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Opinion of the Court.

essary to compare the several sections of the act to ascertain exactly what the grant covered, and to what extent the legal rights of the grantee were impaired by the non-action of the Government. By the third section of the act a grant was made of twenty sections per mile on each side of the line through the Territories, and ten sections per mile through the States, subject to the conditions that “whenever, on the line thereof, the United States shall have full title not reserved, sold, granted or otherwise appropriated, and free from preëmption or other claims or rights, at the time the line of said road is designated by a plat thereof, filed in the office of the Commissioner of the General Land Office, and whenever, prior to said time, any of said sections or part of sections shall have been granted, sold, reserved, occupied by homestead settlers, or preëmpted or otherwise disposed of, other lands shall be selected by said company in lieu thereof." If the grant stood upon this language alone, there could be no doubt that, as the lands in the Indian Territory had been set apart for the sole use and occupation of various Indian tribes, they were reserved lands within the meaning of that section. Leavenworth, Lawrence &c. Railroad v. United States, 92 U. S. 733. It was held in this case that a grant of lands, in similar terms to the one under consideration, did not apply to lands which had been reserved to the Osage tribe of Indians within the State of Kansas, whether the Indian right were extinguished before or after the definite location of the route. See also Kansas Pacific Railway v. Dunmeyer, 113 U. S. 629; Bardon v. Northern Pacific Railroad, 145 U. S. 535.

Indeed, it is open to serious doubt whether that large tract of land, known distinctively as the Indian Territory, is a Territory of the United States within the meaning of the act. While, for certain purposes, such for instance as the enforcement of the criminal and internal revenue laws, it has been recognized as such, and within the jurisdiction of the United States, United States v. Rogers, 4 How. 567; The Cherokee Tobacco, 11 Wall. 616, a reference to some of the treaties, under which it is held by the Indians, indicates that it stands in an entirely different relation to the United States from other

Opinion of the Court.

Territories, and that for most purposes it is to be considered as an independent country. Thus in the treaty of December 29, 1835, 7 Stat. 478, with the Cherokees, whereby the United States granted and conveyed by patent to the Cherokees a portion of this territory, the United States, in article 5, covenanted and agreed that the land ceded to the Cherokees should “in no future time, without their consent, be included within the territorial limits or jurisdiction of any State or Territory”; and by further treaty of August 16, 1846, 9 Stat. 871, provided (Art. 1)" that the lands now occupied by the Cherokee Nation shall be secured to the whole Cherokee people for their common use and benefit, and a patent shall be issued for the same.” So, too, by treaty with the Choctaws of September 27, 1830, 7 Stat. 333, granting a portion of the Indian Territory to them, the United States (Art. 4) secured to the “Choctaw Nation of Red People the jurisdiction and government of all the persons and property that may be within their limits west, so that no Territory or State shall ever have the right to pass laws for the government of the Choctaw Nation of Red People and their descendants, and that no part of the land granted shall ever be embraced in any Territory or State; but the United States shall forever secure said Choctaw Nation from, and against, all laws except such as from time to time may be enacted in their own national councils, not inconsistent,” etc. And in a treaty of March 24, 1832, 7 Stat. 366, with the Creeks (Art. 14), the Creek country west of the Mississippi was solemnly guaranteed to these Indians, “nor shall any State or Territory ever have a right to pass laws for the government of such Indians, but they shall be allowed to govern themselves, so far as may be compatible with the general jurisdiction which Congress may think proper to exercise over them.”

Under the guaranties of these and other similar treaties the Indians have proceeded to establish and carry on independent governments of their own, enacting and executing their own laws, punishing their own criminals, appointing their own officers, raising and expending their own revenues.

Their position, as early as 1855, is indicated by the following extract

Opinion of the Court.

from the opinion of this court in Mackey v. Cox, 18 How. 100, 103:

“ A question has been suggested whether the Cherokee people should be considered or treated as a foreign state or territory. The fact that they are under the Constitution of the Union, and subject to acts of Congress regulating trade, is a sufficient answer to the suggestion. They are not only within our jurisdiction, but the faith of the nation is pledged for their protection. In some respects they bear the same relation to the Federal Government as a Territory did in its second grade of government under the ordinance of 1787. Such Territory passed its own laws, subject to the approval of Congress, and its inhabitants were subject to the Constitution and acts of Congress. The principal difference consists in the fact that the Cherokees enact their own laws, under the restriction stated, appoint their own officers, and pay their own expenses. This, however, is no reason why the laws and proceedings of the Cherokee territory, so far as relates to rights claimed under them, should not be placed upon the same footing as other Territories in the Union. It is not a foreign, but a domestic territory - a Territory which originated under our Constitution and laws."

