Cherokee Nation v. Journeycake

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United States Supreme Court

155 U.S. 196

Cherokee Nation  v.  Journeycake

On July 19, 1866, the United States and the Cherokee Nation entered into a treaty (14 Stat. 799), the fifteenth article of which is as follows:

'The United States may settle any civilized Indians, friendly with the Cherokees and adjacent tribes, within the Cherokee country, on unoccupied lands east of the ninety-sixth degree, on such terms as may be agreed upon by any such tribe and the Cherokees, subject to the approval of the president of the United States, which shall be consistent with the following provisions, viz.: Should any such tribe or band of Indians setting in said country abandon their tribal organization, there being first paid into the Cherokee national fund a sum of money which shall sustain the same proportion to the then existing national fund that the number of Indians sustains to the whole number of Cherokees then residing in the Cherokee country, they shall be incorporated into and ever after remain a part of the Cherokee Nation, on equal terms in every respect with native citizens. And should any such tribe, thus settling in said country, decide to preserve their tribal organizations, and to maintain their tribal laws, customs, and usages, not inconsistent with the constitution and laws of the Cherokee Nation, they shall have a district of country set off for their use by metes and bounds equal to 160 acres, if they should so decide, for each man, woman, and child of said tribe, and shall pay for the same into the national fund such price as may be agreed on by them and the Cherokee Nation, subject to the approval of the president of the United States, and in cases of disagreement the price to be fixed by the president.

'And the said tribe thus settled shall also pay into the national fund a sum of money, to be agreed on by the respective parties, not greater in proportion to the whole existing national fund and the probable proceeds of the lands herein ceded or authorized to be ceded or sold than their numbers bear to the whole number of Cherokees then residing in said country, and thence afterwards they shall enjoy all the rights of native Cherokees. But no Indians who have no tribal organizations, or who shall determine to abandon their tribal organizations, shall be permitted to settle east of the ninety-sixth degree of longitude without the consent of the Cherokee National Council, or of a delegation duly appointed by it, being first obtained. And no Indians who have and determine to preserve their tribal organizations shall be permitted to settle, as herein provided, east of the ninety-sixth degree of longitude without such consent being first obtained, unless the president of the UnitedStates, after a full hearing of the objections offered by said council or delegation to such settlement, shall determine that the objections are insufficient, in which case he may authorize the settlement of such tribe east of the ninety-sixth degree of longitude.'

Prior to that time, and in 1839, the Cherokee Nation had adopted a constitution, section 2 of article 1 and section 5 of article 3 being in these words:

'Sec. 2. The lands of the Cherokee Nation shall remain common property; but the improvements made thereon, and in the possession of the citizens of the Nation, are the exclusive and indefeasible property of the citizens respectively who made or may rightfully be in possession of them: Provided, that the citizens of the Nation possessing exclusive and indefeasible right to their improvements, as expressed in this article, shall possess no right or power to dispose of their improvements, in any manner whatever, to the United States, individual states, or to individual citizens thereof; and that, whenever any citizen shall remove with his effects out of the limits of this Nation, and become a citizen of any other government, all his rights and privileges as a citizen of this Nation shall cease: Provided, nevertheless, that the national council shall have power to readmit, by law, to all the rights of citizenship, any such person or persons who may, at any time, desire to return to the Nation, on memorializing the national council for such readmission.'

'Sec. 5. No person shall be eligible to a seat in the national council but a free Cherokee male citizen, who shall have attained to the age of twenty-five years.

'The descendants of Cherokee men by all free women, except the African race, whose parents may have been living together as man and wife, according to the customs and laws of this Nation, shall be entitled to all the rights and privileges of this Nation as well as the posterity of Cherokee women by all free men. No person who is of negro or mulatto parentage, either by the father's or the mother's side, shall be eligible to hold any office of profit, honor or trust, under this government.' Const. & Laws Cherokee Nation (Ed. 1892), pp. 11, 12, 14.

Immediately following the treaty, the Cherokee Nation amended these sections, first adopting the following preamble:

'Whereas, by the treaty executed at Washington, on the 19th day of July, A. D. 1866, between the United States and the Cherokee Nation, through its delegation, ratified by the senate and officially promulgated by the president of the United States, August 11, 1866, certain things were agreed to between the parties to said treaty, involving changes in the constitution of the Cherokee Nation, which changes cannot be accomplished by the usual mode; and,

'Whereas, it is the desire of the people and government of the Cherokee Nation, to carry out in good faith all of its obligations, to the end that law and order be preserved, and the institutions of their government maintained.'

