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US v. CELESTINE , 215 U.S. 278 (1909)

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United States Supreme Court

U.S. v. CELESTINE(1909)

No. 235

Argued: October 14, 1909Decided: December 13, 1909

[215 U.S. 278, 279]   Assistant Attorney General Harr for plaintiff in error.

No counsel appeared for defendant in error.

Statement by Mr. Justice Brewer:

At the May term, 1908, of the circuit court of the United States for the western district of Washington an indictment was found against the defendant, the first count of which reads:

    'That one Bob Celestine, an Indian, on the 30th day of August, in the year of our Lord 1906, within the limits of the Tulalip Indian Reservation, within the boundaries of the state of Washington, and within said western district of Washington, northern division, did, with force and arms, make an assault upon one Mary Chealco, an Indian woman, with an ax, which the said Bob Celestine then and there held in his hands, and did then and there feloniously, wilfully, knowingly, and with malice aforethought, strike, beat, and mortally wound said Mary Chealco with said ax upon the head of the said Mary Chealco, with intent to kill and murder her, the said Mary Chealco, giving to her, the said Mary Chealco, a mortal wound upon the head, from which mortal wound said Mary Chealco then and there languished and died, within said Tulalip Indian Reservation, in said western district of Washington.'

The second count is in similar terms, but charges in addition that the Tulalip Indian Reservation, where the offense was committed, is 'a place under the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States.' [215 U.S. 278, 280]   By a special plea the defendant challenged the jurisdiction of the circuit court, alleging that at the time of the offense there had been allotted to him as the head of a family certain lands situate on the Tulalip Indian Reservation, within the limits of the state (then territory) of Washington, under the provisions of the treaty of January 22, 1855 (12 Stat. at L. 927), and in accordance with an executive order of December 23, 1873, and that a patent therefor was issued and delivered to him on May 19, 1885; that he was then a member of the Tulalip tribe of Indians; that ever since that date he 'has been and still is a citizen of the United States, and therefore subject to the laws of the territory and state of Washington;' that he 'was born within the territorial limits of the United States and has always resided within such limits,' and that therefore he was entitled to 'all the rights, privileges, and immunities of said citizens of the United States.'

This plea also alleged that the murdered woman was a citizen of the United States and the widow of one Chealco Peter, who, like the defendant, had received an allotment of land within the Tulalip Reservation, and a patent thereof similar to that of defendant; that she became entitled to her husband's allotment upon his death, and that the place of the commission of the offense was upon the very land allotted to said Chealco Peter, and without the jurisdiction of the court.

A demurrer by the government to the plea was overruled and judgment entered sustaining the plea.

A writ of error to this court was then sued out by the United States under authority of the act of March 2, 1907 (34 Stat. at L. 1246, chap. 2564, U. S. Comp. Stat. Supp. 1907, p. 209).

[215 U.S. 278, 283]  

Mr. Justice Brewer delivered the opinion of the court:

The fourth paragraph of the act of March 2, 1907, supra, authorizes a review of a 'decision or judgment sustaining a special plea in bar, when the defendant has not been put in jeopardy.' The defendant in this case had not been put upon trial, therefore he had not been in jeopardy. The decision of the circuit court sustained the special plea in bar. This fourth paragraph differs from the two preceding, in that the review authorized by them is limited to cases in which 'the decision or judgment is based upon the invalidity or construction of the statute upon which the indictment is founded,' while no such limitation appears in this paragraph. The full significance of this difference need not now be determined, but clearly the fourth paragraph gives to this court a right to review the precise question decided by a trial court in sustaining a special plea in bar, although that decision may involve the application rather than the invalidity or construction, strictly speaking, of the statute upon which the indictment was founded.

The general provision of the statutes in reference to punishment of the crime of murder committed within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States is found in chap. 3, title 70, Rev. Stat. (U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 3625), as amended by the act of January 15, 1897 (29 Stat. at L. 487, chap. 29, U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 3620).

Section 9 of the act of March 3, 1885 (23 Stat. at L. 385, chap. 341), provides for the punishment of certain crimes by Indians, as follows: [215 U.S. 278, 284]   'That immediately upon and after the date of the passage of this act, all Indians committing against the person or property of another Indian or other person any of the following crimes, namely, murder, manslaughter, rape, assault with intent to kill, arson, burglary, and larceny within any territory of the United States . . . and all such Indians committing any of the above crimes against the person or property of another Indian or other person within the boundaries of any state of the United States, and within the limits of any Indian reservation, shall be subject to the same laws, tried in the same courts, and in the same manner, and subject to the same penalties, as are all other persons committing any of the above crimes within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States.'

