MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.
These cases present issues concerning state and federal jurisdiction over certain crimes committed on lands within the area designated as a reservation for the Choctaw Indians residing in central Mississippi. More precisely, the questions presented are whether the lands are "Indian country," as that phrase is defined in 18 U. S. C. § 1151 (1976 ed.) and as it was used in the Major Crimes Act of 1885, being § 9 of the Act of Mar. 3, 1885, 23 Stat. 385, later codified as 18 U. S. C. § 1153, and, if so, whether these federal statutes operate to preclude the exercise of state criminal jurisdiction over the offenses.
In October 1975, in the Southern District of Mississippi, Smith John
In April 1976, Smith John
There is no dispute that Smith John is a Choctaw Indian, and it is presumed by all that he is a descendant of the Choctaws who for hundreds of years made their homes in what is now central Mississippi. The story of these Indians, and of their brethren who left Mississippi to settle in what is now the State of Oklahoma, has been told in the pages of the reports of this Court and of other federal courts. See, e. g., Choctaw Nation v. Oklahoma, 397 U.S. 620 (1970); Winton v. Amos, 255 U.S. 373 (1921); Fleming v. McCurtain, 215 U.S. 56 (1909); United States v. Choctaw Nation, 179 U.S. 494 (1900); Choctaw Nation v. United States, 119 U.S. 1 (1886); Chitto v. United States, 133 Ct. Cl. 643, 138 F.Supp. 253, cert. denied, 352 U.S. 841 (1956); Choctaw Nation v. United States, 81 Ct. Cl. 1, cert. denied, 296 U.S. 643 (1935).
At the time of the Revolutionary War, these Indians occupied large areas of what is now the State of Mississippi. In the years just after the formation of our country, they entered into a treaty of friendship with the United States. Treaty at Hopewell, 7 Stat. 21 (1786). But the United States became anxious to secure the lands the Indians occupied in order to allow for westward expansion. The Choctaws, in an attempt to avoid what proved to be their fate, entered into a series of treaties gradually relinquishing their claims to these lands.
Only after the election of Andrew Jackson to the Presidency in 1828 did the federal efforts to persuade the Choctaws to leave Mississippi meet with some success.
In Washington, Congress debated whether the States had power to assert such jurisdiction and whether such assertions were wise.
The relations between the Federal Government and the Choctaws remaining in Mississippi did not end with the formal ratification of the Treaty at Dancing Rabbit Creek by the United States Senate in February 1831. 7 Cong. Deb. 347 (1831). The account of the federal attempts to satisfy
During the 1890's, the Federal Government became acutely aware of the fact that not all the Choctaws had left Mississippi. At that time federal policy toward the Indians favored the allotment of tribal holdings, including the Choctaw holdings in the Indian Territory, in order to make way for Oklahoma's statehood. The inclusion of the Choctaws then residing in Mississippi in the distribution of these holdings proved among the largest obstacles encountered during the allotment effort.
It was not until 1916 that this federal recognition of the presence of Indians in Mississippi was manifested by other than attempts to secure their removal. The appropriations for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in that year included an item (for $1,000) to enable the Secretary of the Interior "to investigate the condition of the Indians living in Mississippi" and to report to Congress "as to their need for additional land and school facilities." 39 Stat. 138. See H. R. Doc. No. 1464, 64th Cong., 2d Sess. (1916). In March 1917, hearings were held in Union, Miss., by the House Committee on Investigation of the Indian Service, again exploring the desirability of providing federal services for these Indians. The efforts resulted in an inclusion in the general appropriation for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1918. This appropriation, passed only after debate in the House, 56 Cong. Rec. 1136-1140 (1918), included funds for the establishment of an agency with a physician, for the maintenance of schools, and for the purchase of land and farm equipment.
In the 1930's, the federal Indian policy had shifted back toward the preservation of Indian communities generally. This shift led to the enactment of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, 48 Stat. 984, and the discontinuance of the allotment program. The Choctaws in Mississippi were among the many groups who, before the legislation was enacted, voted to support its passage. This vote was reported to Congress by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. See Hearings on S. 2755 and S. 3645 before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, 73d Cong., 2d Sess., pt. 2, p. 82 (1934); Hearings on H. R. 7902 before the House Committee on Indian Affairs, 73d Cong., 2d Sess., 423 (1934). On March 30, 1935, the Mississippi Choctaws voted, as anticipated by § 18 of the Act, 48 Stat. 988, 25 U. S. C. § 478 (1976 ed.), to accept the provisions of the
By this time, it had become obvious that the original method of land purchase authorized by the 1918 appropriations —by contract to a particular Indian purchaser—not only was inconsistent with the new federal policy of encouraging the preservation of Indian communities with commonly held lands, but also was not providing the Mississippi Choctaws with the benefits intended. See H. R. Rep. No. 194, 76th Cong., 1st Sess. (1939). In 1939, Congress passed an Act providing essentially that title to all the lands previously purchased for the Mississippi Choctaws would be "in the United States in trust for such Choctaw Indians of one-half or more Indian blood, resident in Mississippi, as shall be designated by the Secretary of the Interior." Ch. 235, 53 Stat. 851. In December 1944, the Assistant Secretary of the Department of the Interior officially proclaimed all the lands then purchased in aid of the Choctaws in Mississippi, totaling at that time more than 15,000 acres, to be a reservation. 9 Fed. Reg. 14907.
