Organized Village of Kake v. Egan

PETITIONER: Organized Village of Kake, Angoon Community Association
RESPONDENT: William A. Egan, Governor of Alaska
LOCATION: Vilage of Kake

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)

CITATION: 369 US 60 (1962)
ARGUED: Dec 13, 1961 / Dec 14, 1961
DECIDED: Mar 05, 1962

Avrum M. Gross - for the appellee, by special leave of the Court pro hac vice
John W. Cragun - for the appellants
Oscar H. Davis - for the United States as amicus curiae, urging reversal
Ralph E. Moody - for the appellee

Facts of the case

The State of Alaska threatened to enforce its anti-fish trapping law against two local Native American tribes. The federal government had not designated a reservation for the tribes. The tribes depended on the salmon they trapped for survival and received permits to use the traps from the Army Corps of Engineers and the United States Forest Service, as well as favorable regulations from the Secretary of the Interior. The president of the Kake Village Council was arrested while trying to moor a trap. The tribes sued to enjoin Alaska from enforcing the anti-trapping law. The district court dismissed the suit and the Supreme Court of Alaska affirmed.


Should the State of Alaska be enjoined from enforcing its own law, which conflicts with federally issued fishing permits?

Media for Organized Village of Kake v. Egan

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 14, 1961 (Part 2) in Organized Village of Kake v. Egan
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 13, 1961 in Organized Village of Kake v. Egan

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 14, 1961 (Part 1) in Organized Village of Kake v. Egan

Earl Warren:

Metlakatla Indian Community, Annette Islands Reserve, Appellant, versus Egan, Governor of -- of Alaska and Number 3, Organized Village of Kake versus Egan, Governor of Alaska.

Mr. Schifter.

Richard Schifter:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

The last question yesterday by Mr. Justice Brennan is the matter which I would like to discuss a little bit more fully than I did yesterday.

The background relating of the Metlakatla Community is the following.

The Tsimshian Indians of British Columbia and of an area of British Columbia which actually spilled over in the Southeast Alaska had been the recipients -- or a group of them had been the recipients of the benefits of a missionary by the name of William Duncan in the second half of the 19th Century.

Mr. Duncan, the late missionary, had organized a community of Metlakatla in British Columbia, but had run into difficulties with the Dominion Government and with the Missionary Society which he represented and had led.

At that time, Dr. Henry Ward Beecher and other outstanding personalities in the United States became very much interested in the matter and interested President Grover Cleveland in the situation at Metlakatla. Father Duncan came to Washington and presented his case -- his problems to the United States Government and the invitation to this group to come to Alaska resulted from it.

As indicated, Father Duncan, with a group of members of the Metlakatla Indian Community in British Columbia then moved -- and moved on a short distance, 70 miles to Southeast Alaska and established the community on the Annette Islands Reserve.

The Annette Islands were originally set aside by executive action but because a question as to legality of that arose, the Congress in 1891 had an act which set aside the Annette Island specifically by Congressional action as a reservation, as a United States Reservation for the Metlakatla Indians and such Indians as may join them later which incidentally it was typical language for a good number of Indian Reservation statutes in the law code of the United States.

Earl Warren:

May I ask you, how about the invitational was extended, was the -- extended by the President or was it through an act of Congress?

Richard Schifter:

It was originally -- I'm not certain -- first of all it was not by an act of Congress initially.

Earl Warren:

It was not by--

Richard Schifter:

It was not by an act of Congress. These people settled in 1887, four years prior to the first action by Congress.

Because of an Attorney General's opinion which raised a question as to whether all of these can be done by executive action, Congress then passed this 1891 Act.

The -- as far as this 1891 Act is concerned and there is certain language in it that is absolutely crucial to the discussion that we -- of that the State of Alaska, well, made later on, the language of the Act specifically provides that the use of this reservation shall be subject to the rules and regulations and restrictions imposed by the Secretary of the Interior.

Now, following the passage of 1891 Act, this community developed at Metlakatla.

Father Duncan was extremely active in strengthening its commercial -- strengthening the economy of the group.

He got this Indian group very quickly involved in commercial fishing which just began around the 1890s as a commercial fishing exploitation of Alaska.

It was started there and this particular group really got in on the ground floor and one of the first things that happened and this was in the 1890s, a cannery was established in Alaska -- in -- at Metlakatla owned by the community.

This cannery has continued in existence since then on and off, it burned down at one time in the early 20th Century and was rebuilt and has -- un-interruptibly in existence since, I believe, around 1915 or roughly 46 years.

Earl Warren:

May I interrupt just once more please?

Richard Schifter:

Yes sir.

Earl Warren:

My question is prompted by the fact you said they came from so close a distance from Canada, 70 miles as I understand --

Richard Schifter:


Earl Warren:

-- you say, I'm wondering if in this land they were brought to, and this reservation was a part of their ancient lands that they roamed or used or in some other manner occupied?

Richard Schifter:

Your Honor, the -- the actual area was uninhabited.

I believe that it is part of -- considered part of the aboriginal area of the Haidas which is -- or the Tlingits which is somewhat different from the Tsimshians.

The Tsimshians were the next-door neighbors --

Earl Warren:

I see.