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The evidence in the case examined and found wanting in proof of such
arbitrary action on the part of the Dawes Commission as would establish a mistake of law or fact warranting the impeachment of its action in enrolling the Indian in whose name the allotment in ques
tion was made and patented. An attempt of the Secretary of the Interior to set aside the enrollment
and allotment of a deceased Creek Indian by striking his name from
the rolls without notice to his heirs is ultra vires and void. When a Creek citizen dies after April 1, 1899, and an allotment is after
wards made, and deeds issued, in his name, the title is vested in his heirs by 28 of the Agreement of March 1, 1901. Skelton v. Dill,
235 U. S. 206-208. Under the Creek Agreement of March 1, 1901, 83, it was permissible
for the Dawes Commission to enroll tribal citizens and make them
allotments when they failed to make selections for themselves. Affirmed.
The case is stated in the opinion.
Mr. Assistant Attorney General Kearful, with whom The Solicitor General and Mr. S. W. Williams were on the brief, for the United States.
Mr. Joseph C. Stone, Mr. John J. Shea and Mr. C. B. Stuart for Wildcat et al. The following counsel were on the brief: Mr. A. C. Cruce, Mr. Geo. S. Ramsey, Mr. Malcolm E. Rosser, Mr. Edgar A. de Meules, Mr. Villard Martin, Mr. John Devereux, Mr. J. E. Wyand, Mr. K. B. Turner, Mr. M. E. Turner, Mr. J. B. Furry, Mr. E. C. Motter, Mr. P. J. Carey, Mr. W. C. Franklin, Mr. Burdette Blue, Mr. Thomas F. Shea, Mr. William A. Collier, Mr. Hazen Green, Mr. E. J. Van Court, Mr. Chas. A. Moon and Mr. Francis Stewart.
Mr. A. A. Davidson, with whom Mr. Preston C. West and Mr. James A. Veasey were on the brief, for Bissett et al.
Mr. R. C. Allen and Mr. James C. Davis, by leave of court, filed a brief on behalf of the Creek Nation as amici curiæ.
Mr. Grant Foreman and Mr. James D. Simms, by leave of court, filed a brief as amici curiæ.
MR. JUSTICE Day delivered the opinion of the court.
This action was begun by the United States, in behalf of the Creek Tribe of Indians, in the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, against Bessie Wildcat, and others, heirs of Barney Thlocco, a full-blood Creek Indian, to obtain cancellation of the allotment certificate and deeds for his allotment of 160 acres. The bill of complaint alleges that Thlocco was a Creek Indian by blood; that he died at about the beginning of the year 1899 and prior to April 1, 1899, and that he was not entitled to be enrolled as a citizen of the Creek Nation or to receive an allotment of any part of its lands under the acts of Congress; that on or about May 24, 1901, the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes caused his name to be placed on the roll of Creek citizens by blood which that Commission was then preparing; that thereafter, on June 30, 1902, the Commission issued a certificate of allotment in Thlocco's name, and homestead and allotment patents purporting to convey the land allotted were executed by the Principal Chief of the Creek Nation on March 11, 1903, and approved by the Secretary of the Interior on April 3, 1903; that thereafter, on December 13, 1906, the Secretary of the Interior, by executive order, caused Thlocco's name to be stricken from the roll of citizens by blood of the Creek Nation, and he is not an enrolled citizen by blood or otherwise of the Creek Nation, and is not now and has never been entitled to an allotment of land therein because he has never been a lawfully enrolled citizen thereof, and because he died prior to April 1, 1899; and that the patents have never been delivered to Thlocco or to any other person, but are in the possession of complainant through its officers and agents. The bill
alleges that these instruments and proceedings constitute a cloud upon the Creek Nation's title to the land and that the existence of this cloud hinders and delays complainant in the performance of the duty imposed on it by law to allot and otherwise dispose of the lands and to wind up
the affairs of the Creek Nation, and prays that the allotment certificate and patents be declared void and of no effect as instruments of conveyance; that the defendants be decreed to have no right, title, interest or estate in and to the land; that the title to the land be quieted in complainant and the Creek Nation; that whatever cloud is cast upon the title to the land by reason of the matters aforesaid be decreed to be dissolved and the land decreed to be a part of the public and unallotted tribal land of the Creek Nation, subject to disposition by complainant in accordance with law; that the enrollment of Barney Thlocco be cancelled, and that he, or any person claiming by, through, or under him, including the defendants, be decreed not to be entitled to participate in the disposition of the lands, moneys, or other property of the Creek Nation, and that the defendants be forever enjoined from asserting any claim of title to, or interest in the tract of land hereinbefore described, adverse to the complainant and the Creek Nation. It is alleged that no hearing was held or investigation made by the Commission and no evidence of any kind was obtained or had by it on the question of Thlocco's right to be enrolled; that no notice was given to the Creek Nation that his name was about to be enrolled; that there was no controversy, contest or adverse proceeding of any kind before the Commission in this respect; and that the Commission, in causing Thlocco's name to be placed on the roll of Creek citizens by blood, acted arbitrarily and summarily, and without knowledge, information or belief that he was living or dead on April 1, 1899, and acted on a mere arbitrary and erroneous assumption wholly unsupported by evidence or
information that he was living on that date and entitled to be enrolled.
