Menominee Tribe of Indians v. United States, 391 U.S. 404 (1968)
Congress must make an unambiguous statement to repeal a treaty with Native Americans, or its provisions will remain in effect.
U.S. Supreme CourtMenominee Tribe of Indians v. United States, 391 U.S. 404 (1968)
Menominee Tribe of Indians v. United States
Argued January 22, 1968
Reargued April 25, 1968
Decided May 27, 1968
391 U.S. 404
The Menominee Tribe of Indians brought this action in the Court of Claims to recover compensation for the loss of their hunting and fishing rights, which the Wisconsin Supreme Court in another proceeding had held had been abrogated by the Menominee Termination Act of 1954. The Termination Act, which did not become fully effective until 1961, provided for the termination of federal supervision over the property and members of the tribe, whereupon state laws were to become applicable to them in the same manner as they applied to others. The same Congress that passed that Act also enacted Public Law 280, which, two months after the Termination Act became law, was amended to apply specifically to the Menominee Reservation. Public Law 280 granted to certain States, including Wisconsin, general jurisdiction over "Indian country" within their boundaries, but with the proviso that
"Nothing in this section . . . shall deprive any Indian or Indian tribe . . . of any right, privilege, or immunity afforded under Federal treaty . . . with respect to hunting, trapping, or fishing or the control, licensing, or regulation thereof."
The Court of Claims in light of Public Law 280 held that the Termination Act did not extinguish the tribe's hunting and fishing rights, but that these were retained under the Treaty of Wolf River of 1854, whereby the United States had set aside land for the Menominees "for a home, to be held as Indian lands are held." Both petitioner and respondent on oral argument here have urged affirmance of the Court of Claims judgment; the State of Wisconsin, appearing as amicus curiae, has argued for reversal.
1. The language in the Treaty of Wolf River "to be held as Indian lands are held" includes the right to fish and to hunt. Pp. 391 U. S. 405-106.
2. The Menominee Tribe's hunting and fishing rights under the Treaty survived the Termination Act of 1954. Pp. 391 U. S. 410-413.
(a) In 1954, when Public Law 280, as amended, took effect the Menominee Reservation was still "Indian country" within the meaning of that law. P. 391 U. S. 411.
(b) Public Law 280 must be considered in pari materia with the Termination Act, and the two Acts, read together, mean that, although federal supervision of the tribe was to cease and all tribal property was to be transferred to new hands, the hunting and fishing rights granted or preserved by the Treaty survived the Termination Act. Pp. 391 U. S. 411-413.
(c) The purpose to abrogate treaty rights of Indians is not to be lightly imputed to Congress. Pp. 391 U. S. 412-413.
179 Ct.Cl. 496, 388 F.2d 998, affirmed.