Marks v. United States,
161 U.S. 297 (1896)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Marks v. United States, 161 U.S. 297 (1896)

Marks v. United States

No. 352

Argued November 12, 1895

Decided March 2, 1896

161 U.S. 297


When a petition filed in the Court of Claims alleges that a depredation was committed by an Indian or Indians belonging to a tribe in amity with the United States, it becomes the duty of that court to inquire as to the truth of that allegation, and its truth is not determined by the mere existence of a treaty between the United States and the tribe or by the fact that such treaty has never been formally abrogated by a declaration of war on the part of either, but the inquiry is whether, as a matter of fact, the tribe was at the time, as a tribe, in a state of actual peace with the United States, and if it appears that the depredation was committed by a single individual or a few individuals without the consent and against the knowledge of the tribe, the court may proceed to investigate the amount of the loss and render judgment therefor; but if, on the other hand, the tribe, as a tribe, was engaged in actual hostilities with the United States, the judgment of the Court of Claims must be that the allegation of the

Page 161 U. S. 298

petition is not sustained and that the claim is not one within its province to adjudicate.

Johnson v. United States, 160 U. S. 546, affirmed to the point that, by clause 2 of section 1 of the Act of March 3, 1891, c. 538, 26 Stat. 851, the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims was limited to claims which, on March 3, 1885, had either been examined and allowed by the Department of the Interior, or were then pending therein for examination.

On July 8, 1891, appellants, as claimants, filed their petition in the Court of Claims, under the Act of March 3, 1891, c. 538, 26 Stat. 851, to recover the sum of $11,800, the value of certain personal property charged to have been taken and destroyed by the Bannock and Piute Indians during the month of June, 1878, in Happy Valley, in the State of Oregon. Subsequently they filed an amended petition. In that, it was alleged that the Bannock and the Piute Indians were "in amity with the United States" at the time of the taking and destruction of the property; that they were

"chargeable for said depredation, and under an obligation to pay for the same, by reason of the provisions of the treaty of July 3, 1868, between the United States and the Shoshone (Eastern band) and the Bannock tribes of Indians,"

and further that petitioners

"presented their said claim to the Hon. Commissioner of Indian Affairs, No. 4,915, July 27, 1888, for payment, but the same has not been returned or paid for."

A traverse having been filed by the government, the case was submitted to the court, which on February 27, 1893, made a finding of facts, and thereon entered judgment dismissing the petition. 28 Ct.Cl. Rep. 147. The seventh finding of fact was as follows:

"From these facts, the court finds the ultimate fact -- so far as it is a question of fact -- that the tribes or hands of Piute and Bannock Indians were not in amity with the United States at the time the depredations complained of were committed."

From the judgment thus entered in favor of the defendants, the claimants duly appealed to this Court.

Page 161 U. S. 299

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