In April 1945, again as anticipated by the Indian Reorganization Act, § 16, 48 Stat. 987, 25 U. S. C. § 476 (1976 ed.), the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians adopted a constitution and bylaws; these were duly approved by the appropriate federal authorities in May 1945.
In order to determine whether there is federal jurisdiction over the offense with which Smith John was charged (alleged in the federal indictment to have been committed "on and within the Choctaw Indian Reservation and on land within the Indian country under the jurisdiction of the United States of America"), we first look to the terms of the statute upon which the United States relies, that is, the Major Crimes Act, 18 U. S. C. § 1153. This Act, as codified at the time of the alleged offense, provided: "Any Indian who commits . . . assault with intent to kill . . . within the Indian country, shall be subject to the same laws and penalties as all other persons committing any [such offense], within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States." The definition of "Indian country" as used here and elsewhere in chapter 53 of Title 18 is provided in § 1151.
With certain exceptions not pertinent here, § 1151 includes within the term "Indian country" three categories of land. The first, with which we are here concerned,
The Mississippi lands in question here were declared by Congress to be held in trust by the Federal Government for the benefit of the Mississippi Choctaw Indians who were at that time under federal supervision. There is no apparent reason why these lands, which had been purchased in previous years for the aid of those Indians, did not become a "reservation," at least for the purposes of federal criminal jurisdiction at that particular time. See United States v. Celestine, 215 U.S. 278, 285 (1909). But if there were any doubt about the matter in 1939 when, as hereinabove described, Congress declared that title to lands previously purchased for the Mississippi Choctaws would be held in trust, the situation was completely clarified by the proclamation in 1944 of a reservation and the subsequent approval of the constitution and bylaws adopted by the Mississippi Band.
The Court of Appeals and the Mississippi Supreme Court held, and the State now argues, that the 1944 proclamation had no effect because the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 was not intended to apply to the Mississippi Choctaws. Assuming for the moment that authority for the proclamation
Mississippi appears to concede, Brief for Appellee in No. 77-575, p. 44, that if § 1153 provides a basis for the prosecution of Smith John for the offense charged, the State has no similar jurisdiction. This concession, based on the assumption that § 1153 ordinarily is pre-emptive of state jurisdiction when it applies, seems to us to be correct.
We assume for purposes of argument, as does the United States, that there have been times when Mississippi's jurisdiction over the Choctaws and their lands went unchallenged. But, particularly in view of the elaborate history, recounted above, of relations between the Mississippi Choctaws and the United States, we do not agree that Congress and the Executive
The State also argues that the Federal Government may not deal specially with the Indians within the State's boundaries because to do so would be inconsistent with the Treaty at Dancing Rabbit Creek. This argument may seem to be a cruel joke to those familiar with the history of the execution of that treaty, and of the treaties that renegotiated claims arising from it. See supra, at 640-643. And even if that treaty were the only source regarding the status of these Indians in federal law, we see nothing in it inconsistent with the continued federal supervision of them under the Commerce Clause. It is true that this treaty anticipated that each of those electing to remain in Mississippi would become "a citizen of the States," but the extension of citizenship status to Indans does not, in itself, end the powers given Congress to
We therefore hold that § 1153 provides a proper basis for federal prosecution of the offense involved here, and that Mississippi has no power similarly to prosecute Smith John for that same offense. Accordingly, the judgment of the Supreme Court of Mississippi in No. 77-575 is reversed; further, the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in No. 77-836 is reversed, and that case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
"Any Indian who commits against the person or property of another Indian or other person any of the following offenses, namely, murder, manslaughter, rape, carnal knowledge of any female, not his wife, who has not attained the age of sixteen years, assault with intent to commit rape, incest, assault with intent to kill, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault resulting in serious bodily injury, arson, burglary, robbery, and larceny within the Indian country, shall be subject to the same laws and penalties as all other persons committing any of the above offenses, within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States.
"As used in this section, the offenses of rape and assault with intent to commit rape shall be defined in accordance with the laws of the State in which the offense was committed, and any Indian who commits the offenses of rape or assault with intent to commit rape upon any female Indian within the Indian country shall be imprisoned at the discretion of the court.
"As used in this section, the offenses of burglary, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault resulting in serious bodily injury, and incest shall be defined and punished in accordance with the laws of the State in which such offense was committed."
This section has since been amended by the Indian Crimes Act of 1976, 90 Stat. 585, which added kidnaping to the list of offenses covered and made changes, not pertinent to these cases, in the ways in which state law is incorporated. Section 113, the statute specifying punishment for assaults committed within the special territorial jurisdiction of the United States, including those for which federal prosecutions are authorized by § 1153, was also amended by the same Act. See H. R. Rep. No. 94-1038 (1976); S. Rep. No. 94-620 (1976).
