United States v. White Mt. Apache Tribe - Oral Argument - December 02, 2002

United States v. White Mt. Apache Tribe

Media for United States v. White Mt. Apache Tribe

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 04, 2003 in United States v. White Mt. Apache Tribe

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 02, 2002 in United States v. White Mt. Apache Tribe

John Paul Stevens:

The Court will hear argument in United States against the White Mountain Apache Tribe.

Mr. Garre.

Gregory G. Garre:

Thank you, Justice Stevens, and may it please the Court:

In 1960, Congress declared the former Fort Apache military post to be held in trust for the White Mountain Apache Tribe.

The specific--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

What condition was it in in 1960?

Was it basically like it is today, or has it gotten worse?

What was it like then?

Gregory G. Garre:

--Well, it... it's certainly much older today.

It's about 40 years older today.

The condition the... the legislative history doesn't discuss the condition of the fort in particular detail.

It's important to recognize that the military fort was built for temporary use... today, some... almost a century ago, and in 1960 had been built for temporary use, you know, more than 50, 60, or 70 years ago.

So it wouldn't at all have been surprising if there had been a state of decay in 1960.

And of course, when Congress passed the 1960 statute, there was no indication at all... certainly not on the face of the statute, or in the legislative history that's contained in respondent's lodging... that it had in mind a historic preservation goal, or that it had in mind that... that it would require the Secretary of the Interior to undertake the enormous financial responsibility of having to restore a century-old fort.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

--making use today of a portion of the structures there for the school and administrative needs?

Gregory G. Garre:

Absolutely, Justice O'Connor.

The... the vast majority of the buildings and historic district area of Fort Apache are used today for school and administrative purposes.

The Bureau of--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Are those maintained in some fashion for that use by the Federal Government?

Gregory G. Garre:

--They are.

As we point out in note 1 of our reply brief, the Department of the Interior has spent more than $3 million over the past decade or 15 years on repair and maintenance projects at the fort.

It's also true that the tribe itself has engaged in historic restoration efforts at the fort with the support of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of the Interior, and with the assistance of private, State, and even... in some cases... Federal tax dollars.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Well, the U.S. Government does hold the property in trust for the tribe... the White Mountain Tribe.


Gregory G. Garre:

That's true.

Just like the U.S. Government--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

And what basic responsibility does that entail, would you say, the fact that the Government is a trustee?

Gregory G. Garre:

--Well, when Congress places land in trust for Indians, it has two well-settled meanings that this Court has recognized.

First, it places a restraint on the alienation of property, and second, it immunizes the property from State taxation.

And if you look at pages 6 and 7 of the respondent's lodging, that indicates that in 1958, when there was discussion about what to do with Fort Apache, the tribe itself encouraged the Department to have Congress place the land in trust so that it was in a nontaxable status like the surrounding reservation lands.