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Opinion of the Court.
Bridge Co. v. Hatch, 125 U. S. 1, where the act admitting the State of Oregon into the Union was construed.
Determining, by the light of these principles, the question whether the provision of the treaty giving the right to hunt on unoccupied lands of the United States in the hunting districts is repealed, in so far as the lands in such districts are now embraced within the limits of the State of Wyoming, it becomes plain that the repeal results from the conflict between the treaty and the act admitting that State into the Union. The two facts, the privilege conferred and the act of admission, are irreconcilable in the sense that the two under no reasonable hypothesis can be construed as coexisting.
The power of all the States to regulate the killing of game within their borders will not be gainsaid, yet, if the treaty applies to the unoccupied land of the United States in the State of Wyoming, that State would be bereft of such power, since every isolated piece of land belonging to the United States as a private owner, so long as it continued to be unoccupied land, would be exempt in this regard from the authority of the State. Wyoming, then, will have been admitted into the Union, not as an equal member, but as one shorn of a legislative power vested in all the other States of the Union, a power resulting from the fact of statehood and incident to its plenary existence. Nor need we stop to consider the argument advanced at bar, that as the United States, under the authority delegated to it by the Constitution in relation to Indian tribes, has a right to deal with that subject, therefore it has the power to exempt from the operation of state game laws each particular piece of land, owned by it in private ownership within a State, for nothing in this case shows that this power has been exerted by Congress. The enabling act declares that the State of Wyoming is admitted on equal terms with the other States, and this declaration, which is simply an expression of the general rule, which presupposes that States, when admitted into the Union, are endowed with powers and attributes equal in scope to those enjoyed by the States already admitted, repels any presumption that in this particular case Congress intended to admit
Opinion of the Court.
the State of Wyoming with diminished governmental authority. The silence of the act admitting Wyoming into the Union, as to the reservation of rights in favor of the Indians, is given increased significance by the fact that Congress in creating the Territory expressly reserved such rights. Nor would this case be affected by conceding that Congress, during the existence of the Territory, had full authority in the exercise of its treaty making power to charge the Territory, or the land therein, with such contractual burdens as were deemed best, and that when they were imposed on a Territory it would be also within the power of Congress to continue them in the State, on its admission into the Union. Here the enabling act not only contains no expression of the intention of Congress to continue the burdens in question in the State, but, on the contrary, its intention not to do so is conveyed by the express terms of the act of admission. Indeed, it may be further, for the sake of the argument, conceded that where there are rights created by Congress, during the existence of a Territory, which are of such a nature as to imply their perpetuity, and the consequent purpose of Congress to continue them in the State, after its admission, such continuation will, as a matter of construction, be upheld, although the enabling act does not expressly so direct. Here the nature of the right created gives rise to no such implication of continuance, since, by its terms, it shows that the burden imposed on the Territory was essentially perishable and intended to be of a limited duration. Indeed, the whole argument of the defendant in error rests on the assumption that there was a perpetual right conveyed by the treaty, when in fact the privilege given was temporary and precarious. But the argument goes further than this, since it insists that, although by the treaty the hunting privilege was to cease whenever the United States parted merely with the title to any of its lands, yet that privilege was to continue although the United States parted with its entire authority over the capture and killing of game. Nor is there force in the suggestion that the cases of the Kansas Indians, 5 Wall. 737, and the New York Indians, 5 Wall. 761, are in conflict with these
Dissenting Opinion: Brown, J.
views. The first case (that of the Kansas Indians) involved the right of the State to tax the land of Indians owned under patents issued to them in consequence of treaties made with their respective tribes. The court held that the power of the State to tax was expressly excluded by the enabling act. The second case (that of the New York Indians) involved the right of the State to tax land embraced in an Indian reservation, which existed prior to the adoption of the Constitution of the United States. Thus these two cases involved the authority of the State to exert its taxing power on lands embraced within an Indian reservation, that is to say, the authority of the State to extend its powers to lands not within the scope of its jurisdiction, whilst this case involves a question of whether where no reservation exists a State can be stripped by implication and deduction of an essential attribute of its governmental existence. Doubtless the rule that treaties should be so construed as to uphold the sanctity of the public faith ought not to be departed from. But that salutary rule should not be made an instrument for violating the public faith by distorting the words of a treaty, in order to imply that it conveyed rights wholly inconsistent with its language and in conflict with an act of Congress, and also destructive of the rights of one of the States. To refer to the limitation contained in the territorial act and disregard the terms of the enabling act would be to destroy and obliterate the express will of Congress.
