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Decision Rendered William Durant

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Office Of The Assistant Attorney-General
Washington, D. C., July 21, 1905

The Secretary Of The Interior

SIR: I received by reference of June 7, 1905, the record in the case of William Durant and others for enrollment as freedmen citizens of the Creek Nation, with request for my opinion thereon.

William Durant is shown by birth certificate in the record to have been born February 20, 1902, to Edmund Durant, who is identified on the 1891 omitted Creek roll. February 3, 1905, the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes found and recommended that Edmund Durant should be enrolled as a Creek freedman under the acts of June 28, 1898 (30 Stat., 495, 503), and March 1, 1901 (31 Stat, 861, 870), and that the application of William Durant should be denied. Edmund Durant’s enrollment has not yet been approved by the Secretary of the Interior. The act of March 3, 1905 (33 Stat, 1071), provides:

That the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes is authorized for sixty days after the date of the approval of this act to receive and consider applications for enrollments of children born subsequent to May twenty-five, nineteen hundred and one, and prior to March fourth, nineteen hundred and five, and living on said latter date, to citizens of the Creek tribe of Indians, whose enrollment has been approved by the Secretary of the Interior prior to the date of the approval of this act, and to enroll and make allotments to such children.

The act contains similar provisions as to children born to enrolled persons of the Choctaw-Chickasaw and Seminole tribes. My opinion is requested:

whether the minor child, William Durant, born subsequent to May 25, 1901, and prior to March 4, 1905, and apparently living on said latter date, is entitled to enrollment. Application for the enrollment of said minor child, William Durant, was made prior to the passage of said act, but the citizenship of the parents of said child is still pending and undetermined. Though the father was admitted to enrollment by the Commission prior to the passage of said act, his enrollment has not yet been approved by the Secretary of the Interior. The Department asks to be advised as to whether the above act was intended to exclude the children born within the time fixed to parents whose applications for citizenship, though filed long prior to the closing of the rolls and decided by the Commission prior to the passage of said act, have not yet been reached and passed upon by the Secretary of the Interior and received his approval prior to the date of the approval of said act. Are the benefits of said act to be construed as restricted to the children of only those “citizens of the Creek tribe of Indians whose enrollment has been approved by the Secretary of the Interior prior to the date of the approval of this act?”

The act of March 1, 1901 (31 Stat, 861, 869), fixed July 1, 1900, as the date for closing the roll of the Creek Nation. The act of March 3, 1905, directed the enrollment of children of citizens whose right to enrollment had been fully determined and approved by the Secretary. It had the effect to extend the date of closing of the roll to March 3, 1905, as to the persons coming within its description, and made the parent s enrollment the sufficient evidence for enrollment of the child.

The law now under consideration is plain and explicit. Those for whom applications may be received are children of “citizens of the Creek tribe of Indians whose enrollment has been approved by the Secretary of the Interior prior to the date of the approval of this act.” This wording leaves no room for construction or for appeal to other statutes upon the same subject-matter to ascertain the meaning thereof. It is true that “where a particular construction of a statute will occasion great inconvenience or produce inequality and injustice, that view is to be avoided if another and more reasonable interpretation is present in the statute.” (Knowlton v. Moore, 178 U. S., 41, 77.) That rule can not be properly invoked here because the words used will admit of only one construction. The fact that a law seems to be illogical, unwise, and to work inequality and injustice does not give the courts or the executive departments license to read into it words and sentences that might make it accord with their views of what the law ought to be. This Department has no power to say that this law means anything other than the words indicate or to construe it to include any class of persons other than children of citizens of the Creek Nation, whose enrollment was approved by the Secretary of the Interior prior to the approval of said act of March 3, 1905.

The appellant, William Durant, is not entitled to enrollment under this act. I would suggest, however, that final action in this and similar cases be withheld until the matter can be presented to the Congress with request for such further action as may be proper and necessary to avoid the apparent inequalities and injustices necessarily growing out of the law as it now stands.

The papers submitted are herewith returned.

Very respectfully,
Frank L. Campbell, Assistant Attorney-General.

Approved July 21, 1905.

Thos. Ryan, Acting Secretary


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