Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe (Racial and Ethnic Relations in America)
Article abstract: On March 6, 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe decided that tribes do not have jurisdiction over non-Indians who commit crimes on reservations.
In 1978, during a tribal celebration, two non-Indian residents of the Port Madison Reservation of the Suquamish Tribe (Washington) violated tribal laws. Mark Oliphant was arrested for assaulting tribal police officers and resisting arrest, and Dan Belgarde was arrested for hitting a tribal police car in a high-speed chase. The two argued the Suquamish tribe had no criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians, and they took their case to federal court.
The Supreme Court agreed with them and determined that non-Indians, even those residing on a reservation and charged with a crime, are not subject to the jurisdiction of tribal courts. This ruling dealt a major blow to tribal sovereignty and the authority of tribal courts because it determined that tribes lack the power to enforce laws against all who come within its borders. This ruling created serious and important law-and-order problems on reservations. Some tribes have approached the problem by cross-deputization with local and county police or by arranging for non-Indians on the reservation to submit voluntarily to tribal authority.
(The entire section is 200 words.)
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