United States v. Antelope, No. 75-661

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBURGER
Citation430 U.S. 641,51 L.Ed.2d 701,97 S.Ct. 1395
Docket NumberNo. 75-661
Decision Date19 April 1977
PartiesUNITED STATES, Petitioner, v. Gabriel Francis ANTELOPE et al

430 U.S. 641
97 S.Ct. 1395
51 L.Ed.2d 701
UNITED STATES, Petitioner,

v.

Gabriel Francis ANTELOPE et al.

No. 75-661.
Argued Jan. 18, 1977.
Decided April 19, 1977.
Syllabus

Respondents, enrolled Coeur d'Alene Indians, were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of burglary, robbery, and murder of a non-Indian within the boundaries of their reservation. One respondent was convicted of second-degree murder only; the other two were convicted of all three crimes as charged, including first-degree murder under the felony-murder provisions of the federal-enclave murder statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1111, as made applicable to Indians by the Major Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1153. The Court of Appeals reversed on the ground that respondents had been denied their constitutional rights under the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause. The court agreed with respondents' contention that their felony-murder convictions were racially discriminatory since a non-Indian charged with the same crime would have been subject to prosecution only under Idaho law, under which premeditation and deliberation would have had to be proved, whereas no such elements were required under the felony-murder provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 1111. Held : Respondent Indians were not deprived of the equal protection of the laws. Pp. 645-650.

(a) The federal criminal statutes enforced here are based neither in whole nor in part upon impermissible racial classifications. Federal regulation of Indian tribes is rooted in the unique status of Indians as "a separate people" with their own political institutions, and is not to be viewed as legislation of a " 'racial' group consisting of 'Indians'. . . ." Morton v. Mancari, 417 U.S. 535, 553 n. 24, 94 S.Ct. 2474, 2484, 41 L.Ed.2d 290. Pp. 645-647.

(b) The challenged statutes do not otherwise violate equal protection. Respondents were subjected to the same body of law as any other individuals, Indian or non-Indian, charged with first-degree murder committed in a federal enclave. Congress has undoubted power to prescribe a criminal code applicable to Indian country, and the disparity between federal law and Idaho law has no equal protection or other constitutional significance. Pp. 647-650.

523 F.2d 400, reversed and remanded.

Page 642

Andrew L. Frey, Washington, D. C., for petitioner.

John W. Walker, Moscow, Idaho, for respondents Leonard and William Davison.

Allen V. Bowles, Moscow, Idaho, for respondent Gabriel Antelope.

Mr. Chief Justice BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question presented by our grant of certiorari is whether, under the circumstances of this case, federal criminal statutes violate the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment by subjecting individuals to federal prosecution by virtue of their status as Indians.

(1)

On the night of February 18, 1974, respondents, enrolled Coeur d'Alene Indians, broke into the home of Emma Johnson, an 81-year-old non-Indian, in Worley, Idaho; they robbed and killed Mrs. Johnson. Because the crimes were committed by enrolled Indians within the boundaries of the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation, respondents were subject to federal jurisdiction under the Major Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1153.1 They were, accordingly, indicted by a federal grand jury on

Page 643

charges of burglary, robbery, and murder.2 Respondent William Davison was convicted of second-degree murder only. Respondents Gabriel Francis Antelope and Leonard Davison were found guilty of all three crimes as charged, including first-degree murder under the felony-murder provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 1111,3 as made applicable to enrolled Indians by 18 U.S.C. § 1153.

(2)

In the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, respondents contended that their felony-murder convictions

Page 644

were unlawful as products of invidious racial discrimination. They argued that a non-Indian charged with precisely the same offense, namely the murder of another non-Indian within Indian country,4 would have been subject to prosecution only under Idaho law, which in contrast to the federal murder statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1111, does not contain a felony-murder provision.5 To establish the crime of first-degree murder in state court, therefore, Idaho would have had to prove premeditation and deliberation. No such elements were required under the felony-murder component of 18 U.S.C. § 1111.

