United States v. White Mountain Apache Tribe, 537 U.S. 465, 6 (2003)

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Opinion of the Court

render judgments in certain claims by Indian tribes against the United States, including claims based on an Act of Congress, it stressed that the waiver operated only when underlying substantive law could fairly be interpreted as giving rise to a particular duty, breach of which should be compensable in money damages. The Government contended that jurisdiction was lacking here because no statute or regulation cited by the Tribe could fairly be read as imposing a legal obligation on the Government to maintain or restore the trust property, let alone authorizing compensation for breach.2

The Court of Federal Claims agreed with the United States and dismissed the complaint for lack of jurisdiction, relying primarily on the two seminal cases of tribal trust claims for damages, United States v. Mitchell, 445 U. S. 535 (1980) (Mitchell I), and United States v. Mitchell, 463 U. S. 206 (1983) (Mitchell II). Mitchell I held that the Indian General Allotment Act (Allotment Act), 24 Stat. 388, as amended, 25 U. S. C. 331 et seq. (1976 ed.) ( 331-333 repealed 2000), providing that "the United States does and will hold the land thus allotted . . . in trust for the sole use and benefit of the Indian," 348; Mitchell I, supra, at 541, established nothing more than a "bare trust" for the benefit of tribal members. Mitchell II, supra, at 224. The general trust provision established no duty of the United States to manage timber resources, tribal members, rather, being "responsible for using the land," "occupy[ing] the land," and "manag[ing] the land." 445 U. S., at 542-543. The opposite result obtained in Mitchell II, however, based on timber

2 Although it appears that the United States has not yet relinquished control of any of the buildings, the United States concedes that "some buildings have fallen into varying states of disrepair, and a few structures have been condemned or demolished." Brief for United States 4. For present purposes we need not address whether or how this affects the Tribe's claims.

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