with a trust in favor of the ceding tribes, and that, whenever the reservation was abandoned, so much of it as was not allotted to the confederated Indians of the Comanche, Kiousa, and Apache tribes reverted to the Choctaws and Chickasaws.

The bill just referred to passed the House of Representatives on May 16, 1898. (31st Cong.Rec. p. 4947.) When the bill reached the Senate that body, on January 25, 1899, adopted a resolution calling upon the Secretary of the Interior for information as to whether the signatures attached to the agreement comprised three-fourths of the male adults of the tribes. In response the Secretary of the Interior informed the Senate, under date of January 28, 1899, that the records of the department "failed to show a census of these Indians for the year 1892," but that

from a roll used in making a payment to them in January and February, 1893, it appeared that there were 725 males over eighteen years of age, of whom 639 were twenty-one years and over.

The Secretary further called attention to the fact that, by the agreement of 1892 a right of selection was...

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