Hagen v. Utah, 510 U.S. 399, 22 (1994)

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Opinion of the Court

now opened for settlement under the homestead laws "by virtue of the power in [him] vested by said Acts of Congress." 34 Stat. 3120 (emphasis added). President Roosevelt thus clearly understood the 1905 Act to incorporate the 1902 Act, and specifically the restoration language. This "unambiguous, contemporaneous, statement, by the Nation's Chief Executive," Rosebud, 430 U. S., at 602, is clear evidence of the understanding at the time that the Uintah Reservation would be diminished by the opening of the unallotted lands to non-Indian settlement.

The subsequent history is less illuminating than the contemporaneous evidence. Since 1905, Congress has repeatedly referred to the Uintah Reservation in both the past and present tenses, reinforcing our longstanding observation that "[t]he views of a subsequent Congress form a hazardous basis for inferring the intent of an earlier one." United States v. Philadelphia Nat. Bank, 374 U. S. 321, 348-349 (1963) (internal quotation marks omitted). The District Court in the Ute Indian Tribe case extensively cataloged these congressional references, and we agree with that court's conclusion: "Not only are the references grossly inconsistent when considered together, they . . . are merely passing references in text, not deliberate expressions of informal conclusions about congressional intent in 1905." 521 F. Supp. 1072, 1135 (Utah 1981). Because the textual and contemporaneous evidence of diminishment is clear, however, the confusion in the subsequent legislative record does nothing to alter our conclusion that the Uintah Reservation was diminished.


Finally, our conclusion that the statutory language and history indicate a congressional intent to diminish is not controverted by the subsequent demographics of the Uintah Valley area. We have recognized that "[w]hen an area is predominately populated by non-Indians with only a few surviving pockets of Indian allotments, finding that the land remains

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