ASH SHEEP CO. v. U.S.(1920)
Messrs. Cornelius B. Nolan and William Scallon, both of Helena, Mont., for appellant and plaintiff in error.
Mr. Justice CLARKE delivered the opinion of the Court.
These two cases were argued and will be decided together.
is an appeal from a decree, entered in a suit in equity, in favor of the government granting a permanent injunction restraining the appellant from trespassing upon described lands in Montana by grazing sheep thereon and for nominal damages for such trespass.
No. 285 is a proceeding in error, in which reversal is sought of a judgment rendered in an action at law against plaintiff in error, appellant in the equity suit, for a penalty for the same trespass.
The validity of the right asserted by the government, in both cases, turns upon whether the lands involved were 'Indian lands' or 'public lands.' If they were the former, the decree in the equity case should be affirmed, but in the law case there would remain the question as to whether 'sheep' were within the terms of the act under which the penalty was imposed.
In both cases the government contends that the appellant violated section 2117 of the Revised Statutes of the United States (Comp. St. 4107), which reads as follows:
The company admits that it pastured 5,000 sheep on the described lands without the consent of the Crow Tribe of Indians or of the United States, but denies that they were 'Indian lands' and contends that they were 'public lands,' upon which it was lawful for it to pasture its stock.
Whether the described lands were Indian or public lands depends upon the construction to be given the act of Congress, approved April 27, 1904 ( 33 Stat. 352, c. 1624), entitled [252 U.S. 159, 164] 'An act to ratify and amend an agreement with the Indians of the Crow Reservation in Montana, and making appropriations to carry the same into effect.'
The agreement embodied in this act of Congress provided for a division of the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana on boundary lines which were described, and the lands involved in this case were within the part of the reservation as to which the Indians, in terms, 'ceded, granted and relinquished' to the United States all of their 'right, title and interest.'
The argument of the Sheep Company is that the United States being owner of the fee of the land before the agreement, the effect of this grant and release of their possessory right by the Indians was to vest the complete and perfect title in the government, and thereby make the territory a part of the public lands with the interest of the Indians transferred to the proceeds to be derived from them. For this conclusion the following cases are cited: United States v. Choctaw Nation and Chickasaw Nation, 179 U.S. 494 , 21 Sup. Ct. 149; Bean v. Morris, 159 Fed. 651, 86 C. C. A. 519; Id., 221 U.S. 485 , 31 Sup. Ct. 703. But in the first of these cases the Indians parted with their possessory rights for a cash payment by the United States ( 179 U.S. 527 , 21 Sup. Ct. 149), and in the second the character of the agreement under which the Indian title was said, incidentally, to have terminated, does not appear.
Whether or not the government became trustee for the Indians or acquired an unrestricted title by the cession of their lands, depends in each case upon the terms of the agreement or treaty by which the cession was made. Minnesota v. Hitchcock, 185 U.S. 373, 394 , 398 S., 22 Sup. Ct. 650; United States v. Mille Lac Band of Chippewa Indians, 229 U.S. 498, 509 , 33 S. Sup. Ct. 811
The agreement we have in this case is elaborate and, in consideration of the grant by the Indians of their possessory right, the government assumed many obligations with respect to the lands and the proceeds of them-notably, [252 U.S. 159, 165] that it would sell the land to settlers, except sections 16 and 36, for not less than $4 per acre and would pay the proceeds to the Indians, under the direction of the Secretary of the Interior, in a manner prescribed. Thus, the government contracted to expend $90,000 of the proceeds of the land in the extension of the irrigation system on the reservation remaining, $295,000 in the purchase of stock to be placed on the reservation, with a further contingent purchase in contemplation of $200, 000, $40,000 in fencing, $100,000 for schools, and $10,000 for a hospital for the Indians, for the maintenance of which $50,000 additional was to be held in trust. It was further provided that, to the extent that feasible irrigation prospects could be found, parts of the released lands should be withdrawn under the Reclamation Act and be disposed of within five years, but not for less than $4 an acre. $There were many other like provisions, all intended to secure to the Indians the fullest possible value for what are referred to in the agreement as 'their lands' and to make use of the proceeds for their benefit.
It was provided that semiannual reports should be made by the Secretary of the Interior to the Indians, showing the amounts expended from time to time and the amounts remaining in each of the several funds.
