- Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
- Area(s) of Law: Indian Law
- Date Filed: 09-08-2022
- Case #: No. 21-35185
- Judge(s)/Court Below: Fletcher, Circuit Judge, for the Court, joined by Rawlinson and Owens, Circuit Judges.
- Full Text Opinion
The Metlakatlan Indian Community (“the Community”) moved to the Annette Islands in the late 1880s at the invitation of President Cleveland with an understanding that they would support themselves by fishing. Shortly thereafter, they established a cannery, supplied by off-reservation fishing, as a source of revenue. In 1972, Alaska enacted a statute creating a limited entry program for commercial fishing and attempted to enforce it against members of the Community in 2020. The Community challenged the program, arguing they cannot be subjected to the program in light of the 1891 Act establishing their reservation and granting them the right to fish in off-reservation waters. When evaluating off-reservation rights, the Court is required to infer rights that support a reservation’s purpose. See Winters v. United States, 207 U.S. 564, 576-77 (1908). Looking at the Community’s history, the Court concluded that Congress passed the 1891 Act establishing the Metlakatlans’ reservation with the expectation that they would continue to support themselves by fishing, clearly contemplating the likelihood of off-reservation fishing towards those ends. The 1891 Act therefore preserved the Community’s implied right to non-exclusive off-reservation fishing for commercial purposes. Any Alaskan regulation of the Community’s off-reservation fishing must be consistent with those rights. Reversed and remanded.