Choctaw Citizenship Litigation
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The following is a letter from P. J. Hurley, National Attorney for the Choctaw Nation. In this letter he describes in Parts 1-14 the services he performed in Citizenship Cases during the entire term of his employment as attorney for the Choctaw Nation. You will find as you read the different parts of this book there is repetition of some of the work done. For those of you searching for Mississippi Choctaw families denied under Article 14 of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, a better insight as how and why this happened.
Each section of the index describes that portion of the book. This should give you an idea of the sections you need to concentrate on for your search. When there is a roll, list or letter mentioned in a section there will be a link.
- Choctaw Citizenship Litigation, Names A -Z
List of Mississippi Choctaw Indians in whose behalf scrip was issued under the provisions of the act of Congress of August 23, 1842 (5 Stat. L., 513), in lieu of land to which they were entitled under article 14 of the treaty of September 27, 1830 (Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek) (7 Stat. L., 333-335).
- Part 1.Comprises the letter and the Index of the book by Parts 1-14
- Part 2.Report and Statement of the Subcommittee of the Committee on Indian Affairs, H.R 19213, January 10, 1913
- Part 3.
After a full review of the history of the estate of the Choctaw Nation, and a thorough consideration of all the treaties and litigation affecting the rights of the Mississippi Choctaws, I became convinced that the report of the subcommittee was erroneous and that the same would not be adopted by the entire Committee on Indian Affairs if the members of the committee could be made to understand the nature of the questions involved. Some of the applicants who still resided in Mississippi were undoubtedly Choctaw Indians. Almost all of the applicants were, of course, imposters. I was convinced that even the Mississippi Choctaws who had remained in Mississippi had no legal, equitable, or moral right to enrollment in the Choctaw Nation. For the purpose of enlightening the members of the Committee on Indian Affairs of the House, as well as the entire membership of the House and Senate, Mr. George D. Rodgers, then attorney for the Chickasaw Nation, and myself, as attorney for the Choctaw Nation, together prepared a memorial which was printed by the Committee on Indian Affairs of the House and a copy of which was given to each member of the House and Senate.This memorial seemed to have much effect on the members who read it. It at least raised a question in their minds as to the correctness of the conclusions set forth in the report made by the subcommittee. In fact, it was not long until it became evident that the Committee on Indian Affairs of the House was inclined to hear the matter further before taking action on the report of the subcommittee.The memorial referred to is hereinafter set out in full and marked Part 3.
- Part 4.
On behalf of the Choctaw Nation I requested a rehearing of the case before the committee. A rehearing was granted but a subcommittee for the purpose of conducting the hearing was not appointed until the next session of Congress.In the meantime, in the course of my investigation I discovered that the corporation known as the Texas Oklahoma Company, above referred to, had been organized for the purpose of holding contracts made with attorneys by claimants for enrollment. I had sufficient information to convince me that the stock of the Texas Oklahoma Company was being sold upon representations that the company would derive vast sums of money in case the rolls of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations could be forced open and. the Mississippi Choctaw claimants, and other claimants, allowed the right to participate in the distribution of the estate of the Oklahoma Choctaws and Chickasaws. The money procured from the sale of the stock in this company was being used to maintain a lobby in Washington to prevail upon Congress to reopen the rolls. I knew that the contracts held by the Texas Oklahoma Company were not valid. They were not executed by persons who had any right to enrollment in the Choctaw or Chickasaw Nations. I knew that the Texas Oklahoma Company was spending the money received from the sale of its stock to maintain representation in Washington. I knew that the representatives of the Texas Oklahoma Company, and the claimants for enrollment, had been successful in their efforts to prevent a distribution among the Oklahoma Choctaws and Chickasaws of the funds arising from the sale of the residue of their estate. While I was in possession of this information I did not have it in such form as to enable me to substantiate a charge of the nature stated. For the purpose of securing the necessary information to combat the efforts of the Texas Oklahoma Company, and its associates, I wrote a letter to the Hon. Franklin K. Lane, Secretary of the Interior, asking him to detail an inspector for the purpose of procuring additional information on the subject. The letter which I addressed to the Hon. Franklin K. Lane is dated, June 12, 1913, and is hereinafter set out in full and marked Part 4.
- Part 5.
The Secretary of the Interior first assigned the investigation of Mississippi Choctaw contracts to Mr. E. B. Linnen. Mr. Linnen was withdrawn from the work, to complete another important assignment which he had theretofore commenced. After Mr. Linnen had been taken from the work the assignment was given to Mr. E. P. Holcombe. The untimely death of Mr. Holcombe occurred before he had completed the investigation. After the death of Mr. Holcombe, Maj. James McLaughlin, an inspector in the office of the Secretary of the Interior, was detailed to make the investigation. Maj. McLaughlin’s report is one of the most thorough and complete reports of its nature that I have ever read. The McLaughlin report is hereinafter set out in full and marked Part 5.
- Part 6.
