This is a suit to enjoin the Secretary of the Interior and the Commissioner of the General Land Office from offering, listing or disposing of certain lands in southern Arizona as public lands of the United States. The lands include the site of the Pueblo of Santa Rosa and the surrounding territory, comprise some 460,000 acres, and are within the region acquired from Mexico under what is known as the Gadsden Treaty, 10 Stat. 1031. The suit is brought by the Pueblo of Santa Rosa and its right to the relief sought is based on two allegations, which are elaborated in the bill: one, that under the laws of Spain and Mexico it had, when that region was acquired by the United States, and under the provisions of the treaty it now has, a complete and perfect title to the lands in question; and the other, that in disregard of its title the defendants are theatening and proceeding to offer, list and dispose of these lands as public lands of the United States. In the court of first instance the bill was challenged by a motion to dismiss in the nature of a demurrer, and the motion was sustained. In the Court of Appeals the case made by the allegations in the bill was held to be one entitling the plaintiff to the relief sought, and the decree of dismissal was reversed with a direction that a permanent injunction be awarded. 46 App. D.C. 411. The latter decision is challenged here on two grounds: one, that the plaintiff is not a legal entity and has no capacity to maintain the suit; and the other, that, in any event, the defendants should not be subjected to a permanent injunction without according them an opportunity to answer the bill.
The plaintiff is an Indian town whose inhabitants are a simple and uninformed people, measurably civilized and industrious, living in substantial houses and engaged in agricultural and pastoral pursuits. Its existence, practically
The case of Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, 5 Pet. 1, on which the defendants place some reliance, is not in point.
The defendants assert with much earnestness that the Indians of this pueblo are wards of the United States — recognized as such by the legislative and executive departments — and that in consequence the disposal of their lands is not within their own control, but subject to such regulations as Congress may prescribe for their benefit and protection. Assuming, without so deciding, that this is all true,
In view of the very broad allegations of the bill, the accuracy of which has not been challenged as yet, we have assumed in what has been said that the plaintiff's claim was valid in its entirety under the Spanish and Mexican laws, and that it encounters no obstacle in the concluding provision of the sixth article of the Gadsden Treaty, but no decision on either point is intended. Both involve questions not covered by the briefs or the discussion at the bar and are left open to investigation and decision in the further progress of the cause.
Of course, the Court of Appeals ought not to have directed the entry of a final decree awarding a permanent injunction against the defendants. They were entitled to an opportunity to answer to the merits, just as if their motion to dismiss had been overruled in the court of first instance. By the direction given they were denied such an opportunity, and this was a plain and prejudicial error.
Our conclusion is that the decrees of both courts below should be reversed and the cause remanded to the court of first instance with directions to overrule the motion to dismiss, to afford the defendants an opportunity to answer the bill, to grant an order restraining them from in any wise offering, listing or disposing of any of the lands in question pending the final decree, and to take such further proceedings as may be appropriate and not inconsistent with this opinion.