The answer avers that Thlocco was living April 1, 1899, and denies that the Commission acted arbitrarily and without evidence in placing his name on the roll and allotting the lands to him, and alleges that the Commission, in causing both these acts to be done, was not guilty of any gross mistake of fact or of law, but acted upon evidence satisfactory to it, and sufficient in law and in fact. It further alleges that the Dawes Commission was vested with jurisdiction to determine what persons were entitled to enrollment as citizens of the nation, and entitled to allotment out of the tribal lands, and that its decision in that regard having been approved by the Secretary of the Interior, “said enrollment, allotment and patent cannot be cancelled, nor can the issue of fact upon which the Commission placed the name of said Barney Thlocco upon the approved Creek roll be tried again, and these defendants say that this court is without authority of law or jurisdiction to reopen or retry the question of fact sought to be put in issue by the United States."
Other defendants claimed an interest in part of the same property under a subsequent allotment and intervened for the same relief as was asked by the United States.
Upon the trial of the case the Government offered to show by witnesses and circumstances that Thlocco in fact died in January, 1899. Upon objection to this evidence by the defendants, the trial court ruled that the question whether Thlocco was living on April 1, 1899, was one of the questions which the law submitted to the Dawes Commission, and that its decision, placing Thlocco's name on the tribal roll, could only be attacked upon the ground of fraud, error of law, or gross mistake of fact, or upon the ground that the Commission acted arbitrarily and wholly without evidence; that it was not open to the Govern
ment, for the purpose of attacking the allotment certificate and deeds to Thlocco, to retry the question of fact as to whether he was living April 1, 1899.
At the conclusion of the trial the Government renewed its offer of proof, to which objections were sustained on the ground just stated. A decree was then entered dismissing the bill for the reason that the Government had failed to show that the Commission in enrolling Thlocco acted arbitrarily and without evidence. Appeal was then taken to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, which court certified certain questions of law to this court. Subsequently a writ of certiorari was issued, bringing the whole case here. (Judicial Code, $ 239.)
The Government in the brief filed in its behalf reduces the questions necessary to decide the merits of this appeal to two: First, Should the evidence offered by the Government to show that Thlocco died prior to April 1, 1899, have been admitted? Second, Should the judgment of the District Court be reversed because the enrollment of Thlocco and the allotment to him were made arbitrarily and without evidence as to whether he was living or dead on April 1, 1899?
As to the first question, an understanding of certain legislation is necessary to its answer. By the Act of Congress of June 10, 1896, 29 Stat. 339, the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes, more commonly known as the Dawes Commission, was authorized to hear and determine applications for citizenship in any of the Five Civilized Tribes. By that act the rolls of citizenship of those tribes as they then existed were confirmed and the Commission commanded in determining applications for citizenship to "give due force and effect to the rolls, usages, and customs of each of said rations or tribes." It was provided by the Act of June 7, 1897, 30 Stat. 84, that the term “rolls of citizenship” should mean "the last authenticated rolls of each tribe which have been approved by