For these reasons the judgment below was erroneous, and must, therefore, be
Reversed, and the case must be remanded to the court below
with directions to discharge the writ and remand the prisoner to the custody of the sheriff, and it is so ordered.
MR. JUSTICE BROWN dissenting.
As the opinion of the court seems to me to imply and to sanction a distinct repudiation by Congress of a treaty with the Bannock Indians, I am unable to give my assent to it. The facts are in a nutshell.
Dissenting Opinion: Brown, J.
On July 3, 1868, the United States entered into a treaty, 15 Stat. 673, with the Shoshonees and Bannock tribes of Indians, by which the latter agreed to accept and settle upon certain reservations, and the former agreed that the Indians should have "the right to hunt on the unoccupied lands of the United States, so long as game may be found thereon, and so long as peace subsists among the whites and Indians on the borders of the hunting districts."
A few days thereafter, and on July 25, 1868, Congress passed an act "to provide a temporary government for the Territory of Wyoming," 15 Stat. 178, within which the Bannock reservation was situated, with a proviso "that nothing in this act shall be construed to impair the rights of person or property now pertaining to the Indians in said Territory, so long as such rights shall remain unextinguished by treaty between the United States and such Indians."
So far as it appears, the above treaty still remains in force, but the position of the majority of the court is that the admission of the Territory of Wyoming as a State abrogated it pro tanto, and put the power of the Indians to hunt on the unoccupied lands of the United States completely at the mercy of the state government.
Conceding at once that it is within the power of Congress to abrogate a treaty, or rather that the exercise of such power raises an issue, which the other party to the treaty is alone competent to deal with, it will be also conceded that the abrogation of a public treaty ought not to be inferred from doubtful language, but that the intention of Congress to repudiate its obligation ought clearly to appear. As we said in Hauenstein v. Lynham, 100 U. S. 483, "where a treaty admits of two constructions, one restricted as to the rights, that may be claimed under it, and the other liberal, the latter is to be preferred. Such is the settled rule of this court." See also Chew Ileong v. United States, 112 U. S. 536, 549.
It appears from the first article that this treaty was entered into at the close of a war between the two contracting parties; that the Indians agreed to accept certain reservations of land, and the United States, on its part, "solemnly agreed" that no
Dissenting Opinion: Brown, J.
persons, with certain designated exceptions, "shall ever be permitted to pass over, settle upon or reside in the territory described in this article for the use of said Indians, and
they shall have the right to hunt on the unoccupied lands of the United States so long as game may be found thereon, and so long as peace subsists between the whites and the Indians on the borders of the hunting districts." The fact that the Territory of Wyoming would ultimately be admitted as a State must have been anticipated by Congress, yet the right to hunt was assured to the Indians, not until this should take place, but so long as game may be found upon the lands, and so long as peace should subsist on the borders of the hunting districts. Not only this, but the Territory was created with the distinct reservation that the rights of the Indians should not be construed to be impaired so long as they remained unextinguished by further treaty. The right to hunt was not one secured to them for sporting purposes, but as a means of subsistence. It is a fact so well known that we may take judicial notice of it, that the Indians have never been an industrial people; that even their agriculture was of the rudest description, and that their chief reliance for food has been upon the chase. The right to hunt on the unoccupied lands of the United States was a matter of supreme importance to them, and as a result of being deprived of it they can hardly escape becoming a burden upon the public. It is now proposed to take it away from them, not because they have violated the treaty, but because the State of Wyoming desires to preserve its game. Not doubting for a moment that the preservation of game is a matter of great importance, I regard the preservation of the public faith, even to the helpless Indian, as a matter of much greater importance. If the position of the court be sound, this treaty might have been abrogated the next day by the admission of Wyoming as a State, and what might have been done in this case might be done in the case of every Indian tribe within our boundaries. There is no limit to the right of the State, which may in its discretion prohibit the killing of all game, and thus practically deprive the Indians of their principal means of subsistence.