Lincoln v. Vigil, 508 U.S. 182, 13 (1993)

Page:   Index   Previous  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  Next



Opinion of the Court

period do not so much as mention the Program,4 and both the Snyder Act and the Improvement Act likewise speak about Indian health only in general terms. It is true that the Service repeatedly apprised Congress of the Program's continued operation, but, as we have explained, these representations do not translate through the medium of legislative history into legally binding obligations. The reallocation of agency resources to assist handicapped Indian children nationwide clearly falls within the Service's statutory mandate to provide health care to Indian people, see supra, at 185, and respondents, indeed, do not seriously contend otherwise. The decision to terminate the Program was committed to the Service's discretion.

The Court of Appeals saw a separate limitation on the Service's discretion in the special trust relationship existing between Indian people and the Federal Government. 953 F. 2d, at 1230-1231. We have often spoken of this relationship, see, e. g., Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, 5 Pet. 1, 17 (1831) (Marshall, C. J.) (Indians' "relation to the United States resembles that of a ward to his guardian"), and the law is "well established that the Government in its dealings with Indian tribal property acts in a fiduciary capacity," United States v. Cherokee Nation of Okla., 480 U. S. 700, 707 (1987); see also

4 Significantly, Congress did see fit on occasion to impose other statutory restrictions on the Service's allocation of funds from its lump-sum appropriations. For example, the appropriations Act for fiscal year 1985 provided that "none of the funds appropriated under this Act to [the Service] shall be available for the initial lease of permanent structures without advance provision therefor in appropriations Acts." Pub. L. 98-473, 98 Stat. 1864. Similarly, the appropriations Act for fiscal year 1983 provided that "notwithstanding current regulations, eligibility for Indian Health Services shall be extended to non-Indians in only two situations: (1) a non-Indian woman pregnant with an eligible Indian's child for the duration of her pregnancy through postpartum, and (2) non-Indian members of an eligible Indian's household if the medical officer in charge determines that this is necessary to control acute infectious disease or a public health hazard." Pub. L. 97-394, 96 Stat. 1990.

Page:   Index   Previous  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  Next

Last modified: October 4, 2007