1961-08-01 Char-Koosta News
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Goal Is Nearer in Flathead Claims Settlement; Fnr tho benefit of the members of the Confederate lalish and Kootenai Tribes if°Sis resedation and interested friends c have now crossed an important goal 1 ne in the settlement of our claims before the Indian Claims Commission Case, D°-Th}s case ' involves 'approximately 1->005 000 acres of land ck?ded to the United States Government in the treaty of 1855 for an unconscionable sum of three ccnU an acre more or less. Many years h-vc elapsed since the late George Tun-nlson Esq. stater the long trail of enter-in" this case before the Indian Claims Coin minion. It took severay years of hard work of our attorney. GeoreTun--n:son dec, to get a Jurisdictional Bill Icrin*' this case before the Indian Claims Commission. It took several years of hard work of our attorney, George Tunnison rcc, to get a Jurisdictional Bill through giving us the right to sue the U S."Government. This bill was signed into law by Harry Truman in 1948. In the early '50s Attorney Tunnison then started to work with historians, anthropologists and many more professional incn°in order that an excellent case may be presented to the Indian Claims Commission. In 1954 Mr. Tunnison passed away, thus leaving our tribes in a difficult position to find selective attorneys who the Tribal Council felt would carry the ball from there on through the once again long and thorny path. In seeking the best legal authorities with proven background, the Tribal Council selected the Wilkinson Firm of attorneys which is k now Wilkinson, Cragun and Barker of f Washington, D. C. ---- Mr. Robert Barker was assigned to our disc. About a year ago, the Indian Claims Commission ruled that the Flathead-Kootenai Indians were the aboriginal owners of approximately 12,005,000 acres of land ceded to the U. S. Government in the Hellgate Treaty of 1855. Trior to this ruling, Robert Barker was very cautious in his work in presenting evidence that we were the aboriginal owners, in cases like this, one may easily see that great precaution muit be taken in gathering historical evidence as well as the selection of professional help who would not jeopardize the case, as in this case, if these tribes do not make any recovery, the attorneys will also come out on the short end. Of course, this hearing was to establish the value of the land ceded by the Con-ftderated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation in the Treaty of 1855, ratified by Congress on March 8, 1«':.">9. In addition, the hearing was to take evidence on the question of the consideration paid by the government Under the Treaty of 1855, so as to establish a basis upon which the Commission ini^bt determine whether the amount paid to the Indians under the 1855 treaty Vas unconscionable. The first four days of the trial were devoted to testimony W.tfi respect to the valuation of the t« d«-d land as of March 8, 1859. The last day »*as devoted to testimony by a witness from the General Accounting Office y. to divhur.sements by the government under the treaty. We were represented at the trial by y\r. Robert W. Barker and Mr. Clarion C S;*-fucr, in the valuation phase, and Mr. IJarker and Mr. Charles A. Hobbs in the- eonMdrralion phase. At the outset of the tnal Mr. Barker made an open- OO PUBLISHED BY THE CONFEDERATED SALISH AND KOOTENAI TRIBES, FLATHEAD AGENCY, MONTANA Vol. 4 — No. 9 ing statement; on behalf of the tribes. It was stipulated that the area to be valued was approximately 12,005,000 acres (excluding the former reservation area and including Flathead Lake outside of the reservation). In addition, it was made clear that the claim excluded approximately 12,100 acres of land in the southwest corner of the reservation which is subject of a claim in other suits on behalf of the tribes based upon the assertion by tihe tribes that the boundary was erroneously surveyed. The value ascribed to the ceded area by the witnesses for the tribes was $19,569,000.00, considering timber values, grazing values, mineral resources and all other aspects of the subject area. On the other hand, the value ascribed by the defendant's appraiser was only $400,000.00. Mr. Mont H. Saunderson was the principal witness for the tribes. He submitted a written valuation report explaining his investigation and valuation. In support of Mr. Saunderson's report was a historical report Submitted by Dr. Merrill G. Burlingame, head of the History Department of Montana State College, Bozeman, Montana. Pr, Burlingame testified at the hearing. Also7 reports were submitted by Professor John R. Host, Professor of Forestry at Montana State University, who described the extent of the forest resources: Professor Melvin Morris of the School of Forestry of Montana State University