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Argument for Appellees.
sideration in cases of doubt. United States v. Un. Pac. Ry. Co., 37 Fed. Rep. 551; S. C., 148 U. S. 562; Le Marchal v. Tegarden, 175 Fed. Rep. 682; Pennoyer v. McConnaughy, 140 U. S. 1; Malonny v. Mahar, 1 Michigan, 26; Westbrook v. Miller, 56 Michigan, 148; United States v. Alabama Ry. Co., 142 U. S. 615; Kelly v. Multnomah County, 18 Oregon, 356; Schell v. Fauche, 138 U. S. 562; United States v. Moore, 95 U. S. 760, 763; Johnson v. Ballow, 28 Michigan, 378; Kirkman v. McClaughry, 160 Fed. Rep. 436; United States v. Bank of North Carolina, 6 Pet. 29; 2 Op. Att'y Gen. 558; In re State Lands, 18 Colorado, 359; Hill v. United States, 120 U. S. 169, 182; Blaxham v. Light Co., 36 Florida, 519; Harrison v. Commonwealth, 83 Kentucky, 162; State v. Holliday, 42 L. R. A. 826; Iowa v. Carr, 191 Fed. Rep. 257; Heckman v. United States, 224 U. S. 413; United States v. Chandler-Dunbar Co., 152 Fed. Rep. 25; United States v. Walker, 139 Fed. Rep. 409; Railway Co. v. First Division &c., 26 Minnesota, 31; Menard v. Massey, 8 How. 292; Magee v. Hallett, 22 Alabama, 699, 718.
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Congress was familiar with apt terms to create a classification based upon a given quantum of Indian and other than Indian blood. If it had intended to make the classification urged by the Government, it could easily have said so. Indian treaties (previously cited); act of May 27, 1908, 35 Stat. 312; Pennock v. Commissioners, 103 U. S. 44; Smith v. Bonifer, 154 Fed. Rep. 883; Farrington v. Tennessee, 95 U. S. 679, 689; Bank v. Mathews, 98 U. S. 621, 627; United States v. Koch, 40 Fed. Rep. 250; In re Drake, 114 Fed. Rep. 229; Moore v. U. S. Trans. Co., 24 How. 1, 32; Shaw v. Railroad Co., 101 U. S. 557; Harrington v. Herrick, 64 Fed. Rep. 469; Austin v. United States, 155 U. S. 417; In re Downing, 54 Fed. Rep. 470, 474; 21 Op. Atty. Gen. 418; Louisville Trust Co. v. Cincinnati, 73 Fed. Rep. 726; Parker v. United States, 22 Ct. Cl. 104; Grace v. Collector of Customs, 79 Fed. Rep. 319; Strode v. Stafford Justices, 1 Brock. (U. S.) 162; Ryan v. Carter, 93
Opinion of the Court
U. S. 83; Tompkins v. Little Rock, 125 U. S. 127; United States v. Ryder, 110 U. S. 739; Leavenworth v. United States, 92 U. S. 744; Butz v. Muscatine, 8 Wall. 580; James v. Milwaukee, 16 Wall. 161; United States v. Anderson, 9 Wall. 66; Lawrence v. Allen, 7 How. 796; Nor. Pac. Ry. Co. v. Dudley, 85 Fed. Rep. 86; In re Baker, 96 Fed. Rep. 957; In re Bauman, 96 Fed. Rep. 948; Steele v. Buell, 104 Fed. Rep. 970; United States v. Slazengerm, 113 Fed. Rep. 525; Ex parte Byers, 32 Fed. Rep. 409; Ulman v. Meyer, 10 Fed. Rep. 243; Hall's Case, 17 Ct. Cl. 46; The Cherokee Tobacco, 11 Wall. 616; Gardner v. Collins, 2 Pet. 87.
234 U. S.
MR. JUSTICE DAY, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court.
Before the transfers here complained of and while the lands were held in trust, subject to the provisions of the act of February 8, 1887, supra, the Clapp Amendment was passed, having the purpose of removing the restrictions upon alienation in certain cases. This act provides, (34 Stat., p. 1034):
"That all restrictions as to sale, incumbrance, or taxation for allotments within the White Earth Reservation in the State of Minnesota, heretofore [amended March 1, 1907, the word 'heretofore' being substituted for the word 'now'] or hereafter held by adult mixed-blood Indians, are hereby removed, and the trust deeds heretofore or hereafter executed by the Department for such allotments are hereby declared to pass the title in fee simple, or such mixed bloods upon application shall be entitled to receive a patent in fee simple for such allotments; and as to full bloods, said restrictions shall be removed when the Secretary of the Interior is satisfied that said adult full-blood Indians are competent to handle their own affairs, and in such case the Secretary of the Interior shall issue to such Indian allottee a patent in fee simple upon application."
