Indian Country Defined
"Indian country" is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 1151 as including (1)
federal reservations, whether created by statute or Executive Order, see
Donnelly v. United States, 228 U.S. 243 (1913), including fee
see United States v. John, 437 U.S. 634 (1978); Seymour v.
Superintendent, 368 U.S. 351 (1962); (2) dependent Indian communities,
see Alaska v. Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government, 522 U.S.
(1998)(land that is neither a reservation nor an allotment which has been
validly set aside for the use of the Indians as Indian land, and under the
superintendence of the government); and (3) Indian allotments to which title
has not been extinguished, see United States v. Pelican,
232 U.S. 442 (1914), and United States v. Ramsey, 271 U.S. 467
Although not specifically mentioned in section 1151, land held in trust by
United States for a tribe or individual Indian is also accorded Indian
status. Oklahoma Tax Comm'n v. Potawatomi Indian Tribe, 498 U.S. 505
(1991). Acquisition of land in fee by a tribe, despite the restraint on
alienation imposed by 25 U.S.C. § 177, has been held insufficient
standing alone to create Indian country. Buzzard v. Oklahoma Tax
Comm'n, 922 F.2d 1073 (10th Cir. 1993). Indian country status is not
by cession to, or acquisition by, a state of civil and criminal jurisdiction
pursuant to Pub. L. 83-280 ("Public Law 280") or similar act of Congress.
See California v. Cabazon Band of Indians, 480 U.S.
207 n.5 and text (1987).|
Disputes frequently arise as to whether federal reservation status still
attaches to lands that were opened to settlement. The resolution is very
complex. See Solem v. Bartlett, 465 U.S. 463 (1984). The
assistance of the Field Solicitor of the Department of the Interior should
sought in the first instance.
United States Attorneys should attempt to familiarize themselves with
boundaries of their reservations and off-reservation allotments with the
assistance of the Field Solicitor. They should also be aware of the extent
which jurisdiction over all or some of the reservations in their districts
been transferred to the state under Public Law 280 (currently codified at 18
U.S.C. § 1162 and 25 U.S.C. §§ 1321-1326) or similar
legislation, see, e.g., 18 U.S.C. § 3243 (Kansas), Act of June
1948, ch. 759, 62 Stat. 1161 (Iowa), and 25 U.S.C. § 232 (New York).
See this Manual at 688.
[updated May 2001] [cited in USAM 9-20.100]