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MATTZ V. ARNETT, 412 U. S. 481 (1973)

U.S. Supreme Court

Mattz v. Arnett, 412 U.S. 481 (1973)

Mattz v. Arnett

No. 71-1182

Argued March 27-28, 1973

Decided June 11, 1973

412 U.S. 481


Petitioner, a Yurok, or Klamath River, Indian, intervened in a forfeiture proceeding, seeking the return of five gill nets confiscated by a California game warden. He alleged that the nets were seized in Indian country, within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 1151, and that the state statutes prohibiting their use did not apply to him. The state trial court found that the Klamath River Reservation, in 1892, "for all practical purposes, almost immediately lost its identity," and concluded that the area was not Indian country. The State Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that, since the area had been opened for unrestricted homestead entry in 1892, the earlier reservation status of the land had terminated. Indian country is defined by § 1151 as including

"all land within the limits of any Indian reservation under the jurisdiction of the United States Government, notwithstanding the issuance of any patent."

The Klamath River Reservation was established by Executive Order in 1855, and included the area in question. In 1891, by Executive Order, the Klamath River Reservation was made part of the Hoopa Valley Reservation. The Act of June 17, 1892, provided that "all of the lands embraced in what was Klamath River Reservation" reserved under the 1855 Executive Order, are

"declared to be subject to settlement, entry, and purchase under the laws of the United States granting homestead rights . . . Provided, That any Indian now located upon said reservation may, at any time within one year . . . apply to the Secretary of the Interior for an allotment of land. . . . And the Secretary of the Interior may reserve from settlement, entry, or purchase any tract . . . upon which any village or settlement of Indians is now located, and may set apart the same for the permanent use and occupation of said village or settlement of Indians."

The Act further provided that proceeds from the sale of the lands

"shall constitute a fund . . . for the maintenance and education of the Indians now residing on said lands and their children."

Held: The Klamath River Reservation was not

Page 412 U. S. 482

terminated by the Act of June 17, 1892, and the land within the reservation boundaries is still Indian country within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 1151. Pp. 412 U. S. 494-506.

(a) The allotment provisions of the 1892 Act, rather than indicating an intention to terminate the reservation, are completely consistent with continued reservation status. Seymour v. Superintendent, 368 U. S. 351. Pp. 412 U. S. 496-497.

(b) The reference in the Act to the Klamath River Reservation in the past tense did not manifest a congressional purpose to terminate the reservation, but was merely a convenient way of identifying the land, which had just recently been included in the Hoopa Valley Reservation. Pp. 412 U. S. 498-499.

(c) The Act's legislative history does not support the view that the reservation was terminated, but, by contrast with the final enactment, it compels the conclusion that efforts to terminate by denying allotments to the Indians failed completely. Pp. 412 U. S. 499-504.

(d) A congressional determination to terminate a reservation must be expressed on the face of the statute or be clear from the surrounding circumstances and legislative history, neither of which obtained here. Pp. 412 U. S. 504-505.

(e) The conclusion that the 1892 Act did not terminate the Reservation is reinforced by repeated recognition thereafter by the Department of the Interior and by the Congress. Congress has recognized the reservation's continued existence by extending, in 1942, the period of trust allotments, and, in 1958, by restoring to tribal ownership certain vacant and undisposed-of ceded lands in the reservation. P. 412 U. S. 505.

20 Cal.App.3d 729, 97 Cal.Rptr. 894, reversed and remanded.

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

Page 412 U. S. 483

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