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Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez

Supreme Court of the United States

November 29, 1977, Argued ; May 15, 1978, Decided

No. 76-682


 [*51]   [***110]   [**1673]  MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court. 2

This case requires us to decide whether a federal court may pass on the validity of an Indian tribe's ordinance denying membership to the children of certain female tribal members.

Petitioner Santa Clara Pueblo is an Indian tribe that has been in  [***111]  existence for over 600 years. Respondents, a female member of the tribe and her daughter, brought suit in federal court against the tribe and its Governor, petitioner Lucario Padilla, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against enforcement of a tribal ordinance denying membership in the tribe to children of female members who marry outside the tribe, while extending membership to children of male members who marry outside the tribe.  [****6]  Respondents claimed that this rule discriminates on the basis of both sex and ancestry in violation of ] Title I of the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 (ICRA), 25 U. S. C. §§ 1301-1303, which provides in relevant part that "[no] Indian tribe in exercising powers of self-government shall . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of its laws." § 1302 (8). 3

 [****7]   ] Title I of the ICRA does not expressly authorize the bringing of civil actions for declaratory or injunctive relief to  [*52]  enforce its substantive provisions. The threshold issue in this case is thus whether the Act may be interpreted to impliedly authorize  [**1674]  such actions, against a tribe or its officers, in the federal courts. For the reasons set forth below, we hold that the Act cannot be so read.

Respondent Julia Martinez is a full-blooded member of the Santa Clara Pueblo, and resides on the Santa Clara Reservation in Northern New Mexico. In 1941 she married a Navajo Indian with whom she has since had several children, including respondent Audrey Martinez. Two years before this marriage, the Pueblo passed the membership ordinance here at issue, which bars admission of the Martinez children to the tribe because their father is not a Santa Claran. 4 Although the children were raised on the reservation and continue to reside there now that they are adults, as a result of their exclusion from membership they may not vote in tribal elections or hold secular office in the tribe; moreover, they have no right to remain  [***112]  on the reservation in the event of [****8]  their  [*53]  mother's death, or to inherit their mother's home or her possessory interests in the communal lands.

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436 U.S. 49 *; 98 S. Ct. 1670 **; 56 L. Ed. 2d 106 ***; 1978 U.S. LEXIS 8 ****



Disposition:  540 F.2d 1039, reversed.


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