Hagen v. Utah, 510 U.S. 399, 19 (1994)

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

Opinion of the Court

allotment of lands as provided in the law, and to the restoration of the surplus lands." Letter from A. C. Tonner to James McLaughlin (Apr. 27, 1903), reprinted in S. Doc. No. 159, 58th Cong., 3d Sess., 9 (1905). The Acting Commissioner noted, however, that the effect of the 1903 Act was that "if the [Indians] do not consent to the allotments by the first of June next the allotments are to be made notwithstanding, and the unallotted lands . . . are to be opened to entry" according to the terms of the 1902 Act. Id., at 8-9.

Inspector McLaughlin explained the effect of these recent developments to the Indians living on the Reservation:

" 'By that decision of the Supreme Court, Congress has the legal right to legislate in regard to Indian lands, and Congress has enacted a law which requires you to take your allotments.

. . . . . " 'You say that [the Reservation boundary] line is very heavy and that the reservation is nailed down upon the border. That is very true as applying to the past many years and up to now, but congress has provided legislation which will pull up the nails which hold down that line and after next year there will be no outside boundary line to this reservation.' " Minutes of Councils Held by James McLaughlin, U. S. Indian Inspector, with the Uintah and White River Ute Indians at Uintah Agency, Utah, from May 18 to May 23, 1903, excerpted in App. to Brief for Respondent 4a-5a (emphasis added).

Inspector McLaughlin's picturesque phrase reflects the contemporaneous understanding, by him conveyed to the Indians, that the reservation would be diminished by operation of the 1902 and 1903 Acts notwithstanding the failure of the Indians to give their consent.

The Secretary of the Interior informed Congress in February 1904 that the necessary surveying could not be completed before the date set for the opening, and requested


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