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The Treaty of July 3, 1868 (U.S.-Shoshone Tribe of Indians), though made with knowledge that there were mineral deposits and standing timber in the reservation, contains nothing to suggest that the United States intended to retain for itself any beneficial interest in them. The words of the grant, coupled with the Government's agreement to exclude strangers, negative the idea that the United States retained beneficial ownership. The grant of right to members of the tribe severally to select and hold tracts on which to establish homes for themselves and families, and the restraint upon cession of land held in common or individually, suggest beneficial ownership in the tribe. As transactions between a guardian and his wards are to be construed favorably to the latter, doubts, if there were any, as to ownership of lands, minerals or timber would be resolved in favor of the tribe. Although the United States retained the fee, and the tribe's right of occupancy was incapable of alienation or of being held otherwise than in common, that right is as sacred and as securely safeguarded as is fee simple absolute title. Subject to the conditions imposed by the Treaty, the tribe had the right that has always been understood to belong to Indians, undisturbed possessors of the soil from time immemorial.
By the Treaty of July 3, 1868 (U.S.-Shoshone Tribe of Indians), respondent Indian tribe ceded certain land and accepted other land for a reservation in its place. The Treaty prescribed a certain process for cession of any portion of the reservation. The United States then gave a portion of the lands to the second tribe. The tribe filed a claim for the taking. The court of claims found the taking to have been as of a certain date and ascertained value as of that date. On appeal, the Court held that the court of claims erred as to the date of taking. On remand, the court of claims determined the new value. The United States filed a petition for certiorari, alleging that the court of claims erred in holding that the right of the tribe included the timber and mineral resources.
Did the court of claims err in holding that the right of the tribe included the timber and mineral resources?
On certiorari, the Court held that the United States did not have power to give to others or to appropriate to its own use any part of the land without rendering, or assuming the obligation to pay, just compensation to the tribe. The Treaty, which had to be construed in the tribe's favor, contained nothing to suggest that it intended to retain for itself any beneficial interest in the minerals or timber on the land.