« PreviousContinue »
Opinion of the Court mission of the tribes for the establishment of roads and military posts within their territories, to protect the Indians against the whites and the whites against the Indians, commissioners were appointed to negotiate with the plains and mountain Indians. In Article V of the Treaty of Fort Laramie the Indians agreed to recognize and acknowledge certain tracts of land included within set metes and bounds as the respective territories of the separate signatory tribes. The treaty contained no language of relinquishment or acknowledgment by the United States such as that contained in Articles IV and V of the Greenville Treaty involved in the instant appeal, but the court held in the Fort Berthold case that while the language of the treaty was not in all respects the technical wording of recognition, it was sufficient, when considered in connection with the instrument as a whole and the purpose and intent of the parties as indicated by the instructions to the treaty commissioners, to clearly indicate that the territories of the signatory tribes were to be recognized in accordance with their claims, and that protection was assured to them by the Government within such limitations in consideration of the rights and privileges secured by the United States in other provisions of the treaty. Following the holding in the Fort Berthold case and without any extended discussion, the court reached the same conclusion with respect to whether or not the claimant Indians held the lands by recognized or unrecognized title in the case of the Assiniboine Tribe v. United States, 77 C. Cls. 347. The Assiniboine Tribe was a party to the Fort Laramie Treaty and the tribe held the land described therein in exactly the same way as did the Fort Berthold Indians. The Government's attempt in the instant case to distinguish the Fort Berthold from the Assiniboine case in the light of the court's use of the word "granted” in the Assiniboine case is without merit since the nature of the land title of both tribes was governed by the same treaty. While neither the Fort Berthold case nor the Assiniboine case were passed on by the Supreme Court, the holdings in those cases were noted with approval in the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Northwestern Band of Shoshone Indians v. United States, 324 U.S. 335, 349. In the Northwestern Shoshone case the Supreme Court was 146 C. Cls. Opinion of the Court of the opinion that nowhere in the treaties relied upon by the Northwestern Band was there any specific acknowledgment by the United States of the Indians' right to permanently use and occupy any area of land, and the court concluded, from the circumstances leading up to and following the execution of the Box Elder Treaty, as well as the language of the treaty itself, that neither of the parties to the treaty had intended it to constitute a recognition or acknowledgment by the United States of the Indians' right to permanently occupy the land in question. The Supreme Court then referred to the petitioner's reliance upon the decisions of the Court of Claims in the Fort Berthold and Assiniboine cases, supra, and in The Crow Nation v. United States, 81 C. Cls. 238, and noted that a different conclusion on the question of treaty recognition of title in the Northwestern Shoshone case was not inconsistent with the holdings of the Court of Claims in the Fort Laramie cases because different treaties were involved. The Supreme Court stated that the circumstances surrounding the execution of the Fort Laramie Treaty indicated "a purpose to recognize the Indian title to the lands described in the Fort Laramie Treaty, which may well have induced the Court of Claims to reach one conclusion in those cases and another in this." The Supreme Court then went on to note that the instructions to the Fort Laramie Treaty Commissioners had directed them to establish for each tribe some fixed boundaries within which they would agree to reside and not intrude upon the limits assigned to another tribe without permission, and that the United States had considered it highly important to lay off the country into geographical or national domains. In the instant case we are of the opinion that the language of the Treaty of Greenville was far more apt to express "recognition" than was the language of the Fort Laramie Treaty and that the circumstances surrounding the execution of the Greenville Treaty indicate a clear purpose on the part of the United States to recognize the right of the signatory tribes to permanently occupy the land relinquished by the United States in that treaty.