Because of the difference between Idaho and federal law, the Court of Appeals concluded that respondents were "put at a serious racially-based disadvantage," 523 F.2d 400, 406 (1975), since the Federal Government was not required to establish premeditation and deliberation in respondents' federal prosecution. This disparity, so the Court of Appeals concluded, violated equal protection requirements implicit in the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. We granted the United States' petition for certiorari, 424 U.S. 907, 96 S.Ct. 1100, 47 L.Ed.2d 311 (1976), and we reverse.

Page 645

(3)

The decisions of this Court leave no doubt that federal legislation with respect to Indian tribes, although relating to Indians as such, is not based upon impermissible racial classifications. Quite the contrary, classifications expressly singling out Indian tribes as subjects of legislation are expressly provided for in the Constitution 6 and supported by the ensuing history of the Federal Government's relations with Indians.

"Indian tribes are unique aggregations possessing attributes of sovereignty over both their members and their territory, Worcester v. Georgia, 31 U.S. 515, 6 Pet. 515, 557, 8 L.Ed. 483 (1832); they are 'a separate people' possessing 'the power of regulating their internal and social relations . . ..' " United States v. Mazurie, 419 U.S. 544, 557, 95 S.Ct. 710, 717, 42 L.Ed.2d 706 (1975).

Legislation with respect to these "unique aggregations" has repeatedly been sustained by this Court against claims of unlawful racial discrimination. In upholding a limited employment preference for Indians in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, we said in Morton v. Mancari, 417 U.S. 535, 552, 94 S.Ct. 2474, 2483, 41 L.Ed.2d 290 (1974):

"Literally every piece of legislation dealing with Indian tribes and reservations . . . single(s) out for special treatment a constituency of tribal Indians living on or near reservations. If these laws . . . were deemed invidious racial discrimination, an entire Title of the United States Code (25 U.S.C.) would be effectively erased . . .."

In light of that result, the Court unanimously concluded in Mancari :

"The preference, as applied, is granted to Indians not as a discrete racial group, but, rather, as members of quasi-sovereign tribal entities . . .." Id., at 554, 94 S.Ct., at 2484.

Page 646

Last Term, in Fisher v. District Court, 424 U.S. 382, 96 S.Ct. 943, 47 L.Ed.2d 106 (1976), we held that members of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe could be denied access to Montana State courts in connection with an adoption proceeding arising on their reservation. Unlike Mancari, the Indian plaintiffs in Fisher were being denied a benefit or privilege available to non-Indians; nevertheless, a unanimous Court dismissed the claim of racial discrimination:

"(W)e reject the argument that denying (the Indian plaintiffs) access to the Montana courts constitutes impermissible racial discrimination. The exclusive jurisdiction of the Tribal Court does not derive from the race of the plaintiff but rather from the quasi-sovereign status of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe under federal law." 424 U.S., at 390, 96 S.Ct., at 948.

Both Mancari and Fisher involved preferences or disabilities directly promoting Indian interests in self-government, whereas in the present case we are dealing, not with matters of tribal self-regulation, but with federal regulation of criminal conduct within Indian country implicating Indian interests. But the principles reaffirmed in Mancari and Fisher point more broadly to the conclusion that federal regulation of Indian affairs is not based upon impermissible classifications. Rather, such regulation is rooted in the unique status of Indians as "a separate people" with their own political institutions. Federal regulation of Indian tribes, therefore, is governance of once-sovereign political communities; it is not to be viewed as legislation of a " 'racial' group consisting of 'Indians' . . . ." Morton v. Mancari, supra, at 553 n. 24, 94 S.Ct., at 2484. Indeed, respondents were not subjected to federal criminal jurisdiction because...