By this section, Indians committing against other Indians on a reservation in a state any of the crimes named are subject to Federal laws and tried in Federal courts.

That the offense was committed within the limits of the Tulalip Indian Reservation is distinctly charged in the indictment, and not challenged in the plea in bar. Although the defendant had received a patent for the land within that reservation, and although the murdered woman was the owner of another tract within such limits, also patented, both tracts remained within the reservation until Congress excluded them therefrom.

By the second clause of 3, art. 4, of the Constitution, to Congress, and to it alone, is given 'power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States.' From an early time in the history of the government it has exercised this power, and has also been legislating concerning Indians occupying such territory. Without noticing prior acts, it is sufficient to refer to that of June 30, 1834 (4 Stat. at L. 729, chap. 161), the 1st section of which reads:

    'Be it enacted, . . . that all that part of the United States west of the Mississippi, and not within the states of Missouri and [215 U.S. 278, 285]   Louisiana, or the territory of Arkansas, and also that part of the United States east of the Mississippi river, and not within any state, to which the Indian title has not been extinguished, for the purposes of this act be taken and deemed to be the Indian country.'

Construing this section, it was decided, in Bates v. Clark, 95 U.S. 204, 209 , 24 S. L. ed. 471, 473, that all the country described in the act as 'Indian country' remains such 'so long as the Indians retain their original title to the soil, and ceases to be Indian country whenever they lose that title, in the absence of any different provision by treaty or by act of Congress.' The section was repealed by Rev. Stat. 5596 (U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 3750). Still, it was held that it might be referred to for the purpose of determining what was meant by the term 'Indian country' when found in sections of the Revised Statutes which were re- enactments of other sections of prior legislation. Ex parte Crow Dog (Ex parte Kang-Gi-Shun-Ca) 109 U.S. 556 , 27 L. ed. 1030, 3 Sup. Ct. Rep. 396; United States v. Le Bris, 121 U.S. 278 , 30 L. ed. 946, 7 Sup. Ct. Rep. 894. But the word 'reservation' has a different meaning, for while the body of land described in the section quoted as 'Indian country' was a reservation, yet a reservation is not necessarily 'Indian country.' The word is used in the land law to describe any body of land, large or small, which Congress has reserved from sale for any purpose. It may be a military reservation, or an Indian reservation, or, indeed, one for any purpose for which Congress has authority to provide, and, when Congress has once established a reservation, all tracts included within it remain a part of the reservation until separated therefrom by Congress. By the treaty of January 22, 1855 (12 Stat. at L. 927), known as the treaty of Point Elliott, it was provided that certain lands should be reserved for the 'use and occupation of the Indians.' And, further, article 3, 'that the President may establish the central agency and general reservation at such other point as he may deem for the benefit of the Indians.' On December 23, 1873, the President established the boundaries of the Tulalip Reservation in the territory of Washington. The tract [215 U.S. 278, 286]   subsequently allotted to defendant, as well as that upon which the crime was committed, are within the boundaries prescribed in this executive order. Article 7 of the treaty of Point Elliott authorizes the President to set apart separate tracts within the reservation to such individuals or families as were willing to avail themselves of the privilege and locate on the same as a permanent home, on the same terms and subject to the same regulations as are provided in the sixth article of the treaty with the Omahas, so far as the same may be applicable. The treaty with the Omahas, March 16, 1854 (10 Stat. at L. 1043), provides for the location by an individual or family on land within the Omaha Reservation, its assignment for a permanent home, for the issue of a patent to such person or family, with conditions against alienation or leasing, exemption from levy, sale, or forfeiture, not to be disturbed by the state without the consent of Congress; and, further, that if the 'person or family shall at any time neglect or refuse to occupy and till a portion of the lands assigned and on which they have located, or shall rove from place to place, the President may, if the patent shall have been issued, cancel the assignment ; . . . and, in default of their return, the tract may be declared abandoned, and thereafter assigned to some other person or family of such tribe, or disposed of as is provided for the disposition of the excess of said land.' The patent issued to the defendant recites that it is issued under the provisions of the article referred to in the treaty with the Omaha Indians.

