Choctaw, Oklahoma Gulf Railroad Company v. John Harrison

Decision Date30 November 1914
Docket NumberNo. 45,45
Citation35 S.Ct. 27,59 L.Ed. 234,235 U.S. 292
PartiesCHOCTAW, OKLAHOMA, & GULF RAILROAD COMPANY, Appt., v. JOHN A. HARRISON, as Sheriff of Pittsburg County, State of Oklahoma, and Personally
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Messrs. J. G. Gamble, C. O. Blake, and M. L. Bell for appellant.

Mr. J. L. Hull and Mr. Charles West, Attorney General of Oklahoma, for appellee.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 293-295 intentionally omitted] Mr. Justice McReynolds delivered the opinion of the court:

By an original bill filed July 19, 1909, in the circuit court of the United States, eastern district of Oklahoma, appellant sought to enjoin the sheriff of Pittsburg county from collecting taxes claimed by the state upon the gross sale of coals dug from mines belonging to the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians, which it leased and operated. The claim was based on the Oklahoma statute which provides for a gross revenue tax; and was resisted upon the ground (among others) that in reality the demand was for an occupation or privilege tax to which the appellant could not lawfully be subjected, because, as a Federal instrumentality acting under Con- gressional authority, it had leased and was operating mines to which the Indians held title. A general demurrer was sustained, and the cause is here by direct appeal.

No objection has been interposed to the forum selected or the procedure adopted. Meyer v. Wells, F. & Co. 223 U. S. 298, 56 L. ed. 445, 32 Sup. Ct. Rep. 218.

Appellant is a railroad corporation with power to lease and operate coal mines. In the region formerly known as Indian Territory,—now within the state of Oklahoma,—the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians, as wards of the United States, own a large area of segregated and unallotted lands containing valuable coal deposits which are not subject to taxation by the state. Marchie Tiger v. Western Invest. Co. 221 U. S. 286, 310, 312, 55 L. ed. 738, 747, 748, 31 Sup. Ct. Rep. 578; Ex parte Webb, 225 U. S. 663, 684, 56 L. ed. 1248, 1257, 32 Sup. Ct. Rep. 769.

The act of Congress approved June 28, 1898 (30 Stat. at L. 495, 510, chap. 517), 'Curtis act,' ratified, confirmed, and put into effect the Atoka agreement of April 23, 1897, between the United States and the Choctaws and Chickasaws, which provided that their coal lands should remain common property of the members of the tribes; that the revenues derived therefrom should be used for the education of their children; that the mines thereon should be under the supervision and control of two trustees appointed by the President, and subject to rules prescribed by the Secretary of the Interior; that all such mines should be operated and the royalties paid into the Treasury of the United States; that the royalty should be 15 cents per ton, with power in the Secretary of the Interior to reduce or advance the same according to the best interests of the tribes; and that all lessees should pay fixed sums as advanced royalties.

In harmony with the provisions of the Curtis act appellant secured from the duly appointed trustees leases of certain mines, obligating itself to take out annually specified amounts of coal, and to pay the stipulated royalty. It proceeded actively to develop these, either directly or through its agent, and for some years before the present suit was begun took therefrom large qnantities of coal, and fully complied with the obligations assumed.

Section 6 of the Oklahoma statute approved May 26, 1908, entitled, 'An Act Providing for the Levy and Collection of a Gross Revenue Tax from . . . Persons, Firms, Corporations, or Associations Engaged in the Mining or Production of Coal, . . .' provides: 'Every person, firm, association, or corporation engaged in the mining, or production, within this state, of coal . . . shall, within thirty days after the expiration of each quarter annual period expiring respectively on the 1st day of July, October, January, and April of each year, file with the state auditor a statement under oath, on forms prescribed by him, showing the location of each mine . . . operated by such person, firm, association, or corporation during the last preceding quarter annual period, the kind of mineral; . . . the gross amount thereof produced; the actual cash value thereof; . . . and shall, at the same time, pay to the state treasurer a gross revenue tax, which shall be in addition to the taxes levied and collected upon an ad valorem basis upon such mining . . . property and the...

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