State of Minnesota v. Ethan Allen Hitchcock

Decision Date05 May 1902
Docket NumberO,No. 4,4
Citation46 L.Ed. 954,22 S.Ct. 650,185 U.S. 373
PartiesSTATE OF MINNESOTA, Complainant , v. ETHAN ALLEN HITCHCOCK, Secretary of the Interior, and Binger Hermann, Commissioner of the General Land Office. riginal
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

This is a suit in equity commenced in this court by the state of Minnesota to enjoin the Secretary of the Interior and the Commissioner of the General Land Office from selling any sections 16 and 36 in what was on January 14, 1889, known as the Red Lake Indian reservation.

By the bill, answer, and an agreed statement the following facts appear: By § 18 of the act to establish the territorial government of Minnesota, approved March 3, 1849 (9 Stat. at L. 403, chap. 121), it was enacted 'that when the lands in the said territory shall be surveyed under the direction of the government of the United States, preparatory to bringing the same into market, sections numbered 16 and 36 in each township in said territory shall be, and the same are hereby, reserved for the purpose of being applied to schools in said territory and in the states and territories hereafter to be erected out of the same.'

On February 26, 1856, the legislature of the territory of Minnesota sent a memorial to Congress for the relief of settlers upon school lands (Minn. Laws 1856, p. 368), which reads:

'To the Honorable the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States in Congress assembled:

'The memorial of the legislative assembly of the territory of Minnesota respectfully represents:

'That under the provisions of the act of Congress, extending the provisions of the pre-emption law of 1841 over the unsurveyed lands of Minnesota, many of our settlers have heavy investments, both of money and labor, in the opening of farms, erection of buildings, and the laying out and improving of town sites (lots in which said town sites were frequently transferred before the government survey, at high prices, to the occupants thereof), who were found, when the government survey was made, to be upon the school sections, and that the said settler had no means of ascertaining previous to the survey where the school sections would come.

'That it is a great injustice and hardship to compel such persons to repurchase or lose entirely the improvements and homes made by themselves in good faith in the expectation of pre-empting or entering them according to the provisions of the statute. Therefore, your memorialists would respectfully request your honorable body to pass an act giving such persons in this territory as have, previously to the government survey, settled upon the school sections (and have otherwise the right of pre-emption), the right to pre-empt the same as other government lands are pre-empted. And also providing for the entry of the town sites in this territory which are on school sections and were occupied as such previous to the government survey, as other town sites upon unoffered government lands are entered.

'And also allowing the county commissioners of the county in which such lands may be situate to enter in lieu thereof, for the benefit of the school fund of the township in which such land so as aforesaid settled or occupied may be, and without charge, an equal amount of such surveyed lands, subject either to private entry or pre-emption, in the same land district as they may select.

'And as in duty bound your memorialists will ever pray.'

In response to this memorial Congress passed the following joint resolution March 3, 1857 (11 Stat. at L. 254):

'That where any settlements, by the erection of a dwelling house or the cultivation of any portion of the land, shall have been or shall be made upon the sixteenth or thirty-sixth sections (which sections have been reserved by law for the purpose of being applied to the support of schools in the territories of Minnesota, Kansas, and Nebraska, and in the states and territories hereafter to be erected out of the same) before the said sections shall have been or shall be surveyed; or when such sections have been or mav be selected or occupied as town sites, under and by virtue of the act of Congress approved twenty-third of May, eighteen hundred and forty-four, or reserved for public uses before the survey, then other lands shall be selected by the proper authorities, in lieu thereof, agreeably to the provisions of the act of Congress approved twentieth May, eighteen hundred and twenty-six, entitled 'An act to Appropriate Lands for the Support of Schools in Certain Townships and Fractional Townships not Before Provided for.' And if such settler can bring himself, or herself, within the provisions of the act of fourth of September, eighteen hundred and forty-one, or the occupants of the town site be enabled to show a compliance with the provisions of the law of twenty-third of May, eighteen hundred and forty-four, then the right of preference granted by the said acts, in the purchase of such portion of the sixteenth or thirty-sixth sections so settled and occupied, shall be in them respectively, as if such sections had not been previously reserved for school purposes.'

