MR. CHIEF JUSTICE FULLER, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.
These appeals are from decrees of the United States court in the Indian Territory, sitting in first instance, rendered in cases pending therein involving the right of various individuals to citizenship in some one of the four tribes named; most of them came to that court by appeal from the action of the so-called Dawes Commission, though some were from decisions of tribal authorities; many questions are common to them all; and it will be assumed that in all of them the decrees were rendered and the court had finally adjourned before the passage of the act of July 1, 1898, providing for appeals to this court.
The act of June 10, 1896, provided "that if the tribe, or any person, be aggrieved with the decision of the tribal authorities or the Commission provided for in this act, it or he may appeal from such decision to the United States District Court: Provided, however, That the appeal shall be taken within sixty days, and the judgment of the court shall be final."
It must be admitted that the words "United States District Court" were not accurately used, as the United States Court in the Indian Territory was not a District or Circuit Court of
As to the first of these objections, conceding the constitutionality of the legislation otherwise, we need spend no time upon it, as it is firmly established that Congress may provide for the review of the action of commissions and boards created by it, exercising only quasi judicial powers, by the transfer of their proceedings and decisions, denominated appeals for want of a better term, to judicial tribunals for examination and determination de novo; and, as will be presently seen, could certainly do so in respect of the action of tribal authorities.
The other objection, though appearing at first blush to be more serious, is also untenable.
The contention is that the act of July 1, 1898, in extending the remedy by appeal to this court was invalid because retrospective, an invasion of the judicial domain, and destructive of vested rights. By its terms the act was to operate
And while it is undoubtedly true that legislatures cannot set aside the judgments of courts, compel them to grant new trials, order the discharge of offenders, or direct what steps shall be taken in the progress of a judicial inquiry, the grant of a new remedy by way of review has been often sustained under particular circumstances. Calder v. Bull, 3 Dallas, 386; Sampeyreac v. United States, 7 Pet. 222; Freeborn v. Smith, 2 Wall. 160; Garrison v. New York, 21 Wall. 196; Freeland v. Williams, 131 U.S. 405; Essex Public Road Board v. Skinkle, 140 U.S. 334.
The United States court in the Indian Territory is a legislative court and was authorized to exercise jurisdiction in these citizenship cases as a part of the machinery devised by Congress in the discharge of its duties in respect of these Indian tribes, and assuming that Congress possesses plenary power of legislation in regard to them, subject only to the Constitution of the United States, it follows that the validity of remedial legislation of this sort cannot be questioned unless in violation of some prohibition of that instrument.
In its enactment Congress has not attempted to interfere in any way with the judicial department of the Government, nor can the act be properly regarded as destroying any vested right, since the right asserted to be vested is only the exemption of these judgments from review, and the mere expectation of a share in the public lands and moneys of these tribes, if hereafter distributed, if the applicants are admitted to citizenship, cannot be held to amount to such an absolute right of property that the original cause of action, which is citizenship or not, is placed by the judgment of a lower court beyond the power of reëxamination by a higher court though subsequently authorized by general law to exercise jurisdiction.
This brings us to consider the nature and extent of the
"Appeals shall be allowed from the United States courts in the Indian Territory direct to the Supreme Court of the United States to either party, in all citizenship cases, and in all cases between either of the Five Civilized Tribes and the United States involving the constitutionality or validity of any legislation affecting citizenship, or the allotment of lands in the Indian Territory, under the rules and regulations governing appeals to said court in other cases: Provided, That appeals in cases decided prior to this act must be perfected in one hundred and twenty days from its passage; and in cases decided subsequent thereto, within sixty days from final judgment; but in no such case shall the work of the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes be enjoined or suspended by any proceeding in, or order of, any court, or of any judge, until after final judgment in the Supreme Court of the United States. In cases of appeals, as aforesaid, it shall be the duty of the Supreme Court to advance such cases on the docket and dispose of the same as early as possible."
This provision is not altogether clear, and we therefore inquire what is its true construction? Was it the intention of Congress to impose on this court the duty of reëxamining the facts in the instance of all applicants for citizenship, who might appeal; of construing and applying the treaties with, and the constitutions and laws, the usages and customs, of the respective tribes; of reviewing their action through their legislative bodies, and the decisions of their tribal courts, and commissions; and of finally adjudicating the right of each applicant under the pressure of the advancement of each case on the docket to be disposed of as soon as possible? Or, on the other hand, was it the intention of Congress to submit to this court only the question of the constitutionality or validity of the legislation in respect of the subject-matter? We have no hesitation in saying that in our opinion the appeal thus granted was intended to extend only to the constitutionality or validity of the legislation affecting citizenship or the allotment of lands in the Indian Territory.
