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United States v. Santa Fe Pacific R. Co., 314 U.S. 339 (1941)

United States v. Santa Fe Pacific Railroad Co.

No. 23

Argued November 12, 13, 1941

Decided December 8, 1941

314 U.S. 339


1. Lands included in the grant made to the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad Company by the Act of July 27, 1866, were subject to any existing Indian right of occupancy until such right was extinguished by the United States through a voluntary cession of the Indians, as provided by § 2 of the Act. P. 314 U. S. 344.

2. Indian occupancy necessary to establish aboriginal possession is a question of fact. P. 314 U. S. 345.

3. "Indian title" exists where it is established as a fact that the lands in question were included in the ancestral home of a tribe of Indians, in the sense that they constituted definable territory occupied exclusively by that tribe, as distinguished from being wandered over by many tribes. P. 314 U. S. 345.

Page 314 U. S. 340

4. By the policy of the Government, the Indian right of occupancy is as sacred as the fee, and can be interfered with or terminated only by the United States. P. 314 U. S. 345.

5. Lands within the Mexican Cession were not excepted from this policy. P. 314 U. S. 345.

6. A tribal claim to any particular lands need not be based upon treaty, statute, or other formal governmental action. P. 314 U. S. 347.

7. In the matter of the extinguishment of Indian title based upon aboriginal occupancy, the power of Congress is supreme, and its exercise is not open to inquiry by the courts. P. 314 U. S. 347.

8. If the right of occupancy of the Walapai Indians to lands within the area granted to the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad Company in Arizona was not extinguished prior to the definite location of the railroad in 1872, then the grantee took the fee subject to the encumbrance of Indian title. On that date, the title of the railroad attached as of July 27, 1866, the date of the Act. P. 314 U. S. 347.

9. The Act of February 27, 1851, by extending the Indian Trade and Intercourse Act of June 30, 1834, over the Indian tribes in the Territories of New Mexico (then including Arizona) and Utah, exhibited the desire of Congress to continue in those Territories the general policy of the Government to recognize the Indian right of occupancy, but did not create such rights where they did not previously exist. P. 314 U. S. 347.

10. The Act of July 22, 1854, which established the office of Surveyor General of New Mexico, etc., and the Act of July 15, 1870, which directed the Surveyor General of Arizona (then separated as a Territory from New Mexico) to ascertain and report upon land claims under the laws, usages, and customs of Spain and Mexico for the information of Congress, did not extinguish any Indian title based upon aboriginal occupancy, such as may have been had by the Walapai Indians. P. 314 U. S. 348.

11. The Act of March 3, 1865, which provided for setting aside a tract of land in Arizona as a reservation for certain tribes on the Colorado River, including the Walapais, was not intended, in default of their voluntary acceptance, to extinguish their right of occupancy of other lands. P. 314 U. S. 351.

Forcible removal of the Walapais to this Reservation in 1874 was not sanctioned by Congress, and could not affect their right of occupancy over lands outside the Reservation.

12. The creation of the Walapai Indian Reservation in Arizona by Executic Order, January 4, 1883, at the request of the Walapais, and its acceptance by them, amounted to a relinquishment of any

Page 314 U. S. 341

tribal claim which they might have had to lands outside that Reservation, and that relinquishment was tantamount to an extinguishment by "voluntary cession" within the meaning of § 2 of the Act of July 27, 1866, supra. P. 314 U. S. 357.

13. The United States is entitled to an accounting from the Railroad Company on behalf of the Walapais for any rents, issues, and profits derived from leasing or use of lands in their Reservation which can be proved to have been occupied by the Walapais from time immemorial. P. 314 U. S. 359.

114 F.2d 420 affirmed with a modification.

Certiorari, 312 U.S. 675, to review a decree affirming a decree which dismissed a bill by the Government seeking to establish the right of the Walapai Indians to lands claimed by the Railroad Company inside and outside of the Indians' Reservation, and for an accounting.

Page 314 U. S. 343

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