Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.


decided: June 13, 1983.



Marshall, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Author: Marshall

[ 462 U.S. Page 325]

 JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

We are called upon to decide in this case whether a State may restrict an Indian Tribe's regulation of hunting and fishing on its reservation. With extensive federal assistance and supervision, the Mescalero Apache Tribe has established a comprehensive scheme for managing the reservation's fish and wildlife resources. Federally approved tribal ordinances regulate in detail the conditions under which both members of the Tribe and nonmembers may hunt and fish. New Mexico seeks to apply its own laws to hunting and fishing by nonmembers on the reservation. We hold that this application of New Mexico's hunting and fishing laws is pre-empted by the operation of federal law.


The Mescalero Apache Tribe (Tribe) resides on a reservation located within Otero County in south central New Mexico. The reservation, which represents only a small portion

[ 462 U.S. Page 326]

     of the aboriginal Mescalero domain, was created by a succession of Executive Orders promulgated in the 1870's and 1880's.*fn1 The present reservation comprises more than 460,000 acres, of which the Tribe owns all but 193.85 acres.*fn2 Approximately 2,000 members of the Tribe reside on the reservation, along with 179 non-Indians, including resident federal employees of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service.

The Tribe is organized under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, 48 Stat. 984, 25 U. S. C. ยง 461 et seq. (1976 ed. and Supp. V), which authorizes any tribe residing on a reservation to adopt a constitution and bylaws, subject to the approval of the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary). The Tribe's Constitution, which was approved by the Secretary on January 12, 1965, requires the Tribal Council

"[to] protect and preserve the property, wildlife and natural resources of the tribe, and to regulate the conduct of trade and the use and disposition of tribal property upon the reservation, providing that any ordinance directly affecting non-members of the tribe shall be subject to review by the Secretary of [the] Interior." App. 53a.

[ 462 U.S. Page 327]

     The Constitution further provides that the Council shall

"adopt and approve plans of operation to govern the conduct of any business or industry that will further the economic well-being of the members of the tribe, and to undertake any activity of any nature whatsoever, not inconsistent with Federal law or with this constitution, designed for the social or economic improvement of the Mescalero Apache people, . . . subject to review by the Secretary of the Interior." Ibid.

Anticipating a decline in the sale of lumber which has been the largest income-producing activity within the reservation, the Tribe has recently committed substantial time and resources to the development of other sources of income. The Tribe has constructed a resort complex financed principally by federal funds,*fn3 and has undertaken a substantial development of the reservation's hunting and fishing resources. These efforts provide employment opportunities for members of the Tribe, and the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and related services generates income which is used to maintain the tribal government and provide services to Tribe members.*fn4

Development of the reservation's fish and wildlife resources has involved a sustained, cooperative effort by the

[ 462 U.S. Page 328]

     Tribe and the Federal Government. Indeed, the reservation's fishing resources are wholly attributable to these recent efforts. Using federal funds, the Tribe has established eight artificial lakes which, together with the reservation's streams, are stocked by the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, which operates a federal hatchery located on the reservation. None of the waters are stocked by the State.*fn5 The United States has also contributed substantially to the creation of the reservation's game resources. Prior to 1966 there were only 13 elk in the vicinity of the reservation. In 1966 and 1967 the National Park Service donated a herd of 162 elk which was released on the reservation. Through its management and range development*fn6 the Tribe has dramatically increased the elk population, which by 1977 numbered approximately 1,200. New Mexico has not contributed significantly to the development of the elk herd or the other game on the reservation, which includes antelope, bear, and deer.*fn7

The Tribe and the Federal Government jointly conduct a comprehensive fish and game management program. Pursuant to its Constitution and to an agreement with the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife,*fn8 the Tribal Council adopts hunting and fishing ordinances each year. The tribal ordinances, which establish bag limits and seasons and provide

[ 462 U.S. Page 329]

     for licensing of hunting and fishing, are subject to approval by the Secretary under the Tribal Constitution and have been so approved. The Tribal Council adopts the game ordinances on the basis of recommendations submitted by a Bureau of Indian Affairs' range conservationist who is assisted by full-time conservation officers employed by the Tribe. The recommendations are made in light of the conservation needs of the reservation, which are determined on the basis of annual game counts and surveys. Through the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife, the Secretary also determines the stocking of the reservation's waters based upon periodic surveys of the reservation.

Numerous conflicts exist between state and tribal hunting regulations.*fn9 For instance, tribal seasons and bag limits for both hunting and fishing often do not coincide with those imposed by the State. The Tribe permits a hunter to kill both a buck and a doe; the State permits only buck to be killed. Unlike the State, the Tribe permits a person to purchase an elk license in two consecutive years. Moreover, since 1977, the Tribe's ordinances have specified that state hunting and fishing licenses are not required for Indians or non-Indians who hunt or fish on the reservation.*fn10 The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish has enforced the State's regulations by arresting non-Indian hunters for illegal possession of game killed on the reservation in accordance with tribal ordinances but not in accordance with state hunting regulations.

In 1977 the Tribe filed suit against the State and the Director of its Game and Fish Department in the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, seeking to prevent the State from regulating on-reservation hunting or

[ 462 U.S. Page 330]

     fishing by members or nonmembers. On August 2, 1978, the District Court ruled in favor of the Tribe and granted declaratory and injunctive relief against the enforcement of the State's hunting and fishing laws against any person for hunting and fishing activities conducted on the reservation. The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed. 630 F.2d 724 (1980). Following New Mexico's petition for a writ of certiorari, this Court vacated the Tenth Circuit's judgment, 450 U.S. 1036 (1981), and remanded the case for reconsideration in light of Montana v. United States, 450 U.S. ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.