Ewert v. Bluejacket - 259 U.S. 129 (1922)
U.S. Supreme Court
Ewert v. Bluejacket, 259 U.S. 129 (1922)
Ewert v. Bluejacket
Nos. 173, 186
Argued March 17, 1922
Decided May 15, 1922
259 U.S. 129
1. An attorney at law who is employed at the expense of the United States, by and under the direction of the Attorney General, as a special assistant to assist in the institution and prosecution of suits to set aside deeds of allotted Indian lands at an Indian Agency, his official duties requiring all of his time, is "a person employed in Indian affairs" within the meaning of Rev.Stats., § 2078, forbidding such persons to "have any interest or concern in any trade with the Indians, except for and on account of the United States." P. 259 U. S. 135.
2. The section covers not only trade carried on with the Indians as a business, but also an individual purchase of an Indian's land allotment. P. 259 U. S. 137.
3. A deed taken in violation of this section is void, passing the legal title only, and neither the state statute of limitations nor the doctrine of laches applies to a suit brought in the district court against
the grantee by the Indian owner to set the transaction aside, and they are entitled to indemnity against mortgages made by the grantee, as well as to a reconveyance. P. 259 U. S. 137.
4. So held where the land bought by the attorney was not involved in the litigation about which he was employed, and was deeded to him, with the approval of the Secretary of the Interior, pursuant to a public advertised sale of the tract, conducted after appraisement and otherwise pursuant to the rules and regulation of the Department, under the act (32 Stat. 245, 275) authorizing ale of restricted allotment by the heirs of allottees, and after the proposed sale, as to interests of minor heirs, had been approved by the proper state court upon petition of their guardian.
5. An error made by the Interior Department in the interpretation of the statute cannot confer legal rights inconsistent with its express terms. P. 259 U. S. 138.
265 F. 823 affirmed in part and reversed in part.
Appeal from a decree of the circuit court of appeals in part affirming and in part reversing a decree of the district court dismissing the bill in a suit brought by the heirs of an Indian to set aside a deed of his restricted land allotment, which they had made to the appellant, with the approval of the Secretary of the Interior, pursuant to a public sale, under the act of Congress and departmental regulations governing such transactions. The facts are more fully stated in the opinion of the court below.