Metlakatla Indians v. Egan

PETITIONER: Metlakatla Indian Community, Annette Islands Reserve
RESPONDENT: William A. Egan, Governor of the State of Alaska
LOCATION: Annette Islands, Alaska

DOCKET NO.: 2
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT:

CITATION: 369 US 45 (1962)
GRANTED: Oct 23, 1961
ARGUED: Dec 13, 1961 / Dec 14, 1961
DECIDED: Mar 05, 1962

ADVOCATES:
Avrum M. Gross - for the appellees
Oscar H. Davis - for the United States as amicus curiae
Ralph E. Moody - for the appellees
Richard Schifter - for the appellant

Facts of the case

In 1891, the Metlakatla Indians were given the Annette Islands as a reservation. Since 1915, the Secretary of the Interior has permitted the Metlakatla Indians to use commercial salmon fishing traps. In 1959, the Alaskan State Legislature abolished all commercial traps used for salmon fishing in order the prevent overfishing. The state warned the Metlakatla Indians that the statute would be enforced against them, and officers arrested some members of the community and seized one fish trap. The Metlakatla Indians sued the state in district court and sought an injunction against further interference. The district court dismissed the case. The appeal went directly to the Supreme Court, as the Supreme Court of Alaska had not yet been organized. The Supreme Court granted a stay until the case could be considered by the Supreme Court of Alaska, which eventually affirmed the district court’s dismissal.

Question

Can state statutes be enforced on Indian reservations that have been granted federal authorization to pursue an activity the state has made illegal?