CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.
Holmes, Van Devanter, McReynolds, Brandeis, Sutherland, Butler, Stone; Hughes took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
MR. JUSTICE VAN DEVANTER delivered the opinion of the Court.
This is a petition for a writ of mandamus commanding the Secretary of the Interior to restore the relators to
the supplemental rolls of the Chippewa Indians in Minnesota and to pay to each of them a per capita share of all future distributions, whether of interest or principal, made from the fund created under section 7 of the act of January 14, 1889, c. 24, 25 Stat. 642.
The writ was denied by the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, but that ruling was reversed by the Court of Appeals, 30 Fed. 2d 989, and the matter is here for review on certiorari.
When the act of 1889 was passed the Chippewa Indians in Minnesota comprised eleven bands or tribes occupying ten distinct reservations in that State in virtue of treaties or executive orders. Collectively they were regarded as a single tribe and commonly called the Chippewas of Minnesota.*fn1 They numbered about 8,300 and their reservations contained approximately 4,700,000 acres. They were tribal Indians, under the guardianship of the United States, and held their reservations as tribal lands. The act of 1889 was directed to accomplishing their transition from the existing tribal relation and dependent wardship to full individual emancipation with its incident rights and responsibilities; and to that end
the act made provision for obtaining, through a commission, a cession of all of their tribal lands save portions of the White Earth and Red Lake reservations needed for allotments; for using the unceded lands in making allotments in severalty, which were to be held subject to prescribed restrictions against alienation, encumbrance and taxation during a period of twenty-five years, or longer if the President so directed; and for selling the ceded lands and creating with the net proceeds an interest-bearing fund, which was to be held in the United States Treasury and expended for the benefit of the Indians as will appear later on.
The act required that the cession have the assent of two-thirds of the male adults and have the approval of the President; directed that the commission obtaining the cession make a census roll of each band or tribe as a guide in ascertaining whether the requisite number of Indians assented to the cession and in making contemplated allotments and payments; required, with exceptions not here material, that the Indians other than those on the Red Lake Reservation be removed to the White Earth Reservation, there to receive allotments; and directed that, after the completion of necessary preliminaries, allotments be made to all of the Indians as soon as practicable.
The contemplated cession was obtained from the Indians and was approved by the President March 4, 1890. The intended census rolls were made and transmitted to the Secretary of the Interior. Several provisions of the act have now been fully executed and others are still in process of administration. The fund created from the proceeds of the sale of the ceded lands is a large one; and the relators here are asserting a right to share in all future distributions therefrom.
The provisions governing the creation and use of that fund are embodied in section 7 of the act and are here
quoted at length -- those which the parties emphasize being put in italics.
"Sec. 7. That all money accruing from the disposal of said lands in conformity with the provisions of this act shall, after deducting all the expenses of making the census, of obtaining the cession and relinquishment, of making the removal and allotments, and of completing the surveys and appraisals, in this act provided, be placed in the Treasury of the United States to the credit of all the Chippewa Indians in the State of Minnesota as a permanent fund, which shall draw interest at the rate of five per centum per annum, payable annually for the period of fifty years, after the allotments provided for in this act have been made, and which interest and permanent fund shall be expended for the benefit of said Indians in manner following: One half of said interest shall, during the said period of fifty years, except in the cases hereinafter otherwise provided, be annually paid in cash in equal shares to the heads of families and guardians of orphan minors for their use; and one-fourth of said interest shall, during the same period and with the like exception, be annually paid in cash in equal shares per capita to all other classes of said Indians; and the remaining one-fourth of said interest shall, during the said period of fifty years, under the direction of the Secretary of the Interior, be devoted exclusively to the establishment and maintenance of a system of free schools among said Indians, in their midst and for their benefit; and at the expiration of the said fifty years, the said permanent fund shall be divided and paid to all of said Chippewa Indians and their issue then living, in cash, in equal shares: Provided, that Congress may, in its discretion, from time to time, during the said period of fifty years, appropriate, for the purpose of promoting civilization and self-support among the said Indians, a portion of said principal sum, not exceeding five per centum thereof.
The United States shall, for the benefit of said Indians, advance to them as such interest as aforesaid the sum of ninety thousand dollars annually, counting from the time when the removal and allotments provided for in this act shall have been made, until such time as said permanent fund, exclusive of the deductions hereinbefore provided for, shall equal or exceed the sum of three million dollars, less any actual interest that may in the meantime accrue from accumulations of said permanent fund; the payments of such interest to be made yearly in advance, and, in the discretion of the Secretary of the Interior, may, as to three-fourths thereof, during the first five years be expended in procuring livestock, teams, farming implements, and seed for such of the Indians to the extent of their shares as are fit and desire to engage in farming, but as to the rest, in cash ; and ...