News and Press Releases

Supreme Court Denies Request by South Dakota and Charles Mix County to Hear Yankton Sioux Reservation Case

June 20, 2011
Contact: Mark E. Salter
Assistant United States Attorney

United States Attorney Brendan V. Johnson announced today that the United States Supreme Court has denied a request by the State of South Dakota, Charles Mix County, and Southern Missouri Waste Management District to hear arguments concerning whether the Yankton Sioux Indian Reservation has been disestablished. The three claimed the Reservation was terminated by an 1894 federal statute which approved an agreement between the Yankton Sioux Tribe and the United States allowing for the sale of some, but not all, tribal lands to the federal government. The United States and the Yankton Sioux Tribe opposed the request for Supreme Court review and argued that their agreement had not disestablished the Reservation.

The Reservation was originally created by treaty in 1858 and covered over 430,000 acres in what is now Charles Mix County. The case concerning its existence and size has been litigated since 1994. In 1998, the Supreme Court held that the Reservation was diminished by the sale of land to the United States but declined to address the question of whether the Reservation had been altogether disestablished. Today’s decision by the Supreme Court to pass on reviewing the case leaves intact two decisions by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, holding that the Reservation continues to exist and is comprised of approximately 37,000 acres of land.

“The Yankton Sioux Tribe’s Reservation predates our statehood,” United States Attorney Johnson said. “It continues to connect tribal members with their heritage and their culture.”

The case has been handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, along with the Department of Justice Environmental and Natural Resources Division and the Office of the Solicitor General.

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