Tuscarora People Identified in Land and Other Transacations – Part 4

The Land Dispute Resolution

The issue of the land ownership and payments was not resolved until a 1972 case before the Indian Claims Commission, 29 Ind. Cl Comm. 194, Tuscarora Indian Nation vs the United States of America, docket 312, decided Nov. 29, 1972.  The opinion of the commission states, in part:

The Tuscarora Indian Nation has claimed damages, comensable under the Indian Claims Commission Act, 60 stat. 1049, resulting from the rental and subsequent sale of its equity in 41,113 acres of land located in Bertie County, NC for an alleged unconscionable consideration.  The commission previously concluded that the Tuscarora Indians were not adequately compensated in 1802 when by an act of the North Carolina legislature they were deprived of their reversionary right in such land, and that the United States is liable if the subsequent sale in 1829 of the reversionary interest and payment in 1832 of the proceeds to the Tuscarora Indians was not fair and adequate compensation for such interest.

Prior to 1802, 38,351 acres of the Tuscarora tract had been leased to private persons in violation of state statute.  The leases were due to expire at various times between 1874 and July 12, 1916.  Pursuant to an act of the NC legislature in 1778, such leases were validated and provision was made for title to the land to revert to the state if at any time the Tuscarora Nation should become extinct or if all members should entirely abandon or remove themselves from every part of the tract.

Under the existing treaty of December 4, 1802, between the US and the Tuscarora Indians, all the existing leases were renegotiated and extended to July 12, 1916.  A portion of land not previously leased, totaling 917.5 acres was also leased until July 12, 1916 for the sum of $20,966.60.  In addition, the parties to the treaty agreed that the Indians’ interest in the entire tract would “…cease and determine and shall be held and deemed extinguished forever” as of July 12, 1916, in favor of the State of NC.

In 1829 a committee appointed by the state legislature concluded that the consideration received in 1802 did not constitute compensation for the surrender to the State of the possibility of reverter, whereupon the state advertised and sold, mostly to the lessees in possession, the said interest. The sum of $3,220.71 was paid to the plaintiff in 1832 who in exchange conveyed all its estate, right, title, interest, claim and demand in said land to the state.

The Commission concludes that the fair market value of the 41,113 acres of the plaintiff’s land on March 1, 1803 to be the sum of $295,602.47. [The 1803 date is the date the treaty was ratified.]

The value of right to reversion is measured by the present value less the value of the land at the end of it’s term.

We find therefore that the US is liable under the Trade and Intercouse Act for the disparity between the rents received for the extensions of the existing leases and that received from similar and adjacent lands.  The Tuscaroras should have received rentals at least equal to those they received for the portions of the 3411 acres first leased after the 1820 treaty, namely, $0.0636 per acre per year.  We find the amount the plaintiff should have received to be $99,790.36 (38,351 acres times 0.0636 per acres times 41 years).

In recapitulation, we determine that the Tuscarora Indian Nation was fairly and adequately compensated by the State of NC for the relinquishment of a possibility of reverter, and that no liability attaches to the US by reason of its participation in the negotiations which resulted in the alienation of that interest.  We further conclude that the sum of $8,381.66 which was the consideration paid to the plaintiff for the extension of leases of 38,351 acres of plaintiff’s land was grossly inadequate and unconscionable within the meaning of Clause 3 section 2 of the Indian Claims Commission Act.  The fair rental value of such land at the time of the extension of the leases was $99,790.46.  Therefore the plaintiff is entitled to recover from the defendant under the Indians Claims Commission Act the sum of $99,790.46, less the consideration fo $8,361.66 received for a net amount of $91,428.80, subject to deductions for such gratuitous offsets as may be allowable.

The next section of this document includes transcribed original records which serve to illuminate the picture of the Tuscarora and the battles they fought, not on the ground, but in the hallowed chambers of the General Assembly and with the pen.

About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
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