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Veto of Bill Making Payment to Crow Indian Tribe.

June 08, 1956

To the United States Senate:

I return herewith, without my approval, S. J. Res. 135, "For payment to Crow Indian Tribe for right-of-way for Yellowtail Dam and Reservoir, Hardin unit, Missouri River Basin project, Montana-Wyoming."

The joint resolution would pay the Crow Indian Tribe, Montana, $5,000,000 as "just compensation" for certain tribal lands required for the construction, operation, and maintenance of the Yellowtail Dam and Reservoir. The area of the land comprises 5,677.94 acres and such additional land as the Secretary of the Interior determines to be required for the construction of minimum basic recreation facilities for the accommodation of the public, which it is understood will increase the total area to somewhat more than 6,000 acres.

In essence, this resolution culminates a decade of negotiation and disagreement between the Department of the Interior and the Crow Indians with respect to the amount of compensation to be paid to the Tribe for lands required for the Yellowtail Dam and Reservoir, for which the initial construction appropriation was made in the fiscal year 1956 and for which an additional $ 10,850,000 was included in the budget for the fiscal year 1957.

The standard of payment for land acquired by the Government is "just compensation," or "fair market value." However, I recognize that, as a matter of policy, the Federal Government has made awards in excess of "just compensation" in other cases involving Indian lands. If the Congress determines that it wishes to provide for an extra payment in this case, it should not be done under the claim that it is "just compensation." The amount, the method for computing it, and the equitable justification for it, should be clearly established on acceptable premises. Neither the resolution nor the legislative history does this.

According to my information, the acquisition by the United States of the land contemplated will not interfere with the tribal life, except as to a small area used for grazing, and will not displace any of the members of the tribe since the area is not inhabited and consists almost wholly of inaccessible land, largely of bare, precipitous canyon walls. Thus, the only justification for an additional sum over and above "just compensation" arises from the value of the land as a power site. General principles of constitutional law exclude power site values in determining "just compensation" as the Supreme Court recently reiterated in United States v. Twin City Power Co., January 23, 1956.

A statutory settlement of this kind of controversy might be acceptable if soundly and equitably premised and if it reflected a substantial measure of agreement between parties to the dispute. I regret that the extravagant nature of the award contemplated by S. J. Res. 135 requires this action which may cause some additional delay in proceeding with the construction of the Yellowtail unit. It is my hope that the Congress can approve a statutory settlement which will permit expeditious action to proceed with the construction of this much-needed project.

For these reasons, I have withheld my approval from this measure.


Dwight D. Eisenhower, Veto of Bill Making Payment to Crow Indian Tribe. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232930

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