Vermillion v. Spotted Elk, No. 7664

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
Writing for the CourtSATHRE; GRIMSON
Citation85 N.W.2d 432
Docket NumberNo. 7664
Decision Date14 October 1957
PartiesWilliam VERMILLION, Plaintiff, v. Alex SPOTTED ELK and Benny Dogskin, Defendants.

Page 432

85 N.W.2d 432
William VERMILLION, Plaintiff,
v.
Alex SPOTTED ELK and Benny Dogskin, Defendants.
No. 7664.
Supreme Court of North Dakota.
Oct. 14, 1957.

Page 433

Syllabus by the Court.

1. Where plaintiff, an enrolled Indian who is a citizen of the United States, brought a civil action growing out of tort, in a district court of the state, against another Indian, plaintiff was entitled to bring such action and the state court had jurisdiction to try such action under the provisions of Section 22 of the State Constitution notwithstanding both parties to the action were residents of Standing Rock Indian Reservation where the cause of action arose.

2. The compact between the United States and the State of North Dakota created by Section 4 of the Enabling Act and the disclaimer in Section 203 of the State Constitution is not a reservation by the United States of exclusive jurisdiction of civil causes of action not involving lands, between Indians residing on reservations within the boundaries of the State.

3. The Act of Congress of August 15, 1953 giving consent of the United States to civil and criminal jurisdiction to any state not having such jurisdiction has no application to states which had assumed and had exercised such jurisdiction prior to the enactment thereof without intervention by the United States.

Leslie R. Burgum, Atty. Gen., Frank J. Kosanda, Asst. Atty. Gen., Bismarck, for defendants.

Strutz, Jansonius & Fleck, Bismarck, for plaintiff.

SATHRE, Justice.

This case comes to this court for determination of a certified question of law from the district court of Burleigh County, pursuant to provisions of Chapter 32-24, NDRC 1943. The complaint alleges that defendants negligently and carelessly operated their automobile on State Highway number 21 within the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, and through their negligence and carelessness collided with the plaintiff's automobile causing personal injuries to plaintiff and damaging his said automobile.

The defendants in their answer admitted that there was a collision as alleged by the plaintiff but as a defense alleged that the district court had no jurisdiction to hear and determine a civil cause of action arising out of tort for the reason that the parties to the action were enrolled Indians, residing within the boundaries of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in the State of North Dakota.

There is no dispute as to the facts in this case. The plaintiff and the two defendants are enrolled Indians residing on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. The collision out of which said action arose occurred on State Highway No. 21 in Sioux County, North Dakota, within the said Indian Reservation.

The case came on for trial in the District Court of Burleigh County before the Hon. C. L. Foster, one of the judges of said district court. Under the pleadings the sole question presented for determination was a question of law, that is, whether or not the district court had jurisdiction to determine a civil cause of action arising in tort between enrolled Indians residing within the boundaries of an Indian Reservation where the cause of action arose within said reservation. The district court answered the said question in the affirmative and held that the district courts of the state have jurisdiction in such case. It held, however, that the proper answer to said question was in doubt; that it was of vital importance and that the proper determination thereof will depend wholly on the construction of the law applicable thereto and that the said question is of great moment and of public importance.

The Attorney General of the State appeared for the defendants under the provisions of the unsatisfied judgment fund law of the State and contended that

Page 434

the district court was in error in holding that it had jurisdiction to try the case. The trial court thereupon certified the question to this court which question is as follows:

'Does the district court of the State of North Dakota have jurisdiction to hear and determine a civil cause of action arising in tort between enrolled Indians where the cause of action is for personal injuries arising out of an automobile accident on State Highway No. 21, in Sioux County, North Dakota, about 7 miles east of the Village of Solen the scene of said accident being located within the boundaries of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.'

The Attorney General cites the provisions of Section 4 of the Enabling Act under which North Dakota was admitted into the Union and Section 203 of the Constitution. The portion of the Enabling Act cited reads as follows:

'That the people inhabiting said proposed states do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries thereof, and to all lands lying within said limits owned or held by any Indian or Indian tribes; and that until the title thereto shall have been extinguished by the United States, the same shall be and remain subject to the disposition of the United States, and said Indian lands shall remain under the absolute jurisdiction and control of the congress of the United States;'

Article XVI of the Constitution, Compact with the United States, is as follows:

'The following article shall be irrevocable without the consent of the United States and the people of this state:

