Fish & Wildlife Dept. v. Klamath Tribe,
473 U.S. 753 (1985)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Fish & Wildlife Dept. v. Klamath Tribe, 473 U.S. 753 (1985)

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife v. Klamath Indian Tribe

No. 83-2148

Argued February 27, 1985

Decided July 2, 1985

473 U.S. 753


By an 1864 Treaty, certain Indian Tribes (now collectively known as respondent Klamath Indian Tribe) ceded their aboriginal title to certain lands in Oregon to the United States, and a reservation was created securing to the Tribe "the exclusive right of taking fish in the streams and lakes, included in said reservation." The Treaty language has been construed in earlier litigation also to reserve to the Tribe the right to hunt and trap game within the reservation. No right to hunt or fish outside the reservation was expressly preserved. Subsequently a dispute arose as to the reservation's boundaries, and after lengthy negotiations concerning the value of land that had been erroneously excluded from the reservation, the Tribe and the Government executed a 1901 Cession Agreement (ratified by Congress) under which the Tribe, upon receiving payment from the Government, ceded some of the reservation land to the Government. The Agreement provided that the Tribe conveyed to the Government "all their claim, right, title and interest in and to" the ceded land, and that

"nothing in this agreement shall be construed to deprive [the Tribe] of any benefits to which they are entitled under existing treaties not inconsistent with the provisions of this agreement."

Tribe members continued to hunt and fish on the ceded lands, apparently without any assertion of regulatory jurisdiction by the State of Oregon. In 1982, the Tribe instituted this action in Federal District Court against petitioners Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and various state officials, seeking an injunction against interference with tribal members' hunting and fishing activities on such lands (other than ceded lands that are now privately owned). The District Court entered summary judgment for the Tribe, declaring that the 1901 Agreement did not abrogate the Tribe's 1864 Treaty right to hunt and fish on the ceded lands free from state regulation. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: In light of the terms of the 1901 Agreement and the 1864 Treaty, and certain other events in the Tribe's history, the Tribe's exclusive right to hunt and fish on the lands reserved to the Tribe by the 1864 Treaty did not survive as a special right to be free of state regulation in the ceded lands that were outside the reservation after the 1901 Agreement. Pp. 473 U. S. 766-774.

Page 473 U. S. 754

(a) The 1864 Treaty's language indicates that the Tribe's right to hunt and fish was restricted to the reservation, and the 1901 Agreement's broad language accomplished a diminution of the reservation boundaries. No language in the 1901 Agreement evidenced any intent to preserve special off-reservation hunting or fishing rights for the Tribe, and, in light of the 1901 diminution, a silent preservation of off-reservation rights would have been inconsistent with the broad language of cession as well as with the Tribe's 1864 Treaty agreement to remain within the reservation "unless temporary leave of absence be granted." Pp. 473 U. S. 766-770.

(b) Silence in the 1901 Agreement with regard to tribal hunting and fishing rights does not demonstrate an intent to preserve such rights in the ceded land. The historical record of the lengthy negotiations between the Tribe and the Government provides no reason to reject the presumption that the 1901 Agreement fairly describes the entire understanding between the parties. Nor does the absence of any payment expressly in compensation for hunting and fishing rights on the ceded lands demonstrate that the parties did not intend to extinguish such rights in 1901. The Tribe's contention to the contrary rests on its incorrect assumption that the 1864 Treaty created hunting and fishing rights that were separate from and not appurtenant to the reservation. Pp. 473 U. S. 770-774.

729 F.2d 609, reversed.

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, BLACKMUN, REHNQUIST, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 473 U. S. 775. POWELL, J., took no part in the decision of the case.

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