Appeal from the District Court of the United States for the District of New Mexico. [290 U.S. 357, 358] The Attorney General and Mr. J. Crawford Biggs, Sol. Gen., of Washington, D.C., for appellant.
Mr. George R. Craig, of Albuquerque, N.M., for appellee.
Mr. Justice VAN DEVANTER delivered the opinion of the Court.
By indictment in the federal District Court for New Mexico Gregorio Chavez and Jose Maria Chavez, described as 'non-Indians,' were charged with the larceny, on January 3, 1932, 'at and within the limits of the Pueblo of Isleta, the same being Indian Country, in the State and district of New Mexico,' of certain live stock belonging to designated Indians of that pueblo. By a demurrer, the defendants challenged the indictment as not stating an offense against the United States, and in support of the challenge asserted (1) that the pueblo of Isleta is not Indian country within the meaning of the statutes whereon the indictment is founded; and ( 2) [290 U.S. 357, 359] that, even if the pueblo be Indian country, larceny committed therein by the who is not an Indian is not within those statutes. The court sustained the demurrer, dismissed the indictment, and gave a certificate declaring in effect that the judgment was put entirely on the ground that when the statutes underlying the indictment are properly construed-and particularly when construed in the light of the act enabling New Mexico to become a state-they do not make larceny within the pueblo of Isleta by one not an Indian, even of property belonging to an Indian, an offense against the United States, but leave the same to be dealt with exclusively by and under the laws of the state.
The case is here on appeal by the United States under the criminal appeals law. 1
By sections 451 and 466, title 18, U.S.C. (18 USCA 451, 466),2 larceny committed in any place 'under the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States' is made an offense against the United States, the punishment described varying according to the value of the property stolen; and by section 217, title 25, U.S.C. (25 USCA 217),3 the general laws of the United States relating to the punishment of crimes committed in any place within its exclusive jurisdiction are extended, with exceptions not material here, to 'the Indian country.' These are the statutes on which the present indictment is founded.
By the Enabling Act of June 20, 1910,4 and two subsequent Joint Resolutions,5 Congress provided for the admission of New Mexico into the Union as a state 'on an [290 U.S. 357, 360] equal footing with the original States.' Compliance with stated conditions was made a prerequisite to the admission, and these conditions were complied with. The admission became effective through a Proclamation of the President on January 6, 1912.6 One of the conditions related to Indians and Indian lands and to the respective relations thereto of the United States and the state. The provisions embodying this condition are copied in an appended note. 7
The lands of the pueblo of Isleta, like those of other pueblos of New Mexico, are held and occupied by the people of the pueblo in communal ownership under a grant which was made during the Spanish sovereignty, [290 U.S. 357, 361] was recognized during the Mexican dominion, and has since been confirmed by the United States.
The people of these pueblos, although sedentary rather than nomadic, and disposed to peace and industry, are Indians in race, customs, and domestic government. Always living in separate communities, adhering to primitive modes of life, largely influenced by superstition and fetichism, and chiefly governed according to crude customs inherited from their ancestors, they are essentially a simple, uninformed, and dependent people, easily victimized, and ill-prepared to cope with the superior intelligence and cunning of others. By a uniform course of action, beginning as early as 1854 and continued up to the present time, the legislative and executive branches of the government have regarded and treated them as dependent Indian communities requiring and entitled to its aid and protection, like other Indian tribes.