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U.S. Supreme Court

Sisseton & Wahpeton Bands of Sioux Indians v. United States, 277 U.S. 424 (1928)

Sisseton & Wahpeton Bands of Sioux Indians v. United States

No. 596

Argued April 27, 1928

Decided May 28, 1928

277 U.S. 424


1. The Act of March 4, 1927, granting the appellants in this case one year within which to "appeal," was intended to confer the right of appeal, as distinguished from the right to petition for certiorari conferred by the Jurisdictional Act of February 13, 1925. P. 277 U. S. 427. chanrobles.com-red

Page 277 U. S. 425

2. The Act of April 11, 1916, which provides

"that all claims of whatsoever nature which the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands of Sioux Indians may have or claim to have against the United States shall be submitted to the Court of Claims. . . . for the amount due or claimed to be due said bands from the United States under any treaties or laws of the United States,"

and which confers jurisdiction upon that court "to hear and determine all claims of said bands against the United States," etc., is not to be construed as authorizing the court to render a judgment for the Indians contrary to express provisions of the treaties and statutes involved, upon the ground that such provisions were induced by mistake of fact or were not understood by individual members of the bands when adopted. P. 277 U. S. 436.

So held respecting:

(1) A claim for the difference between the amount received by the Indians under an Act of March 2, 1861, for lands north of the Minnesota River at 30 cents per acre -- the allowance fixed by the Senate in 1860 pursuant to a Treaty of 1858 -- and the amount they would have received at $1.25 per acre -- the price at which their lands south of the river were sold under an Act of March 3, 1863, and which the court below found to be their value at that time, the claim resting on the argument that the northern lands must also have been worth the larger price in 1860, and that they must have been undervalued through a mistake of the parties. P. 277 U. S. 428.

(2) A claim for additional compensation for land in Dakota Territory which had been ceded by the Indians and paid for by the United States under an agreement ratified by Congress (Act of Feb. 14, 1873), the ground for the claim being that, through a mutual mistake of the parties, the area involved was underestimated by three million acres, and the amount of the claim being for a corresponding addition to the amount agreed to and paid. P. 277 U. S. 432.

(3) A claim for the full principal amount of a trust fund set apart by treaty (July 23, 1851) in consideration of a cession of lands to the government, and which had been paid, pursuant to the treaty, by payment of interest at 5% for a period of fifty years, the basis of the claim being that such a trust obligation could not be discharged by such payments, and that the treaty was misunderstood by some of the Indians -- not the representatives who negotiated it -- as providing for payment of the principal also at the end of the fifty-year period. P. 277 U. S. 434. chanrobles.com-red

Page 277 U. S. 426

3. An Act of March 3, 1863, following a Sioux Indian outbreak, directed the President to set aside for the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands lands sufficient to provide each member willing to adopt the pursuit of agriculture with 80 acres of agricultural land. Held, (1) that recovery for failure to fulfill this obligation would require a finding of how many of the Indians were willing to follow such pursuit; (2) that the Act was not intended for the benefit of those who did not avail themselves of it because they were then in open hostility to the government. Pp. 277 U. S. 430, 277 U. S. 437.

4. Jurisdiction over Indians and their tribal lands belongs to Congress, and cannot be exercised by the courts in the absence of legislation conferring such rights as are subject to judicial cognizance. P. 277 U. S. 437.

58 Ct.Cls. 302 affirmed.

Appeal from a judgment of the Court of Claims dismissing a petition of the above-named bands of Indians claiming compensation on account of lands and trust funds.