United States v. Kagama

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtMILLER
Citation6 S.Ct. 1109,30 L.Ed. 228,118 U.S. 375
Decision Date10 May 1886
PartiesUNITED STATES v. KAGAMA, alias Pactah Billy, an Indian, and another. Filed

118 U.S. 375
6 S.Ct. 1109
30 L.Ed. 228
UNITED STATES
v.
KAGAMA, alias Pactah Billy, an Indian, and another.
Filed May 10, 1886.

Atty. Gen. Garland and Sol. Gen. Goode, for the United states.

Jos. D. Redding, for defendants.

MILLER, J.

The case is brought here by certificate of division of opinion between the circuit judge and the district judge holding the circuit court of the United States for district of California. The questions certified arise on a demurrer to an indictment against two Indians for murder committed on the Indian reservation of Hoopa Valley, in the state of California, the person murdered being also an Indian of said reservation.

Though there are six questions certified as the subject of difference, the point of them all is well set out in the third and sixth, which are as follows:

Page 376

'(3) Whether the provisions of said section 9, (of the act of congress of March 3, 1885,) making it a crime for one Indian to commit murder upon another Indian, upon an Indian reservation situated wholly within the limits of a state of the Union, and making such Indian so committing the crime of murder within and upon such Indian reservation 'subject to the same laws,' and subject to be 'tried in the same courts, and in the same manner, and subject to the same penalties, as are all other persons' committing the crime of murder 'within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States,' is a constitutional and valid law of the United States.' '(6) Whether the courts of the United States have jurisdiction or authority to try and punish an Indian belonging to an Indian tribe, for committing the crime of murder upon another Indian belonging to the same Indian tribe, both sustaining the usual tribal relations, said crime having been committed upon an Indian reservation made and set apart for the use of the Indian tribe to which said Indians both belong.'

The indictment sets out in two counts that Kagama, alias Pactah Billy, an Indian, murdered Iyouse, alias Ike, another Indian, at Humboldt county, in the state of California, within the limits of the Hoopa Valley reservation, and it charges Mahawaha, alias Ben, also an Indian, with aiding and abetting in the murder.

The law referred to in the certificate is the last section of the Indian appropriation act of that year, and is as follows:

'Sec. 9. That immediately upon and after the date of the passage of this act all Indians committing against the person or property of another Indian or other person any of the following crimes, namely, murder, manslaughter, rape, assault with intent to kill, arson, burglary, and larceny, within any territory of the United States, and either within or without the Indian reservation, shall be subject therefor to the laws of said territory relating to said crimes, and shall be tried therefor in the same courts, and in the same manner, and shall be subject to the same penalties, as are all other persons charged with the commission of the said crimes respectively; and said courts are hereby given jurisdiction in all such cases; and all such In-

Page 377

dians committing any of the above-described crimes against the person or property of another Indian or other person, within the boundaries of any state of the United States, and within the limits of any Indian reservation, shall be subject to the same laws, tried in the same courts, and in the same manner, and subject to the same penalties, as are all other persons committing any of the above crimes within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States.'

The above enactment is clearly separable into two distinct definitions of the conditions under which Indians may be punished for the same crimes as defined by the common law. The first of these is where the offense is committed within the limits of a territorial government, whether on or off an Indian reservation. In this class of cases the Indian charged with the crime shall be judged by the laws of the territory on that subject, and tried by its courts. This proposition itself is new in legislation of congress, which has heretofore only undertaken to punish an Indian who sustains the usual relation to his tribe, and the offense is committed in the Indian country, or on an Indian reservation, in exceptional cases; as where the offense was against the person or property of a white man, or is some violation of the trade and intercourse regulations imposed by congress on the Indian tribes. It is new, because it now proposes to punish these offenses when they are committed by one Indian on the person or property of another. The second is where the offense is committed by one Indian against the person or property of another, within the limits of a state of the Union, but on an Indian reservation. In this case, of which the state and its tribunals would have jurisdiction if the offense was committed by a white man outside an Indian reservation, the courts of the United States are to exercise jurisdiction as if the offense had been committed at some place within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States. The first clause subjects all Indians, guilty of these crimes committed within the limits of a territory, to the laws of that territory, and to its courts for trial. The second, which applies solely to offenses by Indians which are committed within the limits of a state and the limits of a reservation, subjects the offenders

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to the laws of the United States passed for the government of places under the exclusive jurisdiction of those laws, and to trial by the courts of the United States. This is a still further advance, as asserting this jurisdiction over the Indians within the limits of the states of the Union.

Although the offense charged in this indictment was committed within a state, and not within a territory, the considerations which are necessary to a solution of the problem in regard to the one must in a large degree affect the other. The constitution of the United States is almost silent in regard to the relations of the government which was established by it to the numerous tribes of Indians within its borders. In declaring the basis on which representation in the lower branch of the congress and direct taxation should be apportioned, it was fixed that it should be according to numbers, excluding Indians not taxed, which, of course, excluded nearly all of that race; but which meant that if there were such within a state as were taxed to support the government, they should be counted for representation, and in the computation for direct taxes levied by the United States. This expression, 'excluding Indians not taxed,' is found in the fourteenth amendment, where it deals with the same subject under the new conditions produced by the emancipation of the slaves. Neither of these shed much light on the power of congress over the Indians in their...

