United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians

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United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued March 24, 1980
Decided June 30, 1980
Full case name United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians, et al.
Citations 448 U.S. 371 (more)
100 S. Ct. 2716; 65 L. Ed. 2d 844; 1980 U.S. LEXIS 147
Prior history Sioux Nation of Indians, et al. v. United States, 601 F.2d 1157 (Ct. Cl. 1979).
Holding
Held that: 1) The enactment by Congress of a law allowing the Sioux Nation to pursue a claim against the United States that had been previously adjudicated did not violate the doctrine of separation of powers, and 2) the taking of property that was set aside for the use of the tribe required just compensation, including interest.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Blackmun, joined by Burger, Brennan, Stewart, Marshall, Powell, Stevens; White (parts III, V only)
Concurrence White
Dissent Rehnquist
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. V; 15 Stat. 635

United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians, 448 U.S. 371 (1980), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that: 1) the enactment by Congress of a law allowing the Sioux Nation to pursue a claim against the United States that had been previously adjudicated did not violate the doctrine of separation of powers; and 2) the taking of property that was set aside for the use of the tribe required just compensation, including interest.

Facts of the case[edit]

The Fort Laramie Treaty of April 29, 1868, pledged that the Great Sioux Reservation, including the Black Hills, would be "set apart for the absolute and undisturbed use and occupation of the Indians."[1] By the terms of the treaty, cession of any part of the reservation required a new treaty executed and signed by at least three fourths of all the adult male Indians occupying the land.[2] The Fort Laramie Treaty ended the Powder River War of 1866-1867, a series of military engagements in which the Sioux tribes, led by chief Red Cloud, fought to protect the integrity of earlier-recognized treaty lands from the incursion of white settlers.[3]

The 1868 treaty brought peace for a few years, but in 1874 an exploratory expedition under General George A. Custer entered the Black Hills to investigate rumors of gold. "Custer's florid descriptions of the mineral and timber resources of the Black Hills, and the land's suitability for grazing and cultivation... received wide circulation, and had the effect of creating an intense popular demand for the 'opening' of the Hills for settlement."[4] Initially the U.S. military tried to turn away trespassing miners and settlers. Eventually however President Grant, the Secretary of the Interior, and the Secretary of War, "decided that the military should make no further resistance to the occupation of the Black Hills by miners."[5] These orders were to be enforced "quietly," and the President's decision was to remain "confidential."[5]

As more and more settlers and gold miners invaded the Black Hills the Government concluded that the only practical course was to take the land from the Sioux, and appointed a commission to negotiate the purchase.[6] The negotiations failed, and so the US resorted to military force. They used as a pretext to declare the Sioux Indians "hostile," their failure to obey an order to return from an off-reservation hunting expedition in the dead of winter when travel was impossible.[7] The consequent military expedition to remove the Sioux from the Black Hills included an attack on their village on the Little Bighorn River led by General Custer. The attack culminated in the victory of Chiefs Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse over the 7th Cavalry Regiment now known as Custer's Last Stand.[8][9]

That victory was short-lived. Those Indians who survived subsequent battles to surrender to the Army were interned on a reservation, and deprived of their weapons and horses, "leaving them completely dependent for survival on rations provided them by the Government."[10] In August 1876, Congress enacted a bill cutting off appropriations "made for the subsistence" of the Sioux, unless they ceded the Black Hills to the United States. A commission headed by George Manypenny presented the Sioux with a new treaty and they signed, under threat of starvation.[11] But only a few leaders signed, not the 3/4 majority of all Indian males on the reservation as required under the Fort Laramie Treaty.[12]

20th century litigation of the Sioux claim for the Black Hills[edit]

The Sioux never accepted the legitimacy of the forced deprivation of their Black Hills reservation.[13] In 1920 lobbyists for the Sioux persuaded Congress to authorize a lawsuit against the United States in U S Claims Court. The Sioux filed a petition in 1923, but the Claims Court dismissed the case in 1942, holding that the Court could not second guess whether their compensation under the 1877 Manypenny treaty was adequate.[14] The Sioux (and many other tribes) continued lobbying Congress for a forum for their claims, and in 1946 Congress created an independent federal agency, the Indian Claims Commission, to "hear and determine all tribal grievances" including the Sioux claim.[15]

The Sioux lost their first hearing before the Indian Claims Commission "due to the failings of their former counsel," but on appeal to the U S Claims Court, the Court directed the Commission to take new evidence, which it did in 1958.[15] Then ensued what the Supreme Court called "a lengthy period of procedural sparring" —1958 until 1972—when finally the Commission ruled in favor of the Sioux, awarding damages for the deprivation of the land, but not interest.[15] On appeal the Government did not contest the Commission's holding that it had "acquired the Black Hills through a course of unfair and dishonorable dealing for which the Sioux were entitled to damages."[16] In effect the Government was disputing only whether the Sioux could collect 100 years' worth of interest. The Claims Court ruled that its previous 1942 dismissal of the Sioux Fifth Amendment taking case was "res judicata" (a thing already decided), "whether rightly or wrongly," thus denying the opportunity to seek 100 years' worth of interest.[17]

The case returned to the Indian Claims Commission to determine minor leftover issues about the value of rights-of-way and government offsets. In the meantime, in 1978 Sioux lobbyists persuaded Congress to pass yet another law conferring authority on the Claims Court to hear the Sioux case, this time without regard to res judicata. That meant the Sioux could re-litigate the claim as a Fifth Amendment taking, to collect 100 years' worth of interest.[15] Finally, under its new authorizing statute, the Claims Court held the Sioux had suffered a taking cognizable under the Fifth Amendment, and were entitled to the value of the land as of the 1877 taking which was $17.1 million, the value of gold prospectors illegally took out of the land computed at $450,000, and 100 years' worth of interest at 5% per year which would be an additional $88 million.[18]

This holding the Government appealed, and the U.S. Supreme Court granted its petition for certiorari.

