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H.R. 4497, An Act to create an Indian Claims Commission . . . , May 21, 1946

Prior to 1946, American Indians had to request special authority from Congress to pursue monetary damages against the U.S. government in the Court of Claims. This process often took years. By creating the Indian Claims Commission, Congress hoped to address American Indians’ claims against the government more expeditiously and justly. The government could authorize monetary awards only; return of seized land was prohibited.

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

H.R. 4497 - Image 1 H.R. 4497 - Image 2

The Indian Claims Commission Act

In part to show gratitude to American Indians who served in World War II, Congress passed the Indian Claims Commission Act in 1946. The act established a special, temporary commission to hear and decide land claim cases of American Indians, who believed the federal government had treated them unjustly through treaty violations, confiscation of land, and other grievances. Tribes who won claims would receive monetary awards as compensation. Congress’s action capped years of effort by American Indians and sympathetic allies to resolve long-standing land claim cases fairly.

Since 1924, when the last noncitizen Indian became an American citizen . . . there has been no reason . . . why Indians should not have the same right to sue in the Court of Claims as anyone else.

Representative Henry (“Scoop”) Jackson of Washington, Statement on H.R. 4497, May 20, 1946