submitted a report and testified with respect to the grazing resources. Mr. Charles C. O'Boyle, consulting geologist of Denver, Colorado, who has testified in certain other Indian claims cases and has experience in this field, testified with respect to the mineral values. The government's case was presented through its appraiser Harry R. Fenton of Seattle and his associate Mr. Charles Stark. Mr Stark's testimony was confined primarily to his calculation of the acreage involved as a civil engineer. The Commission asked many questions about the case as it was presented. For evidence of value, Mr. Saunderson relied a great deal upon five large sales in western Montana and southern Canada in the 1880's and 1890's. In addition he considered many of the small sales in western Montana made after that area was opened for settlement. Most of the questions directed to Mr Saundersson were with respect to the demand for timber resources in 1859 and the use of sales which occured subsequent to the date of valuation, including their pertinency to the Commission's job of determining value as of 1859. Mr Fenton's principal sales involved certain very remote sales in Utah, California and New Mexico about the same date of the valuation of the Flathead lands, 1859. He concluded that timber would be a weed and would have no value. He also concluded that there was no production of minerals in the area August - September, 1961 to be valued in 1859. He argued that there was much free public domain and that the people could graze on the public land without paying any fee or fencing their animals. Therefore, he contended that a purchaser would have paid only a small amount for the land in 1859. He contended that it would cost a purchaser a great deal of money to subdivide the land and to sell it, paying taxes and expenses and interest on money during the period the land was held for sale. He classified the lands based upon original surveyors' notes and certain county assessors' classifications. He determined that almost eight million acres were barren wasteland. Our attorneys strongly challenged this conclusion. On June 16 the representative of the Accounting Office testified with respect to disbursements under the treaty. He submitted a General Accounting Office report showing the results of the investigation of the various vouchers showing disbursements for the tribes. Under the GAO report some $516,331.77 was expended under the 1855 treaty. Our attorneys challenged many of these items. We feel our own case was well presented. In addition, our attorneys extensively cross-examined the government witnesses, both on valuation and on the question of payments under the treaty. We feel that a good record has now been prepared upon which our counsel cam prepare requests for findings* of fa>ct and base their brief. Our attorneys hope to prepare these documents for filing within the Commission within six months. The one very important factor in our hearings was at the offset of hearings, our attorneys excluded 12,100 acres of land which is1 in the southwest corner of the Reservation. If this land is proven to be part of our present Flathead Reservation, another claim is justified because of our boundary being erroneously surveyed. This land would lie west of Per-ma to the Missoula River joining the Pend d'Oreille and north. One more feature that is worth mentioning is that Knowels Dam site may be on our Reservation. Since our attorneys and the government has six months to prepare the finding of facts, we find ourselves ia long way dbwfr the hill on the good side of the claim. No one knows what our claim will amount to. However, the Indian Claims Commission will be the judges, if they split the difference in value we mlay consider ourselves in good shape. By all means, no one knows how this money will be distributed, when and if we get the money undoubtedly there will be a lot of suggestions that will be considered and appreciated and no doubt our higher officials will have some recommendations. Jerome Hewam-korn and I were privileged to sit in on the hearings' making ourselves available as witnesses.
|Title||1961-08-01 Char-Koosta News|
|Creator||Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation.|
|Description||Goal is Nearer in Flathead Claims Settlement; New St. Ignatius Hospital Reminds of Health History on Flathead; Man-Caused Fire Point to Problem of Trespassing; Seven Years Since Third Wheel Started at Kerr Dam; 4-H Member Writes of Trip to Conservation Camp;|
|Publisher||Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Indian Nation|
|Rights Management||Copyright (c) Salish and Kootenai Federated Tribes, all rights reserved.|
|Contributing Institution||Salish Kootenai College|
|Contributor||D'Arcy McNickle Library|
|Source||CSKT PN 4883.J6 C4|
|Relation||Vol. 4; No. 9|