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Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill Relating to State Jurisdiction Over Cases Arising on Indian Reservations

August 15, 1953

ALTHOUGH I HAVE grave doubts as to the wisdom of certain provisions contained in H.R. 1063, I have today signed it because its basic purpose represents still another step in granting complete political equality to all Indians in our nation.

The bill confers jurisdiction on the States of California, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon and Wisconsin, with respect to criminal offenses and civil causes of action committed or arising on Indian reservations within such states. The bill has resulted from a process of exhaustive study of the innumerable laws and regulations applying to our several Indian groupments and was arrived at in the states affected after long negotiation in full consultation with the Indians themselves. The Indian tribes regard this as a long step forward in removing them from the status of "second class" citizens.

Indeed, in the five states where state jurisdiction will soon be paramount, the Indians have enthusiastically endorsed this bill. The bill preserves the basic safeguards against loss of property rights accorded the Indians by Federal treaties, agreements and statutes, and further safeguards the tribal customs and ordinances of the tribes affected when not inconsistent with the general laws of the respective states.

Three Indian tribes that have effective law and order organizations of their own, asked to be excluded from the purview of the bill. These tribes are the Red Lake band of Chippewa, in Minnesota; the Warm Springs tribe in Oregon; and the Menominee tribe in Wisconsin. Because of their effective organizations, they are, in response to their wishes, excepted from this bill.

My objection to the bill arises because of the inclusion in it of Sections 6 and 7. These Sections permit other states to impose on Indian tribes within their borders, the criminal and civil jurisdiction of the state, removing the Indians from Federal jurisdiction, and, in some instances, effective self-government. The failure to include in these provisions a requirement of full consultation in order to ascertain the wishes and desires of the Indians and of final Federal approval, was unfortunate. I recommend, therefore, that at the earliest possible time in the next session of the Congress, the Act be amended to require such consultation with the tribes prior to the enactment of legislation subjecting them to state jurisdiction, as well as approval by the Federal government before such legislation becomes effective.

I am requesting the Secretary of the Interior to press forward vigorously with the program of cooperative study that he has already so successfully undertaken with the Indians. I also wish to express my earnest hope that the Governors of the several states will fully cooperate with the Secretary of the Interior in this program, and will ascertain the views of the Indians of their states in connection with any action proposed to be taken under Sections 6 and 7 of the bill.

Much progress has been made and much greater progress will result through full consideration being accorded our Indian citizens.

Note: As enacted, H.R. 1063 is Public Law 280, 83d Congress (67 Stat. 588). The statement was released at Lowry Air Force Base, Denver, Colo.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill Relating to State Jurisdiction Over Cases Arising on Indian Reservations Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231913

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