Law School Case Brief
Brendale v. Confederated Tribes & Bands of Yakima Indian Nation - 492 U.S. 408, 109 S. Ct. 2994 (1989)
A tribe may regulate, through taxation, licensing, or other means, the activities of nonmembers who enter consensual relationships with the tribe or its members, through commercial dealing, contracts, leases, or other arrangements. A tribe may also retain inherent power to exercise civil authority over the conduct of non-Indians on fee lands within its reservation when that conduct threatens or has some direct effect on the political integrity, the economic security, or the health or welfare of the tribe
Respondent Confederated Tribes & Bands of Yakima Indian Nation (Yakima Nation) claimed zoning authority over the land under a treaty reserving to it exclusive use and benefit of the land. Yakima adopted a zoning ordinance that applied to all lands on its reservation including fee lands. Petitioner Philip Brendale, who is part Indian but not a member of the Yakima Nation, and other non-tribal fee landowners filed plans to develop their land with the county. The planning department for the County of Yakima, govermental entity in the state of Washington, approved the plans. The Yakima Nation appealed to the county commissioners, stating that the county had no zoning authority over the land. The county commissioners affirmed the planning department's decisions. The Yakima Nation filed suit in district court, which held that the Yakima Nation had exclusive zoning authority over the property of one of the landowners but not the other. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit concluded that the Yakima Nation had authority over both properties. Petitioners, county and fee landowners, sought certorari review of appellate court's judgment, which held that the county had no zoning authority over fee land located on the reservation of respondent Yakima Nation.
Did the Yakima Indian Nation hold exclusive zoning authority over all fee lands in their reservation?
On appeal, the United States Supreme Court reversed the lower appellate court's decision as to one of the landowner's and affirmed as to the other. The Court held that under the Indian General Allotment Act, 24 Stat. 388, the Yakima Nation no longer retained the exclusive use and benefit of the land and had no regulatory power over lands held in fee by non-tribal Indians where its interest in regulating the fee land was not demonstrably serious and its political integrity, the economic security, or health and welfare of the Yakima Nation was not imperiled.
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