Similar language is used with reference to these Indians in Holden v. Joy, 17 Wall. 211, 242. Under these circumstances it could scarcely be expected that the United States should be called upon to extinguish, for the benefit of a railroad company, which had chosen to locate its route through this Territory, a title guaranteed to the Indians by solemn treaties and which had been possessed by them for upwards of forty years with the powers of an almost independent government.

The terms of the second section of the land grant act indicate that nothing of this kind was contemplated. The United States did not agree to extinguish the Indian title absolutely but only “as rapidly as may be consistent with public policy and the welfare of the Indians, and only by their voluntary cession.” Whether an extinguishment of an Indian. title at all was consistent with public policy and the welfare of the Indians could only be determined by Congress, or the execu

Opinion of the Court.

tive officers of the Government; whether it could be obtained by voluntary cession could only be determined by the acts of the Indians themselves.

In Buttz v. Northern Pacific Railroad, 119 C. S. 55, wherein a grant to the Northern Pacific Railroad, with a similar provision for the extinguishment of Indian titles, was under consideration, it was held that, under the principal treaties applicable to that case, the grant operated to convey the fee to the company, subject to the right of occupancy by the Indians, but that the right of the Indians could not be interfered with or determined, except by the United States; that no private individual could invade it, and the manner, time and conditions of its extinguishment were matters solely for the consideration of the Government, and were not open to contestation in the judicial tribunals. It appeared in that case that the United States had full title to the lands, subject to a mere right of occupancy on the part of the Indians.

With respect to the power of the United States to extinguish the Indian titles, it was observed in Beecher v. Wetherby, 95 U. S. 517, 525 : “It is to be presumed that in this matter the United States would be governed by such considerations of justice as would control a Christian people in their treatment of an ignorant and dependent race. Be that as it may, the propriety or justice of their action towards the Indians with respect to their lands is a question of governmental policy, and is not a matter open to discussion in a controversy between third parties, neither of whom derives title from the Indians."

The railroad company was in no position to insist that the Government should extinguish these titles, at least without affirmatively proving that the Indians were willing to make the cession, and that it was consistent with public policy and their own general welfare to permit them to do so. It made the Government its arbiter in this particular. Indeed, it is doubtful if the engagement of the Government amounted to anything more than an expression of its willingness to assist the company in acquiring Indian titles, if the company could persuade the Indians to relinquish such titles, and the Government

Opinion of the Court.

considered it consonant with their welfare to do so. The stipulation should be read in connection with the seventeenth section of the act which authorized the company to accept grants from “any Indian tribe or nation through whose reservation the road herein provided for may pass,” provided that any such grant or donation, power, aid or assistance from any Indian tribe or nation should be subject to the approval of the President of the United States. This proviso is obviously inconsistent with any general undertaking on the part of the Government to extinguish all Indian titles. That it required the United States absolutely and at all hazards to extinguish such titles, and to take from the Indians a strip of land forty miles in width through the entire Territory, and open it to settlement, is not only inconsistent with their treaties and with their agreement with the company, but one which involved a grave disturbance, if not practically the upsetting of a long established Indian government. In fact, Congress promised nothing in this particular from which the company could claim a legal breach of their agreement, without at least showing that the Indians were willing to cede that portion of their territory, and that public policy and their own welfare required this to be done.

Plaintiff admits that there was a reserved discretion in the Government as to the circumstances under which the Indian titles should be extinguished, but insists that, so long as that discretion was exercised and performance withheld, the Government was in no position to assert a right of forfeiture — in other words, that so long as fulfilment by the company remained impossible, by reason of the failure of the Government to keep its promises, no matter for what reason, the power to insist upon performance by the railroad was postponed. We consider this construction of the compact unsound. The railroad company took its chances with the Government in this particular. The latter might not deem it sound policy or for the welfare of the Indians to extinguish their title, or it might not procure their assent.

their assent. Under neither contingency would the company have the right to complain nor to set up this non-performance as a defence to its own failure to build

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