On February 26, 1857, Congress passed an act authorizing the formation of a state government. 11 Stat. at L. 166, chap. 60. Section 5, so far as is applicable, is as follows:

'And be it further enacted, That the following propositions be, and the same are hereby, offered to the said convention of the people of Minnesota for their free acceptance or rejection, which, it accepted by the convention, shall be obligatory on the United States and upon and said state of Minnesota, to wit:

'First, That sections numbered sixteen and thirty-six in every township of public lands in said state, and where either of said sections, or any part thereof, has been sold or otherwise been disposed of, other lands, equivalent thereto and as contiguous as may be, shall be granted to said state for the use of schools.'

On October 13, 1857, a Constitution was formed, in which, by § 3 of article 2, the foregoing proposition was accepted in this language:

'The propositions contained in the act of Congress entitled 'An Act to Authorize the People of the Territory of Minnesota to Form a Constitution and State Government, Preparatory to Their Admission into the Union on Equal Footing with the Originnal States,' are hereby accepted, ratified, and confirmed, and shall remain irrevocable without the consent of the United States; and it is hereby ordained that this state shall never interfere with the primary disposal of the soil within the same by the United States, or with any regulations Congress may find necessary for securing the title to said soil to bona fide purchasers thereof; and no tax shall be imposed on lands belonging to the United States, and in no case shall nonresident proprietors be taxed higher than residents.'

By an act of date May 11, 1858, Minnesota was admitted into the Union. 11 Stat. at L. 285, chap. 31. In that it was recited 'that the state of Minnesota shall be one, and is hereby declared to be one, of the United States of America, and admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original states in all respects whatever.'

At the date of this admission a large part of the territory in the northwestern part of the state, including the tracts in controversy, was and for a long time thereafter remained unceded Indian lands, subject to the Indian title of occupancy. It was, among other things, stipulated in the agreed statement:

'That, except as its status may have been affected or changed by the treaty of October 2, 1863 (13 Stat. at L. 667), by the President's order of March 18, 1879, enlarging what was then known as the White Earth Indian reservation, by the act of Congress of January 14, 1889 (25 Stat. at L. 642, chap. 24), or by the act of Congress of June 2, 1890 (26 Stat. at L. 126, chap. 391), or by one or more of these, the district or country embracing the lands in controversy continued to be unceded Indian lands subject to the original right of occupancy of the Chippewa Indians up to the time of the action had on March 4, 1890, under the said act of January 14, 1889.'

Referring to the matter stated in this stipulation, it may be noticed that by the treaty of October 2, 1863, the Red Lake and Pembina bands of Chippewa Indians dwelling in northwestern Minnesota ceded lands within certain defined boundaries to the United States, and in article 6 of the treaty the portion of the territory occupied by them and not ceded is spoken of as a reservation, for by it the President was required to appoint a board of visitors, 'whose duty it shall be to attend at all annuity payments of the said Chippewa Indians, to inspect their fields and other improvements, and to report annually thereon on or before the 1st day of November, and also as to the qualifications and moral deportment of all persons residing upon the reservation under the authority of law.'

This tract was thereafter known as the Red Lake Indian reservation, and is referred to in the President's order of March 18, 1879, in which he bounds a proposed reservation on one side by the 'Red Lake Indian reservation.' The act of June 2, 1890 (26 Stat. at L. 126, chap. 391), grants to the Duluth & Winnipeg Railroad Company a right of way through the 'Red Lake (and other) reservations.' The 2d section of the act provides the mode of fixing the compensation to be paid the Indians for the right of way, and that no right of way shall vest in the company until, among other things, 'the consent of the Indians on said reservation as to the amount of said compensation and right of way shall have been first obtained in a manner satisfactory to the President of the United States.' On January 14, 1889, an act was passed (25 Stat. at L. 642, chap. 24), providing for a commission to negotiate with all the bands or tribes of Chippewa Indians in Minnesota for the cession and relinquishment, 'for the purposes and upon...

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