Indian Claims Commission claims case no. 288

Identifier: NC443

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of materials accumulated by the Washoe Tribe during litigation of their claims case before the Indian Claims Commission - Docket No. 288. It includes reports, maps, published articles, literary references, doctoral thesis, property valuations, bibliographies, petitions, treaties and abstracts, exhibits, photographs, general state statutes and laws, correspondence, and research data and notes.


  • 1855-1971


Restrictions on Access

This collection is restricted; permission to examine these records must be obtained in writing from the Washoe Tribal Chairman. Contact the tribe at the following address:

Washoe Tribal Chairman Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California 919 Highway 395 South Gardnerville, Nevada 89410 702/265-4191 or 883-1446 702/265-6240 (fax)

Administrative History

The Indian Claims Commission (hereafter referred to as the "Commission") was created by an act of Congress of August 13, 1946 (60 Stat. 1049) entitled "An Act to Create an Indian Claims Commission...." Recognizing that many of the Indian tribes in the United States had been deprived of their land and economic resources by the federal government without compensation, Congress gave the Commission authority to hear and determine claims against the U.S. on behalf of any identifiable group of American or Alaskan Indians and to determine an amount to be awarded to successful claimants. It was then up to Congress to authorize payment.

The Washoe Tribe of the States of Nevada and California (sometimes referred to as Washo) met on April 21, 1948 and directed the tribal council to hire legal counsel and file a claim on behalf of the tribe. George F. Wright, an attorney in Elko, Nevada, signed a contract with the tribe which was approved by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in October of that same year. A fifty percent interest in Mr. Wright's contract was assigned by Wright to Washington, D.C., attorneys C.T. Busha, Jr. and John Lewis Smith, Jr. to facilitate handling of the case. Some years later after the death of Busha and retirement of Smith, the fifty percent interest was transferred to the Washington, D.C. law firm of Armour, Herrick, Kneipple & Allen.

The attorneys for the Washo claims case were required to prove certain basic tenants: that the tribe was then and at the time of filing, an identifiable Native American entity; that prior to the encroachment of whites, the tribe occupied a fixed geographical area of a determinable amount of acres; that the tribe utilized economic resources within that territory; that those territories and resources were taken from the tribe without compensation or by coercion; and that such losses had a determinable dollar value.

The tribe's original petition of August 9, 1951 asked for a judgement in the amount of $43,811,985.84 based on the 1862 value of the land, fish and game rights, and minerals and timber which had been wrongfully removed, plus interest from 1863. To establish these values, Wright contracted with several professional appraisers who prepared extensive reports which subsequently became part of the exhibits in the Washo legal case.

The Commission moved slowly on this docket (No. 288), as several hundred similar claims were filed by Indian tribes across the U.S. The Commission issued an interlocutory order on July 24, 1959 which declared that lands possessed by the Washo Tribe were taken by the U.S. without payment on [or by] December 31, 1862 in Nevada, and March 3, 1853 in California. The Commission further ordered the case to proceed in order to determine the amount of acreage and value lost. Voluminous testimony was given by experts to establish the basis upon which the final judgement was rendered.

The federal government finally settled this claim in 1970 with a payment of about $5,000,000 to the tribe. This payment was based on a land area significantly reduced from the Washo's original petition. $2,000 was distributed by the tribe to each authenticated Washo member and with part of the balance the tribe established a commercial recreation and camping area on the Carson River. This ended the Washo's and George Wright's twenty-two-year-old claims case to recover compensation for resources lost one hundred and eight years previously.


7 Cubic Feet (7 boxes)

Language of Materials



Consists of materials accumulated by the Washoe Tribe, their attorneys, and their expert witnesses during litigation of their case before the United States Indian Claims Commission.,Included are reports, maps, published articles, literary references, property valuations, bibliographies, petitions, treaties and abstracts, court exhibits, photographs, general Nevada state statutes and laws, correspondence, and research notes describing the tribe, their historical territory, and lifeways.



Immediate Source of Acquisition

From Washoe Tribe of the States of Nevada and California; Gardnerville, Nevada.

Related Materials

A related manuscript collection is also available in the Special Collections Department. The George C. Wright papers (manuscript collection 90-37) contains Wright's files related to the Washoe claims case. That collection is unrestricted.
A Guide to the Indian Claims Commission claims case no. 288
Rebecca Richards and Susan Searcy
August 12, 1998
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)