Harris v. Bell
254 U.S. 103 (1920)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Harris v. Bell, 254 U.S. 103 (1920)

Harris v. Bell

No. 51

Argued January 26, 1920

Decided November 15, 1920

254 U.S. 103

Syllabus

1. Lands representing the distributive share of a Creek Indian who died after his enrollment and before their selection or allotment and which thereafter were selected, allotted, and deeded in his name pursuant to the Act of April 26, 1906, c. 1876, § 5, 34 Stat. 137, and earlier statutes, are to be considered as going to his heirs not as a direct allotment to them, but as an inheritance, the alienability of which by full-bloods is determined not by § 19 of the Act of 1906 or § 1 of the Act of May 27, 1908, c.199, 35 Stat. 312, respecting allotments to living allottees, but by the provisions governing alienability by heirs. P. 254 U. S. 108.

2. In this regard, it is not the usual distinctions between title by purchase and title by descent that must control, but the letter and spirit of the acts of Congress. Id.

3. The power vested in the Secretary of the Interior by the Act of April 26, 1906, supra, to approve or disapprove conveyances of inherited allotments when made by adult full-blood Indian heirs was not recalled by the Act of May 27, 1908, supra, as to conveyances made, though not approved, before its enactment, nor does the lapse of 2 years between the deed and its approval affect the validity of the conveyance in the absence of any lawful intervening disposal. P. 254 U. S. 109.

4. The provision in § 9 of the Act of May 27, 1908, supra, that no conveyance of any interest of any full-blood Indian heir shall be valid "unless approved by the court having jurisdiction of the settlement of the estate" of the deceased allottee prescribes a rule for future conveyances. P. 254 U. S. 110.

5. Section 6 of the Act of May 27, 1908, supra, which subjects the persons and property of minor allottees to the jurisdiction of the probate courts of the State of Oklahoma does not include or affect inherited lands in its provision that "no restricted lands of living minors shall be sold or encumbered, except by leases authorized by law, by order of the court, or otherwise." Id.

Page 254 U. S. 104

6. Section 6 of the Act of May 27, 1908, supra, and other acts of Congress, explicitly subject the persons and property of Indian minors of the Five Civilized Tribes to the jurisdiction of the probate (county) courts of Oklahoma; § 9 of that act declares that the death of any allottee shall remove all restrictions upon the alienation of his land, with the proviso that no conveyance of any interest of any full-blood Indian heir in such land shall be valid "unless approved by the court having jurisdiction of the settlement of the estate of said deceased allottee." Held, harmonizing the sections, that the proviso of § 9 is to be taken as referring only to adult full-blood heirs, and that a probate court having jurisdiction over the persons and property of minor full-blood heirs, but not of the settlement of the estate of the deceased allottee from whom they inherited, was the proper court to sanction a conveyance of the allotment made by their guardian. P. 254 U. S. 111.

7. The general rule giving to the court of guardianship exclusive power to direct the guardian and supervise the management and disposal of the ward's property obtains in Oklahoma, and an intention to depart from it in an act of Congress respecting the lands of minor full-blood Indians should not be accepted unless very clearly and explicitly evinced. P. 254 U. S. 112.

250 F. 209 affirmed.

The case is stated in the opinion.

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