Supreme Court decision[edit]

Justice Blackmun delivered the Court's opinion in which six other justices joined. Justice White concurred in part, and Justice Rehnquist dissented.[19]

The first and the main issue in the case, was whether Congress transgressed against the separation of powers by directing the Claims Court to reconsider the Sioux claim, this time without regard to res judicata.[20] The Supreme Court concluded Congress could indeed waive res judicata and resurrect an adjudicated claim against the government, under its constitutionally conferred power to "pay the nation's debts," including "moral debts."[21]

The second issue was whether the Sioux had already received just compensation for their land, and the Court affirmed the Claims Court's decision that they never had.[22] The Court recognized a tension between Congress's duty to serve as a benevolent trustee for Indians, and the power to take their land.[23] "Congress can own two hats, but it cannot wear them both at the same time," said the opinion.[24] While reaffirming earlier decisions that Congress has "paramount authority over the property of the Indians," the Court concluded that Congress acts properly only if it "makes a good faith effort to give the Indians the full value of the land," which here it had failed to do.[25] In conclusion the Supreme Court ordered "just compensation to the Sioux Nation, and that obligation, including an award of interest, must now, at last, be paid."[26]

Dissent[edit]

Associate Justice William Rehnquist was the lone dissenter in this case. Rehnquist felt Congress overstepped the bounds of separation of powers by intruding upon the finality of a judicial decision when it "reviewed a prior decision of an Art. III court,[27] eviscerated the finality of that judgment, and ordered a new trial in a pending case."[28] Rehnquist also disagreed that the initial Court of Claims decision in 1942 was wrong. He endorsed the view that the Sioux already had been adequately compensated for their land.[29] Rehnquist's dissent suggests that it is "quite unfair to judge by the light of "revisionist" historians or the mores of another era actions that were taken under pressure of time more than a century ago."[30]

Sioux refusal to accept the money awarded[edit]

The Sioux have declined to accept the money,[31] because acceptance would legally terminate Sioux demands for return of the Black Hills. The money remains in a Bureau of Indian Affairs account accruing compound interest. As of 2001 the amount is reported to exceed $570 million. As of 24 August 2011 the Sioux interest on their money has compounded to over 1 billion dollars.[32]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians, 448 U.S. 371, 376 (1980)("US v Sioux Nation").
  2. ^ US v Sioux Nation 448 US 371 at 376-77.
  3. ^ US v Sioux Nation, 448 U.S. 371, 374.
  4. ^ "US v Sioux Nation"448 US 371 at 377.
  5. ^ a b "US v Sioux Nation" 448 US 371 at 378.
  6. ^ "US v Sioux Nation" 448 US 371 at 379.
  7. ^ "US v Sioux Nation" 448 US 371 at 379-380.
  8. ^ '"US v Sioux Nation" 448 US 371 at 379.
  9. ^ See generally Philbrick, Nathaniel (2010). The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Viking. ISBN 978-0-670-02172-7. 
  10. ^ "US v Sioux Nation" 448 US 371 at 379.
  11. ^ '"US v Sioux Nation" 448 US 371 at 381.
  12. ^ '"US v Sioux Nation" 448 US 371 at 382.
  13. ^ "US v Sioux Nation" 448 US 371 at 384.
  14. ^ '"US v Sioux Nation" 448 US 371 at 384.
  15. ^ a b c d "US v Sioux Nation" 448 US 371 at 385.
  16. ^ "US v Sioux Nation" 448 US 371 at 387.
  17. ^ "US v Sioux Nation" 448 US 371 at 388.
  18. ^ "US v Sioux Nation" 448 US 371 at 390 footnote 16.
  19. ^ U.S. v. Sioux Nation, 448 U.S. at 373.
  20. ^ U.S. v. Sioux Nation, 448 U.S. at 473.
  21. ^ U.S. v. Sioux Nation, 448 U.S. at 397 & 407
  22. ^ U.S. v. Sioux Nation, 448 U.S. at 420-21.
  23. ^ U.S. v. Sioux Nation, 448 U.S. at 408-09.
  24. ^ U.S. v. Sioux Nation, 448 U.S. at 408.
  25. ^ U.S. v. Sioux Nation, 448 U.S. at 409.
  26. ^ U.S. v. Sioux Nation, 448 U.S. at 423.
  27. ^ A federal court established under Article III of the U.S. Constitution. The Claims Court was not an Article III court at the time it decided the Sioux case in 1942, but became one in 1953 before the 1970s decisions.
  28. ^ '"US v Sioux Nation" 448 US 371 at 434.
  29. ^ '"US v Sioux Nation" 448 US 371 at 434-35.
  30. ^ "US v Sioux Nation" 448 US 371 at 435.
  31. ^ Frederic Frommer (Aug 19, 2001). "Black Hills Are Beyond Price to Sioux" (Suggested Reading Black Elk Speaks and Articles Below). Los Angeles Times. Bellevue Community College. Retrieved 2013-12-28. 
  32. ^ Pratt, Timothy (February 9, 2011). "Saying No to $1 Billion - Maria Streshinsky". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2013-12-28. 

"UNITED STATES v. SIOUX NATION OF INDIANS, 448 U.S. 371 (1980)". FindLaw. Retrieved 2008-06-13.