510 U.S. 399 (1994), 92-6281, Hagen v. Utah

Docket Nº:Case No. 92-6281
Citation:510 U.S. 399, 114 S.Ct. 958, 127 L.Ed.2d 252, 62 U.S.L.W. 4118
Party Name:HAGEN v. UTAH
Case Date:February 23, 1994
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 399

510 U.S. 399 (1994)

114 S.Ct. 958, 127 L.Ed.2d 252, 62 U.S.L.W. 4118




Case No. 92-6281

United States Supreme Court

February 23, 1994

Argued November 2, 1993



Petitioner, an Indian, was charged in Utah state court with distribution of a controlled substance in the town of Myton, which lies within the original boundaries of the Uintah Indian Reservation on land that was opened to non-Indian settlement in 1905. The trial court rejected petitioner's claim that it lacked jurisdiction over him because he was an Indian and the crime had been committed in "Indian country," see 18 U.S.C. § 1151, such that federal jurisdiction was exclusive. The state appellate court, relying on Ute Indian Tribe v. Utah, 773 F.2d 1087 (CA10), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 994, agreed with petitioner's contentions and vacated his conviction. The Utah Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the conviction, ruling that Congress had "diminished" the reservation by opening it to non-Indians, that Myton was outside its boundaries, and thus that petitioner's offense was subject to state criminal jurisdiction. See Solem v. Bartlett, 465 U.S. 463, 467 ("States have jurisdiction over . . . opened lands if the applicable surplus land Act freed that land of its reservation status and thereby diminished the reservation boundaries").


Because the Uintah Reservation has been diminished by Congress, the town of Myton is not in Indian country and the Utah courts properly exercised criminal jurisdiction over petitioner. Pp. 409-422.

(a) This Court declines to consider whether the State of Utah, which was a party to the Tenth Circuit proceedings in Ute Indian Tribe, should be collaterally estopped from relitigating the reservation boundaries. That argument is not properly before the Court because it was not presented in the petition for a writ of certiorari and was expressly disavowed by petitioner in his response to an amicus brief. Pp. 409-410.

(b) Under this Court's traditional approach, as set forth in Solem v. Bartlett, supra, and other cases, whether any given surplus land Act diminished a reservation depends on all the circumstances, including (1) the statutory language used to open the Indian lands, (2) the contemporaneous understanding of the particular Act, and (3) the identity of the persons who actually moved onto the opened lands. As to the first, the most probative, of these factors, the statutory language must establish an express congressional purpose to diminish, but no particular form of words is prerequisite to a finding of diminishment. Moreover, although

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the provision of a sum certain payment to the Indians, when coupled with a statutory expression of intent, can certainly provide additional evidence of diminishment, the lack of such a provision does not lead to the contrary conclusion. Throughout the diminishment inquiry, ambiguities are resolved in favor of the Indians, and diminishment will not lightly be found. Pp. 410-412.

(c) The operative language of the Act of May 27, 1902, ch. 888, 32 Stat. 263—which provided for allotments of some Uintah Reservation land to Indians, and that "all the unallotted lands within said reservation shall be restored to the public domain " (emphasis added)—evidences a congressional purpose to terminate reservation status. See, e. g., Seymour v. Superintendent of Wash. State Penitentiary, 368 U.S. 351, 354-355. Solem, supra, at 472-476, distinguished. Contrary to petitioner's argument, this baseline intent to diminish was not changed by the Act of March 3, 1905, ch. 1479, 33 Stat. 1069. Language in that statute demonstrates that Congress clearly viewed the 1902 Act as the basic legislation upon which the 1905 Act and intervening statutes were built. Furthermore, the structure of the statutes—which contain complementary, nonduplicative essential provisions—requires that the 1905 and 1902 Acts be read together. Finally, the general rule that repeals by implication are disfavored is especially strong here, because the 1905 Act expressly repealed a provision in the intervening statute passed in 1903; if Congress had meant to repeal any part of any other previous statute, it could easily have done so. Pp. 412-416.

(d) The historical evidence—including letters and other statements by Interior Department officials, congressional bills and statements by Members of Congress, and the text of the 1905 Presidential Proclamation that actually opened the Uintah Reservation to settlement—clearly indicates the contemporaneous understanding that the reservation would be diminished by the opening of the unallotted lands. This conclusion is not altered by inconsistent references to the reservation in both the past and present tenses in the post-1905 legislative record. These must be viewed merely as passing references in text, not deliberate conclusions about the congressional intent in 1905. Pp. 416-420.