The plea does not challenge the continued tribal organization of the Tulalip Indians, or question that the tribe, as well as the general body of the reservation, continues under the general care of the United States. Indeed, at the time of the crime, the Tulalip Reservation was occupied by 453 Indians, under the charge of an Indian agent. Rep. Com. Ind. Affairs, 1906, pp. 377, 483. Thirteen thousand, five hundred and sixty acres have been allotted to ninety-four of these Indians, and the residue 8,930 acres, remains unallotted. [215 U.S. 278, 287]   Rep. Com. Ind. Affairs, 1908, p. 162. The fact of the patent to Chealco Peter is all that is claimed shows a want of jurisdiction of the United States over the place of the offense, but the conditions of the treaty with the Omahas, made reference a part of the treaty with the Tulalip Indians, providing for only a conditional alienation of the lands, make it clear that the special jurisdiction of the United States has not been taken away.

Eells v. Ross (12 C. C. A. 205, 29 U. S. App. 59, 64 Fed. 417, circuit court of appeals of the United States for the ninth circuit) presented the question of the revocation of a reservation. The treaty with the Puyallup Indians [10 Stat. at L. 1132] contains like provisions as to alienation and forfeiture as are in the treaty with the Omahas. 24 Stat. at L. 388, chap. 119. Circuit Judge McKenna, now Mr. Justice McKenna of this court, in delivering the unanimous opinion of that court, said (page 207):

    'It is not disputed that the lands are a part of those set apart as the Puyallup Reservation, and that the reservation has not been directly revoked; but it is contended that the allotment of the lands in severalty, and afterwards making the Indians citizens, necessarily had the effect to revoke the reservation. There is plausibility in the argument, and it needs to be carefully considered. It is clear that the allotment alone could not have this effect. (The Kansas Indians [Blue Jacket v. Johnson County] 5 Wall. 737, 18 L. ed. 667), and citizenship can only have it if citizenship is inconsistent with the existence of a reservation. It is not necessarily so. Some of the restraints of a reservation may be inconsistent with the rights of citizens. The advantages of a reservation are not; and if, to secure the latter to the Indians, others not Indians are excluded, it is not clear what right they have to complain. The act of 1887, which confers citizenship, clearly, does not emancipate the Indians from all control, or abolish the reservations.'

Dick v. United States, 208 U.S. 340 , 52 L. ed. 520, 28 Sup. Ct. Rep. 399, does not conflict with [215 U.S. 278, 288]   these views, for there the place of the offense was the village of Culdesac, which although within the boundaries of the Nez Perce Reservation, as at first established, was located upon lands passed by patent from the United States under the town site laws to the probate judge of Nez Perce county, and by the town site act such location could only be on public lands. Rev. Stat. 2380, U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 1455

But it is contended that although the crime may have been committed on an Indian reservation, yet it does not come within the last sentence of 9 of the act of March 3, 1885, supra, by reason of the fact that both defendant and the woman murdered held patents from the United States, and Re Heff, 197 U.S. 488 , 49 L. ed. 848, 25 Sup. Ct. Rep. 506, is cited as authority. But there are these important differences between the two cases. In that, the person to whom the defendant sold liquor (the charge being that of selling liquor to an Indian) had received a patent under the provisions of the act of Congress of February 8, 1887, known as the general allotment act (24 Stat. at L. 388, chap. 119), whereas the patents in this case were issued under the authority of the treaty with the Omahas, March 16, 1854, supra, and the treaty of Point Elliott, January 22, 1855, supra. It also appeared that the sale was made not on any reservation, while here the murder was committed within the limits of one.

Section 5 of the act of February 8, 1887, provides 'that upon the approval of the allotments provided for in this act by the Secretary of the Interior, he shall cause patents to issue therefor,' etc. Section 6 is as follows:

    'Sec. 6. That upon the completion of said allotments and the patenting of the lands to said allottees, each and every member of the respective bands or tribes of Indians to whom allotments have been made shall have the benefit of and be subject to the laws, both civil and criminal, of the state or territory in which they may reside; and no territory shall pass or enforce any law denying any such Indian within its [215 U.S. 278, 289]   jurisdiction the equal protection of the law. And every Indian born within the territorial limits of the United States, to whom allotments shall have been made under the provisions of this act, or under any law or treaty, and every Indian born within the territorial limits of the United States who has voluntarily taken up within said limits his residence, separate and apart from any tribe of Indians therein, and has adopted the habits of civilized life, is hereby declared to be a citizen of the United States, and is entitled to all the rights, privileges, and immunities of such citizens, whether said Indian has been or not, by birth or otherwise, a member of any tribe of Indians within the territorial limits of the United States, without in any manner impairing or otherwise affecting the right of any such Indian to tribal or other property.'

