Mescalero Apache Tribe v. Jones

PETITIONER: Mescalero Apache Tribe
LOCATION: Board of Education, School District No. 1

DOCKET NO.: 71-738
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 411 US 145 (1973)
ARGUED: Dec 12, 1972
DECIDED: Mar 27, 1973

George E. Fettinger -
John C. Cook -

Facts of the case


Media for Mescalero Apache Tribe v. Jones

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 12, 1972 in Mescalero Apache Tribe v. Jones

Warren E. Burger:

-- Tribe against Mr. Jones.

Mr. Fettinger?

George E. Fettinger:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

The question presented by this case to this Court is, can the State of New Mexico acting under state law impose its compensating tax upon the use of tangible personal property owned by the Mescalero Apache Tribe and utilized on its tribal enterprise principally located outside of the boundaries of the Mescalero Reservation and can the State of New Mexico, acting under state law validly impose its gross receipts tax under the same circumstances.

The essential facts of the case are that the Mescalero Apache Tribe is a treaty tribe.

It's present reservation boundaries were established by Executive Order.

In 1936, the tribe adopted its first constitution under 25 U.S.C. 476 which constitution was amended in 1965.

Both of these constitutions were duly approved by the Secretary of the Interior.

The tribe is the exclusive owner and the operator of Sierra Blanca Ski resort which is located in Otero in Lincoln County in the State of New Mexico.

The ski resort is primarily on the lands belonging to the United States Forest Service and leased to tribe for a period of 30 years.

The Ski resort --

Harry A. Blackmun:

Primarily not entirely so?

George E. Fettinger:

Not entirely so, sir.

Some of the ski runs and ski trails are in fact on the reservation.

Warren E. Burger:

Do you think the case is basically any different from what it would be if a tribe was running a taxicab company in San Francisco?

George E. Fettinger:

Yes, sir.

I think we can draw a many distinctions for that purpose and I wish I can do it now.

Warren E. Burger:

And the use -- the ski trails would be one of the factors, wouldn't they?

George E. Fettinger:

A minor one, sir.

I think there are more if I -- if you wish me to pick up the question now, I will?

Warren E. Burger:


You just take it up in your own time.

George E. Fettinger:

The Ski resort in fact is bordered on the south by the reservation itself and the ski enterprise including the lease with the United States Forest Service was entered into by the tribe pursuant to Article number 11 of the Constitution which Constitution was approved by the Secretary of the Interior.

A feasibility study was prepared and paid for by the United States government and the purpose of the operation of the ski resort by the Mescalero Apache Tribe is to raise revenue in lieu of taxing tribal members and also the proceeds are used for the educational and social and economic welfare of the Mescalero Apache people.

The ski resort provides job training for the members of the tribe and there are 20 to 30 members of the tribe who are, in fact, in such a training capacity.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Could you tell us what kind of training is given to them?

Are there other people who work there without training?

George E. Fettinger:

Yes -- well, yes sir.

The ski run is operated as a business intending to train members of the tribe to operate ski lifts.

They maybe brought in the economic community in the sense of training for leasing ski boots.