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548 practice notes
  • Part III
    • United States
    • Federal Register April 25, 2007
    • April 25, 2007
    ...448 U.S. 136, 142 (1980) [quoting McClanahan v. Arizona State Tax Comm'n, 411 U.S. 164, 173 (1973)] ; see also United States v. Kagama, 118 U.S. 375, 381-82 The Supreme Court has stated that tribes' inherent sovereign powers are presumed to be retained unless ``withdrawn by treaty or statut......
  • Federal and Indian lands programs: Indian lands; definition clarification; agency decision,
    • United States
    • Federal Register April 25, 2007
    • April 25, 2007
    ...448 U.S. 136, 142 (1980) [quoting McClanahan v. Arizona State Tax Comm'n, 411 U.S. 164, 173 (1973)] ; see also United States v. Kagama, 118 U.S. 375, 381-82 The Supreme Court has stated that tribes' inherent sovereign powers are presumed to be retained unless ``withdrawn by treaty or statut......
  • State of Wash., Dept. of Ecology v. U.S. E.P.A., No. 83-7763
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • February 6, 1985
    ...arose largely from the federal role as a guarantor of Indian rights against state encroachment. See United States v. Kagama, 118 U.S. 375, 383-84, 6 S.Ct. 1109, 1113-14, 30 L.Ed. 228 (1886). We must presume that Congress intended to exercise its power in a manner consistent with the federal......
  • Ali v. Reno, No. 93 Civ. 4661 (CLB) and 93 Civ. 4683 (CLB).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • August 16, 1993
    ...371, 408, 100 S.Ct. 2716, 2737, 65 L.Ed.2d 844 (1980) (Federal Government acts as guardian of native interests); United States v. Kagama, 118 U.S. 375, 383, 6 S.Ct. 1109, 1113, 30 L.Ed. 228 (1886) ("These Indian tribes are the wards of the nation."); Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, 30 U.S. (5 P......
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535 cases
  • State of Wash., Dept. of Ecology v. U.S. E.P.A., No. 83-7763
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • February 6, 1985
    ...arose largely from the federal role as a guarantor of Indian rights against state encroachment. See United States v. Kagama, 118 U.S. 375, 383-84, 6 S.Ct. 1109, 1113-14, 30 L.Ed. 228 (1886). We must presume that Congress intended to exercise its power in a manner consistent with the federal......
  • Ali v. Reno, No. 93 Civ. 4661 (CLB) and 93 Civ. 4683 (CLB).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • August 16, 1993
    ...371, 408, 100 S.Ct. 2716, 2737, 65 L.Ed.2d 844 (1980) (Federal Government acts as guardian of native interests); United States v. Kagama, 118 U.S. 375, 383, 6 S.Ct. 1109, 1113, 30 L.Ed. 228 (1886) ("These Indian tribes are the wards of the nation."); Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, 30 U.S. (5 P......
  • Means v. Navajo Nation, No. 01-17489.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • December 13, 2005
    ...v. Georgia, 30 U.S. (5 Pet.) 1, 17, 8 L.Ed. 25 (1831). 14. Oliphant, 435 U.S. at 211, 98 S.Ct. 1011; see also United States v. Kagama, 118 U.S. 375, 379, 6 S.Ct. 1109, 30 L.Ed. 228 15. Oliphant, 435 U.S. at 212, 98 S.Ct. 1011. 16. United States v. Wheeler, 435 U.S. 313, 98 S.Ct. 1079, 55 L.......
  • Nat'l Labor Relations Bd. v. Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Tribal Gov't, No. 14–2239.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • June 9, 2015
    ...previously exercised.” United States v. Wheeler, 435 U.S. 313, 323, 98 S.Ct. 1079, 55 L.Ed.2d 303 (1978) (quoting United States v. Kagama, 118 U.S. 375, 381, 6 S.Ct. 1109, 30 L.Ed. 228 (1886) ). The Tenth Amendment does not refer to Indian tribes in its reservations of power not delegated t......
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9 books & journal articles
  • Aurelius' Article III Revisionism: Reimagining Judicial Engagement with the Insular Cases and 'The Law of the Territories'.
    • United States
    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 131 Nbr. 8, June 2022
    • June 1, 2022
    ...journey from (1) an unenumerated, inherent-to-sovereignty understanding of constitutional power in cases like United States v. Kagama, 118 U.S. 375 (1886), to (2) enumeration and the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, ch. 576, 48 Stat. 984 (codified as amended in scattered sections of 25 U.......
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    • The Clean Water Act and the Constitution. Legal Structure and the Public's Right to a Clean and Healthy Environment Part I
    • April 20, 2009
    ...137. U.S. Const. art. I, §8, cl. 3. 138. Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez, 436 U.S. 49, 56-57 (1978) (citing United States v. Kagama, 118 U.S. 375, 379-81, 383-84 (1886)). 139. Federal Power Comm’n v. Tuscarora Indian Nation, 362 U.S. 99, 116 (1960); Donovan v. Coeur d’Alene Tribal Farm, 751 ......
  • Indigenous Subjects.
    • United States
    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 131 Nbr. 8, June 2022
    • June 1, 2022
    ...Blood Quantum Land Laws and the Race Versus Political Identity Dilemma, 96 CALIF. L. REV. 801, 809 (2008). (132.) United States v. Kagama, 118 U.S. 375, 379 (133.) Sec Brief for Scholars of Constitutional Law & Legal History as Amici Curiae Supporting Appellees with Respect to the Insul......
  • Originalism and Birthright Citizenship
    • United States
    • Georgetown Law Journal Nbr. 109-2, December 2020
    • December 1, 2020
    ...crimes of one tribal member against another. See Act of Mar. 3, 1885, ch. 341, § 9, 23 Stat. 362, 385; see also United States v. Kagama, 118 U.S. 375, 383–85 (1886) (upholding Congress’s power to enact this legislation). The new approach ultimately led to statutory recognition of all U.S.-b......
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