UNITED STATES V. CONWAY, 175 U. S. 60 (1899)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Conway, 175 U.S. 60 (1899)

United States v. Conway

No. 18

Argued and submitted January 12, 1899

Decided October 80, 1899

175 U.S. 60


The Act of Congress of December 22, 1858, 11 Stat. 374, confirming a grant of pueblos to Indians, operated to release to the Indians all the title of the United States to the land covered by it as effectually as if it contained in terms a grant de novo, and such action of Congress is not subject to judicial review.

Page 175 U. S. 61

The United States is a proper and necessary party to a suit brought in the Court of Private Land Claims for confirmation of a private land claim covering pueblos previously so granted to Indians, and can follow the litigation through all the courts that are given jurisdiction of the case.

When a title to public land has been confirmed by Congress, it should be respected by the Court of Private Land Claims, but conflicting claimants may resort to the ordinary remedies at law.

This was a petition filed by Maria de la Paz Valdez de Conway and twenty-one others in the Court of Private Land Claims for the confirmation of a tract of land known as the Cuyamungue grant, or private land claim, situated in the County of Santa Fe, Territory of New Mexico, and alleged to contain in excess of 5,000 acres.

It appears from an examination of the expediente, offered in evidence as the basis of the claim, that, on January 22, 1731, Bernardino de Sena, Tomas de Sena, and Luis Lopez presented a petition to Governor Juan Domingo Bustamente to grant them the surplus land in the abandoned pueblo of Cuyamungue as royal, public, and uninhabited, and described it as being situated on both sides of the River Tesuque (formerly Cuyamungue), and extending from a bluff of the pueblo of Cuyamungue to the hills of the Nambe road.

The governor made the grant on the same day, directed the chief alcalde of the new village of Santa Cruz to notify the Indians of the pueblo of Tesuque, the heirs of certain adjoining property owners, and all other citizens of the vicinity to show cause, if any they had, why the tract should not be granted to the petitioners, and, if there were no objection, to put them in possession.

Such notice having been given, the alcalde, on January 22, 1731, put the petitioners in juridical possession of the lands, describing the boundaries, and, after executing such act, returned the proceedings to the governor, by whom they were approved and placed in the royal archives of the City of Santa Fe, a testimonio thereof being delivered to the grantees, the original of which is now a part of the archives of the United States in the custody of the Surveyor General of the territory. The grantees, their heirs and assigns, have been in possession

Page 175 U. S. 62

of the land grant up to the present time, a period of one hundred and sixty-four years.

The petition further alleged that the claim had been examined and approved by the Surveyor General of the territory, returned by him favorably to Congress with a recommendation that the same be confirmed to the legal representatives of the original petitioners, but that it had never been acted upon by Congress or the authorities of the United States.

The government made no answer to the petition, but the court proceeded to hear the cause upon petition and proofs under the last clause of section six of the Court of Private Land Claims act, notwithstanding the failure of the government to file an answer. Petitioners produced certain witnesses to the effect that portions of the land granted had been occupied and cultivated by persons claiming under the original grantees, while the government showed that Indians of the pueblos of Nambe and Pojoaque had many years before instituted proceedings before the Surveyor General of New Mexico under the Act of July 22, 1854, for four leagues of land each; that the Surveyor General had recommended that the lands thus demanded be granted to them, and Congress had confirmed the grant to each of said pueblos for four leagues as recommended, 11 Stat. 374; that the grants to said pueblos were surveyed and patents for them issued; that such surveys covered the larger portions of the land of the old pueblo of Cuyamungue, which petitioners alleged were granted to the original grantees in this case.

The oral testimony tended to show that the pueblo of Pojoaque had been in existence since 1710, and the pueblo of Nambe from a time immemorial.

Upon motion made by the government and upon the consent of all the parties to the proceeding, it was ordered on October 11, 1895, that these pueblos be made parties, and that the petition of the claimants be deemed amended accordingly. It did not appear that any copy of the petition was served upon these pueblos, or that they appeared or waived service, but the court, on October 24, 1895, entered a decree against the United States confirming the entire grant as complete

Page 175 U. S. 63

and perfect as of the date of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, and further decreed that the confirmation should in no wise affect the rights of the pueblos of Pojoaque and Nambe, if any they have, as between them and the confirmees under their patents issued by the United States government.

Subsequently to this decree, and on November 9, the Indians of the two pueblos above named entered their appearance, stated that the lands confirmed to the petitioners were almost entirely within the limits of the lands confirmed by the act of Congress to these pueblos and patented to them, and that, while they were made parties defendant to the petition, they were never served with process, and had no opportunity of making a defense, and therefore moved the court to vacate the decree of confirmation and allow them to be heard in opposition to the claim. This motion was subsequently, and on December 2, 1896, denied, whereupon the United States appealed to this Court.

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