The sections, as amended, read as follows:

'Sec. 2. The lands of the Cherokee Nation shall remain common property until the national council shall request the survey and allotment of the same, in accordance with the provisions of article 20th of the treaty of 19th July, 1866, between the United States and the Cherokee Nation.'

'Sec. 5. No person shall be eligible to a seat in the national council but a male citizen of the Cherokee Nation, who shall have attained to the age of twenty-five years, and who shall have been a bona fide resident of the district in which he may be elected, at least six months immediately preceding such election. All native-born Cherokees, all Indians, and whites legally members of the Nation by adoption, and all freedmen who have been liberated by voluntary act of their former owners or by law, as well as free colored persons who were in the country at the commencement of the Rebellion, and are now residents therein, or who may return within six months from the 19th day of July, 1866, and their descendants, who reside within the limits of the Cherokee Nation, shall be taken and deemed to be citizens of the Cherokee Nation.' Const. & Laws Cherokee Nation (Ed. 1892) pp. 31-33.

In pursuance of this treaty, and under this amended constitution, the Cherokees and Delawares came together, and entered into an agreement of date April 8, 1867, which, after referring to certain treaties, among them this of July 19, 1866, and reciting that a 'full and free conference has been had between the representatives of the Cherokees and the Delawares, in view of the treaties herein referred to, looking to a location of the Delawares upon the Cherokee lands, and their consolidation with said Cherokee Nation,' stipulates as follows:

'Now, therefore, it is agreed between the parties hereto, subject to the approval of the president of the United States, as follows:

'The Cherokees, parties of the first part, for and in consideration of certain payments, and the fulfillment of certain conditions hereinafter mentioned, agree to sell to the Delawares, for their occupancy, a quantity of land east of the line of the 96° west longitude, in the aggregate equal to one hundred and sixty acres for each individual of the Delaware tribe who has been enrolled upon a certain register made February 18, 1867, by the Delaware agent, and on file in the office of Indian affairs, being the list of Delawares who elect to remove to the 'Indian Country,' to which list may be added, only with the consent of the Delaware council, the names of such other Delawares as may, within one month after the signing of this agreement, desire to be added thereto, and the selections of the lands to be purchased by the Delawares may be made by said Delawares in any part of the Cherokee Reservation east of said line of 96°, not already selected and in possession of other parties; and, in case the Cherokee lands shall hereafter be allotted among the members of said Nation, it is agreed that the aggregate amount of land herein provided for the Delawares, to include their improvements according to the legal subdivisions when surveys are made (that is to say, one hundred and sixty acres for each individual), shall be guarantied to each Delaware incorporated by these articles into the Cherokee Nation; nor shall the continued ownership and occupancy of said land by any Delaware so registered be interfered with in any manner whatever without his consent, but shall be subject to the same conditions and restrictions as are by the laws of the Cherokee Nation imposed upon native citizens thereof:

'Provided, that nothing herein shall confer the right to alienate, convey, or dispose of any such lands, except in accordance with the constitution and laws of said Cherokee Nation.

'And the said Delawares, parties of the second part, agree that there shall be paid to the said Cherokees from the Delaware funds, now held or hereafter received by the United States, a sum of money equal to one dollar per acre for the whole amount of one hundred and sixty acres of land for every individual Delaware who has already been registered upon the aforesaid list, made February 18, 1867, with the additions theretofore provided for.

'And the secretary of the interior is authorized and requested to sell any United States stocks belonging to the Delawares to procure funds necessary to pay for said lands; but in case he shall not feel authorized, under existing treaties, to sell such bonds belonging to the Delawares, it is agreed that he may transfer such United States bonds to the Cherokee Nation, at their market value, at the date of such transfer.

'And the said Delawares further agree that there shall be paid from their funds, now or hereafter to come into possession of the United States, a sum of money which shall sustain the same proportion to the existing Cherokee national fund that the number of Delawares registered as above mentioned and removing to the Indian country sustains to the whole number of Cherokees residing in the Cherokee Nation; and, for the purpose of ascertaining such relative numbers, the registers of the Delawares herein referred to, with such additions as may be made within one month from the signing of this agreement, shall be the basis of calculation as to the Delawares; and an accurate census of the Cherokees residing in the Cherokee Nation shall be taken under the laws of that Nation within four months, and properly certified copies thereof filed in the office of Indian affairs, which shall be the basis of calculation as to the Cherokees.

