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P. J. Hurley’s Letter to Principal Chief, Choctaw Nation
Posted By Dennis Partridge On In Mississippi,Native American,Oklahoma | No Comments
At the time I was appointed attorney for the Choctaw Nation, there was pending before Congress the Harrison Bill above referred to. Shortly after my appointment the Committee on Indian Affairs of the House took the bill under consideration. I was appointed to succeed Mr. Ormsby McHarg. At the time that Mr. McHarg was serving as general attorney for the Choctaw Nation, Messrs. McCurtain & Hill, attorneys at law, of McAlester, Oklahoma, were also serving as attorneys for the nation. Mr. D. C. McCurtain of the firm had been engaged in citizenship cases during the time that the rolls were being made and had special knowledge of the issues involved in citizenship litigation.
On account of Mr. McCurtain’s familiarity with the questions involved, the Principal Chief of the Choctaw Nation directed that the argument on behalf of the nation should be presented by Mr. McCurtain. The argument on behalf of the Chickasaw Nation was presented by Mr. George D. Rodgers, then attorney for that nation. I was present at the hearing but did not participate in the argument except to concur in the arguments of Mr. McCurtain and Mr. Rodgers. The subcommittee which had the bill under consideration conducted extensive hearings and then took the matter under consideration for quite a long period.
Major Victor M. Locke, Jr.,
Principal Chief of the Choctaw Nation,
My Dear Mr. Sells:
This report is submitted to you in conformity with the terms of my contract of employment as attorney for the Choctaw Nation. The report is intended to cover specifically the services performed by me during the last quarter, and to cover, generally, all the services performed by me in citizenship cases during the entire term of my employment as attorney for the Choctaw Nation.
In order to properly defend the interests of the Choctaw Nation against those claiming right to enrollment, as citizens of the nation, it was necessary for me to make an extensive investigation and study of the records pertaining to the tribal estate and also to study the records in all citizenship cases wherein the applicants had been denied right to enrollment. The records pertaining to the tribal estate, which have been investigated, cover all transactions in regard to that estate from the date of the Treaty of October 18, 1820, up to, and including, transactions affecting said estate within the present year.
We will not consider in this report any of the transactions affecting the tribal estate, which have been investigated and briefed by me, except those matters involving that estate through the applications of persons claiming right to enrollment as citizens of the tribe application and these applications were given thorough and impartial consideration by United States officials. While the rolls were being made an agreement was entered into between the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations and the United States which was approved by Act of Congress on July 1, 1902, and ratified by a vote of the Choctaw and Chickasaw people on the 25th day of September of the same year.
The agreement referred to contains the following provision:
“No person whose name does not appear upon the rolls prepared as herein provided shall be entitled in any manner to participate in the distribution of the common property of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Tribes, and those whose names appear therein shall participate in the manner’ set forth in this agreement” (32 Stat. L., 641).
The Act of April 26, 1906, declared:
“That the rolls of the tribes (Choctaw and Chickasaw) affected by this act shall be fully completed on or before the fourth day of March, 1907, and the Secretary of the Interior shall have no jurisdiction to approve the enrollment of any person after that date” (34 Stat. L., 137).
The rolls of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations were, under the laws quoted, and other laws pertaining to enrollment matters, completed and approved by the Secretary of the Interior on March 4, 1907. Only those whose names appear upon the finally approved rolls have right to participate in the tribal property. Each citizen (freedmen excepted) whose name appears upon the finally approved rolls, was entitled to, and did receive, an allotment equal to 320 acres of the average land. Each freedman received an allotment of 40 acres of land. After each citizen had received an allotment there was a residue of tribal property’ remaining. This property consisted of unallotted land, timber reserve, segregated coal and asphalt deposits and segregated coal and asphalt surface land, and was estimated to be worth not less than $35,000,000.
During the time in which the rolls were being made a great many persons who had no right to enrollment made application for enrollment and were denied the right to participate in the distribution of Choctaw and Chickasaw property. After the rolls had been closed, those who had been denied citizenship, together with a great many others who had never made application for enrollment, sought to have the rolls re-opened in order that they might again seek the right to participate in the distribution of the residue of tribal property which remained vested in the tribes after each citizen had received an allotment.
To procure the reconsideration of cases of applicants who had been denied enrollment, and to permit the filing of applications of other persons claiming right to enrollment, a great number of bills were introduced in both the House and the Senate. It was the investigation of the cases referred to in these bills that made necessary the preparation of the documents and the records, which we are herewith transmitting.
