Statement of Hon. J. J. Russell, Representative From Missouri

On January 10, 1913, the subcommittee made a report to the Committee on Indian Affairs. This report was unfavorable to the Oklahoma Choctaws and Chickasaws and favorable to the contentions of the claimants for citizenship. The report was accompanied by statements made by Hon. J. J. Russell, chairman of the subcommittee, and Hon. C. B. Miller, a member of the committee.

Mr. Russell. Mr. Chairman, your subcommittee to which was referred House bill 19213, introduced by Mr. Harrison of Mississippi, of which subcommittee I was made chairman, desires to submit its report.

Your committee has agreed upon a report, and I will submit the same in writing, after giving briefly my own conclusions and the reasons that had led me to such conclusions.

I desire to say in advance that Mr. Miller, a member of the subcommittee, has had so much more experience in Indian affairs and is so much better informed upon questions pertaining to their interests that I have requested him to make the principal investigation of the questions involved, and he has done so with great diligence and, I think, exhaustively, and your committee relies very largely upon his investigation and his judgment in the matter, and he will state more in detail the facts and the record from which our conclusions have been formed, and perhaps Mr. Smith, the other member of the committee, will also give to this committee his views separately.

As I understand the purpose of this bill, it was introduced and is now being pressed for the purpose of attempting to correct what was claimed to have been an injustice done to certain Mississippi Choctaws, whose rights, it is claimed, under article 14 of the treaty of 1830. have been disregarded.

As I understand from the hearings before your subcommittee, and what investigation I have been otherwise able to make, that said section 14 of the treaty of 1830 was incorporated in the treaty at the instance of the Mississippi Choctaws, who desired to remain in the State of Mississippi and not to be required to move west, and this section, after making certain provisions for them, clearly provided by its express terms that they might remain in Mississippi without losing their privileges as Choctaw citizens, but that in case they should remove they would lose their interests in the annuities.

So this section clearly intended to permit them to remain in Mississippi and not only did not require them to remove but provided for punishment if they should remove. This same section of the said treaty provided that the Choctaws might signify their intention to take the benefits granted by that section within six months after the ratification of the treaty, and I understand that 143 did receive patents to lands under its provisions, but that many thousands of them who were entitled to the same privileges failed to obtain them, and it is now claimed by the proponents of this bill, and, so far as my investigation has gone, it is by no one disputed, that the reason a great number of others did not signify their intentions and receive patents was on account of the reprehensible conduct, if not the deliberate design, of a Mr. Ward, who was sent there as the Government’s agent to receive the applications from the Choctaws.

From my investigation it appears that the right given to the Mississippi Choctaw Indians to remain in that State without forfeiting their rights as Choctaw citizens has been recognized by the Choctaw Nation in the West on several occasions since, and as late as 1898 this right was recognized by what is known as the Curtis Act, and under this act, in 1809, 4.192 of the eastern Choctaws were identified. But what is known as the McMurray Act of 1902, for the first time disregarded article 14 of the treaty of 1830, and provided that the Mississippi Choctaws could not be enrolled unless they removed West within six months, and, further, that no one should be enrolled unless a descendant of a Mississippi Choctaw who received a patent to land under the said treaty of 1830.

This act for the first time, as I understand, made a distinction between those who actually received patents and those who had not received patents under the said treaty. Your committee is unable to see any good reason for a distinction between those who received a patent and those who were entitled to receive patents, especially when it appears, as we think it does in this case, that their failure to receive patents was by reason of no fault of theirs, but it seems more probable that it was a neglect of duty, if not the vicious misconduct of the Government agent, that prevented them from doing so.

I also understand that a suit was brought by the Choctaw Nation west to recover damages from the United States because of certain rights that they had under the treaty of 1830 and for lands sold by the Government which had been surrendered by the Mississippi Choctaws, and that suit resulted in the recovery of nearly $3,000,000, which, with interest, amounting to approximately $8,000,000, was, as I understand it, paid to the Choctaw Nation west, and no part of the same ever paid to or enjoyed by the Mississippi Choctaws, for whose redress the suit was instituted and the recovery had. So your subcommittee believes that a great injustice has been done the Mississippi Choctaws, but I recognize that it is a very complicated question, and I do not feel able to suggest the form of a bill to grant relief, but your committee preferred to submit to you our report for your approval or disapproval, believing that if your committee should concur in the findings that we have made you can then prepare or cause to be prepared a suitable measure in accordance with such findings.

Our written report is as follows: Your subcommittee, to which was referred H. R. 19213, having extensively considered the same, is of the opinion and recommends:

  • First. That a considerable number of Indians not enrolled are entitled to the benefits of Choctaw citizenship.
  • Second. That members of the following two classes are entitled to such benefits:
    • {a) All full-blood Choctaws.
    • {b) All mixed-blood Choctaws, who can prove descent from an ancestor who received or was entitled to receive a patent to lands under article 14 of the treaty of 1830.
  • Third. That the Secretary of the Interior be requested to furnish this committee from records in his possession or under his control, and within nine months from the date hereof, a list of those who comprise the two above-named classes and who are not enrolled as Choctaws.

Joe J. Russell
Charles B. Smith
C. B. Miller.

Hurley, Patrick Jay. Choctaw Citizenship Litigation. 1916.

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