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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Algoma Lumber Co., 305 U.S. 415 (1939)

United States v. Algoma Lumber Co.

No. 245

Argued December 16, 1938

Decided January 3, 1939*

305 U.S. 415


1. Contracts for the sale to a lumber company of timber on unallotted land of the Klamath Indian Reservation, executed by the Superintendent of the Klamath Indian school for and on behalf of the Klamath Indians, pursuant to § 7 of the Act of June 25, 1910, and under regulations and with the approval of the Secretary of the Interior, the moneys received under the contracts being deposited pursuant to statutory requirement in the United States Treasury, to be held and used by the Secretary for the benefit of the Indians, held not contracts of the United States. A suit chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 305 U. S. 416

against the United States to recover alleged overpayments made under such contracts was therefore not within'the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims. P. 305 U. S. 421.

2. Likewise, contracts for the sale on similar terms of timber on restricted allotted lands, entered into by individual allottees as prescribed by § 8 of the Act of 1910, the payments thereunder being deposited by the Superintendent in private state banks and credited on his own books to the allottees according to their respective interests, were not obligations of the United States enforceable in the Court of Claims. P. 305 U. S. 423.

3. Exercise of its plenary power to take appropriate measures to safeguard the disposal of property of which the Indians are the substantial owners does not necessarily involve the assumption of contractual obligations by the Government. Their assumption is not to be presumed in the absence of any action taken by the Government or on its behalf indicating such a purpose. P. 305 U. S. 421.

4. Receipt by the Treasury of the United States, of payments made to the Superintendent for the use and benefit of the Indians, even though payment was made under protest, gave rise to no contract for repayment implied in fact on the part of the United States, and did not make suit therefor cognizable in the Court of Claims. P. 305 U. S. 423.

5. Infirmities, if any, in the contracts of the lumber companies with the Indians could not impose on the United States a liability which the contracts do not purport to undertake in its behalf. P. 305 U. S. 423.

6. By the Treaty with the Klamath Tribe of February 17, 1870, the United States acquired no beneficial ownership in the tribal lands or their proceeds, and, whatever the nature of the legal interest acquired by the Government as the implement of its control, substantial ownership remained with the tribe as it existed before the treaty. P. 305 U. S. 420.

86 Ct.Cls. 226, 188, 171, reversed.

Certiorari, post, p. 583, to review judgments of the Court of Claims in three suits against the United States to recover the amount of alleged overpayments made upon contracts for the sale of timber on Indian lands. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 305 U. S. 417

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