Puyallup Tribe, Inc. v. Department of Game,
433 U.S. 165 (1977)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Puyallup Tribe, Inc. v. Department of Game, 433 U.S. 165 (1977)

Puyallup Tribe, Inc. v. Department of Game of Washington

No. 76-423

Argued April 18, 1977

Decided June 23, 1977

433 U.S. 165


After protracted litigation, the Washington Superior Court entered a judgment against petitioner Puyallup Tribe reciting that the court possessed jurisdiction to regulate the Tribe's fishing activities both off and on its reservation, and limiting the number of steelhead trout that tribal members might net in the Puyallup River each year, and the Tribe was directed to file a list of members authorized to exercise treaty fishing rights, and to report to respondent Washington Department of Game and to the court the number of steelhead caught by the treaty fishermen each week. The Washington Supreme Court affirmed, with a slight modification. The Tribe contends that the doctrine of sovereign immunity requires that the judgment be vacated; that the state courts have no jurisdiction to regulate fishing activities on the reservation; and that, in any event, the limitation on the steelhead catch is not a necessary conservation measure.


1. Absent an effective waiver or consent, a state court may not exercise jurisdiction over a recognized Indian tribe, but tribal sovereign immunity here does not impair the Superior Court's authority to adjudicate the rights of individual tribal members over whom it properly obtained personal jurisdiction, Puyallup Tribe v. Washington Game Dept., 391 U. S. 392 (Puyallup I), and hence only those portions of the judgment that involve relief against the Tribe itself must be vacated in order to honor the Tribe's valid claim of immunity. Pp. 433 U. S. 168-173.

2. Neither the Tribe nor its members have an exclusive right, under the Treaty of Medicine Creek, to take steelhead passing through the reservation. It not only appears that the Tribe, pursuant to Acts of Congress passed after the treaty was entered into, alienated in fee simple absolute all areas of the reservation abutting on the Puyallup River, but, moreover, the Tribe's treaty right to fish "at all usual and accustomed places" is to be exercised "in common with all citizens of the Territory," Puyallup I, supra, at 391 U. S. 398, and is subject to reasonable regulation by the State pursuant to its power to conserve an important natural resource. The fair apportionment of the steelhead catch between Indian net fishing and non-Indian sport fishing directed by Washington Game Dept. v. Puyallup Tribe, 414 U. S. 44 (Puyallup II),

Page 433 U. S. 166

could not be effective if the Indians retained the power to take an unlimited number of steelhead within the reservation. Pp. 433 U. S. 173-177.

3. It appears that the state court complied with the mandate of Puyallup II, supra, at 414 U. S. 48-49, and used a proper standard of conservation necessity in limiting the steelhead catch, where such limitation was based primarily on expert testimony for both parties. P. 433 U. S. 177.

4. Although the Tribe properly resists the state courts' authority to order it to provide information with respect to the status of tribal members and the size of their catch, it may find that its members' interests are best served by voluntarily providing such information, but the state courts on remand must continue to respect the Tribe's right to participate in the proceedings without treating such participation as qualifying the Tribe's right to claim sovereign immunity. P. 433 U. S. 178.

86 Wash.2d 664, 548 P.2d 1058, vacated and remanded.

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 433 U. S. 178. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion dissenting in part, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 433 U. S. 179.

Page 433 U. S. 167

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