California Indians K-344 (Part 1)

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  • Jurisdictional Act: May 18, 1928, 45 Stat. 605; amended April 29, 1930, 46 Stat. 259
  • Location: California
  • Population As of 1940: 23, 276
  • Amount Claimed: $12,800,000.00
  • Nature of Claim: Accounting and value of land taken without compensation under 18 Unratified Treaties.
  • G.A.O. Report: Forwarded to Department of Justice, May 31, 1934
  • Court Action Decided: October 5, 1942, referred to Commissioner to ascertain values, 98 C. Cls. 583. Plaintiffs' petition for writ of certiorari denied, June 7, 1943, 319 U.S. 764, 99C. Cls. 817. Judgment for plaintiffs entered December 4, 1944, 102 C. Cls. 837.
  • Amount of Judgment: $17,053,941.98
  • Offsets: $12,029,099.64

Statement of Case:

In 1850 the Congress passed an act carrying an appropriation "to enable the President to hold treaties with the various Indian tribes in the State of California." 9 Stat. 544, 558. Commissioners to negotiate treaties were appointed by the President and during the period from March 1851 to January 1852, negotiated eighteen separate treaties with some of the tribes and bands of Indians of California. These tribes and bands of Indians constituted about one-third to one-half of the total number of members of the Tribes and bands in California at that time. The treaties were of the same general character. In each treaty there was set apart a certain district of country to be forever held for the sole use and occupancy of said tribes of Indians. The Indian tribes on their part agreed to forever quit claim to the United States any and all lands to which they or either of them then or may ever have had claim or title whatsoever. There were provisions made for the supplying by the United States to the Indians of cattle, farming implements, blacksmiths, and schools and teachers, to be maintained and paid for by the Government for a definite period. These treaties were transmitted to the Senate by President Fillmore. On June 28, 1852, the Senate refused to ratify all and several of the eighteen treaties.

The Indians of California consist of wandering bands, tribes, and small groups, who had been roving over the same territory during the period under the Spanish and Mexican ownership, before the treaty between Mexico and the United States whereby California was acquired by the United States. They had no separate reservations and occupied and owned no permanent sections of land. They and their forbearers had roved over this country for centuries. They possessed no title to any particular real property existing under the Mexican law in California. Hayt, Admn. V. United States and Utah Indians 38 C. Cls. 455. Ex Doc. No. 50. H. R. 30th Cong. 2d Sess. P. 77.

These Indians did not qualify before the Commission created by the Act of March 3, 1851, 9 Stat. 631, entitled "An Act to ascertain and settle the private land claims in the State of California". Therefore, whatever lands they may have claimed became a part of the public domain of the United States. Barker v. Harvey, 181 U.S. 481; United States v. Title Insurance & Trust Co. et al., 265 U.S. 472.

However, these Indians were roving over the State of California when the "gold rush" began and the white man paid no attention to any claims the Indians asserted to any portion of this territory. This resulted in bloody clashes and reprisals.