490 F.Supp. 164 (W.D.La. 1980), Civ. A. 770772, Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana v. Harry L. Laws Co., Inc.

Docket Nº:Civ. A. 770772
Citation:490 F.Supp. 164
Party Name:Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana v. Harry L. Laws Co., Inc.
Case Date:April 24, 1980
Court:United States District Courts, 5th Circuit, Western District of Louisiana

Page 164

490 F.Supp. 164 (W.D.La. 1980)




Civ. A. No. 770772.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana

April 24, 1980.

Page 165

Donald Juneau, New Orleans Legal Assistance Corp., New Orleans, La., for Tunica Tribe.

Blanchard, Walker, O'Quin & Roberts, Robert Roberts, III, Shreveport, La., and Butler, Binion, Rice, Cook & Knapp, Andrew Wooley and Louis Paine, Houston, Tex., for P & O Iol Corp.

Fontenot, Andrus & Preis, Vance R. Andrus, Lafayette, La., for Andrea R. Hertel.

Timothy W. Cerniglia, New Orleans, La., for Texaco Inc.

Milling, Benson, Woodward, Hillyer, Pierson & Miller, M. Hampton Carver, New Orleans, La., for Chevron Oil.

Charles D. Marshall, Jr., New Orleans, La., for La. Land and Exploration.

Cooper, Sonnier, Ortego, Hebert & Woodruff, Silas B. Cooper, Jr., Abbeville, La., for Lastarmco, Inc.

Doyle, Smith & Doyle, Roger H. Doyle, New Orleans, La., for Union Oil Co. of California.

Plauche, Hartley, Lapeyre & Ottinger, Patrick S. Ottinger, Lafayette, La., for Eason Oil.

Harry Case Stansbury and John C. Hose, and Guy J. D'Antonio, II, New Orleans, La., Bauer, Darnall, McNulty & Boudreaux, Michael J. McNulty, Jr., and Newman Trowbridge, Jr., Franklin, La., for E. J. Robicheaux, Vincent J. St. Blanc, Jr., Stephanie B. Dinkins, H. H. Dinkins, Jr., Stephanie Dinkins, Gertrude O. Dinkins and Ladd O. Dinkins.

Liskow & Lewis, George H. Robinson, Jr., Lafayette, La., and Liskow & Lewis, Gene W. Lafitte, New Orleans, La., for Atlantic, Edgewater and Amoco.

George Bailey, Lafayette, La., for Cities Service.

J. William Vaudry, Jr., and Moise W. Dennery, McCloskey, Dennery, Page & Hennesy, New Orleans, La., for Adeline Sugar Factory Co., Ltd., Ray A. Dupuy, Ethel Giles Chance, Beverly Marie Dupuy Comeaux, Robert F. Giles and Fabiola May Dupuy Phenis.

William S. Strain, Gordon, Arata, McCollam & Watters, New Orleans, La., for Tenneco Oil Co.

Robert C. Smith, New Orleans, La., for Amoco Production Co.

Onebane, Donohoe, Bernard, Torian, Diaz, McNamara & Abell, Lawrence E. Donohoe and E. Randall Lolley, Lafayette, La., Alex Allain, Jeanerette, La., for Rodney J. Banta and Elizabeth B. McGee Le.

Polack, Rosenberg, Rittenberg & Endom, Franklin V. Endom, Jr., New Orleans, La., for Michane P. Burns.


W. EUGENE DAVIS, District Judge.

Plaintiff, the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana, (Chitimacha Tribe) claims ownership of a large tract of land in St. Mary Parish, Louisiana. Plaintiffs allege that the lands they claim were part of the Indian Tribe's aboriginal territory and that the deeds by which the tribe sold the lands to defendants' ancestors in title were nullities.


No material issue of fact is raised as to the following:

Page 166

1) The Chitimacha Tribe purported to transfer to defendants' ancestors in title the land involved in this litigation as follows:

a) To Phillip Verret by deed dated September 10, 1794.

b) To Frederick Pellerin by deed dated October 2, 1794.

c) To Marie Joseph by deed dated June 22, 1799.

(Defendants' three ancestors in title may sometimes be referred to as "Verret et al.")

2) Following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Verret et al. sought United States recognition of their title by making claim to the land according to procedures set forth in acts of congress (Louisiana Land Claims Acts). Favorable reports were made on these claims by the commission authorized by Congress to adjudicate the claims, and the claims of Verret et al. were confirmed by the Congress in 1816.


Plaintiffs contend, for various reasons, that the transfers executed by the tribe in favor of Verret et al. were a nullity. Plaintiffs' primary claim is that the transfers violated the terms of the Indian Nonintercourse Act which provided:

That no sale of land made by any Indians, or any nation or tribe of Indians within the United States, shall be valid to any person or persons, or to any state, whether having the right of pre-emption to such lands or not, unless the same shall be made and duly executed at some public treaty, held under the authority of the United States.

Act of July 22, 1790, 1 Stat. 317.

Among the defenses raised by the motions for summary judgment are: 1) Prior to the United States' sovereignty over Louisiana, all of the lands involved in this suit were validly transferred pursuant to Spanish law to Verret et al., and consequently the Indian Nonintercourse Act, a statute of the United States, has no application to those transfers; 2) after its acquisition of Louisiana, the United States approved and confirmed each of the titles acquired by Verret et al. and even if the Indian Nonintercourse Act is deemed applicable, it cannot have the effect of invalidating defendants' title. More particularly, defendants urge that under the Louisiana Land Claims Acts the Congress established the exclusive procedure for claiming title to land within the Louisiana Purchase and precluded all other claims, including plaintiffs' claims asserted in this action.


I conclude that plaintiffs' title to the land claimed in this suit has been extinguished and plaintiffs are barred from asserting these claims under the preclusive provisions of the Louisiana Land Claims Acts. On this basis alone, the defendants' motions for summary judgment are granted, making it unnecessary to consider any other basis for the motions urged on us by...

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