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CAMPBELL v. WADSWORTH ET AL.

December 16, 1918

CAMPBELL
v.
WADSWORTH ET AL.



ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA

White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Van Devanter, Pitney, McReynolds, Brandeis, Clarke

Author: Clarke

[ 248 U.S. Page 170]

 MR. JUSTICE CLARKE delivered the opinion of the court.

The defendants in error brought suit to quiet title to the lands in controversy in this case, the facts involved being agreed upon as follows:

Louis Cox, whose name appears in the final rolls of the Seminole Tribe of Indians, died intestate, on July 4, 1901, and left surviving him the defendants in error, Annie Cox, his widow, now Annie Wadsworth, and two daughters, Maggie Cox, now Maggie Beamore, and Nancy Cox, now Nancy Alexander. These three women were all duly enrolled on the Creek tribal roll in 1890, and in July, 1901, after the death of Cox, upon an application made in May, 1901, they were enrolled as citizens of the Creek Nation by the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes, but neither of the three appears on the Seminole rolls. Certified copies of the "final" Seminole roll bearing the name of Louis Cox and of the Creek roll bearing the names of his wife and daughters are in the record. On the former is the notation "Wife and family Creeks" and in the latter Louis Cox is described as an enrolled Seminole.

No allotment of land had been made to Cox at the time of his death, but subsequently the land in controversy was allotted by the United States as his distributive share of the Seminole tribal lands.

The plaintiff in error claims title through one Lucy Wildcat, the only surviving relative of Cox whose name appears on the approved Seminole roll. The widow and daughters claim as heirs of Louis Cox.

The decision of the case depends upon the application to the facts thus stated of the second paragraph of the

[ 248 U.S. Page 171]

     agreement between the Government of the United States and the Seminole Tribe of Indians, dated October 7, 1899, and ratified by Act of Congress June 2, 1900, c. 610, 31 Stat. 250, the essential parts of which are follows:

"First. That the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes, in making the rolls of Seminole citizens, pursuant to the Act of Congress approved June twenty-eighth, eighteen hundred and ninety-eight, shall place on said rolls the names of all children born to Seminole citizens up to and including the thirty-first day of December, eighteen hundred and ninety-nine, and the names of all Seminole citizens then living: and the rolls so made, when approved by the Secretary of the Interior, as provided by said Act of Congress, shall constitute the final rolls of Seminole citizens, upon which allotment of lands and distribution of money and other property belonging to the Seminole Indians shall be made, and to no other persons.

"Second. If any member of the Seminole tribe of Indians shall die after the thirty-first day of December, eighteen hundred and ninety-nine, the lands, money, and other property to which he would be entitled if living, shall descend to his heirs who are Seminole citizens, according to the laws of descent and distribution of the State of Arkansas, and be allotted and distributed to them accordingly: Provided, That in all cases where such property would descend to the parents under said laws the same shall first go to the mother instead of the father, and then to the brothers and sisters, and their heirs, instead of the father."

Plainly the facts agreed upon bring the case within the scope of the second paragraph thus quoted, and whether Lucy Wildcat, the only surviving Seminole relative of the deceased, or the wife and daughters of Cox, inherited the land in controversy depends upon the effect to be given to the phrase, "shall descend to his heirs who are Seminole citizens."

[ 248 U.S. Page 172]

     The Supreme Court of Oklahoma seemingly had little difficulty in concluding that this expression excluded "heirs" who were not Seminoles, and it adopted unanimously as its own the opinion by the Commission which found in favor of the ...


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