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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Klamath & Moadoc Tribes of Indians, 304 U.S. 119 (1938)

United States v. Klamath & Moadoc Tribes of Indians

No. 707

Argued April 1, 4, 1938

Decided April 25, 1938

304 U.S. 119


1. In a treaty by which the Klamath and other tribes of Indians ceded land which they had held in immemorial possession, part was retained, "until otherwise directed by the President," to be set apart as a residence for the Indians and "held and regarded as an Indian reservation." Part of the reserved land was subsequently appropriated by the United States.


(1) That the words quoted did not detract from the tribes' right of occupancy. P. 304 U. S. 122.

(2) In ascertaining just compensation for the land appropriated, the value of the standing timber should be included. Id.

(3) While the United States has power to control and manage the affairs of its Indian wards in good faith for their welfare, that power is subject to constitutional limitations, and does not enable the United States without paying just compensation therefor to appropriate lands of an Indian tribe to its own use or to hand them over to others. P. 304 U. S. 123.

(4) The taking of property by the United States in the exertion of its power of eminent domain implies a promise to pay just compensation -- i.e., value at the time of the taking plus an amount sufficient to produce the full equivalent of that value paid contemporaneously with the taking. Id.

2. Part of the unallotted portion of an Indian reservation was conveyed to a Road Company by the Secretary of the Interior under authority of Congress in exchange for a reconveyance of allotted land which had previously been conveyed by mistake. Held a valid exertion of the power of eminent domain, implying a promise by the Government to pay just compensation to the Indians. P. ___.

It was not a case of lands "wrongfully appropriated," as to which the Act of May 26, 1920, which first conferred jurisdiction in this case, confined the damages to value of the lands at time of appropriation. P. 304 U. S. 124.

Congress, by the Act of May 15, 1936, conferring additional jurisdiction in this case upon the Court of Claims, intended to grant to the Indians the right to have their claim for just compensation, under the Constitution, for the land taken, judicially determined chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 304 U. S. 120

without regard to an earlier settlement and irrespective of the release. P. 304 U. S. 125.

85 Ct.Cls. 451, affirmed.

Appeal, under the special jurisdictional Act of May 15, 1936, from a judgment sustaining the Indians' claim to compensation for land taken by the United States. For an earlier phase, see 296 U. S. 296 U.S. 244.

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