It is somewhat difficult to determine the exact nature of the Government's arguments with respect to the Commis
Opinion of the Court sion's holding on recognition, but one thing seems clear and that is that the concept which the Government urges with respect to what constitutes "recognized title” is unduly restrictive. The lands which Indians hold by recognized title may be lands formerly held by them under mere aboriginal use and occupancy title or may be lands which they never previously occupied and which the Government conveyed or granted to them. The land which an Indian tribe holds by recognized title may be called a "reservation” in the applicable treaty, agreement or statute, or it may not be called a reservation. The area may be a large tract of land * sufficient to support a numerous population of Indians without much assistance from the sovereign, as in the case of the Fort Laramie tribes, or it may be a small tract on which the tribe can live only with considerable Government assistance. The size of the tract involved is not controlling on the question of recognition. At the time of the negotiations of the Treaty of Greenville, the United States in 1795 had no immediate need for the admittedly large area which the Commission has found it recognized as being owned by the signatory tribes and which the United States agreed that those tribes should thenceforth occupy on a permanent basis. Since the United States then had no immediate need for the land in question, there was no reason to confine the Indians to small tracts which would have required the United States to undertake many obligations in the form of larger annuities and numerous services necessary to enable the Indians to exist on small tracts of land. By "recognition”, the courts have meant that Congress intended to acknowledge, or if one prefers, to grant, to Indian tribes rights in land which were in addition to the Indians' traditional use and occupancy rights exercised only with the permission of the sovereign. Those additional rights may be sufficient to spell out fee simple title in the Indians if that is what Congress wished, or they may result in something less than fee simple title. The extent of those new and additional rights and the accompanying obligations of the sovereign and the tribe will usually be determined by the Congressional enactment, the 146 C. Cls. Opinion of the Court treaty, or the agreement, conferring them. Sometimes, as in the case of the Fort Laramie Treaty, it is necessary to look to the negotiations leading up the treaty and the reports of the treaty commissioners to accurately determine the precise nature and extent of the rights and obligations created by the treaty.
* In the Fort Berthold case the court held that the Indians had recognized title to some 13,000,000 acres of land ; in the Assiniboine case the court held that the tribe had recognized Indian title to over 6,000,000 acres of land.
In the instant case we are of the opinion that the Indian Claims Commission has correctly held that the Miamis were given the right to permanently occupy and use the land ceded by the Treaty of October 6, 1818, until that tribe should be disposed to sell that land to the United States; that the title of the claimant Indians in the land so ceded was what is understood as “recognized” title and that because of such recognition, the claimant Indians did not have to establish the extent of their exclusive occupancy of any of the land ceded to the United States in 1818; and that the Commission has accurately determined the amount and location of land in the ceded tract belonging to the claimant Indians.
We turn next to a consideration of the issues raised by the cross-appeals from the Commission's determination that the land ceded by the claimant tribes under the Treaty of October 6, 1818, was worth on that date 75¢ an acre. The Indian claimants contend in general that the Commission's ultimate finding of value is not supported by the primary findings; that the primary findings numbered 6 through 31 are supported by substantial evidence contained in the whole record; that the remaining findings on value, numbers 32 through 44, are either merely recitations of evidentiary material and not findings, or, in some instances, are contradictory to findings previously made by the Commission and are not supported by substantial evidence.
The United States urges that the Commission's ultimate finding of 75¢ per acre as the value of the land in 1818 is not supported by the Commission's primary findings; that some of the primary findings contain uncertainties and conflicts and that the case should be remanded to the Commission for correction both as to primary findings and the ultimate finding of value. With respect to findings 6 through 31 which the Indian claimants contend are supported by substantial
Opinion of the Court evidence, the Government contends that these findings are mere generalities and are not supported by substantial evidence. The Government says that findings 33 through 40 are supported by substantial evidence and that if the Commission had made certain additional findings from the record it would have reached a valuation as of October 6, 1818, of only 20¢ per acre for the land ceded.
Section 19 of the Indian Claims Commission Act, 60 Stat. 1049, 25 U.S.C. 70, provides that the final determination of the Commission in any case shall include the findings of fact upon which its conclusions are based, and a statement of its reasons for its findings and conclusions. Section 20(b) of the Act defines the scope of this court's power to review final determinations of the Commission and provides in pertinent part as follows:
*** On said appeal the Court shall determine whether the findings of fact of the Commission are supported by substantial evidence, in which event they shall be conclusive, and also whether the conclusions of law, including any conclusions respecting “fair and honorable dealings”, where applicable, stated by the Commission as a basis for its final determination, are valid and supported
by the Commission's findings of fact. In the instant case we must determine whether certain primary findings are supported by substantial evidence, whether other findings are, in fact, findings or mere recitations of evidence, whether the ultimate finding or conclusion with respect to value is supported by the Commission's primary findings of fact, and whether the Commission has given adequate and valid reasons for its findings and conclusion on the issue of value.
On the question whether or not the case should be remanded to the Commission for correction and modification of the findings both parties have cited this court's decision in The Snake or Piute Indians v. United States, 125 C. Cls. 241. The Snake case is not precisely in point. In that case the court was faced with a related problem. We found that the evidentiary findings made by the Commission were accurate and were supported by substantial evidence but that the findings made did not adequately reflect the whole record and failed to present certain essential facts which were established