Puyallup Tribe, Inc. v. Department of Game of Washington

PETITIONER:Puyallup Tribe, Inc.
RESPONDENT:Department of Game of Washington
LOCATION:Village of Arlington Heights

DOCKET NO.: 76-423
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: Washington Supreme Court

CITATION: 433 US 165 (1977)
ARGUED: Apr 18, 1977
DECIDED: Jun 23, 1977

Don S. Willner
H. Bartow Farr – for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of Court
H. Bartow Farr, III –
Slade Gorton – for respondent Dept. of Game of State of Wash
William H. Rodgers, Jr. – for petitioners

Facts of the case


Media for Puyallup Tribe, Inc. v. Department of Game of Washington

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – April 18, 1977 in Puyallup Tribe, Inc. v. Department of Game of Washington

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 23, 1977 in Puyallup Tribe, Inc. v. Department of Game of Washington

John Paul Stevens:

The second case which I have to announce is an old friend.

It is before the Court for the third time after more than 15 years of litigation.

It concerns the rights of the Puyallup Indians of the State of Washington to fish with nets for steelhead trout in the Puyallup River and the degree to which those rights are subservient to conservation regulation by the Washington Department of Game.

The fish involved are steelhead trout and anadromous fish which spawn upstream from the original reservation traveled down the Puyallup River into the ocean and then return as adults.

In prior cases, we held that the Department of Game could regulate this fishing in the interest of conservation.

We also held, however, that the State could not totally prohibit the Indians from operating a commercial net fishery.

Today, we review the decision of the Supreme Court of Washington affirming with a slight modification, a trial court order which directs the tribe to file a list of members authorized to exercise treaty fishing rights and to report to the Washington State Department of Game and to the Court the number of steelhead caught by its treaty fisherman each week.

We hold that at least under the particular circumstances and facts of this case, the Indian fishermen are subject to regulation by the Department of Game while they fish on their reservation.

It should be noted that of the 18,000 acres in the original reservation, all the 22 acres have been disposed of by the Puyallup Indians and that none of the remaining 22 acres abuts on the Puyallup River.

We also hold, however, that to the extent that the order of the Washington Court is directed at the tribe as oppose to individual members of the tribe, it is invalid as infringing on the tribe’s sovereign immunity.

In all other respects, we sustained the decision of the Supreme Court of Washington.

Mr. Justice Blackmun while joining the opinion of the Court has filed a concurring opinion. Mr. Justice Brennan joined by Mr. Justice Marshall has filed a dissenting opinion.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Stevens.