"Whereas the General Assembly of the State of Mississippi has extended the laws of said State to persons and property within the chartered limits of the [Choctaw lands], and the President of the United States has said that he cannot protect the Choctaw people from the operation of these laws; Now therefore that the Choctaw may live under their own laws in peace with the United States and the State of Mississippi they have determined to sell their lands east of the Mississippi and have accordingly agreed to the following articles of treaty."
The preamble was stricken from the treaty as ratified by the Senate. 7 Cong. Deb. 346-347 (1831).
It is generally acknowledged that, whether anxious to conceal the fact that far more Choctaws had remained in Mississippi than he had anticipated originally, or simply because he was disinterested in his job and generally dissolute, the agent in charge of the task refused to record the claims of those who elected to remain. See, e. g., Coleman v. Doe, 12 Miss. 40 (1844); Chitto v. United States, 133 Ct. Cl., at 648-649, 138 F. Supp., at 257. Speculators soon began pressing the cause of those who had been refused. Perhaps in large part due to their efforts, and the cloud created on the ceded lands as they were put up for sale without the proper recordation of Indian claims, Congress soon authorized investigation of the situation. See 7 American State Papers, Public Lands 448-525 (1860); H. R. Rep. No. 663, 24th Cong., 1st Sess. (1836).
Although one might wonder whether it was concern for the preservation of the claims for the Indians, or simply concern for the preservation of the claims, that motivated subsequent events, measures were taken to remedy the situation and to provide substitute lands for the Choctaws to replace those lands sold despite their attempt to file claims. One measure provided that the claimants would be issued scrip enabling them to claim substitute lands, but half the scrip was not to be delivered unless the claimants removed to territory west of the Mississippi. Act of Aug. 23, 1842, 5 Stat. 513.
The administration of this statute was as unsuccessful as had been the administration of the original treaty. It appears that in practice, none of the scrip was delivered before removal, Chitto v. United States, 133 Ct. Cl., at 649, 138 F. Supp., at 257, and that Congress later established a fund to be paid in lieu of part of the scrip. 5 Stat. 777 (1845). After an attempt at settlement in 1852 proved unsuccessful, the United States and the Choctaws in Oklahoma in 1855 entered into still another treaty that provided that the Senate would make a determination of the amounts owing to the Choctaws generally for the failure of the United States to abide by its various treaty promises. Treaty of June 22, 1855, 11 Stat. 611. In March 1859, the Senate approved the general formula under which those amounts were to be calculated, Cong. Globe, 35th Cong., 2d Sess., 1691; S. Rep. No. 374, 35th Cong., 2d Sess. (1859), and the Secretary of the Interior, pursuant to this direction, computed the total to be almost $3 million. See H. R. Exec. Doc. No. 82, 36th Cong., 1st Sess. (1860), reprinted in H. R. Rep. No. 251, 45th Cong., 2d Sess., 12 (1878). The War Between the States interrupted the payment of this Senate award, and, after the war, the Choctaws found themselves forced to prove their claims once again, this time in the federal courts. See Choctaw Nation v. United States, 119 U.S. 1 (1886), rev'g 21 Ct. Cl. 59.
Shortly after this appropriation was made, Cato Sells, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, traveled to Mississippi to gain firsthand information about the Indians there. In his annual report, he observed:
"Practically all of the Mississippi Choctaws are full-bloods. Very few own their homes. They are almost entirely farm laborers or share croppers. They are industrious, honest, and necessarily frugal. Most of them barely exist, and some suffer from want of the necessaries of life and medical aid. In many of the homes visited by me there was conspicuous evidence of pitiable poverty. I discovered families with from three to five children, of proper age, not one of whom had spent a day of their life in school. With very few exceptions they indicated willingness to go to school, as did their parents to send them. Several young Choctaw boys and girls expressed an ardent desire for an education." Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, in 2 Reports of the Department of the Interior, 1918, pp. 79-80 (1919).
In the 1948 revision of Title 18, however, the express reference to "reservation" was deleted in favor of the use of the term "Indian country," which was used in most of the other special statutes referring to Indians, and as defined in § 1151. See Reviser's Note, and n. 18, infra.
The Act has since been amended four times, 63 Stat. 94 (1949) (relating to the punishment for the crime of rape); 80 Stat. 1100 (1966) (adding carnal knowledge and assault with intent to rape); 82 Stat. 80 (1968) (adding assault resulting in serious bodily injury); 90 Stat. 585 (1976) (see n. 2, supra), but its form has not been changed substantially.
"After all the years of living in and among both white and colored race, it is indeed surprising to find that approximately 85 percent of this group are full bloods. Their racial integrity is intact in spite of the absence of permanent holdings or any sort of community life. Many of the older Choctaws do not speak English." E. Groves, Notes on the Choctaw Indians, Feb. 20-Mar. 20, 1936, p. 1 (Bureau of Indian Affairs).
It became apparent in conference on the bill that this language would have a far broader effect than originally intended, for the language proposed would "take away from State courts, whether there be a reservation in the State or not" jurisdiction over the listed crimes when committed by an Indian. Id., at 2385. The provision was then amended to read "all such Indians committing any of the above crimes . . . within the boundaries of any State of the United States, and within the limits of any Indian reservation," and was agreed to with this change.