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Carcieri v. Salazar

Supreme Court of the United States

November 3, 2008, Argued; February 24, 2009, Decided

No. 07-526

Opinion

 [*381]  Justice Thomas delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Indian Reorganization Act (IRA or Act) authorizes the Secretary of the Interior, a respondent in this case, to acquire land and hold it in trust "for the purpose of providing [*382]  land for Indians." § 5, 48 Stat. 985, 25 U.S.C. § 465. The IRA defines the term "Indian" to "include all persons of Indian descent who are members of any recognized Indian tribe now under Federal jurisdiction." § 479. The Secretary notified petitioners--the State of Rhode Island, its Governor, and the town of Charlestown, Rhode Island--that he intended to accept in trust a parcel of land for use by the Narragansett Indian Tribe in accordance with his claimed authority under the statute. In proceedings before the Interior Board of Indian Appeals (IBIA), the District Court, and the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, petitioners unsuccessfully challenged the Secretary's authority to take the parcel into trust.

 [**1061] In reviewing the determination of the Court of Appeals, we are asked to interpret the statutory phrase "now under Federal  [****6] jurisdiction" in § 479. Petitioners contend that the term "now" refers to the time of the statute's enactment, and permits the Secretary to take land into trust for members of recognized tribes that were "under Federal jurisdiction" in 1934. Respondents argue that the word "now" is an ambiguous term that can reasonably be construed to authorize the Secretary to take land into trust for members of tribes that are "under Federal jurisdiction" at the time that the land is accepted into trust.

We agree with petitioners and hold that,for purposes of § 479, the phrase "now under Federal jurisdiction" refers to a tribe that was under federal jurisdiction at the time of the statute's enactment. As a result, § 479 limits the Secretary's authority to taking land into trust for the purpose of providing land to members of a tribe that was under federal jurisdiction when the IRA was enacted in June 1934. Because the record in this case establishes that the Narragansett Tribe was not under federal jurisdiction when the IRA was enacted, the Secretary does not have the authority [*383]  to take the parcel at issue into trust. We reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

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555 U.S. 379 *; 129 S. Ct. 1058 **; 172 L. Ed. 2d 791 ***; 2009 U.S. LEXIS 1633 ****; 77 U.S.L.W. 4113; 21 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 629

DONALD L. CARCIERI, GOVERNOR OF RHODE ISLAND, et al., Petitioners v. KEN L. SALAZAR, SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR, et al.

Prior History:  [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIRST CIRCUIT.

Carcieri v. Kempthorne, 497 F.3d 15, 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 17628 (2007)

Disposition: 497 F.3d 15, reversed.

CORE TERMS

tribe, federal jurisdiction, blood, tribal, reservation, parcel, refers, Settlement, band, federal government, trust land, acquisition, benefits, qualify, quantum, acres, purpose of providing, eligibility, acquire, regulations, authorizes, descent, membership, residing, pueblo, interpretations, unambiguous, provisions, ambiguous, one-half

Governments, Native Americans, Indian Reorganization Act, Property Rights, Legislation, Interpretation, Expiration, Repeal & Suspension