UNITED STATES V. DION, 476 U. S. 734 (1986)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Dion, 476 U.S. 734 (1986)

United States v. Dion

No. 85-246

Argued March 25, 1986

Decided June 11, 1986

476 U.S. 734


The Bald Eagle Protection Act (Eagle Protection Act) makes it a federal crime to hunt the bald eagle or the golden eagle, except that such hunting may be authorized, pursuant to a permit issued by the Secretary of the Interior, "for the religious purposes of Indian tribes" or for certain other narrow purposes compatible with preservation of those species. The Endangered Species Act imposes a similar ban on the hunting of the bald eagle. Respondent, a member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe, was convicted after a jury trial in Federal District Court of, inter alia, the shooting of four bald eagles in violation of the Endangered Species Act, but the court before trial dismissed a charge of shooting a golden eagle in violation of the Eagle Protection Act. The Court of Appeals reversed the convictions and affirmed the dismissal of the other charge, holding that members of the Tribe have a right under an 1858 treaty to hunt bald and golden eagles within the Yankton Reservation for noncommercial purposes, and that neither of the Acts in question abrogated this treaty right.

Held: The Court of Appeals erred in recognizing respondent's treaty defense to the prosecutions. Pp. 476 U. S. 738-746.

(a) The Eagle Protection Act abrogated the rights of members of the Yankton Sioux Tribe under the 1858 treaty to hunt the bald or golden eagle on the Yankton Reservation. Congress' intention to abrogate Indian treaty rights must be clear and plain. Here, such intention is strongly suggested on the face of the Eagle Protection Act, and this view is supported by the legislative history. More particularly, Congress' action in 1962 in amending the Act to extend its ban to the golden eagle and authorizing the Secretary to issue permits for Indian hunting reflected an unmistakable and explicit legislative policy choice that Indian hunting of the bald or golden eagle, except pursuant to permit, is inconsistent with the need to preserve those species. Pp. 476 U. S. 738-745.

(b) Since the Eagle Protection Act divested respondent of his treaty right to hunt bald eagles, he had no such right to hunt bald eagles that he could assert as a defense to the Endangered Species Act charge. Pp. 476 U. S. 745-746.

762 F.2d 674, reversed in part and remanded.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Page 476 U. S. 735

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