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United States. Office of Indian Affairs / Annual report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the year 1892
61st ([1892])

Decision of Supreme Court of Michigan regarding taxation of certain Indians,   pp. 756-759 PDF (2.2 MB)


Page 757

TAXATION OF INDIANS IN MICHIGAN.                   757 
who may be entitled to selections under -the provisions of this treaty, and
he 
shall divide the persons enumerated in said list into two clases, viz: 'compe-
tent' and 'those not so competent.' Those who are intelligent and have suffi-
cient education and are qualified by business habits to prudently manage
their 
affairs, shall be set down as 'competents,' and those who are uneducated
or un- 
qualified in other respects to prudently manage their affairs, or who are
of idle, 
wandering, or dissolute habits. and all orphans, shall be set down as ' those
not 
competent.' The United States agrees to issue patents to all persons entitled
to selections under this treaty as follows, viz: To those belonging to the
class 
denominated 'competents' patents shall be issued in fee simple, but to those
be- 
longing to the class, 'those not so competent,' the patent shall contain
a provi- 
sion that the land shall never be sold or alienated to any person or persons
whomsoever without the consent of the Secretary of the Interior for the time
being." 
The act of Congress of July 17, 1787, entitled an ordinance for the government
of the territory of the United Stated northwest of the river Ohio, provides
that 
the States which may afterwards be formed therein " shall never interfere
with 
the primary disposal of the soil by the United States in Congress assembled,
nor 
with any regulations Congress may find necessary for securing the title in
such 
soil to the bona fide purchasers thereof, and no tax shall be imposed on
land the 
property of the United States." 
This clause of the ordinance of 1787 was retained and embodied in the fifth
proposition of the act of Congress of June 15, 1836, providing for the admission
of the State of Michigan into the Union, and one of the conditions imposed
by 
this portion of the act was "that the legislature of the said State,
by virtue of 
the powers conferred upon it by the convention which framed the constitution
of the said State, shall provide by an ordinance irrevocable without the
consent 
of the United States, that the said State shall never interfere with the
primary 
disposition of the soil within the same by the United States, nor with any
regu- 
lations Congress may find necessary for securing the title in such soil to
the 
bona fide purchasers thereof, and that no tax shall be imposed on land the
prop- 
erty of the United States." 
The assent to these propositions by the legislature of Michigan was given
in 
an act passed by it and approved July 25, 1836, an excerpt from which reads
as 
follows: 
" For the purpose of complying with the conditions of the nroviso to
the fifth 
proposition contained in the above-recited act, and by virtue of the powers
con- 
ferred upon the said legislature of said State by the convention aforesaid,
the 
following ordinance is declared to be irrevocable without the consent of
the 
United States: 
"' Be it ordained by the senate and house of representatives of the
State of lMichi- 
gan, That the said State shall never interfere with the primary disposal
of the 
soil within the same by the United States, nor with any regulations Congress
may find necessary for securing the title in such soil to the bona fide purchasers
thereof and that no tax shall be imposed on land the property of the United
States.'" 
This compact thus solemnly entered into between the United States and the
State of Michigan, after much discussion and after important concessions
made 
upon both sides, must be recognized as of the very highest character, and
a full 
and honest compliance with the spirit as well as the letter of its terms
is de- 
manded. So far as we have been able to discover, this State has never by
legis- 
ative action attempted to ignore any portion of the obligations imposed by
the 
clause referred to, nor to put a narrow or illiberal construction upon it;
and so 
far as taxation is concerned, it has by express enactment, exempted all public
property of the United States from State taxation. 
In view of the several acts and ordinances referred to, it will be conceded
that 
at the time the complainant obtained her patent, the land mentioned in it
was 
not subject to State taxation, and the question now presented is whether
the 
United States by that instrument disposed of all its control and interest
in the 
land to the patentee, or whether the condition against alienation is such
a reg- 
ulation as the State has a right to ignore or interfere with, when the scope
and 
effect of the above-mentioned compact is given consideration. 
If so, there can be no doubt of the right of the State to impose taxes upon
it, 
but if on the other hand, the restriction against alienation contained in
the pat- 
ent is in pursuance of a regulation which the Government had authority to
make in the exercise of its watchful care for the Indian to whom the conveyance
was made then the land would not be amenable to taxation, for the reason
that 
':he state, by the legislation quoted, is bound never to interfere with the
pri- 
.nary disposition of the soil within the same by the United States, nor with
any 


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