United States v. Candelaria, 208

Decision Date01 June 1926
Docket NumberNo. 208,208
Citation46 S.Ct. 561,70 L.Ed. 1023,271 U.S. 432
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

[Syllabus from pages 432-434 intentionally omitted] Mr. H. L. Underwood, of Washington, D. C., for the United states.

Mr. Frank W. Clancy, of Santa Fe , N. M., for Candelaria and others.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 435-436 intentionally omitted] Mr. Justice VAN DEVANTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

In 1922 the United States brought a suit in the federal District Court for New Mexico against Jose Candelaria and others to quiet in the Indian pueblo of Laguma the title to certain lands alleged to belong to the pueblo in virtue of a grant from Spain, its recognition by Mexico, and a confirmation and patent by the United States. The suit was brought on the theory that these Indians are wards of the United States, and that it therefore has authority and is under a duty to protect them in the ownership and enjoyment of their lands. The defendants were alleged to be asserting a false claim to the lands, and to be occupying and fencing the same to the exclusion of the Indians. In their answer the defendants denied the wardship of the United States, and also set up in bar two decrees rendered in prior suits brought against them by the pueblo to quiet the title to the same lands. One suit was described as begun in 1910 in the territorial court, and transferred when New Mexico became a state to the succeeding state court, where on final hearing a decree was given for the defendants on the merits. The other was described as brought in 1916 in the federal District Court, and resulting in a decree of dismissal on the grounds that the complaint disclosed that the matters presented 'were res judicata and that there was no federal question in the case.' In the replication the United States alleged that it was not a party to either of the prior suits; that it neither authorized the bringing of them, nor was represented by the attorney who appeared for the pueblo, and therefore that it was not bound by the decrees.

On the case thus presented the court held that the decrees operated to bar the prosecution of the present suit by the United States, and on that ground that bill was dismissed. An appeal was taken to the Circuit Court of Appeals which, after outlining the case as just stated, has certified to this court the following questions:

(1) Are Pueblo Indians in New Mexico in such status of tutelage as to their lands in that state that the United States, as such guardian, is not barred either by a judgment in a suit involving title to such lands begun in the territorial court and passing to judgment after statehood or by a judgment in a similar action in the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, where, in each of said actions, the United States was not a party nor was the attorney representing such Indians therein authorized so to do by the United States?

(2) Did the state court of New Mexico have jurisdiction to enter a judgment which would be res judicata as to the United States, in an action between Pueblo Indians and opposed claimants concerning title to land, where the result of that judgment would be to disregard a survey made by the United States of a Spanish or Mexican grant pursuant to an act of Congress confirming such grant to said Pueblo Indians?

The status of the Pueblo Indians and their lands, and the relation of the United States to both, were considered in United States v. Sandoval, 231 U. S. 28, 34 S. Ct. 1, 58 L. Ed. 107. We there said (pages 45-47 (34 S. Ct. 5, 6)):

'Not only does the Constitution expressly authorize Congress to regulate commerce with the Indian tribes, but long-continued legislative and executive usage and an unbroken current of judicial decisions have attributed to the United States as a superior and civilized nation the power and duty of exercising a fostering care and protection over all dependent Indian communities within its borders, whether within its original territory or territory subsequently acquired, and whether within or without the limits of a state. * * * 'It is for that body (Congress), and not for the courts, to determine when the true interests of the Indian require his release from such condition of tutelage.'

'Of course, it is not meant by this that Congress may bring a community or body of people within the range of this power by arbitrarily calling them an Indian tribe, but only that in respect of distinctly Indian communities the questions whether, to what extent, and for what time they shall be recognized and dealt with as dependent tribes requiring the guardianship and protection of the United States are to be determined by Congress, and not by the courts. * * *

'As before indicated, by a uniform course of action beginning as early as 1854 and continued up to the present time, the legislative and executive branches of the government have regarded and treated the Pueblos of New Mexico as dependent communities, entitled to its aid and protection, like other Indian tribes, and, considering their Indian lineage, isolated and communal life, primitive customs, and limited civilization, this assertion of guardianship over them cannot be said to be arbitrary but must be regarded as both authorized and controlling.'

And also (page 48 (34 S. Ct. 7)):

'We are not unmindful that in United States v. Joseph, 94 U. S. 614 (24 L. Ed. 295), there are some observations not in accord with what is here said of these Indians, but as that case did not turn upon the power of Congress over them or their property, but upon the interpretation and purpose of a statute not nearly so comprehensive as the legislation now before us, and as the observations there made respecting the Pueblos were evidently based upon statements in the opinion of the territorial court, then under review, which are at variance with other recognized sources of information, now available, and with the long continued action of the legislative and executive departments, that case cannot be regarded as holding that these Indians or their lands are beyond the range of congressional power under the Constitution.'

While we recognized in that case that the Indians of each pueblo, collectively as a community, have a fee-simple title to the lands of the pueblo (other than such as are occupied under executive orders), we held that their lands, like the tribal lands of other Indians owned in fee under patents from the United States, are 'subject to the legislation of Congress enacted in the exercise of the government's guardianship' over Indian tribes and their property.

The purpose of Congress to subject the Pueblo Indians and their lands to that legislation, if not made certain before the decision in the Joseph Case, was made so in various ways thereafter. Two manifestations of it are significant. A decision of the territorial court in 1904, holding their lands taxable (Territory v. Delinquent Tax List of Bernalillo County, 12 N. M. 136, 76 P. 307), was promptly followed by a congressional enactment annulling the taxes already levied and forbidding further levies (33 Stat. 1069, c. 1479); and a decision of that court in 1907, construing the statute which prohibits the sale of liquor to Indians and its introduction into the Indian country as not including these Indians or their lands (United States v. Mares, 14 N. M. 1, 88 P. 1128), was shortly followed by an enactment declaring that ...

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