Hagen v. Utah, 510 U.S. 399, 13 (1994)

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Cite as: 510 U. S. 399 (1994)

Opinion of the Court

analytical structure," id., at 470, directing us to look to three factors. The most probative evidence of diminishment is, of course, the statutory language used to open the Indian lands. Ibid. We have also considered the historical context surrounding the passage of the surplus land Acts, although we have been careful to distinguish between evidence of the contemporaneous understanding of the particular Act and matters occurring subsequent to the Act's passage. Id., at 471. Finally, "[o]n a more pragmatic level, we have recognized that who actually moved onto opened reservation lands is also relevant to deciding whether a surplus land Act diminished a reservation." Ibid. Throughout the inquiry, we resolve any ambiguities in favor of the Indians, and we will not lightly find diminishment. Id., at 470, 472; see also South Dakota v. Bourland, 508 U. S. 679, 687 (1993) (" '[S]tatutes are to be construed liberally in favor of the Indians, with ambiguous provisions interpreted to their benefit' " (quoting County of Yakima v. Confederated Tribes and Bands of Yakima Nation, 502 U. S. 251, 269 (1992) (internal quotation marks omitted))).

The Solicitor General, appearing as amicus in support of petitioner, argues that our cases establish a "clear-statement rule," pursuant to which a finding of diminishment would require both explicit language of cession or other language evidencing the surrender of tribal interests and an unconditional commitment from Congress to compensate the Indians. See Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae 7-8. We disagree. First, although the statutory language must "establis[h] an express congressional purpose to diminish," Solem, 465 U. S., at 475, we have never required any particular form of words before finding diminishment, see Rosebud Sioux Tribe v. Kneip, 430 U. S. 584, 588, and n. 4 (1977). Second, we noted in Solem that a statutory expression of congressional intent to diminish, coupled with the provision of a sum certain payment, would establish a nearly conclusive presumption that the reservation had been diminished. 465


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