Idaho v. United States, 533 U.S. 262 (2001)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit

No. 00-189. Argued April 23, 2001—Decided June 18, 2001

This suit involves a dispute between the United States and Idaho over the ownership of submerged lands underlying portions of Lake Coeur d'Alene and the St. Joe River. The Coeur d'Alene Tribe once inhabited vast acreage in and about what is now Idaho, and traditionally used Lake Coeur d'Alene and the St. Joe River for food, fiber, transportation, recreation, and cultural activities. In 1873, the Tribe agreed to relinquish for compensation all claims to its aboriginal lands outside the bounds of a specified reservation that included part of the river and virtually all of the lake. The agreement required congressional approval, but President Grant set the land aside in an 1873 Executive Order, which set the reservation's northern boundary directly across the lake. An 1883 Government survey indicated that the reservation included submerged lands. When Congress neither ratified the agreement nor compensated the Tribe, the Tribe petitioned the Government to make a proper treaty and Congress authorized negotiations. In 1887, the Tribe agreed to cede its rights to all land except that within the Executive Order reservation, and the Government promised to compensate the Tribe and agreed to hold the land forever as Indian land. Still, Congress did not ratify the agreement. In 1888, the Interior Secretary responded to a Senate enquiry about the reservation's boundaries, reporting that the reservation appeared to embrace all but a small fragment of the lake's navigable waters and that the St. Joe River flowed through the reservation. Also in 1888, Congress approved a railroad right-of-way that crossed the reservation's navigable waters, but directed that the Tribe's consent be obtained and that the Tribe be compensated. Responding to a growing desire to obtain for the public an interest in portions of the reservation, Congress authorized negotiations that produced a new agreement in 1889, in which the Tribe agreed to cede the reservation's northern portion, including two-thirds of the lake, for compensation. In 1890, the Senate passed a bill ratifying the 1887 and 1889 agreements, but while the bill was pending in the House, Congress passed the Idaho Statehood Act, admitting Idaho to the Union. In 1891, Congress ratified the 1887 and 1889 agreements. The United States initiated this action against Idaho to quiet title in the United States, in trust for the Tribe, to the sub-

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