[246 U.S. 214, 215] Mr. Assistant Attorney General Warren, and Messrs. Alexander T. Vogelsang, of San Francisco, Cal., and C. Edward Wright, Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellants.
Mr. Webster Ballinger, of Washington, D. C., for appellee.
Mr. Justice McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.
Appellee by bill in Supreme Court, District of Columbia, sought to prevent officers of the Interior Department from disbursing during fiscal year ending June 30, 1916, $160,000 out of trust funds belonging to Chippewa Indians of Minnesota on deposit in United States Treasury.
The annual appropriation bill for current and contingent expenses of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, etc., for fiscal year ending June 30, 1916, failed of passage and in lieu of it Congress passed the Joint Resolution approved March 4, 1915, which follows:
The original bill alleged that no part of the $205,000 appropriated by Act of August 1, 1914, was for expenses of the Bureau of Indian Affairs or for fulfilling treaty stipulations with Chippewa Indians of Minnesota, but all (except the $40,000 item not here involved) was for special payments and limited to fiscal year ending June 30, 1915; that it was not intended as a regular annual appropriation and the Joint Resolution of 1915 in express language excluded such items in Act of 1914 from being re- expended during 1916; that notwithstanding this the Comptroller of the Treasury had ruled the Joint Resolution did reappropriate $160,000, and the Secretary of the Interior and Commissioner of Indian Affairs were preparing to expend such sum out of Indians' trust funds; and that unless enjoined they would draw warrants therefor upon the treasury which would be honored. [246 U.S. 214, 218] Upon motion, the trial court dismissed the bill for want of equity. The Court of Appeals reversed the decree, holding the Joint Resolution did not reappropriate $160,000 and the relief prayed should have been granted. Treating this as final and conclusive of issues involved the cause was brought here by appeal.
The only point presented for decision is whether by the language used Congress has sufficiently indicated an intent to appropriate the money in question. The bill does not challenge its power.
Under an act approved January 14, 1889 (25 Stat. 642, c. 24), lands in Minnesota occupied by Chippewa Indians were disposed of and proceeds deposited to their credit in the United States treasury, it being agreed that the fund should bear 5 per cent. interest to be paid directly to the Indians or used for their schools, and further 'that Congress may, in its discretion, from time to time, during the said period of fifty years, appropriate, for the purpose of promoting civilization and self-support among the said Indians, a portion of said principal sum, not exceeding five per centum thereof.' For many years subsequent to 1889, under the general head of 'Current and contingent expenses of the Indian Department ... and fulfilling treaty stipulations with various Indian tribes,' appropriations were made for general benefit of Chippewas 'to be reimbursed to the United States out of the proceeds of sales of their lands.' In 1911 their funds derived from land sales had become very large; and beginning then and continuing down to 1914 the annual Indian appropriations bill contained an item essentially similar (except as to amounts) both in words and position to the one in section 8, Act of 1914 quoted above.
It seems clear that 'civilization and self-support' among the Indians cannot be promoted effectively by disconnected efforts, but must be accomplished, if at all, by definite, permanent plans operating through many years. [246 U.S. 214, 219] And in view of the long-continued practice of Congress to provide funds for such continuous efforts by annual appropriations, the circumstances under which the Joint Resolution became law, and the studied incorporation therein of the language of former appropriation acts, we think the purpose was to authorize expenditure of $160,000 during 1916, as had been done for 1915. A different construction might have occasioned disruption of well ordered arrangements for advancing the nation's wards, to the great detriment of all concerned; and to such unfortunate consequences experienced legislators probably were not oblivious.
By construing the resolution too narrowly the court below reached an erroneous conclusion. Its decree is therefore reversed; and the decree of the Supreme Court, District of Columbia, is affirmed.
Mr. Justice McKENNA dissents.