Before the McLaughlin report had been filed, I was invited to deliver an address at the Lake Mohonk Conference of Friends of Indians and Other Dependent Peoples. In this address I suggested the existence of a syndicate, which was holding citizenship contracts and furnishing money to maintain representation in Washington to reopen the rolls of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations. The papers carried an account of this statement. The statement was immediately taken up by the attorneys for the Mississippi Choctaws, their runners and agents, and all those associated with the Texas Oklahoma Company, in an attempt to discredit my statement. A resolution, which was probably prepared in the office of Messrs. Crews & Cantwell, attorneys at law of St. Louis, Missouri, was sent to Mississippi and signed by the alleged members of the Council of Mississippi Choctaws. (Under the law no such organization could exist in Mississippi.)This resolution was printed and scattered broadcast. It used the names of prominent members of the House of Representatives and the Senate-asserted that my statements were false and that they were a slander not only upon the attorneys involved but on all members of the House and Senate who were honestly in favor of considering certain citizenship cases. Later, however, Mr. Luke W. Connerly, an agent of Messrs. Crews & Cantwell of St. Louis, assumed the responsibility of having prepared the resolution. He appeared before the committee and admitted that the statement I made before the Lake Mohonk Conference was true and that the statements contained in the resolution circulated by him and his associates were untrue.As shown by the McLaughlin report, Messrs. Crews & Cantwell had, prior to the appearance of Mr. Connerly before the committee, admitted the existence of the syndicate and the existence of the conditions as charged by me. This admission was made after my address at the Lake Mohonk Conference and before Connerly’s testimony was taken. Lately A. P. Powell, a former agent of Messrs. Crews & Cantwell, was convicted at Shrevesport, La., on a charge of using the United States mail to assist in perpetrating a fraud in connection with these matters.A copy of the Mississippi Choctaw Resolution, and a copy of my address at Lake Mohonk, New York, are hereinafter set out and marked Part 6.
- Part 7.
Many of the briefs filed by attorneys for the claimants, during the hearings before the Committee on Indian Affairs of the House, contain statements, which, if true, would undoubtedly entitle their clients to a right to participate in the tribal property of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations. Many members of both the House and the Senate were misled by the erroneous statements made by the attorneys for the claimants. When we were permitted to meet these attorneys before a special committee, which was appointed to hear the case, we were able to show all the fallacies of the briefs and arguments that were made by the attorneys for the claimants.The committee, before which the case was finally heard, was composed of Hon. Charles D. Carter, of Oklahoma, chairman; Hon. J. D. Post, Ohio; Hon. R. P. Hill, Illinois; Hon. P. P. Campbell, Kansas, and Hon. C. B. Miller, of Minnesota.The bills pertaining to citizenship matters in the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations, which were considered during that hearings before the above named committee were numbered as follows: Nos. 3389, 3390, 6537, 7926, 7974, 8007, 10066, 10140, 12586.The testimony and arguments on the bills above referred to are contained in a document which was printed upon the request of the Committee oh Indian Affairs of the House of Representatives during the third session of the Sixty-third Congress, 1915. This record is too voluminous to be set out in full here but may be obtained by application to the House Document Room. My argument in opposition to the claims of the Mississippi Choctaws, which appears in the volume last above referred to and which was afterwards reprinted from said document for the use of the Committee on Indian Affairs of the Senate, is hereinafter set out and marked Part 7.
- Part 8.
The title of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations to the residue of tribal property is such that each member of both tribes is entitled to an equal share of all the property of the two tribes. In order that the reader may understand thoroughly the nature of the title of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations to the tribal estate, I call attention to the fact that on October 18, 1820 (7 Stat. L., 210), the United States Government entered into a treaty with the Choctaw Nation, then in Mississippi, whereby the nation ceded to the United States 4,000,000 acres of its land in Mississippi, and in consideration of the cession on the part of the Choctaw Nation of 4,000,000 acres, and in part satisfaction for the same; the United States Government ceded to said nation a tract of country west of the Mississippi River situate between the Arkansas and Red Rivers, and bounded as follows: Beginning on the Arkansas River, where the lower boundary line of the Cherokee strikes the same; thence up the Arkansas to the Canadian Fork and up the same to its source; thence due south to the Red River; thence down Red River three miles below the mouth of Little River, which empties itself into Red River on the north side; thence a direct line to the beginning.It is not necessary to go into detail here to show that all the land embraced in this grant was not at that time within the territorial limits of the United States. The title to this land was more definitely defined in the Treaty of September 27, 1830 (7 Stat. L., 335), commonly known as the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek.Under the terms of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek a patent was issued to the Choctaws. The patent is dated March 23, 1842, and contains the following language:In fee simple to them and their descendants, to inure to them, while they shall exist as a nation and live on it, liable to no transfer or alienation except to the United States and with their consent.By the Treaty of January 17, 1837 (11 Stat., 573), the Chickasaws purchased an interest in the Choctaw estate west of the Mississippi River “to be held on the same terms that the Choctaws now hold it . . . (which is held in common with the Choctaws and Chickasaws).”By the Treaty of 1855 the United States guarantees the title to all the lands within the confines