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TRUSKETT v. CLOSSER

February 23, 1915

TRUSKETT
v.
CLOSSER



APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT

White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Hughes, Van Devanter, Lamar, Pitney, McReynolds

Author: Mckenna

[ 236 U.S. Page 224]

 MR. JUSTICE McKENNA delivered the opinion of the court.

Conflict of oil and gas mining leases derived from the same lessor, one Robert F. Goodman, a member of the Cherokee Tribe of Indians.

Appellee brought suit in the District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma to quiet title to his lease against that of appellants covering the same premises. The bill set up the full title of appellee and the full title of appellants, to which appellants demurred. The demurrer was overruled and, appellants declining to plead further a decree was entered quieting the title of appellee

[ 236 U.S. Page 225]

     and decreeing the cancellation of the lease of appellants. The decree was affirmed by the Circuit Court of Appeals, 198 Fed. Rep. 835.

The lands in controversy were part of the common domain of the Cherokee Tribe of Indians, and on March 31, 1909, were conveyed to Goodman, a member of the Tribe, by patent of the Cherokee Nation, duly approved by the Secretary of the Interior as his, Goodman's, allotment, fifty acres being his so-called "surplus" allotment and the remaining thirty acres being his homestead allotment.

Goodman was one-eighth Indian blood and seven-eighths white blood and did not attain the full age of twenty-one years until September 25, 1910. Before that date, to wit, on October 12, 1909, in a proceeding brought by his next friend, the District Court of Washington County, Oklahoma, by a decree duly entered, removed from Goodman the disability of minority and conferred upon him the rights of majority concerning contracts and "authorized and empowered him to transact business in general with the same effect as if such business were transacted by a person over the age of twenty-one years." In pursuance of this decree Goodman granted to one Overfield a lease for oil and gas mining purposes covering his entire allotment for the term of fifteen years from its date and as long thereafter as oil or gas should be found in paying quantities. The lease passed to appellants by assignment and constitutes the basis of their title.

On September 14, 1910, that is, subsequent to the decree conferring majority rights upon Goodman and subsequent to the lease under which appellants hold, the legal guardian of Goodman granted a lease in behalf of Goodman to appellee covering the same lands. This lease was both authorized and confirmed by the order of the County Court for Nowata County, Oklahoma, that court then having probate jurisdiction of the person and estate

[ 236 U.S. Page 226]

     of Goodman, and Goodman at that time being a minor. This lease is the ground of title of appellee.

The question in the case then is, Of the two leases which constitutes the better title? And a decision of this question, appellants contend, depends upon the construction of the act of Congress of May 27, 1908, c. 199, 35 Stat. 312, special stress being put upon ยงยง 1 and 4. These sections are as follows: "Section 1. That from and after sixty days from the date of this Act the status of the lands allotted heretofore or hereafter to allottees of the Five Civilized Tribes shall, as regards restrictions on alienation or incumbrance, be as follows: All lands, including homesteads, of said allottees enrolled as intermarried whites, as freedmen, and as mixed-blood Indians having less than half Indian blood including minors shall be free from all restriction. All lands, except homesteads, of said allottees enrolled as mixed-blood Indians having half or more than half and less than three-quarters Indian blood shall be free from all restrictions. All homesteads of said allottees enrolled as mixed-blood Indians having half or more than half Indian blood, including minors of such degrees of blood, and all allotted lands of enrolled full-bloods, and enrolled mixed-bloods of three-quarters or more Indian blood, including minors of such degree of blood, shall not be subject to alienation, ...


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