Alaska Pacific Fisheries v. United States

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation248 U.S. 78,63 L.Ed. 138,39 S.Ct. 40
Docket NumberNo. 212,212
Decision Date09 December 1918

248 U.S. 78
39 S.Ct. 40
63 L.Ed. 138



No. 212.
Argued Nov. 4, 1918.
Decided Dec. 9, 1918.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 78-81 intentionally omitted]

Page 81

Mr. C. H. Hanford, of Seattle, Wash., for appellant.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 81-83 intentionally omitted]

Page 83

Mr. Assistant Attorney General Brown, for the United States.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 83-85 intentionally omitted]

Page 86

Mr. Justice VAN DEVANTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a suit by the United States to enjoin the Alaska Pacific Fisheries, a California corporation, from maintaining, and to compel it to remove, an extensive fish trap erected by it in navigable waters at the Annette ISLANDS IN ALASKA. THE OBJECTIONS URGEd Against thE trap are, first, that it is within a reservation lawfully established for the use of the Metlakahtla and other Indians, and, second, that it is an unauthorized obstruction to the navigable capacity of waters of the United States. A decree was entered granting the relief sought and this was affirmed by the Circuit Court of Appeals. 240 Fed. 274, 153 C. C. A. 200.

The Annette Islands are a group of small islands in southeastern Alaska. During the summer of 1887 some 800 Metlakahtla Indians emigrated from British Columbia and settled on one of these islands. The emigration and settlement were not only acquiesced in but encouraged by executive and administrative officers of the United States,1 and subsequently were sanctioned by Congress through the enactment of section 15 of the Act of March 3, 1891, c. 561, 26 Stat. 1101 (Comp. St. 1916, § 5096a). That section reads as follows:

'That until otherwise provided by law the body of lands known as Annette Islands, situated in Alexander Archipelago in southeastern Alaska, on the north side of Dixon's entrance, be, and the same is hereby, set apart as a reservation for the use of the Metlakahtla Indians, and those people known as Metlakahtlans who have recently emigrated from British Columbia to Alaska, and such

Page 87

other Alaskan natives as may join them, to be held and used by them in common, under such rules and regulations, and subject to such restrictions, as may [be] prescribed from time to time by the Secretary of the Interior.'

The fish trap was erected in 1916 without the consent of the Indians or the Secretary of the Interior. It is a formidable structure consisting of heavy piling and wire webbing, is located in water of considerable depth approximately 600 feet from the high tide line of the island on which the Indians settled, is intended to catch about 600,000 salmon in a single season, and its operation will tend materially to reduce the natural supply of fish accessible to the Indians.

The principal question for decision is whether the reservation created by the Act of 1891 embraces only the upland of the islands or includes as well the adjacent waters and submerged land. The question is one of construction—of determining what Congress intended by the words 'the body of lands known as Annette Islands.'

As an appreciation of the circumstances in which words are used usually is conducive and at times is essential to a right understanding of them, it is important, in approaching a solution of the question stated, to have in mind the circumstances in which the reservation was created—the power of Congress in the premises, the location and character of the islands,...

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190 cases
  • Alaska Public Easement Defense Fund v. Andrus, Civ. No. A75-204
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Alaska
    • August 19, 1977
    ...392, 96 S.Ct. 2102, 2113, 48 L.Ed.2d 710 (1976), should tip the balance in their favor. See also Alaska Pacific Fisheries v. United States, 248 U.S. 78, 89, 39 S.Ct. 40, 63 L.Ed. 138 (1918); Squire v. Capoeman, 351 U.S. 1, 6-7, 76 S.Ct. 611, 100 L.Ed. 883 (1956). In response to the Natives'......
  • Bonnichsen v. U.S., Civil No. 96-1481-JE.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Oregon)
    • August 30, 2002 legislation passed for the benefit of Indian tribes are "resolved in favor of the Indians." Alaska Pacific Fisheries v. United States, 248 U.S. 78, 89, 39 S.Ct. 40, 63 L.Ed. 138 (1918). This canon applies only where a statute is ambiguous. South Carolina v. Catawba Indian Tribe, 476 U.S.......
  • Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians v. Voigt, s. 78-2398
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    • March 8, 1983
    ...Arizona v. California, 373 U.S. 546, 599-601, 83 S.Ct. 1468, 1497-98, 10 L.Ed.2d 542 (1963); Alaska Pacific Fisheries v. United States, 248 U.S. 78, 89, 39 S.Ct. 40, 42, 63 L.Ed. 138 (1918); Winters v. United States, 207 U.S. 564, 576-77, 28 S.Ct. 207, 211-12, 52 L.Ed. 340 (1908). This rule......
  • Three Affiliated Tribes of Fort Berthold Reservation v. Wold Engineering
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    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 29, 1984
    ...e.g., Bryan v. Itasca County, 426 U.S. 373, 392, 96 S.Ct. 2102, 2112, 48 L.Ed.2d 710 (1976); Alaska Pacific Fisheries v. United States, 248 U.S. 78, 89, 39 S.Ct. 40, 42, 63 L.Ed. 138 (1918). It would be contrary to this principle to resolve any ambiguity in the language of the Enabling Act ......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Native Treaties and Conditional Rights After Herrera.
    • United States
    • Stanford Law Review Vol. 73 Nbr. 4, April 2021
    • April 1, 2021
    ...quoting Northern Cheyenne Tribe v. Hollowbreast, 425 U.S. 649, 655 n.7 (1976); and then quoting Alaska Pac. Fisheries v. United States, 248 U.S. 78, 89 (1918))); Choctaw Nation v. Oklahoma, 397 U.S. 620, 631 (1970); State v. Miller, 689 P.2d 81, 84 (Wash. 1984) (en banc). For one explanatio......

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