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DICK V. UNITED STATES, 208 U. S. 340 (1908)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Dick v. United States, 208 U.S. 340 (1908)

Dick v. United States

No. 62

Submitted December 3, 1907

Decided February 24, 1908

208 U.S. 340


While a state, upon its admission to the Union, is on an equal footing with every other state and, except as restrained by the Constitution, has full and complete jurisdiction over all persons and things within its limits, Congress has power to regulate commerce with the Indian tribes, and such power is superior and paramount to the authority of the state within whose limits are Indian tribes.

Where fundamental principles of the Constitution are of equal dignity, neither must be so enforced as to nullify or substantially impair the other. While the prohibition of § 2139, Rev.Stat., as amended in 1892, against introducing intoxicating liquors into Indian country does not embrace any body of territory in which the Indian title has been unconditionally extinguished, that statute must. be interpreted in connection with whatever special agreement may have been made between the United States chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 208 U. S. 341

and the Indians in regard to the extinguishment of the title and the retention of control over the land ceded by the United States.

It is within the power of Congress to retain control, for police purposes, for a reasonable and limited period, over lands the Indian title to which is extinguished and which are allotted in severalty, notwithstanding that the Indians may be citizens and the land may be within the limits of a state, and twenty-five years is not an unreasonable period.

Under the agreement of May 1, 1893, ratified, 28 Stat. 286, 326, between the United States and the Nez Perce Indians, the United States retained control over the lands ceded for the purpose of controlling the use of liquor therein for twenty-five years, and during that period, § 2139, Rev.Stat., remains in force, notwithstanding such land are within the State of Idaho.

By indictment returned in the District Court of the United States for the District of Idaho, the plaintiff in error, Dick, was charged with the offense of having unlawfully and feloniously introduced intoxicating liquor -- whisky -- into the Indian country, to-wit, into and upon the Nez Perce Indian Reservation, in the County of Nez Perce, State of Idaho.

The indictment was based upon § 2139 of the Revised Statutes as amended and reenacted by the Act of July 23, 1892, 27 Stat. 260, c. 234. That amended section reads:

"No ardent spirits, ale, beer, wine, or intoxicating liquor, or liquors of whatever kind shall be introduced, under any pretense, into the Indian country. Every person who sells, exchanges, gives, barters, or disposes of any ardent spirits, ale, beer, wine, or intoxicating liquors of any kind to any Indian under charge of any Indian superintendent or agent, or introduces or attempts to introduce any ardent spirits, ale, wine, beer, or intoxicating liquor of any kind into the Indian country shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than two years, and by fine of not more than three hundred dollars for each offense. But it shall be a sufficient defense to any charge of introducing or attempting to introduce ardent spirits, ale, beer, wine, or intoxicating liquors into the Indian country that the acts charged were done under authority in writing from the War Department, or any officer duly authorized thereunto by the War Department. . . ."

The accused demurred to the indictment upon the following, chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 208 U. S. 342

among other, grounds: that at the time charged in the indictment, there was no Indian country within the County of Nez Perce or within the district of Idaho known or designated as the Nez Perce Indian Reservation; that the jurisdiction of the United States over all the country and territory embraced within the former reservation known and designated as the Nez Perce Indian Reservation was, by the act admitting Idaho as a state into the Union, relinquished to the State of Idaho, excepting only that jurisdiction was retained in the United States over such Indian reservation until the Indians' title to the lands included within the boundary of such reservation should be extinguished; that the Indian or tribal title to the lands therein contained has, since the admission of the state, been extinguished by the allotment of the lands in severalty to the individual Indians and by the purchase of the balance thereof by the United States, and that such allotments and purchase have been ratified by the public laws and acts of Congress, and further, that the former reservation, known and designated as the Nez Perce Indian Reservation, had, prior to the time of the commission of the acts mentioned in the indictment, been opened for occupation, settlement, and disposal under the general land laws of the United States by an act of Congress, and that the same had been, as a matter of general and public knowledge, prior to the time mentioned in the indictment, settled and appropriated by citizens of the state; that various townsites within the boundaries of the former reservation had been settled by citizens, and the title thereto transferred from the United States to the inhabitants, and that municipal governments, namely, villages, had been organized and were in existence within the boundaries of the former reservation, and that the same, nor any part thereof, is not, and was not at the times mentioned in the indictment, Indian country, or lands reserved for the use and occupation of Indians or occupied by any Indian maintaining tribal relations or by any Indians or persons whomsoever over which the United States is exercising, or attempting to exercise, any of the authority chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 208 U. S. 343

or control in nature of the guardianship of the person. Other grounds of demurrer were assigned, but they need not be here set out.

The demurrer was overruled, and the case went to trial, the accused pleading not guilty. At the close of the evidence, he asked the court to direct a verdict of not guilty, but that request was denied and the result of the trial was a verdict of guilty. Motions for arrest of judgment and for a new trial having been denied, the defendant was, on May 16, 1905, sentenced to pay a fine of $100 and costs and to be imprisoned in the penitentiary for the term of one year and ten days.

In order that the grounds of the demurrer may be clearly apprehended, it is necessary to bring into view certain legislation by Congress and an agreement or treaty made between the United States and the Nez Perce Indians.

By the act of Congress of February 8, 1887, c. 119, providing for the allotment of lands in severalty to Indians on the various Indian reservations, and to extend the protection of the laws of the United States and the territories over the Indians, it was provided:

"That upon the approval of the allotments provided for in this act by the Secretary of the Interior, he shall cause patents to issue therefor in the name of the allottees, which patents shall be of the legal effect, and declare, that the United States does and will hold the land thus allotted, for the period of twenty-five years, in trust for the sole use and benefit of the Indian to whom such allotment shall have been made, or, in case of his decease, of his heirs according to the laws of the state or territory where su