RESPONDENT: Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa Indians
LOCATION: Knowles' Car
DOCKET NO.: 97-1337
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
CITATION: 526 US 172 (1999)
ARGUED: Dec 02, 1998
DECIDED: Mar 24, 1999
Barbara B. McDowell - Argued the cause on behalf of the United States
John L. Kirwin - Argued the cause for the petitioners
Marc D. Slonim - on behalf of the Respondents Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa Indians, et al
Mark D. Slonim - Argued the cause of behalf of the respondents Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa Indians, et al
Randy V. Thompson - Argued the cause on behalf of the respondents John W. Thompson et al
Facts of the case
Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa Indians ceded land in present-day Minnesota to the U.S. in an 1837 treaty. In return, the U.S. granted the Mille Lacs Band certain hunting, fishing, and gathering rights on the ceded land. An 1850 Executive Order by President Taylor ordered the removal of the Mille Lacs Band and revoked their usufructuary rights. An 1855 treaty set aside reservation lands for the Mille Lacs Band, but did not mention their rights. The Mille Lacs Band sued, seeking a declaratory judgment stated that they retained their usufructuary rights and an injunction to prevent the state's interference with those rights. The District Court ultimately ruled that the Mille Lacs Band retained their usufructuary rights under the 1837 treaty. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The courts rejected arguments that the 1850 Executive Order abrogated the usufructuary rights guaranteed by the 1837 treaty and that Minnesota's entrance into the Union in 1858 extinguished any Indian treaty rights under the "equal footing doctrine."
Does the Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa Indians have usufructuary rights on land now part of the state of Minnesota?
Media for Minnesota v. Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa IndiansAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 02, 1998 in Minnesota v. Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa Indians
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 24, 1999 in Minnesota v. Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa Indians
William H. Rehnquist:
The opinion of the Court in No. 97-1337, Minnesota versus Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa Indians will be announced by Justice O'Connor.
Sandra Day O'Connor:
This case comes here on writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
In 1837, several bands of Chippewa Indians entered into a treaty with the United States.
Through the treaty the Chippewa sold land in present day Minnesota and Wisconsin to the United States.
The United States guaranteed to the Chippewa the right to hunt, fish, and gather on the ceded land during the pleasure of the President.
In 1990, the Chippewa filed suit against the State of Minnesota claiming that they retain this Treaty right today.
The District Court agreed with the Chippewa and the Eighth Circuit affirmed.
In an opinion filed with the Clerk at the Court today, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.
The state argues that the Chippewa's Treaty rights were terminated by any one of three events.
First, the state argues that the Treaty privileges were terminated by President Zachary Taylor in 1850.
In that year President Taylor issued an Executive Order directing that the Chippewa be removed from the ceded lands and revoking their treaty rights to hunt, fish, and gather on the ceded lands.
This Court has previously held that a President's power to issue an Executive Order must come either from an active Congress or from the Constitution, but the State has pointed to "no statute or constitutional provision authorizing the President's order removing the Chippewa from the ceded lands".
Because the President had no authority to issue the removal order, that portion of the order was invalid.
The only question remaining is whether the other part of the order, the part revoking the Chippewa Treaty rights to hunt, fish, and gather on the land is severable from the part that is invalid.
We conclude after an examination of the historical record that the 1850 Executive Order was meant to stand or fall as a whole.
Because the removal order was invalid and because the removal order and the revocation of the Treaty rights were inseverable, the 1850 order in its entirety was invalid, and did not terminate the Chippewa Treaty rights.
A president now or in the future may be able to revoke the Chippewa Treaty rights to hunt, fish, and gather in accordance with the terms of the Treaty.
What we hold today is simply that the 1850 Executive Order did not accomplish that objective.
The state next argues that the Chippewa Treaty rights were terminated by an 1855 Treaty between certain Chippewa bands and the United States.
The 1855 Treaty, however, did not mention the 1837 Treaty, and did not mention the termination of any previously granted Treaty rights.
The historical context surrounding the later Treaty demonstrates that it was designed to have the United States purchase additional Chippewa land and not to terminate the hunting, fishing, and gathering rights granted in the earlier Treaty.
Finally, the state contends that the Chippewa's hunting, fishing, and gathering rights were terminated when Minnesota was admitted to the Union in 1858.
When new states are admitted to the Union they are admitted on equal footing with the original 13 states.
In other words, they are admitted with the same attributes of State sovereignty enjoyed by the original 13 states.
In a case decided in 1896, Ward versus Race Horse, this Court held that certain Indian Treaty rights were terminated when Wyoming was admitted to the Union.
The Race Horse Court held that because the Treaty rights in that case where temporary and precarious, it was clear that the Congress intended those Treaty rights to terminate upon statehood.
But there is no evidence in this case of Congressional intent for the Chippewa Treaty rights to terminate when Minnesota entered the Union.
Moreover, subsequent decisions of this Court have qualified the Race Horse Court's holding that Indian Treaty rights are automatically terminated on statehood.
Indian Treaty rights can coexist with state management of natural resources, and in fact the states retain the power to regulate the exercise of Indian Treaty rights when necessary for the conservation of wildlife.
The Chief Justice has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justices Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas have joined; Justice Thomas has filed a separate dissenting opinion.