While the Indian Appropriation Bill, carrying appropriations for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1916, was pending before the Committee on Indian Affairs of the United States Senate, arguments were presented by Mr. Walter S. Field, and Mr. Webster Ballinger, both attorneys at law of Washington, D. C, in favor of an amendment which was offered by Senator Robert M. La Follette of Wisconsin, providing for the reconsideration of cases which were alleged to have been hurriedly considered, and in which the applicants were denied enrollment, during the so-called “Rush Period,” immediately prior to the closing of the rolls on March 4, 1907.During the course of the arguments the attorneys for the claimants presented to the committee the names of many applicants, whose cases the attorneys alleged merited reconsideration. In each specific case the attorneys stated that the claimants were legally entitled to enrollment and had been denied right to enrollment through no fault of theirs but by reason of the inefficiency of the United States Government in determining the rights of the applicants.The amendment was refused by the committee. It was offered again on the floor of the Senate. The Indian Appropriation Bill did not come before the Senate for consideration until a few hours before the adjournment of Congress. The passage of the bill was greatly delayed by a filibuster conducted by Senator Gronna. Senator Gronna, and others, opposed the provision in the bill authorizing a distribution of Choctaw and Chickasaw funds. They stated that no distribution should be made until after a great many claims for citizenship, enumerated by them, had been reconsidered. I will omit the details in regard to the procedure prior to the passage of the bill.The bill finally passed the Senate caring a provision authorizing a per capita payment. The provisions authorizing the payment had theretofore passed the House. After the bill had been agreed to in conference and had again passed the Senate it did not reach the House of Representatives in time to be acted upon before the adjournment of Congress. This was the second Indian Appropriation Bill that failed of passage by reason of the opposition to the provision authorizing, a distribution of Choctaw and Chickasaw funds.I have examined the Choctaw cases referred to by Mr. Ballinger and Mr. Field, in their arguments before the committee, and I have not found among the applicants, to whom they refer, one person who is legally or equitably entitled to enrollment as a citizen of the Choctaw Nation. I have written briefs in each of the cases, which they referred to. These briefs have not been called for by the committee. The committee seemed to be satisfied in regard to the merits of these cases. The briefs are too numerous and too voluminous to be set forth in this report but are available in the event these cases are hereafter considered.During the year, 1915, Mr. Webster Ballinger and his associates, through their agents and through the firm of Ballinger, Lindley & Rodkey, attorneys at law of Muskogee, Oklahoma, took applications of a great number of persons whom they claimed were entitled to enrollment as citizens of the different tribes of the Five Civilized Tribes. Mr. Ballinger served upon me as attorney for the Choctaw Nation the petitions of two hundred and fifty (250) persons claiming right to enrollment.The Indian Appropriation Bill carrying the appropriations for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1916, having failed to pass, a resolution was passed extending the appropriation of the former year.The Indian Appropriation Bill carrying appropriations for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1917, was reported out of the Committee on Indian Affairs of the House of Representatives carrying a provision authorizing a per capita payment of $200 to the Chickasaws and $300 to the Choctaws. The difference in the amount paid to the members of each tribe is due to the fact that the Chickasaws have heretofore received a payment of $100 more than the Choctaws out of the joint funds of the two tribes.This provision authorized the distribution of practically all the cash to the credit of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians, arising from the sale of the residue of their estate. There is, of course, a great amount of tribal property yet unsold and a considerable amount due on property which has been sold. This provision met with the opposition:
- First. Of all those who advocated the reopening of the rolls.
- Second. The friends of the Mississippi Choctaws who contended for enrollment, by special act, of all persons whose names appear upon the so called McKennon rolls.
- Third, Those who advocated the reconsideration of all the cases passed upon by the officials of the Interior Department during the so-called “rush period,” immediately prior to the closing of the rolls on March 4, 1907.
- Fourth. Those who advocated a law authorizing the Department of the Interior to receive and consider and act upon petitions of persons who had never theretofore made application for enrollment.
- Fifth. In addition to this opposition, were those who did not understand the questions involved and were opposed to the distribution of funds for the reason that they feared that after the distribution of Choctaw and Chickasaw funds, the claimants for citizenship might possibly make and prevail in a claim against the United States Government.
It may easily be understood that all these factions constituted a very formidable opposition to the provision authorizing a per capita payment.
Great sympathy had been aroused by Mr. Ballinger and his associates for persons they claimed were Indians who had not made application because of their opposition to allotment in severalty. They contended that these Indians resided in Oklahoma and were among what is known as the “Snake” faction who opposed the change in the title of their property from ownership in common to allotment in severalty and had declined to take allotment. Such allegations very naturally aroused sympathy in favor of the applicants.
Mr. Ballinger and his associates and their agents took petitions from these alleged Indians whom they claimed had been erroneously omitted from the Choctaw rolls. Each petition was subscribed and sworn to by the applicant, or applicants, and was invariably supported by the affidavits of two or more persons who were alleged to be disinterested. The petitions and the corroborating affidavits, in each instance, made out a strong prima facie case in favor of the applicant, or applicants.
It seems that Mr. Ballinger filed the original of these petitions in the Indian Office at Washington, D. C. He served a duplicate copy upon me as Attorney for the Choctaw Nation, At the time these petitions were filed in the Indian Office I called the attention of the Indian Office to the fact that in my opinion the office was not authorized, under law, to receive the petitions. 1 do not care to discuss in this report the controversy which ensued between the Indian Office and myself on account of my contention that the Indian Office was not authorized to receive the Ballinger petitions. Subsequent events, I believe, have vindicated the position, which I took in the matter and I am convinced that my representations to the Indian Office, in regard to the law in the matter, were correct.
Upon receiving the duplicate copies of the petitions from Mr, Ballinger I immediately^ entered upon an investigation of the same. I asked that an Inspector from the Interior Department be assigned to me for the purpose of assisting me in the investigation. Hon, Gabe E. Parker, Superintendent for the Five Civilized Tribes, at Muskogee, Oklahoma, detailed Mr. Wm. L. Bowie, an inspector, to assist in this work.
The investigation, which followed, developed that the petitions filed by Mr, Ballinger for his clients did not state the truth. It developed that each false petition was supported by false affidavits. It was shown that a great many of the corroborating affidavits were made by illiterate negroes who signed by mark and who served Mr. Ballinger and his associates as professional witnesses.
A full statement of the facts developed is set forth in a report made by Mr. Wm. L. Bowie. The report of Mr. Bowie is attached hereto and marked Part 11.