Johnson v. Riddle,
240 U.S. 467 (1916)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Johnson v. Riddle, 240 U.S. 467 (1916)

Johnson v. Riddle

No. 161

Argued January 12, 1916

Decided March 20, 1916

240 U.S. 467


Under the provisions relating to town sites in the Atoka Agreement between the United States and the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes (found in Act of June 28, 1898, c. 517; 30 Stat. 495, 505, 508), the preferential right to purchase improved town lots was conferred upon the owner of "permanent, substantial, and valuable improvements, other than fences, tillage, and temporary houses," without regard to the lawfulness or unlawfulness of the previous possession of the land by the owner of the improvements.

Under the provisions of the Atoka Agreement relating to purchase of town lots (30 Stat. 508) and regulations contained in subsequent legislation, authority to appraise lots, improved or unimproved, to ascertain the ownership and value of the improvements, and to dispose of the lots in conformity to the provisions of the Agreement was conferred upon the town site commission, and afterwards upon the United States Indian Inspector, subject to the supervision of the Secretary of the Interior.

In case of contest, the findings of fact by the Commission or the Inspector, affirmed on final appeal by the Secretary of the Interior, are binding upon the courts in the absence of gross mistake or fraud, and the judicial inquiry is limited to determining whether there was clear error of law that resulted in awarding the right of purchase, and ultimately issuing the patent, to the wrong party.

The Atoka Agreement (Act of June 28, 1898, c. 517, 30 Stat. 505, 508), when ratified by Congress and by the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes, superseded all customs, if such there were, that had sanctioned the leasing of town lots to noncitizens of the tribes, and its provisions could not be carried into effect without terminating existing rights of occupancy, if any, saving as these coincided with the ownership of permanent improvements.

A tenant is not estopped to show that his landlord's title has expired or has been terminated by operation of law.

That a tenant holding a town lot in the Chickasaw District of the Choctaw Nation, under lease from a noncitizen having no rights

Page 240 U. S. 468

in the land, had retained possession after refusal to pay rent, thereby preventing the landlord from erecting improvements such as described in the Atoka Agreement, did not estop the tenant, who had erected substantial and permanent improvements thereon, from acquiring the lot in his own right under the provisions of the Agreement.

41 Okl. 75 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the title to a town lot in the town of Chickasha in the Chickasaw District of the Choctaw Nation, and the construction and application of the town site provisions of the Atoka Agreement, the Curtis Act and other statutes affecting the property of the Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes, are stated in the opinion.

Page 240 U. S. 469

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