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UNITED STATES V. MAZURIE, 419 U. S. 544 (1975)

U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Mazurie, 419 U.S. 544 (1975)

United States v. Mazurie

No. 73-1018

Argued November 12, 1974

Decided January 21, 1975

419 U.S. 544


Respondents, who operated a bar on non-Indian land on the outskirts of an unincorporated village within the Wind River Reservation and who had been denied a tribal liquor license by the Wind River Tribes pursuant to their option under 18 U.S.C. § 1161 to regulate the introduction of liquor into Indian country, were convicted at a nonjury trial of introducing spirituous beverages into Indian country in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1154. Section 1154(c) defines the term "Indian country" as not including fee-patented lands in non-Indian communities, but does not define the term "non-Indian communities." In entering the judgment of conviction, the District Court, on the basis of testimony about the bar's location and the racial composition of residents of the surrounding area as being largely Indian families, concluded that the bar was located within "Indian country" and held that federal authority could reach non-Indians located on privately held land within a reservation's boundaries. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the prosecution had not met its burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the bar was not excluded from Indian country by the § 1154(c) exception for "fee-patented lands in non-Indian communities"; that § 1154 was fatally defective because of the indefiniteness and vagueness of the term "non-Indian community"; and that, insofar as § 1161 authorized Indian tribes to control the introduction of alcoholic beverages onto non-Indian land, it was an invalid congressional attempt to delegate authority.


1. Section 1154 is not unconstitutionally vague. Given the nature of the bar's location and the surrounding population, the statute was sufficient to advise respondents that their bar was not excepted from tribal regulation by virtue of being located in a non-Indian community. Pp. 419 U. S. 550-553

2. Congress has the authority under Art. I, § 8, of the Constitution to regulate the distribution of alcoholic beverages by establishments such as respondents' bar. Such authority is adequate,

Page 419 U. S. 545

even though the land was held in fee by non-Indians and the persons regulated were non-Indians. Pp. 419 U. S. 553-556.

3. Congress could validly delegate such authority to a reservation's tribal council. The independent authority of Indian tribes over matters that affect the internal and .social relations of tribal life is sufficient to protect Congress' decision to vest in tribal councils this portion of its own authority "to regulate Commerce . . . with the Indian tribes" under Art. I, § 8. Pp. 419 U. S. 556-557.

487 F.2d 14, reversed.

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

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