The Century Chest Collection

J. E. Fleming vs. Secretary of the Interior, Garfield

(Transcribed from the original)

To the Honorable Members of the Senate and House of Represen-
tatives of the Chickasaw Legislature, in regular session assembled

As you know, our tribal Government has been so
modified and our powers of self government so limited as to
leave us without authority to enact laws adequate for the
protection of our people as in former years; but this should
not discourage us in doing what we may to ameliorate their
condition, and protect them by manly protest against wrong
and appeal for relief where apparently necessary; in encourag-
ing all to noble efforts in adjusting themselves to our changed
conditions and proving ourselves worthy of the esteem and
respect of our countrymen.

For your information, I will state that a suit was
Recently instituted at Muskogee by J.E. Fleming, et. al. va.
Secretary of the Interior, Garfield, the Governor of the
Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations, et. Al. to enjoin the Secretary
of the Interior and our tribal authorities from winding up
tribal affairs, and seeking to enroll about 12,000 rejected
citizenship claimants, that Hon. Ralph Campbell, Judge of
the Court, dismissed the case; that Plaintiffs gave notice
of appeal to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and will
doubtless persist in the prosecution of the suit.

In view of this suit and other needs of legal aid
I have contracted with Hon. J. Blair Shoenfelt, of Muskogee,
late United States Indian Agent, and Captain A.S. McKennon,
formerly a member of the Dawes Commission, as attorneys for
the Chickasaws, and the contract has been forward to Washing-
ton for approval by the President. Both these gentlemen are
familiar with our affairs and needs and are well known to
you. The most serious question that confronts us, however,
is the effort on the part of the Government to repeal the
provisions of the Atoka agreement protecting our lands from

By the terms of said agreement all lands allotted to
the Choctaws and Chickasaws were to be exempt, while the title
remained in the original allottee, for a period not to exceed
twenty-one years from date of patent.

The Principal Chief of the Choctaw Nation and the
Governor of the Chickasaw Nation were by the terms of said
agreement required, jointly, to execute and deliver to each
allottee a patent conveying to each allottee
the land allotted and acceptance of patent by
the allottee was to operate as an assent on his part to the
allotment and conveyance of the lands of the Choctaws and
Chickasaws, and as a relinquishment of all his right, title
and interest in all lands allotted to other members of the
It was provided that such patents were to be framed
in accordance with the terms of the agreement, and all provis-
ions thereof imposing burdens and conferring rights upon the
allottee should have been set forth in the patent. The fact,
however, that this was not done did not relieve the allottee
from any burden imposed, or deprived him of any benefit conferred
by the terms of said agreement.
The provisions were not in any manner disturbed or
affected by the supplemental agreement, under which all allotment
of lands to Choctaws and Chickasaws were subsequently made.

Patents were prepared and executed by the executives
Of the tribes as required by law, and when such patent was accepted
by an allottee, it became effective as a contract, binding
hm to the performance of all provisions, and made available
for his protection every such provision in his favor, and
his rights thereunder became vested rights which cannot, it
would seem, in any degree, be affected by repeal, or any Act of
Congress attempting to remove such protection.

Protection to the Indian against taxation is a matter
of paramount importance to him, and a removal of such protection
would bring to him certain ruin. Under the laws of Oklahoma
$100 would be approximate amount of the taxes to be paid upon
each allotment. Hundreds of families have no improvements what-
ever upon their allotments and receive no income therefrom; they
have no means with which to improve their lands, and have little
or no outside property and, as a result, the lands would be sold
for taxes, thus eventually leaving the allottee homeless and
penniless. This would be the price of statehood to the Indian.
To him the commercial interests, advancement and progress of the
country would be a ghostly blessing in the light of such a sacrifice.
Why should he surrender all he has, leaving his family
to suffer, for these things which can only, in a remote degree,
benefit him. The country belonged to the Indian. He held title
to every foot of it by patent from the United States Government.
Title thereto could not be severed except by his consent and
cooperation. The Government could not be legislation effect the
severance of title necessary to allotment, and allotment was
necessary to statehood. The Indian gave his consent, acceded
to the wishes of the Government, made the laying out of towns and
the giving title thereto and staethood possible, and, in consid-
eration of all this, asked only that his lands be exempted from
taxation for twenty-one years if held by him so long. To this
the Government agreed. This was the contract. Can the Govern-
ment avoid this contract and will it do so?

It may be suggested that the persons affected are mixed
Bloods and do not need the protection. Were they not parties to
the agreement? Their rights under the law are as sacred as
those of any other class. If protection be denied these why not
at any time, to the full bloods? How long before it would be
done? It is a violation of the contract and a wrong which cannot
be decently insisted upon by one party or tolerated by the
other. The ruin to many of these people would be as complete
and crushing as if there were full blood Indians.

By the recent Act of Congress relieving Indian land
from restrictions it is attempted to remove the protection. I
do not believe that the courts will sustain this law. The
Supreme Court of the United States has, in no instance parallel
so our case, decided against the allottee and certainly will not
do so now.

Under the restricted powers of our tribal government,
The legislature cannot provide protection against this wrong and
Certain patriotic citizens have taken it up and will do individually
What once would have been done by the Chickasaw Government.
It is our pur purpose to resist such taxation in the courts, and, if
deemed feasible, elsewhere, to the utmost limit, because we believe
it is a violation of both the spirit and the letter of
the law upon this subject; and, further that the great Govern-
ment of the United States in making to us the promise that our
lands should be thus protected against taxation meant just what
it said and that it and the Courts of the country will protect
our citizens from a violation of the most important and sacred

I urge our people to be loyal to themselves and families
in their struggle for the right and each to do his part.

I have no recommendation to make at this time. May
communicate with you further by special message.
Respectfully submitted,
D.H. Johnston.
Governor, Chickasaw Nation

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