DICK V. UNITED STATES, 208 U. S. 340 (1908)

Subscribe to Cases that cite 208 U. S. 340

U.S. Supreme Court

Dick v. United States, 208 U.S. 340 (1908)

Dick v. United States

No. 62

Submitted December 3, 1907

Decided February 24, 1908

208 U.S. 340


While a state, upon its admission to the Union, is on an equal footing with every other state and, except as restrained by the Constitution, has full and complete jurisdiction over all persons and things within its limits, Congress has power to regulate commerce with the Indian tribes, and such power is superior and paramount to the authority of the state within whose limits are Indian tribes.

Where fundamental principles of the Constitution are of equal dignity, neither must be so enforced as to nullify or substantially impair the other. While the prohibition of § 2139, Rev.Stat., as amended in 1892, against introducing intoxicating liquors into Indian country does not embrace any body of territory in which the Indian title has been unconditionally extinguished, that statute must. be interpreted in connection with whatever special agreement may have been made between the United States

Page 208 U. S. 341

and the Indians in regard to the extinguishment of the title and the retention of control over the land ceded by the United States.

It is within the power of Congress to retain control, for police purposes, for a reasonable and limited period, over lands the Indian title to which is extinguished and which are allotted in severalty, notwithstanding that the Indians may be citizens and the land may be within the limits of a state, and twenty-five years is not an unreasonable period.

Under the agreement of May 1, 1893, ratified, 28 Stat. 286, 326, between the United States and the Nez Perce Indians, the United States retained control over the lands ceded for the purpose of controlling the use of liquor therein for twenty-five years, and during that period, § 2139, Rev.Stat., remains in force, notwithstanding such land are within the State of Idaho.

By indictment returned in the District Court of the United States for the District of Idaho, the plaintiff in error, Dick, was charged with the offense of having unlawfully and feloniously introduced intoxicating liquor -- whisky -- into the Indian country, to-wit, into and upon the Nez Perce Indian Reservation, in the County of Nez Perce, State of Idaho.

The indictment was based upon § 2139 of the Revised Statutes as amended and reenacted by the Act of July 23, 1892, 27 Stat. 260, c. 234. That amended section reads:

"No ardent spirits, ale, beer, wine, or intoxicating liquor, or liquors of whatever kind shall be introduced, under any pretense, into the Indian country. Every person who sells, exchanges, gives, barters, or disposes of any ardent spirits, ale, beer, wine, or intoxicating liquors of any kind to any Indian under charge of any Indian superintendent or agent, or introduces or attempts to introduce any ardent spirits, ale, wine, beer, or intoxicating liquor of any kind into the Indian country shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than two years, and by fine of not more than three hundred dollars for each offense. But it shall be a sufficient defense to any charge of introducing or attempting to introduce ardent spirits, ale, beer, wine, or intoxicating liquors into the Indian country that the acts charged were done under authority in writing from the War Department, or any officer duly authorized thereunto by the War Department. . . ."

The accused demurred to the indictment upon the following,

Page 208 U. S. 342

among other, grounds: that at the time charged in the indictment, there was no Indian country within the County of Nez Perce or within the district of Idaho known or designated as the Nez Perce Indian Reservation; that the jurisdiction of the United States over all the country and territory embraced within the former reservation known and designated as the Nez Perce Indian Reservation was, by the act admitting Idaho as a state into the Union, relinquished to the State of Idaho, excepting only that jurisdiction was retained in the United States over such Indian reservation until the Indians' title to the lands included within the boundary of such reservation should be extinguished; that the Indian or tribal title to the lands therein contained has, since the admission of the state, been extinguished by the allotment of the lands in severalty to the individual Indians and by the purchase of the balance thereof by the United States, and that such allotments and purchase have been ratified by the public laws and acts of Congress, and further, that the former reservation, known and designated as the Nez Perce Indian Reservation, had, prior to the time of the commission of the acts mentioned in the indictment, been opened for occupation, settlement, and disposal under the general land laws of the United States by an act of Congress, and that the same had been, as a matter of general and public knowledge, prior to the time mentioned in the indictment, settled and appropriated by citizens of the state; that various townsites within the boundaries of the former reservation had been settled by citizens, and the title thereto transferred from the United States to the inhabitants, and that municipal governments, namely, villages, had been organized and were in existence within the boundaries of the former reservation, and that the same, nor any part thereof, is not, and was not at the times mentioned in the indictment, Indian country, or lands reserved for the use and occupation of Indians or occupied by any Indian maintaining tribal relations or by any Indians or persons whomsoever over which the United States is exercising, or attempting to exercise, any of the authority

Page 208 U. S. 343

or control in nature of the guardianship of the person. Other grounds of demurrer were assigned, but they need not be here set out.

