In this case, we must decide whether approximately 1.8 million acres of land in northern Alaska, owned in fee simple by the Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, is "Indian country." We conclude that it is not, and we therefore reverse the judgment below.
The Village of Venetie, which is located in Alaska above the Arctic Circle, is home to the Neets'aii Gwich'in Indians. In 1943, the Secretary of the Interior created a reservation for the Neets'aii Gwich'in out of the land surrounding Venetie and another nearby tribal village, Arctic Village. See App. to Pet. for Cert. 2a. This land, which is about the size of Delaware, remained a reservation until 1971, when Congress enacted the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), a comprehensive statute designed to settle all land claims by Alaska Natives. See 85 Stat. 688, as amended, 43 U. S. C. § 1601 et seq.
In enacting ANCSA, Congress sought to end the sort of federal supervision over Indian affairs that had previously
To this end, ANCSA revoked "the various reserves set aside . . . for Native use" by legislative or Executive action, except for the Annette Island Reserve inhabited by the Metlakatla Indians, and completely extinguished all aboriginal claims to Alaska land. §§ 1603, 1618(a). In return, Congress authorized the transfer of $962.5 million in state and federal funds and approximately 44 million acres of Alaska land to state-chartered private business corporations that were to be formed pursuant to the statute; all of the shareholders of these corporations were required to be Alaska Natives. §§ 1605, 1607, 1613. The ANCSA corporations received title to the transferred land in fee simple, and no federal restrictions applied to subsequent land transfers by them.
Pursuant to ANCSA, two Native corporations were established for the Neets'aii Gwich'in, one in Venetie, and one in Arctic Village. In 1973, those corporations elected to make use of a provision in ANCSA allowing Native corporations to take title to former reservation lands set aside for Indians prior to 1971, in return for forgoing the statute's monetary payments and transfers of nonreservation land. See § 1618(b). The United States conveyed fee simple title to the land constituting the former Venetie Reservation to the two corporations as tenants in common; thereafter, the corporations transferred title to the land to the Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government (Tribe).
The State then filed suit in Federal District Court for the District of Alaska and sought to enjoin collection of the tax. The Tribe moved to dismiss the State's complaint, but the District Court denied the motion. It held that the Tribe's ANCSA lands were not Indian country within the meaning of 18 U. S. C. § 1151(b), which provides that Indian country includes all "dependent Indian communities within the borders of the United States"; as a result, "the Trib[e] [did] not have the power to impose a tax upon non-members of the tribe such as the plaintiffs." Alaska ex rel. Yukon Flats School Dist. v. Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government, No. F87-0051 CV (HRH) (D. Alaska, Aug. 2, 1995), App. to Pet. for Cert. 79a.
The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed. 101 F.3d 1286 (1996). The Court held that a six-factor balancing test should be used to interpret the term "dependent Indian communities" in § 1151(b), see id., at 1292-1293, and it summarized the requirements of that test as follows:
Applying this test, the Court of Appeals concluded that the "federal set aside" and "federal superintendence" requirements were met and that the Tribe's land was therefore Indian country. Id., at 1300-1302.
Judge Fernandez wrote separately. In his view, ANCSA was intended to be a departure from traditional Indian policy: "It attempted to preserve Indian tribes, but simultaneously attempted to sever them from the land; it attempted to leave them as sovereign entities for some purposes, but as sovereigns without territorial reach." Id., at 1303. Noting that the majority's holding called into question the status of all 44 million acres of land conveyed by ANCSA, he wrote that "[w]ere we writing on a clean slate, I would eschew the tribe's request and would avoid creating the kind of chaos that the 92nd Congress wisely sought to avoid." Id., at 1304. He nonetheless concluded that Ninth Circuit precedent required him to concur in the result. Ibid. We granted certiorari to determine whether the Court of Appeals correctly determined that the Tribe's land is Indian country. 521 U.S. 1103 (1997).
"Indian country" is currently defined at 18 U. S. C. § 1151. In relevant part, the statute provides:
Although this definition by its terms relates only to federal criminal jurisdiction, we have recognized that it also generally applies to questions of civil jurisdiction such as the one at issue here. See DeCoteau v. District County Court for Tenth Judicial Dist., 420 U.S. 425, 427, n. 2 (1975).
