224 U.S. 448 (1912), 404, Mullen v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 404
Citation:224 U.S. 448, 32 S.Ct. 494, 56 L.Ed. 834
Party Name:Mullen v. United States
Case Date:April 15, 1912
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 448

224 U.S. 448 (1912)

32 S.Ct. 494, 56 L.Ed. 834



United States

No. 404

United States Supreme Court

April 15, 1912

Argued October 12, 13, 1911




The relation of the United States and the Choctaw Indians by treaties and statute in regard to the allotment of land and the restriction of alienation reviewed, and held that, where a person whose name appeared upon the roll of the Choctaw Indians died after the ratification of the agreement of distribution and before receiving the allotment, there was no provision for restriction, but the land passed at once to his heirs; in such case, the United States cannot maintain an action to set aside conveyances made by the heir within the period of restriction applicable to homestead allotment made to members of the tribe during life.

179 F. 13 reversed as to this point.

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The facts, which involve the validity of certain conveyances of allotted land made by Choctaw Indians and also the right of the United States to have such conveyances set aside, are stated in the opinion.

HUGHES, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.

This suit was brought by the United States to cancel certain conveyances of allotted lands, made by Choctaw Indians in alleged violation of restrictions. The circuit court sustained a demurrer to the bill upon the grounds that the United States was not entitled to maintain a suit of this character, that there was a defect of parties, owing to the absence of the Indian grantors, and that the bill was multifarious. This judgment was reversed by the circuit court of appeals, which directed the trial court to proceed with the cause in accordance with its opinion. United States v. Allen, and similar cases, 179 F. 13. An appeal to this Court is taken by certain defendants under § 3 of the Act of June 25, 1910, c. 408, 36 Stat. 837. The lands conveyed to the appellants are described as those which had been allotted to Choctaws of [32 S.Ct. 496] the full blood, deceased, and the conveyances were made by their heirs (also Choctaws of the full blood) prior to April 26, 1906.

As early as 1786, a treaty was made with the representatives of the Choctaws by which it was acknowledged that these Indians were under the protection

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of the United States, and it was provided that, for their "benefit and comfort" and for the "prevention of injuries and oppressions," the United States should have "the sole and exclusive right of regulating the trade with the Indians, and managing all their affairs in such manner as they think proper." 7 Stat. 21. By the Treaty of 1820, in order

to promote the civilization of the Choctaw Indians by the establishment of schools amongst them, and to perpetuate them as a nation, by exchanging, for a small part of their land here, a country beyond the Mississippi River, where all who live by hunting and will not work may be collected and settled together,

there was ceded to the Choctaws a tract west of the Mississippi, situated between the Arkansas and Red Rivers. 7 Stat. 210. In furtherance of this purpose, another treaty was made in 1830 by which it was agreed that the United States should

cause to be conveyed to the Choctaw Nation a tract of country west of the Mississippi River, in fee simple to them and their descendants, to inure to them while they shall exist as a nation and live on it,

and the Choctaws ceded to the United States all their lands east of the Mississippi and promised to remove beyond that river as soon as possible. 7 Stat. 333, 334. In 1837, with the approval of the President and Senate of the United States, an agreement was made between the Choctaws and the Chickasaws that the latter should have the privilege of forming a district within the limits of the Choctaw Country,

to be held on the same terms that the Choctaws now hold it, except the right of disposing of it, which is held in common with the Choctaws and Chickasaws, to be called the Chickasaw District of the Choctaw Nation.

11 Stat. 573. Controversies having arisen between these tribes, a treaty was made in 1855 with the representatives of both, defining boundaries and providing for the settlement of differences. This contained the stipulation:

And, pursuant to an Act

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of Congress approved May 28, 1830 [4 Stat. 411, c. 148], the United States do hereby forever secure and guarantee the lands embraced within the said limits, to the members of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Tribes, their heirs and successors, to be held in...

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