In 1922 the United States brought a suit in the federal district court for New Mexico against Jose Candelaria and others to quiet in the Indian Pueblo of Laguna the title to certain lands alleged to belong to the pueblo in virtue of a grant from Spain, its recognition by Mexico and a confirmation and patent by the United States. The suit was brought on the theory that these Indians are wards of the United States and that it therefore has authority and is under a duty to protect them in the ownership and enjoyment of their lands. The defendants were alleged to be asserting a false claim to the lands and to be occupying
On the case thus presented the court held that the decrees operated to bar the prosecution of the present suit by the United States, and on that ground the bill was dismissed. An appeal was taken to the Circuit Court of Appeals, which after outlining the case as just stated, has certified to this Court the following questions:
1. Are Pueblo Indians in New Mexico in such status of tutelage as to their lands in that State that the United States, as such guardian, is not barred either by a judgment in a suit involving title to such lands begun in the territorial court and passing to judgment after statehood or by a judgment in a similar action in the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, where, in each of said actions, the United States was not a party nor was the attorney representing such Indians therein authorized so to do by the United States?
2. Did the state court of New Mexico have jurisdiction to enter a judgment which would be res judicata as to
The status of the Pueblo Indians and their lands, and the relation of the United States to both, were considered in United States v. Sandoval, 231 U.S. 28. We there said (pp. 45-47):
"Not only does the Constitution expressly authorize Congress to regulate commerce with the Indian tribes, but long continued legislative and executive usage and an unbroken current of judicial decisions have attributed to the United States as a superior and civilized nation the power and the duty of exercising a fostering care and protection over all dependent Indian communities within its borders, whether within its original territory or territory subsequently acquired, and whether within or without the limits of a State. . . . `It is for that body [Congress] and not for the courts, to determine when the true interests of the Indian require his release from such condition of tutelage.'
"Of course, it is not meant by this that Congress may bring a community or body of people within the range of this power by arbitrarily calling them an Indian tribe, but only that in respect of distinctly Indian communities the questions whether, to what extent, and for what time they shall be recognized and dealt with as dependent tribes requiring the guardianship and protection of the United States are to be determined by Congress and not by the courts.
"As before indicated, by an uniform course of action beginning as early as 1854 and continued up to the present time, the legislative and executive branches of the Government have regarded and treated the Pueblos of
And also (p. 48): "We are not unmindful that in United States v. Joseph, 94 U.S. 614, there are some observations not in accord with what is here said of these Indians, but as that case did not turn upon the power of Congress over them or their property, but upon the interpretation and purpose of a statute not nearly so comprehensive as the legislation now before us, and as the observations there made respecting the Pueblos were evidently based upon statements in the opinion of the territorial court, then under review, which are at variance with other recognized sources of information, now available, and with the long continued action of the legislative and executive departments, that case cannot be regarded as holding that these Indians or their lands are beyond the range of Congressional power under the Constitution."
While we recognized in that case that the Indians of each pueblo, collectively as a community, have a fee simple title to the lands of the pueblo (other than such as are occupied under executive orders), we held that their lands, like the tribal lands of other Indians owned in fee under patents from the United States, are "subject to the legislation of Congress enacted in the exercise of the Government's guardianship" over Indian tribes and their property.
The purpose of Congress to subject the Pueblo Indians and their lands to that legislation, if not made certain before the decision in the Joseph Case, was made so in various ways thereafter. Two manifestations of it are significant. A decision of the territorial court in 1904 holding their lands taxable, 12 N.M. 139, was promptly
Many provisions have been enacted by Congress — some general and others special — to prevent the Government's Indian wards from improvidently disposing of their lands and becoming homeless public charges. One of these provisions, now embodied in section 2116 of the Revised Statutes, declares: "No purchase, grant, lease, or other conveyance of lands, or of any title or claim thereto from any Indian nation or tribe of Indians, shall be of any validity in law or equity, unless the same be made by treaty or convention entered into pursuant to the Constitution." This provision was originally adopted in 1834, c. 161, sec. 12, 4 Stat. 730, and, with others "regulating trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes," was extended over "the Indian tribes" of New Mexico in 1851, c. 14, sec. 7, 9 Stat. 587.
While there is no express reference in the provision to Pueblo Indians, we think it must be taken as including them. They are plainly within its spirit and, in our opinion, fairly within its words, "any tribe of Indians." Although sedentary, industrious and disposed to peace, they are Indians in race, customs and domestic government,
Under the Spanish law Pueblo Indians, although having full title to their lands, were regarded as in a state of tutelage and could alienate their lands only under governmental supervision. See Chouteau v. Molony, 16 How. 203, 237. Text writers have differed about the situation under the Mexican law; but in United States v. Pico, 5 Wall. 536, 540, this Court, speaking through Mr. Justice Field, who was specially informed on the subject, expressly recognized that under the laws of Mexico the government "extended a special guardianship" over Indian pueblos and that a conveyance of pueblo lands to be effective must be "under the supervision and with the approval" of designated authorities. And this was the ruling in Sunol v. Hepburn, 1 Cal. 254, 273, et seq. Thus it appears that Congress in imposing a restriction on the alienation of these lands, as we think it did, was but continuing a policy which prior governments had deemed essential to the protection of such Indians.
It was settled in Lane v. Pueblo of Santa Rosa, 249 U.S. 110, that under territorial laws enacted with congressional sanction each pueblo in New Mexico — meaning the Indians comprising the community — became a juristic person and enabled to sue and defend in respect of
With this explanation of the status of the Pueblo Indians and their lands, and of the relation of the United States to both, we come to answer the questions propounded in the certificate.
To the first question we answer that the United States is not barred. Our reasons will be stated. The Indians of the pueblo are wards of the United States and hold their lands subject to the restriction that the same cannot be alienated in any-wise without its consent. A judgment or decree which operates directly or indirectly to transfer the lands from the Indians, where the United States has not authorized or appeared in the suit, infringes that restriction. The United States has an interest
But, as it appears that for many years the United States has employed and paid a special attorney to represent the Pueblo Indians and look after their interests, our answer is made with the qualification that, if the decree was rendered in a suit begun and prosecuted by the special attorney so employed and paid, we think the United States is as effectually concluded as if it were a party to the suit. Souffront v. Compagnie des Sucreries, 217 U.S. 475, 486; Lovejoy v. Murray, 3 Wall. 1, 18; Claflin v. Fletcher, 7 Fed. 851, 852; Maloy v. Duden, 86 Fed. 402, 404; James v. Germania Iron Co., 107 Fed. 597, 613.
Coming to the second question, we eliminate so much of it as refers to a possible disregard of a survey made by the United States, for that would have no bearing on the court's jurisdiction or the binding effect of the judgment or decree, but would present only a question of whether error was committed in the course of exercising jurisdiction. With that eliminated, our answer to the question is that the state court had jurisdiction to entertain the suit and proceed to judgment or decree. Whether the
Questions answered as stated in this opinion.