The demurrer was overruled, and the case went to trial, the accused pleading not guilty. At the close of the evidence, he asked the court to direct a verdict of not guilty, but that request was denied and the result of the trial was a verdict of guilty. Motions for arrest of judgment and for a new trial having been denied, the defendant was, on May 16, 1905, sentenced to pay a fine of $100 and costs and to be imprisoned in the penitentiary for the term of one year and ten days.

In order that the grounds of the demurrer may be clearly apprehended, it is necessary to bring into view certain legislation by Congress and an agreement or treaty made between the United States and the Nez Perce Indians.

By the act of Congress of February 8, 1887, c. 119, providing for the allotment of lands in severalty to Indians on the various Indian reservations, and to extend the protection of the laws of the United States and the territories over the Indians, it was provided:

"That upon the approval of the allotments provided for in this act by the Secretary of the Interior, he shall cause patents to issue therefor in the name of the allottees, which patents shall be of the legal effect, and declare, that the United States does and will hold the land thus allotted, for the period of twenty-five years, in trust for the sole use and benefit of the Indian to whom such allotment shall have been made, or, in case of his decease, of his heirs according to the laws of the state or territory where such land is located, and that at the expiration of said period the United States will convey the same, by patent, to said Indian, or his heirs as aforesaid, in fee, discharged of said trust and free of all charge or encumbrance whatsoever: Provided, That the President of the United States may in any case, in his discretion, extend the period. And if any conveyance shall be made of the lands set apart and allotted as herein provided, or any contract made touching the same, before the expiration of the time above

Page 208 U. S. 344

mentioned, such conveyance or contract shall be absolutely null and void: Provided, That the law of descent and partition in force in the state or territory where such lands are situate shall apply thereto after patents therefor have been executed and delivered, except as herein otherwise provided. . . ."

24 Stat. 389, § 5.

Section 6 of that act is as follows:

"That, upon the completion of said allotments and the patenting of the lands to said allottees, each and every member of the respective bands or tribes of Indians to whom allotments have been made shall have the benefit of and be subject to the laws, both civil and criminal, of the state or territory in which they may reside, and no territory shall pass or enforce any law denying any such Indian within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law. And every Indian born within the territorial limits of the United States to whom allotments shall have been made under the provisions of this act, or under any law or treaty, and every Indian born within the territorial limits of the United States who has voluntarily taken up, within said limits, his residence separate and apart from any tribe of Indians therein, and has adopted the habits of civilized life, is hereby declared to be a citizen of the United States, and is entitled to all the rights, privileges, and immunities of such citizens, whether said Indian has been or not, by birth or otherwise, a member of any tribe of Indians within the territorial limits of the United States, without in any manner impairing or otherwise affecting the right of any such Indian to tribal or other property."

Idaho was admitted into the Union in 1890, Act of July 3, 26 Stat. 215, c. 656, the act of admission containing no provision about Indian lands or reservations. But the Constitution of Idaho, which Congress accepted, ratified, and confirmed, contained this provision:

"And the people of the State of Idaho do agree and declare that we forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries thereof, and to all lands lying within said limits owned or

Page 208 U. S. 345

held by any Indians or Indian tribes, and, until the title thereto shall have been extinguished by the United States, the same shall be subject to the disposition of the United States, and said Indian lands shall remain under the absolute jurisdiction and control of the Congress of the United States."

In the Act of August 15th, 1894, c. 290, 28 Stat. 286, 326, 327, 330, making appropriations for current and contingent expenses of the Indian Department and fulfilling treaty stipulations with various Indian tribes, will be found the provisions of an agreement between the Nez Perce Tribe of Indians upon the Lapwai Reservation in Idaho, from which it appears that, in making that agreement, the parties proceeded under the authority of the above act of 1887. By that agreement, the Indians ceded, sold, relinquished, and conveyed to the United States all their claim, title, and interest in and to all the unallotted lands within the limits of that reservation except certain specified tracts, which they retained. The parties stipulated that the land so ceded should not be open for public settlement until trust patents for the allotted lands had been duly issued and recorded and the first payment made to the Indians. Article IX of that agreement has a particular bearing upon this case. It reads:

"It is further agreed that the lands by this agreement ceded, those retained, and those allotted to the Nez Perce Indians shall be subject, for a period of twenty-five years, to all the laws of the United States prohibiting the introduction of intoxicants into the Indian country, and that the Nez Perce Indian allottees, whether under the care of an Indian agent or not, shall, for a like period, be subject to all the laws of the United States prohibiting the sale or other disposition of intoxicants to Indians."

The agreement, by its terms, was not to take effect and be in force until ratified by Congress. It was accepted, ratified, and confirmed by the above Act of August 15, 1894, c. 290.

Page 208 U. S. 349

ChanRobles Legal Resources:

ChanRobles On-Line Bar Review

ChanRobles Internet Bar Review :

ChanRobles MCLE On-line

ChanRobles Lawnet Inc. - ChanRobles MCLE On-line :