Chief Justice Rehnquist delivered the opinion of the Court.
The question presented in this case is whether the Kansas Act, 18 U. S. C. § 3243, confers jurisdiction on the State of Kansas to prosecute petitioner, a Kickapoo Indian, for the state-law offense of aggravated battery committed against another Indian on an Indian reservation. We hold that it does.
Petitioner, Emery L. Negonsott, is a member of the Kickapoo Tribe and a resident of the Kickapoo Reservation in Brown County, Kansas. In March 1985, he was arrested by the county sheriff in connection with the shooting of another Indian on the Kickapoo Reservation. After a jury trial in the Brown County District Court, petitioner was found guilty of aggravated battery. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-3414 (1988). The District Court set the conviction aside, however, on the ground that the Federal Government had exclusive jurisdiction to prosecute petitioner for the shooting under the Indian Major Crimes Act, 18 U. S. C. § 1153. The Kansas Supreme Court reinstated petitioner's conviction, holding that the Kansas Act conferred jurisdiction on Kansas to prosecute "all crimes committed by or against Indians on Indian reservations located in Kansas." State v. Nioce, 239 Kan. 127, 131, 716 P.2d 585, 588 (1986). On remand, the Brown County District Court sentenced petitioner to imprisonment for a term of 3 to 10 years.
Petitioner then filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U. S. C. § 2254,reasserting his claim that Kansas lacked jurisdiction to prosecute him for aggravated battery. The District Court dismissed his petition, 696 F.Supp. 561 (Kan. 1988), and the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed, 933 F.2d 818 (1991). The Court of Appeals found the language of the Kansas Act ambiguous as to "whether Congress intended to grant Kansas courts concurrent jurisdiction with federal courts over the crimes enumerated in the [Indian] Major Crimes Act, or whether by the second sentence of the Kansas Act Congress intended to retain exclusive jurisdiction in the federal courts over those specific crimes." Id., at 820-821. After examining the Act's legislative history, however, the Court of Appeals resolved this ambiguity in favor of the first construction, and held that Kansas had jurisdiction to prosecute petitioner for aggravated
Criminal jurisdiction over offenses committed in "Indian country," 18 U. S. C. § 1151, "is governed by a complex patchwork of federal, state, and tribal law." Duro v. Reina, 495 U.S. 676, 680, n. 1 (1990). The Indian Country Crimes Act, 18 U. S. C. § 1152, extends the general criminal laws of federal maritime and enclave jurisdiction to Indian country, except for those "offenses committed by one Indian against the person or property of another Indian." See F. Cohen, Handbook of Federal Indian Law 288 (1982 ed.). These latter offenses typically are subject to the jurisdiction of the concerned Indian tribe, unless they are among those enumerated in the Indian Major Crimes Act. Originally enacted in 1885, the Indian Major Crimes Act establishes federal jurisdiction over 13 enumerated felonies committed by "[a]ny Indian . . . against the person or property of another Indian or other person . . . within the Indian country." § 1153(a).
Congress has plenary authority to alter these jurisdictional guideposts, see Washington v. Confederated Bands and Tribes of Yakima Nation, 439 U.S. 463, 470-471 (1979), which it has exercised from time to time. This case concerns the first major grant of jurisdiction to a State over offenses involving Indians committed in Indian country, the Kansas Act, which provides in full:
Passed in 1940, the Kansas Act was followed in short order by virtually identical statutes granting to North Dakota and Iowa, respectively, jurisdiction to prosecute offenses committed
Kansas asserted jurisdiction to prosecute petitioner for aggravated battery under the Kansas Act. Petitioner challenges the State's jurisdiction in this regard. He contends that Congress added the second sentence of the Kansas Act to preserve the "exclusive" character of federal jurisdiction over the offenses enumerated in the Indian Major Crimes Act, and since the conduct resulting in his conviction for aggravated battery is punishable as at least two offenses listed in the Indian Major Crimes Act,
"Our task is to give effect to the will of Congress, and where its will has been expressed in reasonably plain terms, that language must ordinarily be regarded as conclusive." Griffin v. Oceanic Contractors, Inc., 458 U.S. 564, 570 (1982) (internal quotation marks omitted). In analyzing petitioner's contentions, then, we begin with the text of the Kansas
This interpretation is quite consistent with the first sentence's conferral of jurisdiction on Kansas over all offenses committed by or against Indians on Indian reservations in accordance with state law. The Court of Appeals referred to this state of affairs in terms of Kansas courts having "concurrent jurisdiction" with federal courts over the offenses enumerated in the Indian Major Crimes Act. See 933 F. 2d, at 820-821. But the Kansas Act does not confer jurisdiction on Kansas to prosecute individuals for the federal offenses listed in the Indian Major Crimes Act; it confers jurisdiction to prosecute individuals in accordance with state law for conduct that is also punishable under federal law pursuant to the Indian Major Crimes Act. Strictly speaking, then, federal courts retain their exclusive jurisdiction to try individuals for offenses covered by the Indian Major Crimes Act, and in this sense, the Kansas Act in fact confers only concurrent "legislative" jurisdiction on the State to define and prosecute similar offenses.