It will be seen that the first sentence of the latter section, which provides that the allottees shall be 'subject to the laws, both civil and criminal, of the state or territory in which they may reside,' applies to allotments and patents made under the authority of that act, whereas the other sentence refers to allotments made under the act of 1887, or under any law or treaty, and in respect to the allottee it is provided only that he 'is hereby declared to be a citizen of the United States, and is entitled to all the rights, privileges, and immunities of such citizens.' In other words, so far as the plea is concerned, it is only that Celestine was a citizen of the United States, and entitled to all the rights, privileges, and immunities of such citizenship.

We assume, without deciding, that although Celestine was born within the territorial limits of the United States, he was not, under the 1st section of the 14th Amendment, a citizen of the United States prior to the issue of the patent to him; that the jurisdiction of the United States was over the tribe of which he was a member, and not over him personally; so that, by the act of 1887, he was given a citizenship in the United States and in the state which did not theretofore belong to him. But, although made a citizen of the [215 U.S. 278, 290]   United States and of the state, it does not follow that the United States lost jurisdiction over him for offenses committed within the limits of the reservation. We had occasion in Re Heff, supra, to notice the fact that the first dealings with Indians were with them as tribes, but that of late there had been a change in the policy, and a disposition to put an end to tribal organization, and give to them as individuals all the rights of citizenship, saying (p. 499):

    'Of late years a new policy has found expression in the legislation of Congress,-a policy which looks to the breaking up of tribal relations, the establishing of the separate Indians in individual homes, free from national guardianship, and charged with all the rights and obligations of citizens of the United States. Of the power of the government to carry out this policy there can be no doubt. It is under no constitutional obligation to perpetually continue the relationship of guardian and ward. It may, at any time, abandon its guardianship, and leave the ward to assume and be subject to all the privileges and burdens of one sui juris. And it is for Congress to determine when and how that relationship of guardianship shall be abandoned. It is not within the power of the courts to overrule the judgment of Congress. It is true there may be a presumption that no radical departure is intended, and courts may wisely insist that the purpose of Congress be made clear by its legislation, but when that purpose is made clear, the question is at an end.'

Notwithstanding the gift of citizenship, both the defendant and the murdered woman remained Indians by race, and the crime was committed by one Indian upon the person of another, and within the limits of a reservation. Bearing in mind the rule that the legislation of Congress is to be construed in the interest of the Indian, it may fairly be held that the statute does not contemplate a surrender of jurisdiction over an offense committed by one Indian upon the person of another Indian within the limits of a reservation; at any rate, it cannot be said to be clear that Congress intended, [215 U.S. 278, 291]   by the mere grant of citizenship, to renounce entirely its jurisdiction over the individual members of this dependent race. There is not in this case in terms a subjection of the individual Indian to the laws, both civil and criminal, of the state; no grant to him of the benefit of those laws; no denial of the personal jurisdiction of the United States.

The act of May 8, 1906 (34 Stat. at L. 182, chap. 2348), extending to the expiration of the trust period the time when the allottees of the act of 1887 shall be subject to state laws, is worthy of note as suggesting that Congress, in granting full rights of citizenship to Indians, believed that it had been hasty. See, upon the general questions discussed, United States v. Mullin, 71 Fed. 682; Rainbow v. Young, 88 C. C. A. 653, 161 Fed. 835; State v. Columbia George, 39 Or. 127, 65 Pac. 604, Re Columbia George, 201 U.S. 641 , 50 L. ed. 901, 26 Sup. Ct. Rep. 759; Couture v. United States, 207 U.S. 581 , 52 L. ed. 350, 28 Sup. Ct. Rep. 259; Toy Toy v. Hopkins, 212 U.S. 542 , 53 L. ed. 644, 29 Sup. Ct. Rep. 416.

The judgment is reversed.

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