It should be remembered that the appeal to the United States court for the Indian Territory under the act of 1896 was in respect of decisions as to citizenship only, and that in those cases the jurisdiction of the Dawes Commission and of the court was attacked on the ground of the unconstitutionality of the legislation. The determination of that question was necessarily in the mind of Congress in providing for the appeal to this court, and it cannot reasonably be supposed that it was intended that the question should be reopened in cases between the United States and the tribes. And yet this would be the result of the use of the words "affecting citizenship" in the qualification, if that qualification were confined to the last-named cases. The words cannot be construed as redundant and rejected as surplusage, for they can be given full effect, and it cannot be assumed that they tend to defeat, but rather that they are in effectuation of, the real object of the enactment. It is true that the provision is somewhat obscure, although if the comma after the words "all citizenship cases" were omitted, or if a comma were inserted after the words "the United States," that obscurity would practically disappear, and the rule is well settled that, for the purpose of arriving at the true meaning of a statute, courts read with such stops as are manifestly required. Hammock v. Loan and Trust Company, 105 U.S. 77, 84; United States v. Lacher, 134 U.S. 624, 628; United States v. Oregon & California Railroad, 164 U.S. 526, 541.
On any possible construction, in cases between the United States and an Indian tribe, no appeal is allowed, unless the constitutionality or validity of the legislation is involved; and it would be most unreasonable to attribute to Congress an intention that the right of appeal should be more extensive in
Reference to prior legislation as to appeal to this court from the United States court in the Indian Territory confirms the view we entertain.
By section five of the judiciary act of March 3, 1891, c. 517, 26 Stat. 826, as amended, appeals or writs of error might be taken from the District and Circuit Courts directly to this court in cases in which the jurisdiction of the court was in issue; of conviction of a capital crime; involving the construction or application of the Constitution of the United States; and in which the constitutionality of any law of the United States, or the validity or construction of any treaty made under its authority, was drawn in question.
By section six, the Circuit Courts of Appeals established by the act were invested with appellate jurisdiction in all other cases.
The thirteenth section read: "Appeals and writs of error may be taken and prosecuted from the decisions of the United States court in the Indian Territory to the Supreme Court of the United States, or to the Circuit Court of Appeals in the Eighth Circuit, in the same manner and under the same regulations as from the Circuit or District Courts of the United States, under this act."
The act of March 1, 1895, provided for the appointment of additional judges of the United States court in the Indian Territory and created a Court of Appeals with such superintending control over the courts in the Indian Territory as the Supreme Court of Arkansas possessed over the courts of that State by the laws thereof; and the act also provided that "writs of error and appeals from the final decisions of said appellate court shall be allowed, and may be taken to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Judicial Circuit in the same manner and under the same regulations as appeals are taken from the Circuit Courts of the United States," which thus in terms deprived that court of jurisdiction of appeals from the Indian Territory trial court under section 13 of the act of 1891. Prior to the act of 1895, the United States court in the Indian
Was the legislation of 1896 and 1897, so far as it authorized the Dawes Commission to determine citizenship in these tribes, constitutional? If so, the courts below had jurisdiction on appeal.
It is true that the Indian tribes were for many years allowed by the United States to make all laws and regulations for the government and protection of their persons and property, not inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States; and numerous treaties were made by the United States with those tribes as distinct political societies. The policy of the Government, however, in dealing with the Indian Nations was definitively expressed in a proviso inserted in the Indian Appropriation Act of March 3, 1871, c. 120, 16 Stat. 544, 566, to the effect:
"That hereafter no Indian nation or tribe within the territory of the United States shall be acknowledged or recognized as an independent nation, tribe or power with whom the United States may contract by treaty: Provided, further, That nothing herein contained shall be construed to invalidate or impair the obligation of any treaty heretofore lawfully made and ratified with any such Indian nation or tribe," which was carried forward into section 2079 of the Revised Statutes, which reads:
"SEC. 2079. No Indian nation or tribe within the territory of the United States shall be acknowledged or recognized as an independent nation, tribe or power with whom the United States may contract by treaty; but no obligation of any treaty lawfully made and ratified with any such Indian nation or tribe prior to March third, eighteen hundred and seventy-one, shall be hereby invalidated or impaired."