'Section 203. First. * * *

'Second. The people inhabiting this state do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries thereof, and to all lands lying within said limits owned or held by any Indians or Indian Tribes, and that until the title thereto shall have been extinguished by the United States, and the same shall be and remain subject to the disposition of the United States, and that said Indian Lands shall remain under the absolute jurisdiction and control of the congress of the United States;'

The attorney general asserts that under the provisions of the Enabling Act and Section 203 of the Constitution quoted above the United States had jurisdiction not only over the Indian lands but also over civil causes of action between the enrolled Indians residing thereon; that such jurisdiction continues in effect until the United States has relinquished its jurisdiction and the people of the State have accepted jurisdiction by appropriate legislative action. In support of this contention is cited the Act of Congress of the United States enacted August 15, 1953. Public Law No. 280, Chapter 505, United States Statute at Large Volume...

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21 practice notes
  • Three Affiliated Tribes of Fort Berthold Reservation v. Wold Engineering, No. 82-629
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 29, 1984
    ...Federal Constitution. The court rejected petitioner's argument that the jurisdiction that it had recognized in Vermillion v. Spotted Elk, 85 N.W.2d 432 (N.D.1957)—wherein it was held that the existing jurisdictional disclaimers in the State's Enabling Act and Constitution foreclosed civil j......
  • In the Matter of The EState F. Big Spring v. Conway, No. DA 10–0099.
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • May 19, 2011
    ...(N.M.Ct.App.1969), overruled by Fox v. Bureau of Revenue, 87 N.M. 261, 531 P.2d 1234, 1236 (N.M.Ct.App.1975), Vermillion v. Spotted Elk, 85 N.W.2d 432 (N.D.1957), overruled by Gourneau v. Smith, 207 N.W.2d 256, 258 (N.D.1973), and discredited by the United States Supreme Court in Three Affi......
  • State ex rel. Peterson v. District Court of Ninth Judicial Dist., No. 5242
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • September 8, 1980
    ...this conclusion, we have also reviewed two state supreme court decisions cited by the district court. In Vermillion v. Spotted Elk, N.D., 85 N.W.2d 432 (1957), a case very similar to the case at bar, the North Dakota Supreme Court held that the state court system had jurisdiction of the cau......
  • People ex rel. Becerra v. Huber, A144214
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 25, 2019
    ...(Three Affiliated Tribes I , supra , 467 U.S. at pp. 143–144, 104 S.Ct. 2267, italics omitted; see Vermillion v. Spotted Elk (N.D. 1957) 85 N.W.2d 432, 438 (Vermillion ), overruled by Gourneau v. Smith (N.D. 1973) 207 N.W.2d 256, 258.) Under Vermillion the entire state court action in Three......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
21 cases
  • Three Affiliated Tribes of Fort Berthold Reservation v. Wold Engineering, No. 82-629
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 29, 1984
    ...Federal Constitution. The court rejected petitioner's argument that the jurisdiction that it had recognized in Vermillion v. Spotted Elk, 85 N.W.2d 432 (N.D.1957)—wherein it was held that the existing jurisdictional disclaimers in the State's Enabling Act and Constitution foreclosed civil j......
  • In the Matter of The EState F. Big Spring v. Conway, No. DA 10–0099.
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • May 19, 2011
    ...(N.M.Ct.App.1969), overruled by Fox v. Bureau of Revenue, 87 N.M. 261, 531 P.2d 1234, 1236 (N.M.Ct.App.1975), Vermillion v. Spotted Elk, 85 N.W.2d 432 (N.D.1957), overruled by Gourneau v. Smith, 207 N.W.2d 256, 258 (N.D.1973), and discredited by the United States Supreme Court in Three Affi......
  • State ex rel. Peterson v. District Court of Ninth Judicial Dist., No. 5242
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • September 8, 1980
    ...this conclusion, we have also reviewed two state supreme court decisions cited by the district court. In Vermillion v. Spotted Elk, N.D., 85 N.W.2d 432 (1957), a case very similar to the case at bar, the North Dakota Supreme Court held that the state court system had jurisdiction of the cau......
  • People ex rel. Becerra v. Huber, A144214
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 25, 2019
    ...(Three Affiliated Tribes I , supra , 467 U.S. at pp. 143–144, 104 S.Ct. 2267, italics omitted; see Vermillion v. Spotted Elk (N.D. 1957) 85 N.W.2d 432, 438 (Vermillion ), overruled by Gourneau v. Smith (N.D. 1973) 207 N.W.2d 256, 258.) Under Vermillion the entire state court action in Three......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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