Because ANCSA revoked the Venetie Reservation, and because no Indian allotments are at issue, whether the Tribe's land is Indian country depends on whether it falls within the "dependent Indian communities" prong of the statute, § 1151(b).
In United States v. McGowan, we held that the Reno Indian Colony in Reno, Nevada, was Indian country even though it was not a reservation. 302 U. S., at 539. We reasoned that, like Indian reservations generally, the colony had been "`validly set apart for the use of the Indians . . . under the superintendence of the Government.' " Ibid. (quoting United States v. Pelican, supra, at 449) (emphasis deleted). We noted that the Federal Government had created the colony by purchasing the land with "funds appropriated by Congress" and that the Federal Government held the colony's land in trust for the benefit of the Indians residing there. 302 U. S., at 537, and n. 4. We also emphasized that the Federal Government possessed the authority to enact "regulations and protective laws respecting th[e] [colony's] territory," id., at 539, which it had exercised in retaining title to the land and permitting the Indians to live there. For these reasons, a federal statute requiring the forfeiture of automobiles carrying "intoxicants" into the Indian country applied to the colony; we noted that the law was an example of the protections that Congress had extended to all "`dependent Indian communities' " within the territory of the United
In each of these cases, therefore, we relied upon a finding of both a federal set-aside and federal superintendence in concluding that the Indian lands in question constituted Indian country and that it was permissible for the Federal Government to exercise jurisdiction over them. Section 1151 does not purport to alter this definition of Indian country, but merely lists the three different categories of Indian country mentioned in our prior cases: Indian reservations, see Donnelly v.United States, 228 U.S. 243, 269 (1913); dependent Indian communities, see United States v. McGowan, supra, at 538-539; United States v. Sandoval, supra, at 46; and allotments, see United States v. Pelican, supra, at 449. The entire text of § 1151(b),and not just the term "dependent Indian communities," is taken virtually verbatim from Sandoval, which language we later quoted in McGowan. See United States v. Sandoval, supra, at 46; United States v. McGowan, supra, at 538. Moreover, the Historical and Revision Notes to the statute that enacted § 1151 state that § 1151's definition of Indian country is based "on [the] latest construction of the term by the United States Supreme Court in U. S. v. McGowan . . . following U. S. v. Sandoval. (See also Donnelly v. U. S. ) . . . . Indian allotments were included in the definition on authority of the case of U. S. v. Pelican. " See Notes to 1948 Act, following 18 U. S. C. § 1151, p. 276 (citations omitted).
We therefore must conclude that in enacting § 1151(b), Congress indicated that a federal set-aside and a federal superintendence requirement must be satisfied for a finding of a "dependent Indian community"—just as those requirements had to be met for a finding of Indian country before 18 U. S. C. § 1151 was enacted.
The Tribe's ANCSA lands do not satisfy either of these requirements. After the enactment of ANCSA, the Tribe's lands are neither "validly set apart for the use of the Indians as such," nor are they under the superintendence of the Federal Government.
With respect to the federal set-aside requirement, it is significant that ANCSA, far from designating Alaskan lands for Indian use, revoked the existing Venetie Reservation, and indeed revoked all existing reservations in Alaska "set aside by legislation or by Executive or Secretarial Order for Native use, " save one. 43 U. S. C. § 1618(a) (emphasis added). In no clearer fashion could Congress have departed from its traditional practice of setting aside Indian lands. Cf. Hagen v. Utah, 510 U.S. 399, 401 (1994) (holding that by diminishing a reservation and opening the diminished lands to settlement by non-Indians, Congress had extinguished Indian country on the diminished lands).
