Stewart v. Keyes
295 U.S. 403 (1935)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Stewart v. Keyes, 295 U.S. 403 (1935)

Stewart v. Keyes

No. 142

Argued December 6, 1934

Decided May 20, 1935

295 U.S. 403

Syllabus

1. Land allotted and patented under § 28 of the Act of March 1, 1901 (Original Creek Agreement) in the right of a full-blood Creek Indian to his "heirs," without naming them, passes to them as an inheritance, and not as an allotment in their own right. P. 295 U. S. 406.

2. The restriction made by § 1 of the Act of May 27, 1908, on alienation of lands allotted to full-blood Indians of the Five Civilized Tribes, in Oklahoma, relates to land which the allottee took in his own his right, and not to land allotted in the right of a deceased ancestor and which came to him as an heir. P. 295 U. S. 411.

3. The purpose of the provision of § 9 of the Act of May 27, 1908,

"That the death of any allottee of the Five Civilized Tribes shall operate to remove all restrictions upon the alienation of said allottee's land: Provided, 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,"

was to prescribe rules reflecting future alienation by heirs -- as well where they had become such before the Act as where they might become such thereafter. P. 295 U. S. 412.

4. The proviso above quoted from § 9 of the Act of May 27, 1908, should be read in connection with the statutes whereby Congress authorized and recognized guardianships of estates of full-blood heirs who were minors or were mentally incompetent, and, so read, although couched in general terms, it does not require that a conveyance made by the guardian of a minor or incompetent heir pursuant to a sale directed and approved by the court having control of the guardianship shall also be approved by another court, of the same rank, having jurisdiction over the estate of the ancestor. Pp. 295 U. S. 412, 295 U. S. 414.

5. When Congress subjected Indian minors and incompetents of the Five Tribes and their estates to the guardianship laws of Oklahoma, it did not thereby incorporate those laws into the federal restrictions; it merely gave its assent to their application to such

Page 295 U. S. 404

Indians, and the laws remained state laws, as before, and as such were to be applied to these Indians. Apart from limitations expressly imposed by Congress, the state laws have the same application to Indian guardianships that they have when the wards are minors or incompetents of other races. P. 295 U. S. 415.

6. Whether the proceedings in such Indian guardianships conform to the state statutes is a question of state, not federal, law. And, in the absence of congressional provision to the contrary, the time and mode of seeking the correction of errors believed to have been committed by the state courts in such proceedings, as also the effect of inaction in that regard, are all controlled by the state laws, as in the instance of other guardianship proceedings. P. 295 U. S. 416.

7. As applied to a suit by a full-blood Creek Indian to recover an inherited allotment which, while he was of age but mentally incompetent, was sold and conveyed by his guardian with the approval of the Oklahoma County Court, but whose right of action became barred by the state statute of limitations, § 2 of the Act of Congress of April 12, 1926, purporting to lift the bar in such cases for a period of two years following the approval of that Act is unconstitutional. P. 295 U. S. 416.

8. As respects suits to recover real or personal property where the right of action has been barred by a statute of limitations and a later Act has attempted to repeal or remove the bar after it became complete, the rule sustained by reason and preponderant authority is that the removing Act cannot be given effect consistently with constitutional provisions forbidding a deprivation of property without due process of law. P. 295 U. S. 417.

167 Okla. 531, 30 P.2d 875, affirmed.

Appeal from a judgment affirming a judgment for the defendants in a suit brought by Stewart, a full-blood Creek Indian, to recover an interest in land.

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