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Letter from Tom-Pee-Saw to Senator Joseph O’Mahoney of Wyoming, June 8, 1946

In this letter to Senator Joseph O’Mahoney of Wyoming, chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs, Tom-Pee-Saw urged passage of the Indian claims bill, noting 500 American Indians made the “Supreme Sacrifice” during World War II, but lacked justice at home. Nearly all federally recognized tribal nations filed land claims with the Indian Claims Commission during its existence from 1946 to 1978.

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

Letter from Tom-Pee-Saw to Senator Joseph O’Mahoney of Wyoming - Image 1 Letter from Tom-Pee-Saw to Senator Joseph O’Mahoney of Wyoming - Image 2 Letter from Tom-Pee-Saw to Senator Joseph O’Mahoney of Wyoming - Image 3 Letter from Tom-Pee-Saw to Senator Joseph O’Mahoney of Wyoming - Image 4

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