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U.S. Supreme Court

Shoshone Tribe of Indians v. United States, 299 U.S. 476 (1937)

Shoshone Tribe of Indians v. United States

No. 216

Argued December 17, 18, 1936

Decided January 4, 1937*

299 U.S. 476


1. A taking of an interest in land, tortious in its origin, may be made lawful by relation. P. 299 U. S. 496.

2. A taking of land may be partial, not involving complete eviction. P. 299 U. S. 497.

3. The right to interest, or a fair equivalent, attaches automatically to an award for damages for an expropriation of property, though not specified in the Act of Congress permitting the suit. Id.

4. The guardianship of the United States over the property and affairs of tribal Indians does not enable the Government to require a tribe to which an exclusive right of occupancy has been pledged by treaty to share it with another tribe without just compensation. P. 299 U. S. 497.

5. By treaty of July 3, 1868, a reservation was set apart for the Shoshone Indians exclusively. On March 18, 1878, a band of Arapahoes, under military escort, settled upon the land; others did so later. These intrusions were directed or sanctioned by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, with intent that the settlements should be permanent, and from then on, in the administrative way, he treated the two tribes as equal beneficiaries of the reservation -- a view which at length found sanction in Acts of Congress dealing with cessions of land and with the privilege of allotment in severalty. The Shoshones, however, protested consistently chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 299 U. S. 477

against the invasion of their rights, and finally secured from Congress the jurisdictional Act of March 3, 1927, under which they presented to the court below their claim for compensation for the taking of an undivided one-half interest in their tribal lands.


(1) That the jurisdictional Act is not an exercise of eminent domain, although it provides that a recovery under it shall be in full settlement and shall annul the claim of the Shoshones. Consequently, the date of that Act is not the time as of which the property taken should be valued in assessing compensation. P. 299 U. S. 492.

(2) Neither are the damages to be measured as of a date (Aug. 13, 1891) when the Commissioner of Indian Affairs expressed in an official letter his opinion that the rights of the two tribes to the reservation were equal. P. 299 U. S. 494.

(3) By the action and inaction of the executive and legislative branches of the Government, the de facto appropriation, originally tortious, was ratified, and the ratification relates back to the date of the original unlawful entry, March 18, 1878. P. 299 U. S. 495.

(4) Damages should be measured as of that date. Id.

(5) The claimant's damages include such additional amount beyond the value of its property rights when taken by the Government as may be necessary to the award of just compensation, the increment to be measured either by interest on the value or by such other standard as may be suitable in the light of all the circumstances. P. 299 U. S. 496.

82 Ct.Cls. 23 reversed.

Cross-writs of certiorari to review a judgment awarding compensation for the taking of a one-half undivided interest in the reservation of the Shoshone Tribe of Indians. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 299 U. S. 484

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