Lincoln v. Vigil, 508 U.S. 182, 4 (1993)

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Cite as: 508 U. S. 182 (1993)

Opinion of the Court


The Indian Health Service, an agency within the Public Health Service of the Department of Health and Human Services, provides health care for some 1.5 million American Indian and Alaska Native people. Brief for Petitioners 2. The Service receives yearly lump-sum appropriations from Congress and expends the funds under authority of the Snyder Act, 42 Stat. 208, as amended, 25 U. S. C. 13, and the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, 90 Stat. 1400, as amended, 25 U. S. C. 1601 et seq. So far as it concerns us here, the Snyder Act authorizes the Service to "expend such moneys as Congress may from time to time appropriate, for the benefit, care, and assistance of the Indians," for the "relief of distress and conservation of health." 25 U. S. C. 13.1 The Improvement Act authorizes expenditures for, inter alia, Indian mental-health care, and specifically for "therapeutic and residential treatment centers." 1621(a)(4)(D).

The Service employs roughly 12,000 people and operates more than 500 health-care facilities in the continental United States and Alaska. See Hearings on Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations for 1993 before a Subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations, 102d Cong., 2d Sess., pt. 4, p. 32 (1992); Brief for Petitioners 2. This case concerns a collection of related services, commonly known as the Indian Children's Program, that the Service provided from 1978 to 1985. In the words of the Court of Appeals, a "clou[d] [of] bureaucratic haze" obscures the history of the Program, Vigil v. Rhoades, 953 F. 2d 1225, 1226 (CA10 1992), which seems to have grown out of a plan "to establish therapeutic and residential treatment centers

1 By its terms, the Snyder Act applies to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, an agency within the Department of the Interior. Under 42 U. S. C. 2001(a), however, the Bureau's authorities and responsibilities with respect to "the conservation of the health of Indians" have been transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services.


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