Hagen v. Utah, 510 U.S. 399, 10 (1994)

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Opinion of the Court

reservation . . . will on and after the 28th day of August, 1905, in the manner hereinafter prescribed, and not otherwise, be opened to entry, settlement and disposition under the general provisions of the homestead and townsite laws of the United States." 34 Stat. 3119-3120.

The Proclamation went on to detail a lottery scheme for the allocation of the lands to settlers.


In 1989, petitioner was charged in Utah state court with distribution of a controlled substance. The offense occurred in the town of Myton, which was established within the original boundaries of the Uintah Indian Reservation when the reservation was opened to non-Indian settlement in 1905. Petitioner initially pleaded guilty, but subsequently filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. The basis of the motion was that the Utah state courts lacked jurisdiction over petitioner because he was an Indian and the crime had been committed in Indian country. The trial court denied the motion, finding that petitioner is not an Indian.

The state appellate court reversed. It concluded that petitioner is an Indian, a determination that is not at issue in this Court. The court also held that Myton is in Indian country, relying on Ute Indian Tribe v. Utah, 773 F. 2d 1087 (1985) (en banc), cert. denied, 479 U. S. 994 (1986), in which the Tenth Circuit held that the Uintah Indian Reservation was not diminished when it was opened to settlement in 1905. Because Congress has not granted criminal jurisdiction to the State of Utah to try crimes committed by Indians in Indian country, cf. Negonsott v. Samuels, 507 U. S. 99, 103 (1993); Washington v. Confederated Bands and Tribes of Yakima Nation, 439 U. S. 463, 471-474 (1979), the appellate court held that the state courts lacked jurisdiction over petitioner. The court accordingly vacated petitioner's conviction.

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