of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations to the tribes in the following language:To the members of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Tribes, their heirs and successors, to be held in common, so that each and every member of either tribe shall have an equal undivided interest in the whole.Section 29 of the Atoka Agreement between the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations and the United States, approved by Act of Congress, July 28, 1898 (30 Stat. L., 495), provides that the land belonging to the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations shall be allotted to the members of said tribes so as to give to each and every member of these tribes, as far as possible, an equal share thereof. The Supplemental Agreement which was approved by Act of Congress, July 1, 1902 (32 Stat. L., 641), provided that the coal and asphalt deposits, so reserved from allotment, should be sold at public auction for cash, under the direction of the President and by a commission created under the provisions of the treaty and provided further:That the proceeds arising from the sale of the coal and asphalt land, and coal and asphalt deposits, shall be deposited in the Treasury of the United States to the credit of said tribes to be paid out per capita to the members of said tribes (freedmen excepted) with other moneys belonging to said tribes in the manner provided by law.By reason of the nature of this title, the enrollment of anyone as a citizen of the Choctaw Nation would diminish the interest of the individual members of the Chickasaw Nation in the same proportion as the interest of the individual members of the Choctaw Nation. The same would be true as to the individual members of the Choctaw Nation in case of the enrollment of members of the Chickasaw Nation. For this reason the Chickasaws are as deeply interested in the defense of the Choctaw Nation against claimants for enrollment as the Choctaws. A very able and comprehensive argument in defense of the Chickasaw Nation and against the Mississippi Choctaw claimants, was presented by Mr. Reford Bond, attorney for the Chickasaw Nation. Mr. Bond had been appointed to succeed Mr. George D. Rodgers, who was representing the Chickasaw Nation, when I was appointed attorney for the Choctaw Nation. A copy of Mr. Bond’s argument is hereinafter set out in full and marked Part 8.
- Part 9.
After the close of the arguments on the Mississippi Choctaw claims, the subcommittee above named took the matter under advisement and on January 2, 1915, they reported to the Committee on Indian Affairs of the House of Representatives. The report of the subcommittee was in favor of the Oklahoma Choctaws and Chickasaws and against the Mississippi Choctaws. The report of the subcommittee was adopted by the committee. This report reversed the report of the subcommittee, which had reported favorably on the claims of the Mississippi Choctaws on January 10, 1913. A copy of the report is attached hereto and marked Part 9.
- Part 10.
In considering these matters to the present point, we have, of course, eliminated all arguments, briefs, and correspondence, not essential to a general history of the litigation. We have not submitted the various reports of the different Secretaries of the Interior, all of which were favorable to the Oklahoma Choctaws and against the Mississippi Choctaws. In order, however, that the attitude of the Interior Department on the subject may be clearly defined in this report, I am attaching hereto the report of Hon. Franklin K. Lane, Secretary of the Interior. After having considered the claims of the Mississippi Choctaws at great length, the Secretary reported adversely upon the claims. The report is a strong argument against the Mississippi Choctaws and in favor of the Oklahoma Choctaws and Chickasaws. A copy of the report of the Secretary of the Interior, dated January 8, 1915, is hereto attached and marked Part 10.
- Part 11.
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.
- Part 12.
While the Indian Appropriation Bill for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1917, was pending before the Committee on Indian Affairs of the Senate, Mr. Ballinger appeared before the committee in an attempt to prevent the adoption of the provision authorizing the per capita payment and also asked to be allowed to defend himself against the accusations contained in the Bowie report. The Bowie report seriously questioned the professional conduct of Mr. Ballinger and his associates. In his argument before the committee Mr. Ballinger confined himself largely to an attack upon the nature of Mr. Bowie’s tenure of office and an attack upon myself. He offered no argument of a substantial nature to refute the charges of fraud made against him and his associates in the Bowie report. He did not offer any evidence that would tend to absolve him from the responsibility of the transactions of the firm of Ballinger, Lindley & Rodkey, and their associates. He had no evidence to show that the petitions and affidavits filed by him in the Indian Office were not false as they were alleged to be in the Bowie report.I was given twenty minutes within which to reply to Mr. Ballinger’s statement. My reply was very brief, I submitted for the consideration of the committee, and for publication in the record, ten cases in which petitions had been served upon me by Mr. Ballinger. I asked that these cases be taken in their regular consecutive order, so that I would not be charged with having selected the most flagrantly fraudulent cases, which had been presented. I was given permission by the committee to make these ten cases a part of the record.
My reply to Mr. Ballinger and the record of the ten cases refereed to arc attached hereto and marked Part 12.
- Part 13.
While the Indian Appropriation Bill for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1917, was pending before the Senate, Senator Robert L. Owen, introduced a brief outline of the history of the citizenship litigation containing arguments in opposition to the re-opening of the rolls and in favor of the provision authorizing a per capita payment. This brief history of the case was prepared by me. It has since been printed in the form of a document. A copy of said document is attached hereto and marked Part 13.
- Part 14.
The Indian Appropriation Bill for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1917, carrying a provision authorizing a per capita payment of $200 to the Chickasaws and $300 to the Choctaws became a law on the 18th day of May 1916. (See Public No. 80.)