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251 practice notes
  • Means v. Navajo Nation, No. 01-17489.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • December 13, 2005
    ...24. 25 U.S.C. § 1301(2). 25. 18 U.S.C. § 1153. 26. 25 U.S.C. § 1301(4). 27. See 18 U.S.C. § 1153(a). 28. United States v. Antelope, 430 U.S. 641, 97 S.Ct. 1395, 51 L.Ed.2d 701 29. Id. At 646. 30. Id. at 646 n. 7, 97 S.Ct. 1395 (quoting Morton v. Mancari, 417 U.S. 535, 553 n. 24, 94 S.Ct. 24......
  • United States v. Zepeda, No. 10-10131
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • January 18, 2013
    ...and the assumption of a guardian-ward status, to legislate on behalf of federally recognized Indian tribes."), United States v. Antelope, 430 U.S. 641, 646 (1977) ("[F]ederal regulation of Indian affairs is not based uponPage 17impermissible classifications. Rather, such regulation is roote......
  • Cnty. of Charles Mix v. United States Dep't of the Interior, No. CIV 10–3012–RAL.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. District of South Dakota
    • March 31, 2011
    ...tribal affairs is because these non-Indians are not members of the Tribe, a quasi-sovereign political entity. United States v. Antelope, 430 U.S. 641, 646, 97 S.Ct. 1395, 51 L.Ed.2d 701 (1977) (“federal regulation of Indian affairs is not based upon impermissible classifications. Rather, su......
  • Parravano v. Babbitt, No. C 93-2003 TEH.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • July 29, 1994
    ...at 2485. The Supreme Court revisited the question whether regulation of Indian affairs was racially based in United States v. Antelope, 430 U.S. 641, 97 S.Ct. 1395, 51 L.Ed.2d 701 (1977). Addressing a challenge that a federal criminal statute applied to Indians was racially discriminatory, ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
250 cases
  • Means v. Navajo Nation, No. 01-17489.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • December 13, 2005
    ...24. 25 U.S.C. § 1301(2). 25. 18 U.S.C. § 1153. 26. 25 U.S.C. § 1301(4). 27. See 18 U.S.C. § 1153(a). 28. United States v. Antelope, 430 U.S. 641, 97 S.Ct. 1395, 51 L.Ed.2d 701 29. Id. At 646. 30. Id. at 646 n. 7, 97 S.Ct. 1395 (quoting Morton v. Mancari, 417 U.S. 535, 553 n. 24, 94 S.Ct. 24......
  • United States v. Zepeda, No. 10-10131
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • January 18, 2013
    ...and the assumption of a guardian-ward status, to legislate on behalf of federally recognized Indian tribes."), United States v. Antelope, 430 U.S. 641, 646 (1977) ("[F]ederal regulation of Indian affairs is not based uponPage 17impermissible classifications. Rather, such regulation is roote......
  • Cnty. of Charles Mix v. United States Dep't of the Interior, No. CIV 10–3012–RAL.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. District of South Dakota
    • March 31, 2011
    ...tribal affairs is because these non-Indians are not members of the Tribe, a quasi-sovereign political entity. United States v. Antelope, 430 U.S. 641, 646, 97 S.Ct. 1395, 51 L.Ed.2d 701 (1977) (“federal regulation of Indian affairs is not based upon impermissible classifications. Rather, su......
  • Parravano v. Babbitt, No. C 93-2003 TEH.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • July 29, 1994
    ...at 2485. The Supreme Court revisited the question whether regulation of Indian affairs was racially based in United States v. Antelope, 430 U.S. 641, 97 S.Ct. 1395, 51 L.Ed.2d 701 (1977). Addressing a challenge that a federal criminal statute applied to Indians was racially discriminatory, ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Indigenous Subjects.
    • United States
    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 131 Nbr. 8, June 2022
    • June 1, 2022
    ...that the plebiscite be redesigned as a poll unassociated with the Guam Election Commission). (12.) See, e.g., United States v. Antelope, 430 U.S. 641, 644 (1977); Moe v. Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes, 425 U.S. 463, 479 (1976); Morton v. Mancan, 417 U.S. 535, 551 (1974); Means v.......

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