On Monday, May 20, the U.S. Supreme Court issued their opinion in Herrera v. Wyoming, finding that Wyoming’s statehood and the creation of the Bighorn National Forest did not supersede hunting rights guaranteed to the Crow Tribe in the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie.
In 2014, Clayvin Herrera, a member of the Apsáalooke Nation, also known as the Crow Tribe, went hunting on the nation’s reservation in Montana. His hunt was eventually successful but ended outside the reservation borders in the Bighorn National Forest. Wyoming subsequently convicted Herrera for violating state hunting laws.
After three judicial rulings upholding the conviction, the case ended up in the nation’s highest court.
The majority opinion was written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor and joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Elana Kagan, and Neil M. Gorsuch.
Specifically, the 5-4 decision said that the creation of the state in 1890 did not abrogate the Crow Tribe’s 1868 federal treaty right to hunt on the “unoccupied lands of the United States” and the Bighorn National Forest did not become categorically “occupied” when the forest was created.
The decision vacates Wyoming’s 4th Judicial District judgement and remands the case back to the court for further proceedings.