WILLIAMS v. LEE No. 6172.
83 Ariz. 241 (1958)
319 P.2d 998
Paul WILLIAMS and Lorena Williams, husband and wife, Appellants, v. Hugh LEE, doing business as Ganado Trading Post, Appellee.
Supreme Court of Arizona.
January 7, 1958.
McQuatters & Stevenson, Flagstaff, for appellee.
Suit in the superior court of Apache county by Hugh Lee dba Ganado Trading Post against Paul Williams and his wife, Lorena. Plaintiff was operating the Ganado Trading Post on the Navajo Indian reservation under authority given by the Secretary of Interior and Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Defendants are Indians, members of the Navajo tribe and residing on the reservation. Plaintiff operating as such trader sold articles to defendants on credit. There being a balance unpaid, this suit was filed. Service of summons was made upon defendants within the boundaries of the Navajo Indian reservation. At the time of commencing the action writ of attachment was procured and levied upon sheep owned by the defendants. The levy was made upon the reservation.
Defendants moved to dismiss the action upon the ground that the court lacked jurisdiction and filed a counterclaim for wrongful attachment. Judgment was rendered for the plaintiff on his complaint and the counterclaim was dismissed. Defendants bring the matter before us claiming the trial court had no jurisdiction over their persons for the reason that a state officer cannot legally serve process upon a Navajo Indian within the boundaries of the reservation and that the superior court has no jurisdiction over the subject matter in that it has no power to enforce debts contracted on the reservation by tribal Indians in the course of dealing with a federally licensed Indian trader. There was no assignment of error nor argument questioning the correctness of the court's dismissal of the counterclaim, consequently there will be no further reference thereto.
The defendants were and are citizens of the United States, 8 U.S.C.A. § 1401, and were and are residents of the state of Arizona. Porter v. Hall, 34 Ariz. 308, 271 P. 411, 415, overruled only as to right of suffrage in Harrison v. Laveen, 67 Ariz. 337, 196 P.2d 456. In the Hall case this court said:
Defendants contend that under the treaty with the Navajos of June 1, 1868, 15 Stat. 667, and federal statutes, 25 U.S.C.A. § 231, state agents may enter upon the reservation only for the purpose of inspection of health and educational conditions and enforcement of sanitation and quarantine regulations or to enforce compulsory school attendance laws. The contention is probably sound when the subject matter involved is something that is of no concern to the state, something that is clearly within the exclusive jurisdiction of federal authorities. Unless permitted by the federal government, the state would be outside the sphere of its authority in attempting to interfere with the exclusive power of the federal government in administering the affairs of Indians and promoting their education and health. The state does have some degree of sovereignty over Indian reservations. Draper v. United States,
Appellant urges that Arizona courts have no jurisdiction to enforce payment against a Navajo Indian of a debt which arose out of his dealing with a
We do not question the authority of the federal government over tribal Indians and its right to deprive the state courts of jurisdiction to try and determine litigation of the nature herein involved, but we think the correct statement of the rule is that enunciated by Prof. Ray A. Brown, an eminent authority on Indian law, in his article, The Indian Problem and the Law, 39 Yale Law Journal, pages 314-315. The rule is stated in the following language:
To the same effect, 42 C.J.S. Indians § 8 b:
Many courts have recognized the right of state courts to assume jurisdiction over disputes between Indians and whites. Swartzel v. Rogers, 3 Kan. 374, was a suit between Shawnee Indians to partition land located on the reservation. After declaring there was nothing to show the property was restricted, the court said:
That case was cited as authority by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Felix v. Patrick,
There are cases such as is before this court that were tried in the state courts wherein jurisdiction was apparently conceded or at least not presented. Tinker v. Midland Valley Mercantile Co., 25 Okl. 160, 105 P. 333. This was a suit by an Indian trader against an Indian on a promissory note which defendant contended was void because it was for credit given in excess of that authorized by statute. The case was reviewed by the United States Supreme Court and reversed but not on jurisdictional grounds. Tinker v. Midland Valley Mercantile Company,
We are cited to a regulation of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to the effect that a trader may extend credit to Indians but that such credit will be at the trader's own risk. The argument is advanced that this renders the debt unenforceable in the state court and ousts all courts of jurisdiction to hear the matter. Whether this regulation renders the debt unenforceable is not before us except to the extent that such enforcement may deprive the court of jurisdiction for the reason that the assignment of error in this matter presents only the jurisdictional question. We are clearly of the opinion that the regulation has nothing to do with
When the action was commenced a writ of attachment was issued directing the sheriff to attach sheep belonging to defendants and located upon the reservation. The levy was made. Before final disposition of the case plaintiff moved for authority to sell the property and impound the proceeds. In response to this motion defendants moved to quash the attachment and levy upon the ground, among others, that the court had no jurisdiction over the property proposed to be sold. The court ruled adversely to defendants and ordered the property sold. The stock was sold at public auction at the trading post of plaintiff. Costs of sale were $246.72. The final judgment was in the sum of $82.22. Defendants by express assignment contend the court erred in permitting the sale and proceedings under the writ of attachment for the reason that the state court has no jurisdiction to interfere with property of tribal Indians within an Indian reservation.
We believe there can be no serious question that under the commerce clause of the United States constitution and under the right to protect the Indian and his property, the federal government may prescribe the conditions under which the tribal Indian may dispose of or others may acquire his property, while located on the reservation. If there be a federal statute or lawful regulation adopted pursuant to authority of federal statute prescribing restrictions for the buying or selling of an Indian's property on the reservation, a state court has no right nor power to enforce a state law concerning the disposition of such property which conflicts with the federal statute or regulation. United States v. McGowan, supra.
Pursuant to its power to supervise and control commerce, a federal license is required to trade upon the reservation. The federal statute provided that such trading shall be done only "under such rules and regulations as the Commissioner of Indian Affairs may prescribe for the protection of said Indians." 25 U.S.C.A. § 262. Among the regulations adopted is the following:
We interpret this regulation as placing livestock in a special category and prohibiting buying of such property from the Indian without special permits issued by the superintendent. We can think of no purpose for the regulation except to protect the Indian
Plaintiff advances the theory that because the Indians are citizens they must be treated as having been emancipated from government supervision. It is argued that since they enjoy the privileges of citizenship, they must bear the burdens the same as other citizens. The correct rule is that the mere fact Indians have become citizens does not deprive the federal government of the right and power to pass laws and authorize regulations for the protection of Indians as a tribal people. Hallowell v. United States,
Judgment is reversed as to the levy and sale under attachment and otherwise affirmed.
UDALL, C.J., and PHELPS, STRUCKMEYER and JOHNSON, JJ., concur.
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