And that there may be no doubt hereafter as to the amount to be contributed to the Cherokee national fund by the Delawares, it is hereby agreed by the parties hereto that the whole amount of the invested funds of the Cherokees, after deducting all just claims thereon, is $678,000.

'And the Delawares further agree that, in calculating the total amount of said national fund, there shall be added to the said sum of $678,000 the sum of $1,000,000, being the estimated value of the Cherokee neutral lands in Kansas, thus making the whole Cherokee national fund $1,678,000; and this last-mentioned sum shall be taken as the basis for calculating the amount which the Delawares are to pay into the common fund:

'Provided that, as the $678,000 of funds now on hand belonging to the Cherokees is chiefly composed of stocks of different values, the secretary of the interior may transfer from the Delawares to the Cherokees a proper proportion of the stocks now owned by the Delawares of like grade and value, which transfer shall be in part of the pro rata contribution herein provided for by the Delawares to the funds of the Cherokee Nation; but the balance of the pro rata contribution by the Delawares to said fund shall be in cash or United States bonds, at their market value.

'All cash, and all proceeds of stocks, whenever the same may fall due or be sold, received by the Cherokees from the Delawares under the agreement, shall be invested and applied in accordance with the 23d article of the treaty with the Cherokees of August 11, 1866.

'On the fulfillment by the Delawares of the foregoing stipulations, all the members of the tribe registered as above provided shall become members of the Cherokee Nation, with the same rights and immunities, and the same participation (and no other) in the national funds, as native Cherokees, save as hereinbefore provided.

'And the children hereafter born of such Delawares so incorporated into the Cherokee Nation shall in all respects be regarded as native Cherokees.'

In pursuance of this agreement, which was approved by the president of the United States, as stipulated in article 15 of the treaty, 985 Delawares removed to the territory of the Cherokees, paid $157,600 for the lands set apart for them, contributed $121,824.28, their share of the national fund as provided, and became incorporated into the Cherokee Nation.

At the time of this treaty the Cherokee Nation was possessed of the following tracts or bodies of lands:


Strip lands in Kansas (about)...... 400,000

Neutral lands in Kansas (about).. 1,000,000

Lands west of 96x, Indian Territory

(about)......................... 8,000,000

Lands east of 96x, Indian Territory,

Home Reservation (about)........ 5,000,000

By article 17 of the treaty the strip lands and the netural lands were ceded to the United States, to be sold for the benefit of the Cherokee Nation. The sum expected to be realized from the sale of the neutral lands was, by the agreement between the Cherokees and the Delawares, considered as already received and a part of the Cherokee national fund. The proceeds of the sale of the strip lands were subsequently appropriated to the uses of the Cherokee Nation as a Nation, and not for the benefit of the native Cherokees alone, leaving as still the property of the Cherokee Nation the two bodies of land in the Indian Territory (sometimes known as the 'Home Reservation' and the 'Cherokee Outlet'). Certain sums of money were received by the Cherokee Nation for the rental of the Cherokee outlet. These sums the Cherokee council determined belonged wholly to the native Cherokees, to the exclusion of the Delawares. This brought about a controversy between the native Cherokees and the Delawares, involving not merely the right to share in these proceeds, but also the interest of the Delawares in the reservation and the outlet. On October 1, 1890 (26 Stat. 636), an act of congress was passed providing for a reference to the court of claims of that controversy. Thereupon on October 29, 1890, this suit was brought, the United States being made a party defendant, not as having any adverse interest, but as trustee, holding the funds of the Indians. The Opinion of that court was filed April 24, 1893 (28 Ct. Cl. 281), the conclusion being that the Delawares were incorporated into the Cherokee Nation, and, as members and citizens thereof, were entitled to equal rights in these lands and their proceeds. On May 22, 1893, a decree was entered in accordance with these views, from which decree the Cherokee Nation and the United States have appealed to this court.

Chas. A. Maxwell and Geo. S.C.hase, for the Cherokee Nation.

Asst. Atty. Gen. Dodge, for the United States.

Thos. C. Fletcher and J. H. McGowan, for appellee.

Mr. Justice BREWER, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the court.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).