Veto of Bill Relating to Claims Against the United States by Certain Indian Tribes
[Released June 29, 1946. Dated June 28, 1946]
To the House of Representatives:
I return herewith, without my approval the bill (H.R. 2678) "conferring jurisdiction upon the Court of Claims to hear, examine, adjudicate and render judgment in any and all claims which the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Indians of the Flathead Reservation in Montana, or any tribe or band thereof, may have against the United States, and for other purposes."
This bill proposes to confer jurisdiction upon the Court of Claims to adjudicate any and all legal and equitable claims which the Confederated Salish (or Flathead) and Kootenai Tribes of Indians of the Flathead Reservation in Montana may have against the United States including any claims arising under the treaty of July 16, 1855 (12 Stat. 975), or any subsequent treaty, agreement, Act of Congress or Executive Order. The jurisdiction thus to be conferred, it is provided, would extend to claims arising by reason of any lands taken from these Indians, including lands lost by erroneous surveys, or lands opened to settlement, lands used for dam, power, and reservoir sites or irrigation projects, or lands lost by submergence, resulting from the erection of reservoirs, without compensation and without the consent of the Indians given in the usual manner. The bill declares that any taking of the lands of the Indians by the United States, without compensation and without their consent, or the reservation thereof for any of the above purposes to be sufficient grounds for suitable relief and the court would be required to award the Indians just compensation for such lands as for a taking under the power of eminent domain.
In addition to other objectionable features of the bill, an attempt is made in its provisions to define the "grounds for equitable relief" and the basis upon which the court shall render judgment in favor of the Indians and award to them just compensation "as for a taking under the power of eminent domain." It is possible that under the provisions of the bill the use by the United States of any lands "formerly . . . possessed" by the Indians even though the Indians were without any recognized title would constitute a sufficient basis "for equitable relief" and "for a taking under the power of eminent domain." Thus the bill does not merely waive the statute of limitations and laches, and provide a forum for the adjudication of any pre-existing claims which the Indians may have against the United States, but it seeks to create liability against the Government which would not otherwise exist. Moreover, by providing for the payment of just compensation, the bill would probably require the Government to pay interest, for a period of more than 30 years, on a claim that did not even exist prior to its passage. Neither on legal nor moral grounds would there seem to be any justification for legislation of this kind.
For these reasons, I am constrained to withhold my approval from the bill.
HARRY S. TRUMAN
[APP Note: In the Public Papers of the Presidents series, this document is dated June 29, 1946, the date it was released. The American Presidency Project dates this document as June 28, 1946, the date the bill was vetoed.]
Harry S. Truman, Veto of Bill Relating to Claims Against the United States by Certain Indian Tribes Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232165