Solicitor General Hoyt and Mr. Henry C. Lewis for plaintiff in error.
Messrs. Charles Barber and J. C. Thompson for defendant in error.
Mr. Justice McKenna delivered the opinion of the court:
Action by the United States against the Paine Lumber Company for the recovery of the value of a quantity of timber and logs, to wit: 7,500 feet of basswood, 6,500 feet of elm, 51,020 feet of pine logs, alleged to have been cut and removed from certain lands in the eastern district of Wisconsin.
The answer contained denials of the complaint, and set up that defendant company purchased the basswood and elm logs of one Thomas Gardner, and the pine logs of one Daniel [206 U.S. 467, 468] Davids, in the fore part of 1899, the logs being at the time in the county of Shawano in Wisconsin, and being in possession of Gardner and Davids respectively, who claimed and represented themselves to be the sole and absolute owners thereof, and that defendant, in the regular course of its business, sold and disposed of them.
Defendant also pleaded payment of the sum of $271.37 in full satisfaction and accord.
The action was tried by the court, who found the following facts:
From these findings the conclusion of law was deduced:
The court expressed the reasons for its judgment in an opinion of such circumstantial care and consideration that makes unnecessary an elaborate discussion by us. 154 Fed. 263. It stated the primary issue to be 'whether the Indian allottees under the Stockbridge and Munsee treaty of 1856 (11 Stat. at L. 663) and the act of Congress of 1871 (16 Stat. at L. 404, chap. 38) were vested with sufficient title in their allotments to authorize the cutting of timber for sale, and not by way of improvements, without the approval of the Department of the Interior.' And stating the purpose of the treaty and its provisions, the court said: [206 U.S. 467, 471] 'The Stockbridge and Munsee treaty of 1856 was entered into to provide for relocation of the remnant of the tribe in Wisconsin, as they were unwilling to remove to a reservation in Minnesota theretofore provided. It recites valuable retrocessions and releases to the United States and reserves a tract 'near the south boundary of the Menominee reservation' of sufficient extent to furnish individual allotments. The terms of the grant were substantially these: After survey into the usual subdivisions the council of the tribes, under the direction of the superintendent, shall 'make a fair and just allotment among the individuals and families of their tribes,' in 80-acre tracts to heads of families and other classes named, and 40 acres to others. The allottees 'may take immediate possession thereof, and the United States will henceforth and until the issuing of 'patents' hold the same in trust for such persons;' certificates are to be issued 'securing to the holders their possession and an ultimate title to the land;' but 'such certificates shall not be assignable, and shall contain a clause expressly prohibiting the sale or transfer by the holder' of such land. After ten years, upon application of the holder and consent of the council, 'and when it shall appear prudent and for his or her welfare, the President of the United States may direct that such restriction on the power of sale shall be withdrawn and a patent issued in the usual form.' In the event of the death of an allottee without heirs, before patent, the allotment was not to revert to the United States but to the tribe for disposition by the council. It is further declared (art. 11): 'The object of this instrument being to advance the welfare and improvement of said Indians, it is agreed, if it prove insufficient, from causes that cannot now be foreseen, to effect these ends, then the President of the United States may, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, adopt such policy in the management of their affairs as in his judgment may be most beneficial to them; or Congress may, hereafter, make such provisions of law as experience shall prove necessary.' [206 U.S. 467, 472] And another act should be mentioned, as it has induced a concession by the plaintiff of the right of Gardner to cut the timber upon his allotment. It is provided by the act of March 3, 1893 (27 Stat. at L. 744, chap. 219), that all members of the tribe 'who entered into possession of lands under the allotments of eighteen hundred and fifty-six and of eighteen hundred and seventy-one, and who by themselves or by their lawful heirs have resided on said lands continuously since, are hereby declared to be owners of such lands in fee simple, in severalty, and the government shall issue patents to them therefor.'
It is contended that Davids is not within the act of 1893, and 'that his title is only such as can be read out of the treaty of 1856 and the act of 1871.' Granting this to be so, it hardly needs to be said that the allotments were intended to be of some use and benefit to the Indians. And it will be observed that on that use there is no restraint whatever. A restraint, however, is deduced from the provision against alienation, the supervision to which, it is asserted, the Indians are subject, and the character of their title. It is contended that the right of the Indians is that of occupation only, and that the measure of power over the timber on their allotments is expressed in United States v. Cook, 19 Wall. 592, 22 L. ed. 211. We do not regard that case as controlling. The ultimate conclusion of the court was determined by the limited right which the Indians had in the lands from which the timber there in controversy was cut.
Certain parties of the Oneida Indians ceded to the United States all the lands set apart to them, except a tract containing 100 acres for each individual, or in all about 65,000 acres, which they reserved to themselves, to be held as other Indian lands are held. Some of the lands were held in severalty by individuals of the tribe with the consent of the tribe, but the timber sued for was cut by a small number of the tribe from a part of the reservation not occupied in severalty. It was held, citing Johnson v. M'Intosh, 8 Wheat. 574, 5 L. ed. 688, that the right of the Indians in the land from which the logs were taken was that of occupancy only. Necessarily the [206 U.S. 467, 473] timber, when cut, 'became the property of the United States absolutely, discharged of any rights of the Indians therein.' It was hence concluded 'the cutting was waste, and, in accordance with well-settled principles, the owner of the fee may seize the timber cut, arrest it by replevin, or proceed in trover for its conversion.' If such were the title in the case at bar, such would be the conclusions. But such is not the title. We need not, however, exactly define it. It is certainly more than a right of mere occupation. The restraint upon alienation must not be exaggerated. It does not of itself debase the right below a fee simple. Libby v. Clark, 118 U.S. 250 , 30 L. ed. 133, 6 Sup. Ct. Rep. 1045. The title is held by the United States, it is true, but it is held 'in trust for individuals and their heirs to whom the same were allotted.' The considerations, therefore, which determined the decision in United States v. Cook, do not exist. The land is not the land of the United States, and the timber when cut did not become of the property f the United States. And we cannot extend the restraint upon the alienation of the land to a restraint upon the sale of the timber consistently with a proper and beneficial use of the land by the Indians,-a use which can in no way affect any interest of the United States. It was recognized in United States v. Cook that 'in theory, at least,' that land might be 'better and more valuable with the timber off than with it on.' Indeed, it may be said that arable land is of no use until the timber is off, and it was of arable land that the treaty contemplated the allotments would be made. We encounter difficulties culties and baffling inquiries when we concede a cutting for clearing the land for cultivation, and deny it for other purposes. At what time shall we date the preparation for cultivation and make the right to sell the timber depend? Must the axe immediately precede the plow and do no more than keep out of its way? And if that close relation be not always maintained, may the purpose of an allottee be questioned and referred to some advantage other than the cultivation of the land, and his title or that of his vendee to the timber be denied? Nor does the argument [206 U.S. 467, 474] which makes the occupation of the land a test of the title to the timber seem to us more adequate to justify the qualification of the Indians' rights.
It is based upon the necessity of superintending the weakness of the Indians and protecting them from imposition. The argument proves too much. If the provision against alienation of the land be extended to timber cut for purposes other than the cultivation of the land it would extend to timber cut for the purpose of cultivation. What is there in the former purpose to protect from imposition that there is not in the other? Shall we say such evil was contemplated and considered as counterbalanced by benefit? And what was the benefit? The allotments, as we have said, were to be of arable lands useless, may be, certainly improved by being clear of their timber, and yet, it is insisted that this improvement may not be made, though it have the additional inducement of providing means for the support of the Indians and their families. We are unable to assent to this view.
Mr. Justice Moody took no part in the decision of this case.