(e) Practical acknowledgment that the reservation was diminished is demonstrated by the current population situation in the Uintah Valley, which is approximately 85 percent non-Indian in the opened lands and 93 percent non-Indian in the area's largest city; by the fact that the seat of local tribal government is on Indian trust lands, not opened lands; and by the State of Utah's assumption of jurisdiction over the opened lands from 1905 until the Tenth Circuit decided Ute Indian Tribe. A contrary conclusion would seriously disrupt the justifiable expectations of the people living in the area. Pp. 420-421.

858 P.2d 925, affirmed.

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O'Connor, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and Stevens, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Ginsburg, JJ., joined. Blackmun, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Souter, J., joined, post, p. 422.

Martin E. Seneca, Jr., argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs was Daniel H. Israel.

Ronald J. Mann argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging reversal. With him on the briefs were Solicitor General Days, Acting Assistant Attorney General Flint, Acting Deputy Solicitor General Kneedler, Edward J. Shawaker, and Martin W. Matzen.

Jan Graham, Attorney General of Utah, argued the cause for respondent. With her on the brief were Carol Clawson, Solicitor General, and Michael M. Quealy, Assistant Attorney General.[*]

Justice O'Connor delivered the opinion of the Court.

In this case we decide whether the Uintah Indian Reservation was diminished by Congress when it was opened to non-Indian settlers at the turn of the century. If the reservation has been diminished, then the town of Myton, Utah, which lies on opened lands within the historical boundaries of the reservation, is not in "Indian country," see 18 U.S.C. § 1151,

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and the Utah state courts properly exercised criminal jurisdiction over petitioner, an Indian who committed a crime in Myton.


On October 3, 1861, President Lincoln reserved about 2 million acres of land in the Territory of Utah for Indian settlement. Executive Order No. 38-1, reprinted in 1 C. Kappler, Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties 900 (1904). Congress confirmed the President's action in 1864, creating the Uintah Valley Reservation. Act of May 5, 1864, ch. 77, 13 Stat. 63. According to the 1864 Act, the lands were "set apart for the permanent settlement and exclusive occupation of such of the different tribes of Indians of said territory as may be induced to inhabit the same." Ibid. The present-day Ute Indian Tribe includes the descendants of the Indians who settled on the Uintah Reservation.

In the latter part of the 19th century, federal Indian policy changed. See F. Cohen, Handbook of Federal Indian Law 127-139 (1982 ed.). Indians were no longer to inhabit communally owned reservations, but instead were to be given individual parcels of land; any remaining lands were to be opened for settlement by non-Indians. The General Allotment Act, Act of Feb. 8, 1887, ch. 119, 24 Stat. 388, granted the President authority "to allot portions of reservation land to tribal members and, with tribal consent, to sell the surplus lands to [non-Indian] settlers, with the proceeds of these sales being dedicated to the Indians' benefit." DeCoteau v. District County Court for Tenth Judicial District, 420 U.S. 425, 432 (1975).

Pursuant to the General Allotment Act, Congress in 1894 directed the President to appoint a commission to negotiate with the Indians for the allotment of Uintah Reservation lands and the "relinquishment to the United States" of all unallotted lands. Act of Aug. 15, 1894, ch. 290, § 22, 28 Stat.337. That effort did not succeed, and in 1898 Congress directed the President to appoint another commission to negotiate

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an agreement for the allotment of Uintah Reservation lands and the "cession" of unallotted lands to the United States. Act of June 4, 1898, ch. 376, 30 Stat. 429. The Indians resisted those efforts as well. Various bills that would have opened the reservation unilaterally (i. e., without the consent of the Indians) were subsequently introduced in the Senate but were not enacted into law. See Leasing of Indian Lands, Hearings before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, S. Doc. No. 212, 57th Cong., 1st Sess., 3 (1902).

In 1902, Congress passed an Act which provided that if a majority of the adult male members of the Uintah and White River Indians consented, the Secretary of the Interior should make allotments by October 1, 1903, out of the Uintah Reservation. Act of May 27, 1902, ch. 888, 32 Stat. 263.[1] The allotments under the 1902 Act were to be 80 acres for each head of a family and 40 acres for each other...

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