Although we think resort to secondary materials is unnecessary to decide this case, the legislative history of the Kansas Act supports our construction. Both the House and Senate Reports accompanying the Act consist almost entirely of a letter and memorandum from Acting Secretary of the Interior, E. K. Burlew, to the Chairmen of the House and Senate Indian Affairs Committees, which provide a background account of the forces leading to the enactment of the Kansas Act. See H. R. Rep. No. 1999, 76th Cong., 3d Sess. (1940) (hereinafter H. R. Rep.); S. Rep. No. 1523, 76th Cong., 3d Sess. (1940) (hereinafter S. Rep.). According to Acting Secretary Burlew, in practice, Kansas had exercised jurisdiction over all offenses committed on Indian reservations involving
Since Kansas had exercised jurisdiction over offenses covered by the Indian Major Crimes Act, and the Kansas Act was enacted to ratify the existing scheme of de facto state jurisdiction over all offenses committed on Indian reservations, it follows that Congress did not intend to retain exclusive federal jurisdiction over the prosecution of major crimes. In view of the experimental nature of the Kansas Act, Congress simply intended to retain jurisdiction over
Petitioner argues that Congress' amendments to the original version of the bill which became the Kansas Act confirm that it did not intend to confer jurisdiction on Kansas over conduct covered by the Indian Major Crimes Act. As originally drafted, the bill provided "[t]hat concurrent jurisdiction is hereby relinquished to the State of Kansas to prosecute Indians and others for offenses by or against Indians or others, committed on Indian reservations in Kansas," and explicitly stated that the Indian Major Crimes Act as well as other statutes granting federal jurisdiction over offenses committed in Indian country "are modified accordingly." 86 Cong. Rec. 5596 (1940). Congress eventually deleted the original bill's reference to "concurrent jurisdiction" as well as its reference to the effect of the bill on the Indian Major Crimes Act. Rather than supporting petitioner's construction of the Kansas Act, however, we think these amendments are in accord with our reading of the statute.
The amendments to the original bill were proposed by Acting Secretary Burlew in his letter and memorandum to the committee chairmen in order to reflect more accurately the "legal situation as it now exists or as intended to be created." H. R. Rep., at 3; S. Rep., at 2. He explained:
Thus, the original bill was amended to make clear that the statute conferred jurisdiction on Kansas over more offenses than were subject to federal jurisdiction under existing federal law, and not, as petitioner suggests, to narrow the category of offenses subject to prosecution in state court to minor offenses excluded from federal jurisdiction under 18 U. S. C. § 1152.
There is no explanation in the legislative history why Congress deleted the original bill's reference to the effect of the statute on the Indian Major Crimes Act and adopted the general language of the second sentence of § 3243 in its place. But we think it is likely that Congress simply thought it preferable to refer generally to the fact that the Act did not "deprive" federal courts of their jurisdiction over offenses defined by federal law, rather than to list the specific statutes pursuant to which the Federal Government had exercised jurisdiction to prosecute offenses committed by or against Indians in Indian country. In any event, to the extent one may draw a negative inference from Congress' decision to delete the specific reference to the effect of the Kansas Act on the Indian Major Crimes Act, we think this is too slender a reed upon which to rest departure from the clear import of the text of the Kansas Act.
Finally, we find petitioner's resort to general principles of Indian law unavailing. Petitioner cites our opinion in Bryan v. Itasca County, 426 U.S. 373 (1976), for the proposition that "laws must be liberally construed to favor Indians." Brief for Petitioner 11. What we actually said in Bryan, was that "`statutes passed for the benefit of dependent Indian tribes. . . are to be liberally construed, doubtful expressions being resolved in favor of the Indians.' " 426 U. S., at 392 (quoting Alaska Pacific Fisheries v. United States, 248 U.S. 78, 89 (1918)). Petitioner claims that the Court of Appeals' construction of the Kansas Act harms Indians by eliminating the historically exclusive stewardship of the Federal Government over major crimes committed by Indians in Indian country, and subjecting Indians to the possibility of dual prosecution by state and federal authorities.
It is not entirely clear to us that the Kansas Act is a statute "passed for the benefit of dependent Indian tribes." But if it does fall into that category, it seems likely that Congress thought that the Act's conferral of criminal jurisdiction on the State would be a "benefit" to the tribes in question. We see no reason to equate "benefit of dependent Indian tribes," as that language is used in Bryan, with "benefit of accused Indian criminals," without regard to the interests of the victims of these crimes or of the tribe itself. But in any event, for the reasons previously discussed, we think that the Kansas Act quite unambiguously confers jurisdiction on the State over major offenses committed by or against Indians on Indian reservations, and we therefore have no occasion to resort to this canon of statutory construction. See South Carolina v. Catawba Indian Tribe, Inc., 476 U.S. 498, 506 (1986).
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is
"(a) Any Indian who commits against the person or property of another Indian or other person any of the following offenses, namely, murder, manslaughter, kidnaping, maiming, a felony under chapter 109A, incest, assault with intent to commit murder, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault resultingin seriousbodily in jury, arson, burglary,robbery,and a felony under section 661 of this title within the Indian country, shall be subject to the same law and penalties as all other persons committing any of the above offenses, within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States.
"(b) Any offense referred to in subsection (a) of this section that is not defined and punished by Federal law in force within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States shall be defined and punished in accordance with the laws of the State in which such offense was committed as are in force at the time of such offense." 18 U. S. C. § 1153.