Oliphant v Suquamish Indian Tribe 435 US 191 1978: tribe’s criminal jurisdiction over both Indians and non-Indians

The Suquamish Indians are governed by a tribal government which in 1973 adopted a law and order code. The code which covers a variety of offences purports to extend the tribe’s criminal jurisdiction over both Indians and non-Indians. Guarantees are however not identical as non-Indians are excluded from Suquamish tribal court juries. Petitioners argued that the provisional court does not have criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians. Respondents contend that jurisdiction flow automatically from the tribe’s retained inherent powers of government over the reservation. Indian reservations are a part of the territory of the US. Tribes hold and occupy reservations with the assent of the US and their exercise of separate power is constrained so as not to conflict with the interests of this overriding authority. The formation of Union and the adoption of the Bill of Rights the US protects all its citizens from unwarranted intrusions on their personal liberty. By submitting to overriding soverignty of the US, Indian tribes give up their powers to try non-Indian citizens, except in a manner acceptable to Congress. Tribes do not have inherent jurisdiction to try and punish non-Indians.

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