Grover Cleveland

Veto Message

February 23, 1895

To The House of Representatives:

I return herewith without approval House bill No. 8165, entitled "An act authorizing the Kansas City, Oklahoma and Pacific Railway Company to construct and operate a railway through Indian reservations in the Indian Territory and the Territories of Oklahoma and New Mexico, and for other purposes."

This bill contains concessions more comprehensive and sweeping than any ever presented for my approval, and it seems to me the rights and interests of the Indians and the Government are the least protected.

The route apparently desired, though passing through or into one State and three Territories, is described as indefinitely as possible, and does not seem to be subject to the approval in its entirety of the Secretary of the Interior or any other governmental agency having relation to the interest involved.

There is no provision for obtaining the consent of the Indians through whose territory and reservations the railroad may be located.

Though it is proposed to build the railroad through territories having local courts convenient to their inhabitants, all controversies that may arise out of the location and building of the road are by the provisions of the bill to be passed upon by the United States circuit and district courts for the district of Kansas "and such other courts as may be authorized by Congress."

The bill provides that" the civil jurisdiction of said courts is hereby extended within the limits of said Indian reservations, without distinction as to citizenship of the parties, so far as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this act." This provision permits the subordination of the jurisdiction of Indian courts, which we are bound by treaty to protect, to the" provisions of this act" and to the interests and preferences of the railroad company for whose benefit the bill under consideration is intended.

A plan of appraisal is provided for in the bill in case an agreement can not be reached as to the amount of compensation to be paid for the taking of lands held by individual occupants according to the laws, customs, and usages of any of the Indian nations or tribes or by allotment or agreement with the Indians. It is, however, further provided that in case either party is dissatisfied with the award of the referees to be appointed an appeal may be taken to the district court held at Wichita, Kans., no matter where on the proposed route of the road the controversy may originate. If upon the hearing of said appeal the judgment of the court shall be for the same sum as the award of the referees, the costs shall be adjudged against the appellant, and if said judgment shall be for a smaller sum the costs shall be adjudged against the party claiming damages. It does not seem to me that the interests of an Indian occupant or allottee are properly regarded when he is obliged, if dissatisfied with an award for the taking of his land, to go to the district court of Kansas for redress, at the risk of incurring costs and expenses that may not only exceed the award originally made to him, but leave him in debt.

It is probable that there are other valid objections to this bill. I have only attempted to suggest enough to justify my action in disapproving it.

In constructing legislation of this description it should not be forgotten that the rights and interests of the Indians are important in every view and should be scrupulously protected.


Grover Cleveland, Veto Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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