Records pertaining to the Indian Claims Commission, ca. 1786-1978

Manuscript/Manuscript on Fiche
Frederick, Maryland : University Publications of America, c1975-1979
420 microfiches ; 11 x 15 cm.


Microfilm of original records published by Clearwater Pub.

"The Indian Claims Commission was created on August 13, 1946. Its purpose was to serve as a tribunal for the hearing and determination of claims against the United States arising prior to August 13, 1946 by any Indian tribe, band or other identifiable group of Indians living in the United States. In this it exercises jurisdiction formerly resting with the United States Court of Claims under the previous system of passing special jurisdictional acts by Congress for individual tribes. The Court of Claims has jurisdiction over claims arising after August 13, 1946"--Foreword.

"Under the terms of the original Indian Claims Commission Act there were three Commissioners and a period of ten years in which to complete the work. It became obvious however, from the size and complexity of the cases, that ten years was insufficient. The Commission was extended for five-year periods in 1957 and 1962, and in 1967 it was extended a third time and enlarged to five members. Subsequently the staff was increased in size to accommodate the increased workload. The Commission was extended to April 10, 1977 and on that date the remaining cases were transferred to the United States Court of Claims".

"In creating the Indian Claims Commission, Congress broadened the jurisdictional grounds upon which Indian tribes might sue the United States. This wider jurisdiction reflected an awareness of the problems arising from the relations between the United States and the Indians who occupied the lands sought by an expanding nation. Two hundred years of westward expansion produced much conflict and created some of the harsher episodes in the history of America as the United States acquired the Indians' lands"--Foreword.

"By treaties--and after 1871 by agreements--the Indians' lands were ceded to the United States and the Indians were moved onto reservations. These cessions are the primary source of the 370 original petitions filed with the Commission prior to the cutoff date of August 13, 1951. (Under the terms of the original Act the Commission could no longer accept new claims after this date.)--Foreword.

"These 370 original petitions were separated into 611 different claims, each of which was given its own docket number. The claims consisted largely of unconscionable consideration claims arising from the cession of aboriginal title lands. The Commission also received claims of uncompensated taking of land, as well as of other wrongs cognizable under the Act. The first four clauses under section 2 of the Act cover every actionable wrong under law and equity. Clause 5 permits suit on claims based upon fair and honorable dealings that are not recognized by any existing rule of law or equity"--Foreword.

"In the trial of these cases the plaintiffs, as permitted by statute, are represented by attorneys of their own choosing under contracts approved by the Secretary of the Interior or his designated representative. The United States Government is represented by the Department of Justice"--Foreword.

"The passage of time since these claims arose in the 18th and 19th centuries created considerable difficulty in establishing the factual background of the claims. In the absence of living witnesses, the parties rely upon documentary evidence consisting of available contemporary accounts, as well as historical and ethnological writings and studies. This type of evidence goes to the question of the area occupied by a tribe. This is the first, or 'aboriginal title,' phase of the typical land cases that were the large majority of the cases filed before the Commission"--Foreword.

"After the area has been determined and the Indians' title established it is necessary to determine the value of the land and the consideration, if any, given by the defendant, for the purpose of determining whether it is conscionable or unconscionable. In this second portion of a typical case the parties introduce land appraisal evidence for the purpose of establishing the value of the land on the date it was ceded by the tribe"--Foreword.

"The third part of the typical case is the determination of all payments made by the United States on the claim, and of any and all offsets, counterclaims and demands claimed by the defendant. Basically, this part of the case is for offsets of land or other items given the tribes by the defendant since the date on which the lands were ceded. The evidence consists of statutes or Executive Orders involving land transfers and vouchers evidencing payment of money or goods"--Foreword.

"In many instances the Indians held their lands by recognized or reservation title confirmed by Act of Congress, or had title under an Executive Order of the President. This removed the necessity of proving title and that step is therefore omitted from proceedings"--Foreword.

"Included among the remaining cases are a number of accounting cases wherein the tribes have asked that the defendant account to them for its management of their assets"--Foreword.

No circulation to family history centers.


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