United States v. Jackson, 280 U.S. 183 (1930)

Author: U.S. Supreme Court

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United States v. Jackson, 280 U.S. 183 (1930)

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United States v. Jackson

No. 57

Argued December 5, 1929
Decided January 6, 1930
280 U.S. 183


l. An Indian who, being a ward of the United States, has entered land under the Homestead Law, as permitted by the Act of July 4, 1884, c. 180, 23 Stat. 96, and, pursuant to the latter enactment, has received a "trust patent" under which the title is to be held in trust for him by the United States for twenty-five years and, at the expiration of that period, is to be conveyed to him discharged of the trust, has no vested right which would be unconstitutionally impaired by an enlargement of the period of restriction. P. 189.

2. The United States, in virtue of its guardianship over the Indians, may during the period of restriction provide for its extension. Id.

3. The Act of June 21, 1906, 34 Stat. 326, which provides

That, prior to the expiration of the trust period of any Indian allottee to whom a trust or other patent containing restrictions upon alienation has been or shall be issued under any law or treaty, the President may, in his discretion, continue such restrictions on alienation for such period as he may deem best . . .

applies to Indians who, under the Act of July 4, 1884, supra, have entered public lands as homesteaders. P. 191.

4. Nothing herein contained must be taken as intimating that the Act of June 21, 1906, has any application to the acquisition of homestead rights under the general homestead laws by persons of the Indian race who have acquired or seek to acquire such rights as citizens, rather than as Indian wards of the United States. P. 197.

5. A construction consistently given a statute by an executive department charged with its enforcement should be allowed great weight, and not be overthrown unless a different construction is plainly required. P. 193.

Opinion of district court, 27 F.2d 751.

The following statement is by the Chief Justice, preceding the opinion:

In accordance with the provisions of the Act of Congress of July 4, 1884, c. 180, § 1, 23 Stat. 76, 96; U.S.C. Title 43, § 190, the United States, on December 11, 1891, issued to Jack Williams, an Indian, a trust patent on certain lands. The patent recited that the United States would hold the lands in trust for the sole use and benefit of Williams, or, in case of his decease, of his widow and heirs, for a period of 25 years from the date thereof, and that, at the expiration of such time, the United States would convey the land to Williams, or his widow or heirs, in fee and free of the trust or any incumbrance whatever.

Before the expiration of the 25-year trust period, Williams died, and his interest in the land passed to his widow and sole heir, Nellie Williams, an Indian woman. She held the land until March 18, 1921 -- more than four years after the trust period, by its terms, would have expired -- and then deeded it to Jack Jackson, also an Indian. In the succeeding year -- October 10, 1922 -- she died leaving a will by which the same property was devised to Bob Roberts, a tribal Indian.

The deed to Jackson was recorded November 3, 1922, but the Secretary of the Interior has never approved it.

Nellie Williams’ will, and the devise to Roberts therein contained, were approved by the Secretary of the Interior, December 1, 1923.

This is a suit by the United States against the heirs of Jack Jackson. It is brought on behalf of Bob Roberts, and its purpose is to quiet title in him to the lands in question. The position of the United States is that, while it is true that the deed to Jackson was made after the original 25-year trust period, with its attendant restrictions on alienation, had, by the terms of the trust patent, expired, it further appears that the restrictions on the alienation of this land by Williams or his heirs has been continued in force and extended by a series of 1-year executive orders from 1916 to 1919, and by a further 25-year executive order issued in 1920. The executive orders in question were, it is urged, authorized by the Act of Congress of June 21, 1906, c. 3504, 34 Stat. 325, 326.

The United States therefore argued that the deed to Jackson, having been made while there was a restriction on alienation, and not having been approved by the Secretary of the Interior, was void.

The district court, 27 F.2d 751, held that the Act of June 21, 1906, did not authorize the President to continue the restrictions on alienation contained in the patent issued to Williams. The purpose of the 1906 Act, said the district court, was to permit the continuation of restrictions in patents issued to Indian allottees -- that is, to Indians who received patents under the General Allotment Act of February 8, 1887, which created the Indian allotment system, or under any of its subsequent amendments, but that the 1906 Act did not purport to give the President a like power with respect to Indians who received their patents under the Act of July 4, 1884, which conferred homestead entry rights upon Indians.

The court therefore held that the restrictions on the alienation of this land had expired at the time Williams’ widow deeded it to Jackson; that there was no statute expressly extending the restrictions, and no statute authorizing the President so to do; that the deed to Jackson conformed to the law of the state where it was executed, and it was valid.

The United States appealed to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The judges of that court, being in doubt, have certified to us, conformably to § 239 of the Judicial Code, as amended by the Act of February 13, 1925, c. 229, 43 Stat. 936, 938, the two following questions of law concerning which our instruction is desired for the proper decision of the cause:

1. Could the trust period and the restriction of alienation in an Indian homestead patent issued under the Act of July 4, 1884, be extended by executive orders?

2. Did the Act of June 21, 1906, authorize the President, in his discretion, to continue restrictions on alienation in patents issued under the Indian Homestead Act of July 4, 1884?


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Chicago: U.S. Supreme Court, "Syllabus," United States v. Jackson, 280 U.S. 183 (1930) in 280 U.S. 183 280 U.S. 184–280 U.S. 188. Original Sources, accessed July 14, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CKHY4BXQAH3E1CR.

MLA: U.S. Supreme Court. "Syllabus." United States v. Jackson, 280 U.S. 183 (1930), in 280 U.S. 183, pp. 280 U.S. 184–280 U.S. 188. Original Sources. 14 Jul. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CKHY4BXQAH3E1CR.

Harvard: U.S. Supreme Court, 'Syllabus' in United States v. Jackson, 280 U.S. 183 (1930). cited in 1930, 280 U.S. 183, pp.280 U.S. 184–280 U.S. 188. Original Sources, retrieved 14 July 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CKHY4BXQAH3E1CR.