Wilson v. Omaha Indian Tribe

RESPONDENT: Omaha Indian Tribe
LOCATION: Butler Residence

DOCKET NO.: 78-160
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 442 US 653 (1979)
ARGUED: Mar 21, 1979
DECIDED: Jun 20, 1979

Edson Smith - for petitioners in No. 78-160
George Bennett Cullison, Jr. - for petitioners in No. 78-161
Sara S. Beale - for respondent United States
William H. Veeder - for respondent Omaha Indian Tribe

Facts of the case


Media for Wilson v. Omaha Indian Tribe

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 21, 1979 in Wilson v. Omaha Indian Tribe

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in Wilson against Omaha Indian Tribe and the consolidated case.

It takes a little time for the audience to clear, Mr. Smith.

I think you may proceed whenever you're ready, Mr. Smith.

Edson Smith:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This suit amounts to a suit to quiet title to about 2,900 acres of land lying on the east bank of the Missouri River in Iowa, about 30 miles south of Sioux City.

The plaintiffs are the Omaha Indian Tribe in the United States as trustee for the tribe, and they are the respondents here.

The defendants are the record title holders of the land.

They are counterclaimants.

They are three individuals, a corporation, and the State of Iowa, and they are the petitioners here.

I represent Wilson and others.

Mr. Cullison will speak for the State of Iowa.

Directly west of this area, across the river in Nebraska, is the Omaha Indian Reservation.

It is established there pursuant to a treaty of 1854 with the router as its boundary on the east.

Potter Stewart:

Mr. Smith, I was a little confused by the -- just the nexus of what you're telling us now about the factual situation by the State of Iowa petitioner's reply brief filed here on March 17.

On page 14, it says under the conclusion “within the living memory, the land in issue has always been on the west bank of the Missouri River --

Edson Smith:

That's a typographical error.

Potter Stewart:

Within the State of Iowa.”

Edson Smith:

It should be “east.”

It's a typographical error.

Potter Stewart:

Shouldn't it?

Edson Smith:

It should be “east.”

Potter Stewart:


Edson Smith:

It's been on the east bank, for 48 years at least, and some of it for 85 years.

The -- when the Reservation was surveyed in 1867 by T.H. Barrett for the General Land Office, this area of latitude or longitude, or under the sky, as they sometimes say, was occupied by a kind of peninsula extending eastward from Nebraska toward Iowa, between the upper and the lower limbs of the Blackbird Bend and so much of it, at least as was above the ordinary high water mark, was part of the Omaha Reservation.

Potter Stewart:

Is there a helpful drawing in these papers?

Edson Smith:

Yes, on the back of the white appendix, there is a drawing, a map, of this area and, there, it shows the present river.

It shows the Iowa-Nebraska State boundary which was fixed by compact between the states in 1943.

It shows the retracement of the Barrett Meander of the Nebraska Shore of this Peninsula of 1867.

Potter Stewart:

You say that's where -- there are several drawings in representation.

Edson Smith:

That's right, but they -- the one I'm referring to is on the back sh-- cover, attached to the back cover.