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Tee-Hit-Ton Indians v. United States, 348 U.S. 272 (1955)

Tee-Hit-Ton Indians v. United States

No. 43

Argued November 12, 1954

Decided February 7, 1955

348 U.S. 272


The Tee-Hit-Ton Indians, an identifiable group of American Indians belonging to the Tlingit Tribe of Alaskan Indians, held not entitled to compensation under the Fifth Amendment for the taking by the United States of certain timber from Alaskan lands in and near the Tongass National Forest allegedly belonging to the Tee-Hit-Ton Indians. Pp. 348 U. S. 273-291.

1. Neither § 8 of the Organic Act for Alaska of May 17, 1884, nor § 27 of the Act of June 6, 1900, providing for a civil government for Alaska, constituted a recognition by Congress of any permanent rights of Indians in Alaskan lands occupied by them, and this policy of nonrecognition was maintained and reflected by Congress in the Joint Resolution of August 8, 1947, authorizing the sale of such timber without recognizing or denying the validity of any claims of possessory rights to land or timber. Pp. 348 U. S. 277-279.

2. Permissive Indian occupancy may be extinguished by Congress in its own discretion without compensation. Johnson v. Mclntosh, 8 Wheat. 543; Beecher v. Wetherby, 95 U. S. 517; United States v. Santa Fe Pacific R. Co., 314 U. S. 339. Pp. 348 U. S. 279-282.

3. The recovery in United States v. Tillamooks, 329 U. S. 40, 341 U. S. 48, was based upon statutory direction to pay for the aboriginal title in the special jurisdictional act to equalize the Tillamooks with the neighboring tribes, rather than upon a holding that there had been a compensable taking under the Fifth Amendment. Pp. 348 U. S. 282-285.

4. The record does not sustain petitioners' contention that their stage of civilization, their concept of ownership of property, and their treatment by Russia take them out of the rule applicable to the Indians of the States. On the contrary, it sustains the finding that their use of their lands was like the use of the nomadic tribes of the States Indians, and there was no evidence that the Russian handling of the Indian land problem was different from ours. Pp. 348 U. S. 285-288.

5. Indian occupancy, not specifically recognized as ownership by action authorized by Congress, may be extinguished by the Government without compensation. Pp. 348 U. S. 288-291.

128 Ct.Cl. 82,120 F.Supp. 202, affirmed.

Page 348 U. S. 273

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