Choctaw Nation v. United States United States v. Choctaw Nation

Decision Date15 November 1886
Citation30 L.Ed. 306,119 U.S. 1,7 S.Ct. 75
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

'Sec. 2. Said action shall be commenced by a petition stating the facts on which said nation claims to recover, and the amount of its claim; and said petition may be verified by either of the authorized delegates of said nation as to the existence of such facts, and no other statements need be contained in said petition or verification.'

In pursuance of this act the Choctaw Nation filed its original petition on the thirteenth of June, 1881, which was subsequently amended by new pleadings filed February 26, 1884. The questions of difference between the United States and the petitioner, it was alleged, resulted from the non-performance and non-fulfillment by the United States of the obligations assumed by it under various treaties between the United States and the Choctaw Nation, including those of the following dates, to-wit: The eighteenth day of October, 1820; the twentieth day of January, 1825; the twenty-seventh day of September, 1830; the twenty-second day of June, 1855; and the twenty-eighth day of April, 1866.

By the terms of the treaty of October 18, 1820, (7 St. at Large, 210,) it was provided, among other things, that the Choctaw Nation did cede to the United States all that part of its lands situated in the state of Mississippi described in the first article of the treaty, in consideration whereof the United States stipulated that, in part satisfaction for the said cession, the United States ceded to the Choctaw Nation a tract of country west of the Mississippi river, situated between the Arkansas and Red rivers, the boundaries of which were therein described; and also that the boundaries thereby established between the Choctaw Indians and the United States, east of the Mississippi river, should remain without alteration until the period at which the nation should become so civilized and enlightened as to be made citizens of the United States. It was agreed that congress should lay off a limited parcel of land for the benefit of each family or individual in the nation; that all those who had separate settlements falling within the limits of the land ceded by the Choctaw Nation to the United States, and who desired to remain there, should be secured in a tract or parcel of land one mile square, to include their improvements; and that those preferring to remove within one yearfrom the date of the treaty should be paid their full value, including the value of any improvements.

It is alleged in the petition that by the treaties of January 20, 1825, of September 27, 1830, and of June 22, 1855, the boundary line between the lands of the United States and the Choctaws west of the Mississippi river was established; but that the United States, in fixing and causing to be surveyed the said boundary line, did not pursue the line in accordance with the provisions of the said treaties, but encroached upon and took from the lands ceded to the Choctaw Nation a quantity of land, amounting to 136,204.02 acres, which by the legislation of the United States, in violation of these provisions of the treaties, became a part of the public domain of the United States, for which the Choctaw Nation are entitled to recover their value, estimated at $167,896.57. The petition further states that, in the treaty concluded on the twenty-seventh of September, 1830, called the 'Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek,' it was provided, among other things, by the third article thereof, (7 St. at Large, 333,) that the Choctaw Nation should and did thereby cede to the United States the entire country they then owned and possessed east of the Mississippi river, and agreed to remove beyond the Mississippi river as early as practicable; and that, in pursuance of this treaty, the Choctaw Nation surrendered to the United States all the remaining lands at that time owned by them in the state of Mississippi, amounting, as is alleged, to 10,423,139 acres, and, in compliance with the treaty on their part, commenced to remove, and did remove, within the time stipulated therein, or within a reasonable time thereafter, from the said lands to the lands purchased and acquired by them under the terms of the treaty of October 18, 1820.

By the fourteenth article of the treaty of September 27, 1830, it was provided that each Choctaw head of a family being desirous to remain and become a citizen of the states, should be permitted to do so by signifying his intention to the agent within six months of the ratification of the treaty, and thereupon should be entitled to a reservation of one section of 640 acres of land, to be bounded by sectional lines of survey; and in like manner should be entitled to one-half that quantity for each unmarried child living with him over 10 years of age, and a quarter section for each child that might be under 10 years of age, to adjoin the location of the parent. If they resided upon such lands, intending to become citizens of the states, for five years after the ratification of the treaty, a grant in fee-simple should issue. Such reservation should include the present improvement of the head of the family, or a portion of it, and the persons who claimed under the article were not to lose the privilege of Choctaw citizenship.

It is alleged in the petition that 1,585 heads of Choctaw families signified their intention to remain on their lands in Mississippi, and become citizens under this article of the treaty; and that, although they substantially complied with all its requirements and conditions, and thereby became entitled to grants of land in fee-simple, as specified in the article, yet but 143 such families ever received from the United States their title to the lands guarantied them by the article, leaving 1,442 of the said Choctaw heads of families entitled to a grant of their lands in fee-simple, under the provisions of said article 14, whose claims had not been satisfied. It is alleged in the petition that the lands to which these families were entitled amounted to 1,672,760 acres, which were reasonably worth, with the improvements, $5.50 an acre, and that the value of the whole was $9,200,180. It is further alleged in the petition that the United States having failed to secure to each Choctaw head of a family the reservation secured under article 14 of the treaty of 1830, subsequently, by an act of congress approved August 23, 1842, (5 St. at Large, 513,) attempted to provide compensation for the same by the issue and delivery of certificates or scrip, which authorized those entitled to such reservations, or their assignees, to ent r any of the public lands subject to entry at private sale in the states of Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, or Arkansas, which certificates or scrip they were required by said act to receive and accept in full satisfaction of all their claims or demands against the United States under said article 14.

It is further alleged in the petition that 292 of the 1,442 Choctaw heads of families entitled to grants in fee-simple under article 14 of the treaty of 1830 have never received any such grants in fee-simple, or any allowance or compensation whatever for the same. The claims of 1,150 of said 1,442 heads of families were adjudicated and allowed under the act of August 23, 1842, and certificates or scrip awarded to them under the provisions of said act, authorizing the entry of 1,399,920 acres of land, of which there were paid and delivered to the persons entitled to receive the same 3,833 certificates or pieces of scrip, authorizing the entry of 700,080 acres of land. The certificates for the residue of said 1,399,920 acres, to-wit, for 699,840 acres, were not issued, but were withheld under an act of congress approved March 3, 1845, (5 St. at Large, 777,) which provided that they should carry an interest of 5 per cent., payable to the claimants or their representatives, to be estimated upon $1.25 for each acre of land to which they were entitled. The aggregate amount or principal sum thus funded, amounting to $872,000, was after wards, under an act of congress approved July 21, 1852, (10 St. at Large, 19,) paid in money to the claimants; which sum of $872,000 was included in the sum of $1,749,900 subsequently charged to the claimants in an account referred to hereafter, being for 1,399,920 acres of scrip, in lieu of reservations, at $1.25 per acre, of which sum of $1,749,900, $872,000 was paid as aforesaid in money, the residue, $877,900. being charged in said account for the...

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