Memorandum Returning Without Approval a Bill To Compensate Indian Tribes for Irrigation Construction Expenditures

October 17, 1984

I am withholding my approval from S. 1967, a bill ``To compensate the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine Tribes of the Fort Belknap Indian Community for irrigation construction expenditures.''

S. 1967 would reimburse the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine Tribes of the Fort Belknap Indian Community for $107,759.58 in tribal funds expended under applicable law for the construction of irrigation projects on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation from 1895 to 1913. In addition, interest would be paid at 4 percent from the date of expenditure of the tribal funds until the date of payment of the principal pursuant to the bill.

On November 20, 1962, the Indian Claims Commission, after due deliberation, issued a detailed opinion carefully considering and dismissing (among other claims) a claim for the same reimbursement that would be provided by the bill. Fort Belknap Indian Community v. United States, 11 Ind. Cl. Comm. 479, 510 - 518, 543 - 549 (1962). The Commission found that construction of the irrigation system was ``requested by the members of the Fort Belknap Community,'' that it has been of great and continuing benefit to the tribes, and ``that its construction and maintenance have been consonant with the fair and honorable dealings clause within the meaning of the Indian Claims Commission Act.'' 11 Ind. Cl. Comm. 518 - 519. The tribes took no appeal from that decision.

The fair and impartial administration of justice and the protection of public resources from meritless special appropriations both require that those who have availed themselves of judicial remedies in asserting claims against the United States, and have had their claims fully and fairly adjudicated under our Constitution and laws, receive no more or less than that to which they have been adjudged to be entitled. Twenty-two years after the claims of these two tribes were dismissed by an impartial tribunal established by the Congress specifically to adjudicate such claims, this bill would authorize and appropriate to them all that they were previously found not to be entitled to.

Under the circumstances, the enactment of the bill would set aside established principles of justice and thereby encourage other and future efforts to obtain by legislation that which has been denied by a just adjudication.

For these reasons, I find the bill unacceptable.

Ronald Reagan

The White House,

October 17, 1984.