Alaska v. Native Village of Venetie Tribal Gov’t – Case Brief Summary (U.S. Supreme Court)

In Alaska v. Native Village of Venetie Tribal Gov't, 522 U.S. 520 (1998), the United States Supreme Court interpreted 18 U.S.C. § 1151(b) for the very first time and put its imprint on the definition of dependent Indian community as never before. Writing as a matter of first impression, the Supreme Court purposely gave a narrow reading to 18 U.S.C. § 1151(b).

A dependent Indian community, said the Court, "refers to a limited category of Indian lands that are neither reservations nor allotments and that satisfy two requirements." Venetie, 522 U.S. at 527.

First, the land in question must have been "set aside" by the federal government "for the use of the Indians as Indian land." Id. Second, the land must be under federal superintendence. See id.

The Supreme Court held that an Alaska Native village occupying former reservation land was not a dependent Indian community because the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act effectively removed federal supervision of all Native lands in Alaska. See Venetie, 522 U.S. at 533.

The Court also held that the term "dependent Indian communities" referred to a "limited category of Indian lands that are neither reservations nor allotments, and that satisfy two requirements-first, they must have been set aside by the Federal Government for the use of the Indians as Indian land; second, they must be under federal superintendence." 522 U.S. at 527.