It is obvious that the relation thus established by the act between the government and the tribe of Indians was essentially that of trustee and beneficiary and that the agreement contained many features appropriate to a trust agreement to sell lands and devote the proceeds to the interests of the cestui que trust. Minnesota v. Hitchcock, 185 U.S. 373, 394 , 398 S., 22 Sup. Ct. 650. And that this was precisely the light in which the Congress regarded the whole transaction, is clear from the terms of the concluding section, the eighth:
Taking all of the provisions of the agreement together, we cannot doubt that, while the Indians by the agreement released their possessory right to the government, the owner of the fee, so that, as their trustee, it could make perfect title to purchasers, nevertheless, until sales should be made, any benefits which might be derived from the use of the lands would belong to the beneficiaries and not to the trustee, and that they did not become 'public lands' in the sense of being subject to sale, or other disposition, under the General Land Laws. Union Pacific R. R. Co. v. Harris, 215 U.S. 386, 388 , 30 S. Sup. Ct. 138. They were subject to sale by the government, to be sure, but in the manner and for the purposes provided for in the special agreement with the Indians, which was embodied in Act April 27, 1904 (33 Stat. 352), and as to this point the case is ruled by the Hitchcock and Chippewa Cases, supra. Thus we conclude that the lands described in the bill were 'Indian lands' when the company pastured its sheep upon them, in violation of section 2117 of Revised Statutes, and the decree in No. 212 must be affirmed.
There remains the question as to the construction of R. S. 2117.
In the law case it is admitted in the bill of exceptions that the Sheep Company, without the permission of the Crow Tribe of Indians or of the United States, drove, ranged, and grazed 5,000 head of sheep on the land described in the complaint, and that at the time no settlement [252 U.S. 159, 167] or entries thereon had been authorized under acts of Congress. The judgment against the company was for $5,000-$1 for each sheep pastured on the land.
The company contends that the judgment should be reversed for the reason that R. S. 2117, imposes the penalty prescribed, only, for ranging and feeding on the lands of an Indian tribe without permission 'any stock of horses, mules, or cattle,' and that 'sheep' are not within its terms.
If this were a recent statute, and if we were giving it a first interpretation, we might hesitate to say that by the use of the word 'cattle' Congress intended to include 'sheep.'
But the statute is an old one, which has been interpreted in published reports of the courts for almost 50 years, and in an opinion by the Attorney General of the United States, rendered in 1884, as fairly comprehending 'sheep' within the meaning of the word 'cattle' as used in it.
The statute first appears as section 2 of an 'Act to regulate trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes, and to preserve peace on the frontiers,' enacted in 1796 and was then applicable only to 'any stock of horses or cattle,' etc. 1 Stat. 469, 470. The section was re-enacted without change in 1802. 2 Stat. 139, 141. In 1834 it was given its present form, which was carried into the Revised Statutes, without change in the wording we are considering. R. S. 2117.
In 1871 suit was brought in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon, claiming that penalties under the section had been incurred by pasturing 'sheep,' as in this case, on Indian lands without the consent of the tribe. In a carefully prepared and clearly reasoned opinion Judge Deady overruled a demurrer to the complaint, and held that 'sheep' were clearly within the mischief to be remedied and fairly within the language of the act. [252 U.S. 159, 168] This case has not been overruled or modified by any later decision. The court quotes definitions of the word 'cattle' from several dictionaries, emphasizing especially, this from the 1837 edition of Webster:
Upon this authority, and applying the rule that in determining the legislative intent the mischief to be prevented should be looked to, and saying that 'it will not be denied that sheep are as much within the mischief to be remedied as horses or oxen,' the court concludes:
Twelve years later, in 1884, the Attorney General of the United States, in an opinion to the Secretary of War, regarded the question as so little doubtful that he disposed of it in this single sentence:
In 1874, in Decatur Bank v. St. Louis Bank, 21 Wall. 294, this court held that the word 'cattle,' in a letter of credit guaranteeing 'drafts on shipments of cattle,' was comprehensive enough to justify the giving of credit on shipments of 'hogs.' This pertinent paragraph is from the opinion:
The most recent definitions of the dictionaries are as follows:
Webster's New International Dictionary defines 'cattle' thus:
The Standard Dictionary defines the word as meaning:
Thus, although the word 'sheep' is not in the section, and although in present day usage the word 'cattle' would rarely be used with a signification sufficiently broad to include them, nevertheless, since the pasturing of sheep is plainly within the mischief at which this section aimed, since the word 'cattle,' which is used, may be given, say all the authorities, a meaning comprehensive enough to include them, and since the courts and the Department of Justice for almost 50 years have interpreted the section as applicable to 'sheep,' we accept this as the intended meaning of the section, for, had it been otherwise, Congress, we must assume, would long since have corrected it. [252 U.S. 159, 170] It is argued that the rule that penal statutes must be strictly construed forbids such latitude of construction. But this is sufficiently and satisfactorily answered by repeated decisions of this court.
It is also contended far from confidently, that the recovery of nominal damages in the equity suit is a bar to the recovery of the penalty in the case at law. While the amount of the statutory penalty for the trespass was prayed for in the equity suit, yet the trial court, saying that equity never aids the collection of such penalties (Marshall v. Vicksburg, 15 Wall. 146, 149), and that no evidence of substantial damage had been introduced, limited the recovery to one dollar and costs. Rejection of a claim because pursued in an action in which it cannot be entertained does not constitute an estoppel against the pursuit of the same right in an appropriate proceeding. We agree with the Court of Appeals that--
It results that the decree in No. 212 and the judgment in No. 285 must both be