Report of J. George Wright, Proposing to Extend the Act of February 6, 1901
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Department Of The Interior
Commissioner To The Five Civilized Tribes,
Muskogee, Okla., November 3, 1009
Subject: Proposed bill of Senator Clapp extending the provisions of act approved February 6, 1901, to Choctaws and Chickasaws.
The honorable the Secretary or The Interior.
Sir: Under date of June 5, 1905 there was forwarded to this office from the department a copy of a bill proposed by Senator Clapp, entitled:
A bill extending the provisions of an act approved February sixth, nineteen hundred and one, entitled “An act amending the act of August fifteenth, eighteen hundred and ninety-four, entitled ‘An act making appropriations for current and contingent expenses of the Indian Department and fulfilling treaties and stipulations with various Indian tribes, for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, eighteen hundred and ninety-four, and for other purposes,'” to any person claiming any right in the common property of the Choctaw or Chickasaw Indians or tribes.
Also copy of his letter transmitting the same to the Indian Office, and a copy of a letter from the Secretary of the Interior written to Senator Clapp; and I was directed to examine same and submit to the department such criticism and comment thereon as I might think proper.
Immediately upon the receipt, copies of the bill in question were forwarded to Hon. Green McCurtain. Principal chief of the Choctaw Nation; Hon. Douglas H. Johnston, governor of the Chickasaw Nation; and Mr. W. W. Hastings, national attorney of the Cherokee Nation, requesting their views concerning the matter, together with such suggestions as they might desire to offer. No response has been received from Gov, Johnston, and Mr. Hastings recently verbally informed me that he had no suggestions to offer, inasmuch as the bill did not refer to the Cherokee Nation.
I inclose herewith copy of a letter from Hon. Green McCurtain, dated October 27, 1909. acknowledging the Receipt of said bill and stating that he had delayed replying thereto until the Choctaw Council, which has recently adjourned, could consider same. He also stated that the Choctaw Council had nothing to say concerning the matter at this time, preferring to stand upon the memorial protesting against any action being taken looking to the reopening of the Choctaw and Chickasaw rolls, passed at the last regular session of said council, as expressing the views of the Choctaws in regard to the matter of reopening the rolls of citizenship of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations, which memorial was forwarded by me to the department on November 17, 1908, with the statement that the protest did not require executive action, but simply embodied the opinion of the Choctaw Tribe, generally concerning the reopening of the rolls. By Indian Office letter of December 4,1908 (Land 78706-1908, E. B. H.), I was advised that the department, on November 30, 1908, had approved its recommendation that the protest of the Choctaw Council be retained in the files of the Indian Office to be transmitted to Congress, if any bills were introduced designed to open the rolls.
The memorial above mentioned in substance attacks the legislation passed by Congress regarding the enrollment of citizens and freed- men of the Five Civilized Tribes and particularly those of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations. It also contained a criticism of the manner in which the enrollment work was accomplished by the Government’s agents, charges frauds were perpetrated by the applicants and their attorneys: that many of the persons already enrolled secured their enrollment through fraud, and that any legislation that might be passed providing for the reopening of the rolls would serve to render possible the perpetration of further frauds on the Choctaw people. The council contended that the applicants whose cases have been before the commission, or the Commissioner to the Five Civilized Tribes, and the department have had full opportunity to have them adjudicated, and that they are not entitled to further examination of what they contend to be their rights, but that the nation would not object to the enrollment of the 40 or 50 Choctaws and Chickasaws by blood, who were left off the rolls through their ignorance.
Section 1 of the proposed bill provides as follows:
That the provisions of an act approved February sixth, nineteen hundred and one (chapter two hundred and seventeen. United States Statutes at Large, Fifty-sixth Congress), entitled “An act amending the act of August fifteenth, eighteen hundred and ninety-four, entitled ‘An act making appropriations for current and contingent expenses of the Indian Department and fulfilling treaties and stipulations with various Indian tribes for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, eighteen hundred and ninety-five, and for other purposes,'” be, and the same is hereby, extended to any person claiming any right In the common property of the Choctaw or Chickasaw Indians or tribes: and in order to make said act applicable to any person claiming any such right in said property, said act is hereby amended to read as follows.
