Cherokee Intermarriage Cases
203 U.S. 76 (1906)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Cherokee Intermarriage Cases, 203 U.S. 76 (1906)

Cherokee Intermarriage Cases

Nos. 125, 126, 127 and 128

Argued February 19, 20, 1906

Decided November 5, 1906

203 U.S. 76

Syllabus

Judgment of the Court of Claims affirmed to effect that all those white persons who married Cherokee Indians by blood subsequently to the enactment of the Cherokee law, which became effective November 1, 1875, acquired no rights of soil or interest in the lands and vested funds of the Nation as citizens, and that those white persons who married Cherokee citizens by blood prior to said date did acquire rights as citizens in the lands belonging to the Nation, and held and owned as national lands, except such of them as lost their rights as Cherokee citizens by abandoning their Cherokee wives or by marrying other white or nontribal men or women having no rights of citizenship by blood in said Cherokee Nation.

The rule that the language of a statute is to be interpreted in the light of the particular matter in hand and the object sought to be accomplished as manifested by other parts of the act, and that the words used may be qualified by their surroundings and connections, applied to the construction of the acts of Congress relating to citizenship in, and distribution of tribal property of, the Cherokee Nation.

It is a settled rule of construction that, as between the whites and the Indians, the laws are to be construed most favorably to the latter.

40 Ct.Cl. 411 affirmed.

Page 203 U. S. 77

The subject matter of this suit consists of 4,420,406 acres of land in the Cherokee country about to be allotted among the Cherokee people entitled to participate in the distribution of the common property of the Cherokee Nation. The case was transmitted to the Court of Claims by the Secretary of the Interior, on the twenty-fourth of February, 1903, the nature of the controversy being thus stated:

"A controversy has arisen as to the rights of white persons intermarried with Cherokee citizens, and a protest has been filed with this Department on behalf of a large number of citizens of the Cherokee Nation by blood against the enrollment of intermarried persons, 'so as to recognize their right to participate in the distribution of any of the common property of the Cherokee Nation of whatever kind or character.' It is asserted, on the one hand, that the Cherokee laws have never recognized the right of 'intermarried citizens' to share in the distribution of the property of the Nation, and, on the other hand, that the Cherokee laws as well as the laws of Congress recognize those persons who have been married to Cherokee citizens in accordance with the laws of the Cherokee Nation relating to marriage as full citizens of such nation, entitled to share equally with full-blooded citizens in the property of the tribe."

Thereafter, Congress, by the Act of March 3, 1905 (33 Stat. 1048, 1071, c. 1479), provided as follows:

"That in the case entitled 'In the Matter of Enrolment of Persons Claiming Rights in the Cherokee Nation by Intermarriage against the United States, Departmental, Numbered Seventy-six,' now pending in the Court of Claims, the said court is hereby authorized and empowered to render final judgment in said case, and either party feeling itself aggrieved by said judgment shall have the right of appeal to the Supreme Court of United States within thirty days from the filing of said judgment in the Court of Claims. And the said Supreme Court of the United States shall advance said case on its calendar for early hearing. "

Page 203 U. S. 78

The Court of Claims filed its opinion May 15, 1905, and on May 18, findings of fact and conclusions of law, and on that day entered its decree as follows:

"This case having been transmitted to this Court by the Secretary of the Interior by letter dated February 24, 1903, for the findings and opinion of the court in accordance with the provisions of section 2 of the Act of Congress of March 3, 1883, entitled 'An Act to Afford Assistance and Relief to Congress and the Executive Departments in the Investigation of Claims and Demands against the government' (22 Stat. 485), and Congress, by the Act of March 3, 1905, entitled 'An Act Making Appropriations for the Current and Contingent Expenses of the Indian Department and for Fulfilling Treaty Stipulations with Various Indian Tribes for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1906, and for Other Purposes,' having made the following enactment:"

" That in the case entitled 'In the Matter of Enrolment of Persons Claiming Rights in the Cherokee Nation by Intermarriage against the United States, Departmental, Numbered Seventy-six,' now pending in the Court of Claims, the said court is hereby authorized and empowered to render final judgment in said case, and either party feeling itself aggrieved by said judgment shall have the right of appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States within thirty days from the filing of said judgment in the Court of Claims. And the said Supreme Court of the United States shall advance said case on its calendar for early hearing;"

"And, the cause coming on to be heard upon the petition, answers, agreed facts, proofs, and arguments submitted by the attorneys of the parties to the cause, respectively, and the court having heard and fully considered the same;"

"And it appearing to the court that all those white persons who married Cherokee Indians by blood subsequently to the enactment of the Cherokee law which became effective November 1, 1875, and which declared that such persons by intermarriage acquired no rights of soil or interest in the

Page 203 U. S. 79

vested funds of the Nation, had due notice of the limitations set upon their rights and privileges as citizens, and that those white persons who married Cherokee citizens by blood prior to said date acquired rights as citizens in the lands belonging to the Nation and held and owned as national lands, except such of these intermarried persons as lost their rights as Cherokee citizens by abandoning their Cherokee wives or by marrying other white or nontribal men or women having no rights of citizenship by blood in said Cherokee Nation:"

"It is by the court ordered, adjudged, and decreed that such white persons residing in the Cherokee Nation as became Cherokee citizens under Cherokee laws by intermarriage with Cherokees by blood prior to the first day of November, 1875, are equally interested in and have equal per capita rights with Cherokee Indians by blood in the lands constituting the public domain of the Cherokee Nation, and are entitled to be enrolled for that purpose; but such intermarried whites acquired no rights and have no interest or share in any funds belonging to the Cherokee Nation except where such funds were derived by lease, sale, or otherwise from the lands of the Cherokee Nation conveyed to it by the United States by the patent of December, 1838, and that the rights and privileges of those white citizens who intermarried with Cherokee citizens subsequent to the first day of November, 1875, do not extend to the right of soil or interest in any of the vested funds of the Cherokee Nation, and such intermarried persons are not entitled to share in the allotment of the lands or in the distribution of any of the funds belonging to said Nation, and are not entitled to be enrolled for such purpose; that those white persons who intermarried with Delaware or Shawnee citizens of the Cherokee Nation, either prior or subsequent to November 1, 1875, and those who intermarried with Cherokees by blood, and, subsequently, being left a widow or widower by the death of the Cherokee wife or husband, intermarried with persons not of Cherokee blood, and those white men who having married Cherokee women and subsequently abandoned

Page 203 U. S. 80

their Cherokee wives, have no part or share in the Cherokee property, and are not entitled to participate in the allotment of the lands or in the distribution of the funds of the Cherokee Nation or people, and are not entitled to be enrolled for such purpose."

Cherokee citizens by blood took an appeal to this Court from so much of that decree as adjudged that persons intermarrying with Cherokee citizens prior to November 1, 1875, were entitled to share in the Cherokee property, which appeal is numbered in this Court 125, and the Cherokee Nation prosecuted a similar appeal, numbered 126. Then certain intermarried whites appealed from the decree except that portion which held that the whites who intermarried prior to November 1, 1875, were entitled to share, numbered 127. And thereafter, other intermarried whites appealed generally, numbered 128.

The case is reported in 40 Ct.Cl. 411, where will be found an elaborate statement of the facts, including the acts of the Cherokee National Council, etc., bearing on the subject matter.

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