Supreme Court To Hear Tribal Hunting Rights Case

Oct 24, 2018

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case early next year that could have big implications for how the country interprets Native American treaty rights.

The case stems from an elk herd hunted by Crow Tribal member Clayvin Herrera and his companions in 2014. A hunt started on National Forest land in Montana, but crossed over into Wyoming.

Wyoming cited Herrera for killing three elk out of season, but Herrera pointed to an 1868 treaty allowing the Crow to hunt on "unoccupied lands" of the United States.

"When this treaty was entered into, there was no state boundary. There was no state of Wyoming," said University of Montana Law Professor Monte Mills, who wrote a court brief in support of Herrera.

A Wyoming court rejected Herrera's defense, saying the treaty became invalid once Wyoming became a state. However, Mills said the Supreme Court has handed down conflicting opinions on similar cases dealing with state authority and treaty rights over the last 150 years.

So, ultimately this could much further define the court's stance on how much power is left to tribes outside their own reservation land.

The case could be heard as soon as January.

Find reporter Dan Boyce on Twitter @BoyceDan .

Copyright 2018 Boise State Public Radio

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.