The treaties referred to in argument were all made and ratified prior to March 3, 1871, but it is "well settled that an act of Congress may supersede a prior treaty and that any questions that may arise are beyond the sphere of judicial cognizance, and must be met by the political department of the
As to the general power of Congress we need not review the decisions on the subject, as they are sufficiently referred to by Mr. Justice Harlan in Cherokee Nation v. Southern Kansas Railway Company, 135 U.S. 641, 653, from whose opinion we quote as follows:
"The proposition that the Cherokee Nation is sovereign in the sense that the United States is sovereign, or in the sense that the several States are sovereign, and that that nation alone can exercise the power of eminent domain within its limits, finds no support in the numerous treaties with the Cherokee Indians, or in the decisions of this court, or in the acts of Congress defining the relations of that people with the United States. From the beginning of the Government to the present time, they have been treated as `wards of the nation,' `in a state of pupilage,' `dependent political communities,' holding such relations to the General Government that they and their country, as declared by Chief Justice Marshall in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, 5 Pet. 1, 17, `are considered by foreign nations, as well as by ourselves, as being so completely under the sovereignty and dominion of the United States, that any attempt to acquire their lands, or to form a political connection with them, would be considered by all as an invasion of our territory and an act of hostility.' It is true, as declared in Worcester v. Georgia, 6 Pet. 515, 557, 569, that the treaties and laws of the United States contemplate the Indian Territory as completely separated from the States and the Cherokee Nation as a distinct community, and (in the language of Mr. Justice McLean in the same case, p. 583,) that `in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of our Government we have admitted, by the most solemn sanction, the existence of the Indians as a separate and distinct people, and as being vested with rights which constitute them a State, or separate community.' But that falls far short of saying that they are a sovereign State, with no superior within the limits of its territory. By the treaty of New Echota, 1835, the United States covenanted and agreed that the lands ceded to
Such being the position occupied by these tribes, (and it has often been availed of to their advantage,) and the power of Congress in the premises having the plenitude thus indicated, we are unable to perceive that the legislation in question is in contravention of the Constitution.
By the act of June 10, 1896, the Dawes Commission was authorized "to hear and determine the application of all persons who may apply to them for citizenship in said nations, and after such hearing they shall determine the right of such applicant to be so admitted and enrolled," but it was also provided:
"That in determining all such applications said Commission shall respect all laws of the several nations or tribes, not inconsistent with the laws of the United States, and all
The act of June 7, 1897, declared that the Commission should "continue to exercise all authority heretofore conferred on it by law to negotiate with the Five Tribes, and any agreement made by it with any one of said tribes, when ratified, shall operate to suspend any provisions of this act if in conflict therewith as to said nation: Provided, That the words `rolls of citizenship,' as used in the act of June tenth, eighteen hundred and ninety-six, making appropriations for current and contingent expenses of the Indian Department and fulfilling treaty stipulation with various Indian tribes for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, eighteen hundred and ninety-seven, shall be construed to mean the last authenticated rolls of each tribe which have been approved by the council of the nation, and the descendants of those appearing on such rolls, and such additional names and their descendants as have been subsequently added, either by the council of such nation, the duly authorized courts thereof, or the Commission under the act of June tenth, eighteen hundred and ninety-six. And all other names appearing upon such rolls shall be open to investigation by such Commission for a period of six months after the passage of this act. And any name appearing on such rolls and not confirmed by the act of June tenth, eighteen hundred and ninety-six, as herein construed, may be stricken therefrom by such Commission where the party affected shall have ten days' previous notice that said Commission
"That on and after January first, eighteen hundred and ninety-eight, all acts, ordinances and resolutions of the council of either of the aforesaid Five Tribes passed shall be certified immediately upon their passage to the President of the United States and shall not take effect, if disapproved by him, until thirty days after their passage: Provided, That this act shall not apply to resolutions for adjournment, or any acts, or resolutions, or ordinances in relation to negotiations with commissioners heretofore appointed to treat with said tribes."
