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UNITED STATES v. KLAMATH AND MOADOC TRIBES INDIANS ET AL.

decided: April 25, 1938.

UNITED STATES
v.
KLAMATH AND MOADOC TRIBES OF INDIANS ET AL.



APPEAL FROM THE COURT OF CLAIMS.

Hughes, McReynolds, Brandeis, Butler, Roberts, Black; Stone, Cardozo, and Reed took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Butler

[ 304 U.S. Page 120]

 MR. JUSTICE BUTLER delivered the opinion of the Court.

Congress, by Act of May 26, 1920,*fn1 gave to the lower court jurisdiction of claims of respondents against the United States. They sued to recover the value of 87,000 acres of land alleged to have been taken from them by the United States August 22, 1906. The Court of Claims made special findings of fact, stated its conclusion of law and dismissed the case. We affirmed on the ground that the Act did not confer jurisdiction of released claims and that this claim had been released. 296 U.S. 244. Then, by Act of May 15, 1936,*fn2 the Congress enacted "That in the suit numbered E-346 [this suit] heretofore instituted in the Court of Claims by the Klamath and Modoc Tribes and Yahooskin Band of Snake Indians under an Act . . . approved May 26, 1920, jurisdiction is hereby conferred upon said court, and it is hereby authorized and directed, irrespective of any release or settlement, to reinstate

[ 304 U.S. Page 121]

     and retry said case and to hear and determine the claims of the plaintiffs on the merits, and to enter judgment thereon upon the present pleadings, evidence, and findings of fact, with the right of appeal, rather than by certiorari, to the Supreme Court of the United States by either party: Provided, That any payment heretofore made to the said Indians by the United States in connection with any release or settlement shall be charged as an offset, but shall not be treated as an estoppel."

The findings show: In 1864 plaintiffs held by immemorial possession more than 20,000,000 acres located within what now constitutes Oregon and California. By an Act*fn3 of March 25 of that year the President was authorized to conclude with them a treaty for the purchase of the country they occupied. The treaty was made October 14 following.*fn4 A proviso sets apart a tract retained out of the country a part of which was ceded, to be held until otherwise directed by the President, as a residence for plaintiffs, with specified privileges. Rights of way for public roads were reserved.*fn5 Shortly before the treaty was made Congress granted Oregon, to aid in the construction of a military road, the odd-numbered sections for three in width on each side of the proposed road.*fn6 Oregon accepted the grant and assigned it to the road company which undertook to construct the road. Congress recognized the assignment.*fn7 Patents were issued to the State and to the road company for in all 420,240.67 acres, title to which was later acquired by a land company. Exclusive of right of way, 111,385 acres so acquired by that company were within the boundaries

[ 304 U.S. Page 122]

     of the reservation and had been allotted in severalty to members of the tribe. The United States brought suit but failed to recover that area.*fn8 Congress by Act of June 21, 1906,*fn9 authorized the Secretary of the Interior to exchange unallotted lands in the reservation for the allotted lands by mistake earlier conveyed. He made an agreement with the land company pursuant to which, on August 22, 1906, it conveyed the allotted lands back to the United States and in return the latter conveyed to the company 87,000 acres of unallotted lands. That transfer was made without the knowledge or consent of plaintiffs and without giving them any compensation for the lands so taken from their reservation. Later, however, the United States paid them $108,750 for which they released their claim.*fn10 There was then upon the land 1,713,000,000 board feet of merchantable timber of the value of $1.50 per thousand; the value of the lands including timber was $2,980,000. From that amount the court subtracted the $108,750 and to the remainder added 5 per cent. per annum to date of judgment; from the total took the amount it found the United States entitled to set off against plaintiff's claim (Act of May 26, 1920, 41 Stat. 623, ยง 2), and as of June 7, 1937, gave judgment for the balance $5,313,347.32, with interest on a part of that amount until paid.

1. The United States contends that the lower court erred in including the value of the timber. The tract taken was a part of the reservation retained by plaintiffs out of the country held by them in immemorial possession,

[ 304 U.S. Page 123]

     from which was made the cession by the treaty of October 14, 1864. The clause declaring that the district retained should, until otherwise directed by the President, be set apart as a residence for the Indians and "held and regarded as an Indian reservation" clearly did not detract from the tribes' right of occupancy. The worth attributable to the timber was a part of the value of the land upon which it was standing. Plaintiffs were entitled to have that element of value included as a part of the compensation for the lands taken. United States v. Shoshone Tribe, ante, p. 111.

2. The United States also contends that the lower court erred in allowing interest against the United States on the unpaid value of the 87,000 acres from the time of the exchange to the date of the judgment, and to support that contention argues that there was no exercise of the power of eminent domain and that the jurisdictional Act of ...


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