The Tribe argues—and the Court of Appeals majority agreed, see 101 F. 3d, at 1301-1302—that the ANCSA lands were set apart for the use of the Neets'aii Gwich'in, "as such," because the Neets'aii Gwich'in acquired the lands pursuant to an ANCSA provision allowing Natives to take title to former reservation lands in return for forgoing all other ANCSA transfers. Brief for Respondents 40-41 (citing 43 U. S. C. § 1618(b)). The difficulty with this contention is that ANCSA transferred reservation lands to private, statechartered Native corporations, without any restraints on alienation or significant use restrictions, and with the goal of avoiding "any permanent racially defined institutions, rights,
Equally clearly, ANCSA ended federal superintendence over the Tribe's lands. As noted above, ANCSA revoked the Venetie Reservation along with every other reservation in Alaska but one, see 43 U. S. C. § 1618(a), and Congress stated explicitly that ANCSA's settlement provisions were intended to avoid a "lengthy wardship or trusteeship." § 1601(b). After ANCSA, federal protection of the Tribe's land is essentially limited to a statutory declaration that the land is exempt from adverse possession claims, real property taxes, and certain judgments as long as it has not been sold, leased, or developed. See § 1636(d). These protections, if they can be called that, simply do not approach the level of superintendence over the Indians' land that existed in our prior cases. In each of those cases, the Federal Government actively controlled the lands in question, effectively acting as a guardian for the Indians. See United States v. McGowan, supra, at 537-539 (emphasizing that the Federal Government had retained title to the land to protect the Indians living there); United States v. Pelican, supra, at 447 (stating that the allotments were "under the jurisdiction and control of Congress for all governmental purposes, relating to the guardianship and protection of the Indians"); United States
The Tribe contends that the requisite federal superintendence is present because the Federal Government provides "desperately needed health, social, welfare, and economic programs" to the Tribe. Brief for Respondents 28. The Court of Appeals majority found this argument persuasive. 101 F. 3d, at 1301. Our Indian country precedents, however, do not suggest that the mere provision of "desperately needed" social programs can support a finding of Indian country. Such health, education, and welfare benefits are merely forms of general federal aid; considered either alone or in tandem with ANCSA's minimal land-related protections, they are not indicia of active federal control over the Tribe's land sufficient to support a finding of federal superintendence.
The Tribe's federal superintendence argument, moreover, is severely undercut by its view of ANCSA's primary purposes, namely, to effect Native self-determination and to end paternalism in federal Indian relations. See, e. g., Brief for Respondents 44 (noting that ANCSA's land transfers "foster[ed] greater tribal self-determination" and "renounc[ed] [Bureau of Indian Affairs] paternalism"). The broad federal superintendence requirement for Indian country cuts against these objectives, but we are not free to ignore that requirement as codified in 18 U. S. C. § 1151. Whether the concept of Indian country should be modified is a question entirely for Congress.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed.
It is so ordered.
Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the Navajo Nation et al. by Paul E. Frye, Judith K. Bush, and James R. Bellis; for the Tanana Chiefs Conference by Bertram E. Hirsch, Michael J. Walleri, Bruce J. Ennis, Jr., and Thomas Perrelli; for Koniag, Inc., by R. Collin Middleton, William H. Timme, and Timothy W. Seaver; and for Indian Law Professors by Richard B. Collins, David H. Getches, Raphael J. Moses, Robert N. Clinton, Carole E. Goldberg, and Ralph W. Johnson.
Briefs of amici curiae were filed for the Alaska Federation of Natives et al. by Arlinda F. Locklear, David S. Case, Carol H. Daniel, Douglas Pope, Hans Walker, Jr., and Marsha Kostura Schmidt; for the Metlakatla Indian Community by S. Bobo Dean and Marsha Kostura Schmidt; and for Shee Atika, Inc., by Bruce N. Edwards.
This argument ignores our Indian country precedents, which indicate both that the Federal Government must take some action setting apart the land for the use of the Indians "as such," and that it is the land in question, and not merely the Indian tribe inhabiting it, that must be under the superintendence of the Federal Government. See, e. g., United States v. McGowan, 302 U.S. 535, 539 (1938) ("The Reno Colony has been validly set apart for the use of the Indians. It is under the superintendence of the Government. The Government retains title to the lands which it permits the Indians to occupy"); United States v. Pelican, 232 U.S. 442, 449 (1914) (noting that the Federal Government retained "ultimate control" over the allotments in question).