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United States. Office of Indian Affairs / Annual report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the years 1921-1932
([1921-1932])

Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior for the fiscal year ended June 2, 1921,   pp. [1]-69 ff. PDF (26.8 MB)


Page 19

COMMISSIONER OF INDIAN AFFAIRS.               19 
population and the fact that these lands were allotted to the indi- 
vidual members of the Five Civilized Tribes. The territory was 
divided into 17 districts, with a certain designated town in each dis- 
trict as a headquarters for the probate attorney. The districts con- 
sist of from one to four or more counties, according to the amount 
of probate work in each county and the railroad facilities enabling 
the probate attorney to cover his district and attend the different 
county and district courts. 
These attorneys have been the means of preventing much wasteful 
extravagance and incompetence by their supervision of probate 
cases, by checking reports of guardians, requiring new bonds, and in 
preventing losses to dependent Indian estates worth millions of 
dollars. 
PROBATING ESTATES OF DECEASED INDIANS AND 
APPROVAL OF WILLS. 
The probate work of the Indian Service is important because no 
inherited allotment can be sold or leased or a patent fee issued there- 
for until the heirs have been determined. Inasmuch as the law 
provides that departmental findings as to heirs shall be final, it is 
apparent that special care and consideration should be given to the 
evidence supporting each heirship case submitted and that so far as 
possible no heirs on either the lineal or collateral side should be 
omitted, since under existing legislation neither State nor Federal 
courts may review the heirship decisions of the Secretary of the 
Interior, except for mistake of law after the land has passed beyond 
the administration of the land department. In order properly to 
carry on this work, persons train'ed in the legal profession, especially
inprobate matters, are essential both in the field and in the office. 
The annual appropriation of $100,000 for probate work is re- 
imbursable from a graduated scale of fees which range generally 
from $15 to $50, depending on the appraised valuation of a given 
allotment. No fee is charged where an estate is valued less than 
$250. In case the Indian devises his lands, the same fee is charged 
for probating the will as if he had died intestate and his heirs 
formally determined. The combined effort of the field and office 
forces results in about 4,000 decisions annually, with a considerable 
amount of accompanying correspondence. 
The year's work of determining heirs of deceased Indians and the 
consideration of wills of Indians or persons having interest in Indian 
trust property under provisions of the act of June 25, 1910 (36 
Stat. L., 855-856), as amended by the act of February 14, 1913 (37 
Stat. L., 678), progressed satisfactorily. 
Final disposition was made of 3,889 heirship cases and 308 wills, 
69 reopened cases, 10 cases in which former decisions were affirmed, 
and 82 modifications of former findings. 
Eighteen claims against estates of deceased Indians were allowed. 
Cases of a miscellaneous character numbered 3,564. 
Sixteen examiners of inheritance were engaged in holding hearings 
on reservations and the public domain. 
Nlumber of letters .written, 7,760. 
The aggregate of fees earned during the year, as authorized by 
the act of February 14, 1920 (41 Stat. L., 413), approximates the 
sum of $98,070. 


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