The Oregon tribes have sued the United States on numerous occasions in the past 100 years. Tribes across the United States began suing the federal government for non-payment of land (unratified treaties, American invasion of tribal reservation lands and survey errors), for mis-management of finances, and for misuse of the tribal lands in the early part of the 20th century. The tribes had to request a special right to sue the government from Congress and then they could file the lawsuit. The lawsuits became so common that they began taxing the federal court system. The United States had to pay the court and the attorneys on their side and because of the rights of the tribes (dependent sovereign nations), the federal government had to pay for the attorneys for the tribes as well.
Many of the cases were taking 30 or more years to complete and lawmakers advocated for the special Indian Court of Claims saying that the “Indians deserve their day in court.” In 1946 the United States establish the Court of Claims to hear Indian Claims cases. The initial plan was that the court would only be in business for only 5 years, but the dockets became so full that the court was continually renewed until 1978, when it was closed. In that time the court had heard 546 cases, and awarded 818,172,606.64. The remaining cases were transferred to the regular federal courts.
|Ind. Claims Case||First findings||Final award||Award||Issue|
|California Indians V US (Dkts 31 & 37)||5/6/1949||7/20/1964||29,100,000||Land|
|Chinook V US (Dkt 234)||4/16/1958||12/3/1971||48,692.05||Land|
|Coos Bay (Dkt 265)||7/11/52||dismissed|
|Kalapuya et al V US (Dkt 238)||11/17/54||dismissed|
|Klamath, Modoc & Yahooskin V US (Dkt 100)||4/9/54||1/31/64||2,500,000||Land|
|Klamath Modoc & Yahooskin (Dkt 100-A)||5/14/69||9/2/69||4,162,992.80||Land|
|Klamath, Modoc & Yahooskin (Dkts 100-B01 & 100-C)||10/31/75||1/21/77||18,000,000 (B), 785,000 (C)||Accounting|
|Klamath, Modoc & Yahooskin (100-B-2)||6/26/74||6/26/74||(dismissal)|
|Nez Perce (Dkt 175)||3/21/67||8/25/71||3,550,000||Land|
|Nez Perce (Dkt 175-A)||12/31/59||6/17/60||4,157,605.06||Land|
|Nez Perce (Dkt 175-B)||4/7/64||11/1/72||1,387,911||Land|
|Nez Perce of Idaho (Dkt 179-A)||Transferred to court of claims|
|Nez Perce (Dkt 180)||6/4/52||12/4/1957||Dismissed (viable claims severed)|
|Nez Perce (Dkt 180-A)||8/10/55||5/12/61||3,000,000||For gold removed from reservation and other related|
|Paiute nation (Snake) (Dkt 87)||3/24/59||Snake Indians
|Shoshone-Bannock (Fort McDermitt inc) (Dkts 326 D-H, 366, 367)||2/13/1968||2/13/68||15,700,00||Accounting, Land (consolidating dockets)|
|Snake, Piute of Malheur res (Dkt 17)||12/29/50||12/4/59||567,000||Land|
|Tillamook et al
|Tillamook Band of Tillamooks et al (Dkt 240)||6/10/55||8/27/62||72,162.50 (Nehalem)
|Umatilla Reservation Conf. Tribes (Dkts 264, 264-A, 264-B)||6/10/60||2/11/66||2,450,000||Land, fishing rights, survey error (Land)|
|Warm Springs res. (Dkt 198)||6/10/60||10/17/73||1,225,000||Land interest|
|Warm Springs (Dkt 198-A)||6/30/70||dismissed|
In the table above, California is included for comparison and because a number of members of Oregon tribes had California Indian ancestry. Many tribes on the borderlands between California and Oregon had territories that were originally in both states, and many tribal members inherited those rights.
The complete amount paid to the Oregon tribes including the California award is $90,869,629.26. It is unclear what portion of the California money came to Oregon Indians as well. The total for Oregon without California is $61,769,629.26. This total includes the Shoshone/ Bannock money which was apparently divided among tribes in Nevada and Idaho as well. It is unclear how much came to Oregon Paiute (Shoshone, Bannock) tribes. The Fort McDermitt (Paiute) reservation today spans Oregon and Nevada.
The Nez Perce cases were for those people living on the Colville reservation at the time of the cases. The Nez Perce were originally an Oregon tribe, living in the Wallowas in the northeastern corner of Oregon. Once they were released from Fort Leavenworth, they were sent to the Colville reservation in Washington, and were not allowed to return to Oregon. The Nez Perce (Niimipu) now have a reservation in Idaho.
Finally, when the California Indians won their case in 1950, several tribes on the Nevada and Oregon borders of California filed against the case stating that it was not only California Indians that have a claim in the state. The state was divided into two jurisdictions, A and B, based on this counter-claim. It is likely that some of the Klamath, Modoc and Yahooskin Band of Paiutes received some of the California money as well.
United States Indian Claims Commission, August 13, 1946, September 30, 1978 : final report. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=umn.31951p00289070n;view=1up;seq=5
University of Oklahoma Library, Digital Collections, Indian Court of Claims Decisionshttp://digital.library.okstate.edu/icc/index.html
Ethnohistory Research, LLC | David G. Lewis, PhD
PhD Anthropology (UO 2009) and Native history researcher. Member of the Grand Ronde Tribe, Takelma, Chinook, Molalla, and Santiam Kalapuya ancestry. Owner of Ethnohistory Research LCC, professional consultant and project researcher.
I teach at local universities and colleges and take contracts with tribes, local governments and nonprofits. I have experience in archival organization, museum development, exhibit curation, traditional cultural property nomination, tribal ethnohistoric research, tribal maps, traditional ecological knowledge, and presentations to large and small gatherings. Contact me for consultation about any of these projects.