Pam-to-pee v. United States
Annotate this Case
187 U.S. 371 (1902)
U.S. Supreme Court
Pam-to-pee v. United States, 187 U.S. 371 (1902)
Pam-to-pee v. United States
Argued October 22-23, 1902
Decided December 22, 1902
187 U.S. 371
Where Congress has passed an act giving the Court of Claims jurisdiction over the claims of certain Indians against the United States, and in an action brought under such act a fund leas been created and the mode of distribution has been prescribed by the court which established the amount of the fund, and such method has been approved by this Court, its disposition in accordance with the course prescribed by the courts must be held a finality. Where the circumstances are as in the case at bar, any further relief must be obtained from Congress, and cannot be given by the courts.
The jurisdiction of the Court of Claims, as of other courts, extends beyond the mere entry of a judgment to an inquiry whether the judgment has been properly executed.
On March 19, 1890, Congress passed an act, 26 Stat. 24, giving to the Court of Claims jurisdiction to try all questions arising out of treaty stipulations between the United States and the Pottawatomie Indians of Michigan and Indiana, unembarrassed by reason of any estoppel supposed to arise from the joint resolution of Congress approved April 18, 1866, or a receipt in full given by certain Pottawatomie Indians under the provisions of that resolution. Under the authority of this act, two petitions were filed in the Court of Claims, one on April 14, 1890, in behalf of "the Pottawatomie Indians of Michigan and Indiana," no individuals being named, by John Critcher, their attorney, his authority being, as stated, an "agreement between said Critcher and the business committee of said Indians, dated September 29, 1887," the other on November 5, 1890, by Phineas Pam-to-pee and 1,371 other Pottawatomie Indians of Michigan and Indiana, by John B. Shipman, their attorney. On January 8, 1891, these two cases were consolidated, and on June 27, 1892, 27 Ct.Cl. 493, a judgment was rendered against the United States for $104,626. The claimants in each of the cases so consolidated
appealed to this Court, which on April 17, 1893, affirmed the judgment. 148 U. S. 148 U.S. 691. On April 20, 1893, the mandate was filed in the Court of Claims.
While the judgment determined the amount due from the United States, it did not determine to how many or which of the various individual plaintiffs, or in what proportion, the amount thus adjudged to be due from the United States should be paid. The Court of Claims, in its opinion, said (p. 414):
"Congress have recognized, by the very title of the act, a claimant designated as the 'Pottawatomie Indians of Michigan and Indiana,' and under that generic head is to be determined the aggregate right of such claimant, leaving the question of distribution to that department of the government which by law has incumbent on it the administration of the trust which in legal contemplation exists between the United States and the different tribes of Indians."
By this Court it was stated (p. 148 U. S. 703):
"How the moneys so awarded should be distributed among the several claimants it is not easy for us to say. The findings of the court below, and the contradictory statements of the several briefs filed by the appellants, have left this part of this subject in a very confused condition."
And, after quoting the language of the court below, we further said:
"On the other hand, it is contended, with great show of reason, by the petitioners who are represented in case No. 1, 125 (16,842 in the court below), that the question of what Indians are entitled to participate in the fund is one of law, to be settled by the court, and should not be left to clerical functionaries. Our difficulty in disposing of this part of the subject is that we have neither findings nor concessions that enable us to deal with it intelligently."
"It is to be observed that the court below found as a fact (see finding 10) that the average proportion between the Indians who removed west and those who remained was as 2,812 of the former to 291 of the latter, and the court used that relative proportion of numbers as a factor in computing the amount due the petitioners. "
"The petitioners, however, number 1,371 in case No. 1,125, but the number represented in No. 1,133 (16,473 in the court below) is not precisely stated. It is alleged in the brief filed in behalf of petitioners in case No. 1,125 that only 91 Indians are actually represented in case No. 1,133, and that the other 200 Indians are among those represented in case 1,125."
"But these facts are not found for us in any authoritative form. Nor, indeed, would it seem that the court below was furnished with information sufficient to enable it to define what Indians or what number of Indians entitled to distribution are represented by the respective attorneys or agents."
"Unable as we are to safely adjudicate this question as between these classes of claimants, we can do no better than acquiesce in the suggestion of the court below that it is one to be dealt with by the authorities of the government when they come to distribute the fund."
"As these petitioners no longer have any tribal organization, and as the statutes direct a division of the annuities and other sums payable, by the head, and as such has been the practice of the government, perhaps the necessities of the situation demand that the identification of each claimant entitled to share in the distribution shall be left to the officers who are the agents of the government in paying out the fund. United States v. Old Settlers, 148 U. S. 427."
On August 23, 1894, Congress passed an act, 28 Stat. 424, 450, appropriating money for the payment of judgments of the Court of Claims, including therein the amount of this judgment in favor of the Pottawatomie Indians. On March 2, 1895, it passed a further act, 28 Stat. 894, directing the Secretary of the Interior to detail or employ an Indian inspector to take a census and prepare a roll of the Pottawatomie Indians of Michigan and Indiana who were entitled to share in such judgment, and appropriated the sum of $1,000 therefor. After an inspector had been appointed under this act, and while he was engaged in taking the census, counsel for the present petitioners, who was counsel for petitioners in the second of the original suits, addressed a communication to the Secretary of the Interior of date July 27, 1895, representing that such census,
by reason of the basis upon which it was ordered, would omit many Indians entitled to share in the judgment. Before any further instructions could be given, and in August, 1895, the inspector filed in the Interior Department his report and census. Acting upon the suggestions made in the letter of counsel, a new inspector was, on February 5, 1896, designated to examine and report upon the claims of any parties other than those already upon the census roll, and upon his report, of date March 14, 1896, making some slight additions, payment of the entire amount of the judgment was made, and made per capita, to all the individuals on the revised list. Thereafter, and on April 22, 1899, these petitioners filed their petition in the Court of Claims, alleging in substance that they were entitled to participate in the sum awarded against the United States, and, as they had not received their share of those moneys, they prayed a judgment therefor. Upon a hearing, the Court of Claims decided against them, and on May 20, 1901, entered a judgment, 36 Ct.Cl. 427, dismissing their petition, from which judgment this appeal was taken.
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