The Cherokee Trust Funds,
117 U.S. 288 (1886)

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U.S. Supreme Court

The Cherokee Trust Funds, 117 U.S. 288 (1886)

The Cherokee Trust Funds

Argued January 4-6, 1886

Decided March 1, 1886

117 U.S. 288


By treaties with the Cherokees, the United States have recognized them as a distinct political community, so far independent as to justify and require negotiations with them in that character.

The Cherokees in North Carolina dissolved their connection with the Cherokee Nation when they refused to accompany the body of it on its removal, and have had no separate political organization since; though fostered and encouraged, they have not been recognized by the United States as a nation,

Page 117 U. S. 289

in whole or in part, and, as now organized, are not the successor of any organization recognized by any treaty or law of the United States.

The claim of the Cherokees of North Carolina to a share of the commuted annuity fund of $214,000, and of the fund created by sales of lands west of the Mississippi ceded to the Cherokee Nation, has no substantial foundation, those funds and that property being dedicated by the Constitution of the Cherokees, and intended by their treaties with the United States for the benefit of the united nation, and not in any respect for those who had separated from it and become aliens to their nation.

This action was commenced by appellants in the Court of Claims under the jurisdiction conferred upon that court by the following provision in the Act of March 3, 1883, c. 141, 22 Stat. 582, 585:

"That the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is hereby authorized to institute a suit in the Court of Claims against the United States to determine the rights of the said band in and to the moneys, stock, and bonds held by the United States in trust for the Cherokee Indians arising out of the sales of lands lying west of the Mississippi River, and also in a certain other fund, commonly called the permanent annuity fund, to which suit the Cherokee Nation, commonly called the Cherokee Nation West, shall be made a party defendant. The said Eastern Band shall within three months after the passage of this act file a petition in said court, verified by the principal chief of said band, setting forth the facts upon which said claim is based. The said Cherokee Nation West shall, within six months after the passage of this act, file its answer to said petition, and said cause shall proceed to final determination pursuant to the practice in said court and such rules or orders as the said court may make in that behalf."

"The Secretary of the Interior shall transmit to said court for the consideration of said court copies duly certified of all records, reports, papers, and other documents on file in the Department of the Interior which he may deem necessary to said cause, or which may be requested by either of the parties hereinbefore referred to, and the said parties respectively may take and submit to said court such additional competent testimony as they may desire. And jurisdiction is hereby conferred upon said court to hear and determine what if any interest, legal or equitable, the said Eastern Band has in said

Page 117 U. S. 290

moneys, stocks, bonds, so held in trust as aforesaid by the United States, and shall enter a decree specifically defining the rights and interests of the said Eastern Band therein, and in any moneys hereafter to be derived from sources similar to those out of which the existing fund arose."

"When the interest, if any, of the said Eastern Band has been ascertained as aforesaid, the Secretary of the Treasury shall, out of the portion of said fund adjudged to said parties, respectively, pay all the proper costs and expenses of said respective parties of the proceedings herein provided for, each party, except the United States, to be liable for its own costs and expenses, and the remainder shall be placed to credit of the said Eastern Band and of the Cherokee Nation, in accordance with their respective rights as ascertained by the said judgment and decree of said court."

"In the said proceeding, the Attorney General, or such of his assistants as he may designate, shall appear on behalf of the United States. Either of the parties to said cause may appeal from any judgment rendered by said Court of Claims to the Supreme Court of t he United States, and the said courts shall give such cause precedence."

The facts which make the case are stated in the opinion of the Court.

Judgment was rendered against the claim of the Eastern Band to share in the funds named in the act, 20 Ct.Cl. 449, and this appeal was taken.

Page 117 U. S. 293

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