Opinion of the Court.
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It is at once apparent from reading this act that it deals with two classes, adult mixed blood Indians, concerning whom all restrictions as to sale, incumbrance or taxation are removed, and full blood Indians, whose right to be free from restrictions shall rest with the Secretary of the Interior, who may remove the same upon being satisfied that such full blood Indians are competent to handle their own affairs.
This case turns upon the construction of the words "mixed blood Indians." It is the contention of the Government that mixed blood means those of half white or more than half white blood, while the appellees insist, and this was the view adopted by the Circuit Court of Appeals, that the term mixed blood includes all who have an identifiable mixture of white blood. If the Government's contention be correct, it follows that for the purposes of this suit all of less than half white blood must be regarded as full blood Indians, all others as mixed bloods. Upon the appellees' contention the line is drawn between full bloods as one class and all having an identifiable admixture of white blood as the other.
If we apply the general rule of statutory construction that words are to be given their usual and ordinary meaning, it would seem clear that the appellees' construction is right, for a full blood is obviously one of pure blood, thoroughbred, having no admixture of foreign blood. That this natural and usual signification of plain terms is to be adopted as the legislative meaning in the absence of clear showing that something else was meant, is an elementary rule of construction frequently recognized and followed in this court. United States v. Fisher, 2 Cranch, 358, 399; Lake County v. Rollins, 130 U. S. 662, 670; Dewey v. United States, 178 U. S. 510, 521. Interpreted according to the plain import of the words the persons intended to be reached by the clause are divided into two and only two well-defined classes, full blood Indians and mixed
Opinion of the Court.
bloods. There is no suggestion of a third class, having more than half of white blood or any other proportion than is indicated in the term mixed blood, as contrasted with full blood. If the Government's contention is correct, the Indians of full blood must necessarily include half bloods, and mixed bloods must mean all having less than half white blood and none others. Such construction is an obvious wresting of terms of plain import from their usual and well-understood signification.
But the Government insists that to effect the legislative purpose the words must be interpreted as the Indians understood them, and cases from this court (Jones v. Meehan, 175 U. S. 1; Starr v. Long Jim, 227 U. S. 613) are cited to the effect that Indian treaties and acts to which the Indians must give consent before they become operative must be interpreted so as to conform to the understanding of the Indians as to the meaning of the terms used. The justice and propriety of this method of interpretation is obvious and essential to the protection of an unlettered race, dealing with those of better education and skill, themselves framing contracts which the Indians are induced to sign. But the legislation here in question is not in the nature of contract and contains no provision that makes it effectual only upon consent of the Indians whose rights and privileges are to be affected. Evidently this legislation contemplated in some measure the rights of others who might deal with the Indians, and obviously was intended to enlarge the right to acquire as well as to part with lands held in trust for the Indians.
The Government refers, in support of its contention, to reports of Congressional committees, showing after effects of this legislation, which was followed, as the reports tend to show, by improvident sales and incumbrances of Indian lands and wasteful extravagance in the disposition of the proceeds of sales, resulting in suffering to the former proprietors. of the lands sold and mortgaged. But
234 U. S.
Opinion of the Court.
these after facts can have little weight in determining the meaning of the legislation and certainly cannot overcome the meaning of plain words used in legislative enactments. If the effect of the legislation has been disastrous to the Indians, that fact will not justify the courts in departing from the terms of the act as written. If the true construction has been followed with harsh consequences, it cannot influence the courts in administering the law. The responsibility for the justice or wisdom of legislation rests with the Congress, and it is the province of the courts to enforce, not to make, the laws. St. Louis, Iron Mt. & S. Ry. Co. v. Taylor, 210 U. S. 281, 294; Texas Cement Co. v. McCord, 233 U. S. 157, 163.
The Government further insists that its interpretation of the act is consistent with its policy to make competency the test of the right to alienate, and that the legislation in question proceeds upon the theory that those of half or more white blood are more likely to be able to take care of themselves in making contracts and disposing of their lands than those of lesser admixture of such blood. But the policy of the Government in passing legislation is often an uncertain thing, as to which varying opinions may be formed, and may, as is the fact in this case, afford an unstable ground of statutory interpretation. Hadden v. The Collector, 5 Wall. 107, 111. And again Congress has in other legislation not hesitated to place full blood Indians in one class and all others in another. Tiger v. Western Investment Co., 221 U. S. 286. In that case this court had occasion to deal with certain sections of the act of April 26, 1906, c. 1876, 34 Stat. 137, providing that no full blood Indian of certain tribes should have power to alienate or incumber allotted lands for a period of twentyfive years, unless restrictions were removed by act of Congress. By section 22 of the act all adult heirs of deceased Indians were given the right to convey their lands, but for the last sentence of the section which kept full
234 U. S.