We repeat that in view of the paramount authority of Congress over the Indian tribes, and of the duties imposed on the Government by their condition of dependency, we cannot say that Congress could not empower the Dawes Commission to determine, in the manner provided, who were entitled to citizenship in each of the tribes and make out correct rolls of such citizens, an essential preliminary to effective action in promotion of the best interests of the tribes. It may be remarked that the legislation seems to recognize, especially the act of June 28, 1898, a distinction between admission to citizenship merely and the distribution of property to be subsequently made, as if there might be circumstances under which the right to a share in the latter would not necessarily follow from the concession of the former. But in any aspect, we are of opinion that the constitutionality of these acts in respect of the determination of citizenship cannot be successfully assailed on the ground of the impairment or destruction of vested rights. The lands and moneys of these tribes are public lands and public moneys, and are not held in individual ownership, and the assertion by any particular applicant that his right therein is so vested as to preclude inquiry into his status involves a contradiction in terms.
The judgments in these cases were rendered before the passage
The act is comprehensive and sweeping in its character, and notwithstanding the abstract of it in the statement prefixed to this opinion, we again call attention to its provisions. The act gave jurisdiction to the United States courts in the Indian Territory in their respective districts to try cases against those who claimed to hold lands and tenements as members of a tribe and whose membership was denied by the tribe, and authorized their removal from the same if the claim was disallowed; and provided for the allotment of lands by the Dawes Commission among the citizens of any one of the tribes as shown by the roll of citizenship when fully completed as provided by law, and according to a survey also fully completed; and "that if the person to whom an allotment shall have been made shall be declared, upon appeal as herein provided for, by any of the courts of the United States in or for the aforesaid Territory, to have been illegally accorded rights of citizenship, and for that or any other reason declared to be not entitled to any allotment, he shall be ousted and ejected from said lands."
The act further directed, as to the Cherokees, that the Commission should "take the roll of Cherokee citizens of eighteen hundred and eighty, not including freedmen, as the only roll intended to be confirmed by this and preceding acts of Congress, and to enroll all persons now living whose names are found on said roll, and all descendants born since the date of said roll to persons whose names are found thereon; and all persons who have been enrolled by the tribal authorities who have heretofore made permanent settlement in the Cherokee Nation whose parents, by reason of their Cherokee blood,
The Commission was authorized and directed to make correct rolls of the citizens by blood of all the tribes other than the Cherokees, "eliminating from the tribal rolls such names as may have been placed thereon by fraud or without authority of law, enrolling such only as may have lawful right thereto, and their descendants born since such rolls were made, with such intermarried white persons as may be entitled to Choctaw and Chickasaw citizenship under the treaties and laws of said tribes."
It was also provided that "no person shall be enrolled who has not heretofore removed to and in good faith settled in the nation in which he claims citizenship."
The Commission was authorized to make the rolls descriptive of the persons thereon, so that they might be thereby identified, and to take a census of each of said tribes, "or
The act provided further for the resubmission of the two agreements, with certain specified modifications, that with the Choctaws and Chickasaws, and that with the Creeks, for ratification to a popular vote in the respective nations, and that if ratified, the provisions of these agreements so far as differing from the act should supersede it. The Choctaw and Chickasaw agreement was accordingly so submitted for ratification August 24, 1898, and was ratified by a large majority, but whether or not the agreement with the Creeks was ratified does not appear.
The twenty-sixth section provided that, after the passage of the act, "The laws of the various tribes or nations of Indians shall not be enforced at law or in equity by the courts of the United States in the Indian Territory;" and the twenty-eighth section, that after July 1, 1898, all tribal courts in the Indian Territory should be abolished.
The agreement with the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes contained a provision continuing the tribal government, as modified, for the period of eight years from March 4, 1898; but provided that it should "not be construed to be in any respect an abdication by Congress of power at any time to make needful rules and regulations respecting said tribes."
For reasons already given we regard this act in general as not obnoxious to constitutional objection, but in so holding we do not intend to intimate any opinion as to the effect that changes made thereby, or by the agreements referred to, may have, if any, on the status of the several applicants, who are parties to these appeals.
The elaborate opinions of the United States court in the Indian Territory by Springer, J., Clayton, J., and Townsend, J., contained in these records, some of which are to be found
As we hold the entire legislation constitutional, the result is that all the
Judgments must be affirmed.
MR. JUSTICE WHITE and MR. JUSTICE McKENNA dissented as to the extent of the jurisdiction of this court only.