Idaho v. United States, 533 U.S. 262, 18 (2001)

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Cite as: 533 U. S. 262 (2001)

Opinion of the Court

of submerged lands to the State in what would have amounted to an act of bad faith accomplished by unspoken operation of law. Indeed, the implausibility of the State's current position is underscored by the fact that it made a contrary argument in the Court of Appeals, where it emphasized the District Court's finding that the 1889 Act was an authorization "to negotiate with the Tribe for a release of the submerged lands," and recognized that "[Congress was] informed that the Coeur d'Alene Reservation embraced submerged lands." Opening Brief for Appellant in No. 98- 35831 (CA9), at 11, 31.

Idaho's position is at odds not only with evidence of congressional intent before statehood, but also with later congressional understanding that statehood had not affected the submerged lands in question. Eight months after passing the Statehood Act, Congress ratified the 1887 and 1889 agreements in their entireties (including language in the 1887 agreement that "the Coeur d'Alene Reservation shall be held forever as Indian land"), with no signal that some of the land over which the parties to those agreements had negotiated had passed in the interim to Idaho. The ratification Act suggested in a further way Congress's understanding that the 1873 reservation's submerged lands had not passed to the State, by including a provision confirming the Tribe's sale of river channels to Frederick Post. Confirmation would have been beyond Congress's power if title to the submerged riverbed had already passed to the State.8 Finally, the Act of Congress ceding the portion of

8 The State says that the conveyance to Post included land that was outside the boundary of the 1873 reservation. Reply Brief for Petitioner 18. That merely suggests the possibility that Congress intended to defeat the State's title to even more territory than the United States is claiming here.

The State also hypothesizes that the relevant portions of the Spokane River may not have been considered navigable at the time of the conveyance, ibid., in which case the equal footing doctrine would not apply and the conveyance would say nothing about Congress's intent with regard to


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