The principal matters pending before Congress which commanded our attention during this period were:
First. House Bill No. 19213, presented by Representative Harrison of Mississippi, providing for the re-opening of the rolls of the Choctaw-Chickasaw Nations for the enrollment of the Mississippi Choctaws and House Bills, Nos. 3389, 3390, 6537, 7926, 7974, 8007, 10066, 10141 and 12586-all of which bills pertained in some manner to enrollment matters of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations.
Second. A great number of amendments offered by different members of the House and the Senate to the different Indian Appropriation Bills which were pending during the years 1912 to 1916, inclusive.
These amendments provided for the re-opening of the rolls and for the reconsideration of applications of Mississippi Choctaws, and others, for enrollment as citizens of the Choctaw Nation.
Third. Issue was joined with those who sought the re-opening of the rolls when the representatives of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations presented an amendment to the Indian Appropriation Bill providing for a distribution among the enrolled members of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations, of the funds arising from the sale of the residue of tribal property. This demand was made under the provisions of the Agreement of July 1, 1902 (supra).
The documents which are to follow hereafter will show conclusively that no one had legal or equitable right to participate in the distribution of the tribal estate whose name does not appear upon the rolls as prepared, completed, and approved by the United States Government. These records will also show that the Choctaws and Chickasaws, whose names appear upon the approved rolls, are entitled, under the Agreement of 1902, to have the Government of the United States immediately sell the residue of their tribal property and distribute the funds arising from the sale per capita among the enrolled members.
The great residue of tribal property remaining undisposed of seemed to be a tantalizing object to many men who set about to devise means whereby they could, through some subterfuge, participate in the distribution of that estate.
A corporation known as the Texas Oklahoma Company was organized and the contracts made between claimants for citizenship and certain firms of attorneys, through their agents and runners, were transferred to this corporation. The corporation sold stock and used the money derived from the sale of its stock to maintain representation in Washington to force open the rolls of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations and to prevent a distribution of the residue of tribal property among the enrolled members of the tribes as provided for in the Agreement of 1902 (supra).
The transactions of this corporation, the agents and attorneys associated with it and the nature of the contracts held by them, will be more fully considered hereinafter.
The questions involved in this controversy before Congress were of serious importance to the members of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Tribes. The entire residue of the tribal estate was involved.
It was to combat the efforts of the syndicate and the attorneys and runners and agents referred to, and to procure a fulfillment by the United States Government of the terms of its Agreement of July 1st, 1902, with the Choctaws and Chickasaws, that made necessary the investigation which was made by us.
An historical outline of the controversy between the representatives of the tribes and the representatives of the citizenship syndicate and claimants, is fully set forth in the documentary evidence which is attached hereto in its regular order.
The enactment of this provision ends a prolonged controversy. The distribution of funds belonging to the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations has been unreasonably delayed. The cause of the delay, as shown by this report, is due to the opposition of the attorneys for persons claiming right to enrollment.
Under the terms of the agreement between the United States and the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations which was approved by Act of Congress July 1, 1902, and ratified by the Choctaw and Chickasaw people on the 25th day of September, 1902, the United States is bound by solemn obligations to sell the residue of tribal property and to distribute the proceeds arising there from among the persons, and the heirs of persons, whose names appear upon the approved rolls of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations.
Because of the great amount involved and because of the importance of an early settlement of this controversy, I have compiled this brief history of the questions involved. It required much research to procure the facts for the different documents set forth herein. For that reason I have thought it advisable to make this compilation in order that this history may be available to those defending the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations in the event the advocates of the reopening of the rolls should, in the future, attempt to reopen this controversy.
In closing I call attention to the fact that the records which I am setting forth here are largely the records which I have made in this controversy, as attorney for the Choctaw Nation, before the committees of Congress. I have set forth the argument of Mr. Bond, attorney for the Chickasaw Nation, for the reason that the same is a very material part of the record before the committees and it is set forth for the purpose of showing that the interest of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations in this controversy are identical.
During the course of the controversy many able arguments were made on the floor of both Houses. Attention is called to the able manner in which this controversy was handled by members of the Oklahoma Delegation in Congress and members of Congress from other States during the different times that the question was under consideration before the House and Senate. I am not setting forth these arguments in this report for the reason that to do so would be only to repeat almost entirely the record and arguments which are herein set forth.
Services performed by me during the last quarter, not involving citizenship questions, will be made the subject of a separate report.
P. J. HURLEY, National Attorney for the Choctaw Nation.
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