Morton v. Ruiz

415 U.S. 199 (1974)


Ruiz (P) and his wife were Papago Indians and U.S. citizens. In 1940, they left the Papago Reservation and were employed at the Phelps Dodge copper mines 15 miles away. They settled into the Indian Village there and lived there from 1940. A minor daughter lives with them. They maintain a close tie to the reservation. In 1967, the mine where they worked was shut down due to a strike and remained closed for nine months. P's sole income during the strike was $15 per week paid by the union. P sought welfare assistance from Arizona but was denied because striking workers were not entitled to such assistance. P then applied for general assistance through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). They refused the application because P was not living on the reservation. A class action was instituted against the Secretary. The District Court gave summary judgment to the Secretary. The Court of Appeals reversed; the on-reservation interpretation for benefits was inconsistent with the broad language of the Snyder Act.