And sections 2 and 3 are practically identical with chapter 217, page 760 of volume 31 of the United States Statutes at Large, with the exception that same, instead of being applicable to the Five Civilized Tribes and the Quapaw Indians, is made applicable to the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations alone. Section 4 is for the purpose of securing evidence; limits the time within which suits must be brought to one year after the passage of the act, and provides that no surety for costs shall be required from the plaintiff.
If this bill should become a law, it would be far-reaching in its effects, in that it would result in the reopening of the enrollment in the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations and a readjudication by the United States courts of cases already heard and determined-a proceeding that was once conducted in determining the rights of persons to citizenship in the Five Civilized Tribes with such little success and in so unsatisfactory a manner as to bring about the institution of the Choctaw-Chickasaw Citizenship Court under the act of Congress approved July 1, 1902 (32 Stats. L., 641), which court rejected over 3,000 of the applicants who had been admitted by the United States courts, and only admitted 150. It not only contemplates the review of former decisions, but opens the matter to the extent of permitting original applications, and, if it becomes a law will prolong the enrollment work for an indefinite period.
Under date of November 15, 1907, I transmitted a report to the department showing the names of 52 persons who made application for enrollment as citizens and freedmen of the Choctaw. Chickasaw, Cherokee, and Creek Nations within the time provided by law, and who were entitled to citizenship, but whose enrollments were not approved by reason of error of this office, the department, or delay by the telegraph companies, and called the attention of the department to a letter of Commissioner Bixby, my predecessor in office, dated June 28, 1907, relative to the same matter, and suggested the advisability of requesting congressional action with a view to affording relief to these persons.
The Acting Commissioner of Indian Affairs by Indian Office letter of July 23, 1907 (I. T. I). 59745-1907), in reporting on Commissioner Bixby’s letter stated:
It appears from Commissioner Bixby’s letter that the parties mentioned by him are entitled to enrollment, and that for various reasons their mimes were not placed on the rolls. As it appears to be thoroughly established that they are as much entitled as any of the citizens of the tribe to which they belong and ns there is no existing law by which they can be enrolled, it is recommended that the list be preserved and that the Commissioner to the Five Civilized Tribes be requested to investigate further similar wises, to the end that relief may be furnished to all such persons by special act of Congress, authorizing the placing of their names on the rolls of citizens of the nations to which they belong.
This recommendation was approved by the Secretary of the Interior July 25, 1907.
It appears from the records of this office that approximately 51,600 persons who made application for enrollment as citizens or freedmen of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, or Creek Nation were rejected. Two thousand six hundred and eighty of these applicants claimed to be Creeks, 11,920 claimed to be Cherokees, and the balance, 37.000, claimed rights as Choctaws and Chickasaws. These applications were all passed upon by the Commission or the Commissioner to the Five Civilized Tribes, and nearly all of them were reviewed by the department, and a large number thereof was also passed upon by the United States District Court for the Indian Territory and by the Choctaw-Chickasaw Citizenship Court, created by the act of Congress of July 1, 1902 (32 Stats. L. 641).
It is claimed by many that their applications were not properly considered, and that many who were enrolled as Choctaw and Chickasaw freedmen and allotted land of the appraised value of $130, 16 should have been enrolled as Indians by blood and permitted to select land of the appraised value of $1,041.28 and share in the annuities and payments with other citizens of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations; and I understand that many of such persons are represented in the Fleming case now pending before the Supreme Court of the United States.
Under all of the circumstances as above set forth, unless it is shown that the applications were improperly considered, of which I have no knowledge. I do not feel warranted in recommending the passage of the bill as submitted by Senator Clapp but suggest, in lieu thereof, that it might be proper to enact legislation that would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to enroll the names of the 52 persons designated in my report to the department, dated November 15, 1907, and such other claimants whose applications for enrollment may be found to be in similar status and to adjudicate the claims of and enroll such persons, if he deems proper, whose applications for enrollment were filed within the time prescribed by law and whose cases were not considered, with a provision that the enrollment of the Mississippi Choctaws mentioned in said letter be made subject to all the conditions contained in said sections 41, 42, and 44 of the act of Congress approved July 1, 1902 (32 Stats. L. 641).
J. G. Wright, Commissioner