College of Law

Related-Indigenous Peoples Publications

Amicus Brief Supporting Water Access for the Navajo Nation

Stegner research professors collaborated with a small group of experts to draft and file an amicus brief to the Supreme Court of the United States in the consolidated cases of Arizona v. Navajo Nation(No. 21-1484) and Dep’t of Interior v. Navajo Nation (No. 22-51) on behalf of DigDeep Right to Water Project and Utah Tribal Relief Foundation in support of the Respondent, the Navajo Nation.The amicus brief urged the Court to affirm the judgment of the Ninth Circuit and ensure fulfillment of the United States’ trust obligation to the Navajo Nation “to provide access to clean and safe water that would allow the Navajo Nation to thrive on its permanent homeland.” The amicus brief examined the pervasiveness of water insecurity and poor water quality on the Navajo Nation and the resulting hardships, including health disparities and economic costs. 

Indigenous Efforts to Advance the Human Right to a Healthy Environment (forthcoming 2023)

Protecting Tribal Health from Climate Change Impacts (2023)

With a special emphasis on water, this Article identifies climate change-related health threats to tribal communities and analyzes the federal government’s treaty and trust responsibility to protect Native Americans from those threats. It also explores how the federal government can better support tribes in exercising self-determination to the fullest to be drivers of their own future.

Law of Environmental Protection (2023)

For the first time, the revised treatise includes a section on tribal responses to climate change.

The Unfulfilled Promise of Indian Water Rights Settlements (2022) | American Bar Article

Access to clean water is critical for any community, particularly the 48% of tribal homes in the United States that lack safe drinking water, reliable water sources or basic sanitation. Tribes throughout the West have significant water rights through treaty and trust claims, many of which have yet to be quantified. This article discusses federal Indian reserved water rights and how water is necessary to fulfill the purpose of Indian reservations. The article also explore the promise and limits of Indian water rights settlements and how such settlements can be used as a tool to further tribal interests in water.

Securing a Permanent Homeland: The Federal Government’s Responsibility to Provide Clean Water Access to Tribal Communities (2022) | Article

Water is life—critical to the health, socioeconomic, and cultural needs of any community. Every household in the United States needs and deserves access to clean, reliable, and affordable drinking water. Yet, tribal communities face high rates of water insecurity. This persistent problem became a matter of life or death during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the lack of running water increased the risk of transmission of the virus. This article addresses the lack of clean water access experienced in Indian Country today. Various challenges to water access are highlighted, followed by a discussion of the federal government’s responsibility to ensure clean water access for tribes. The article concludes by identifying federal actions to fulfil this responsibility, including the recent commitment of unprecedented funds to support tribal water infrastructure.

Indian Country Post McGirt: Implications for Traditional Energy Development and Beyond (2021)

This article discusses the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma and its implications for Indian country and natural resource development through an environmental justice lens.

Water Is Life: Law, Systemic Racism, and Water Security in Indian Country (2021)

While the pandemic has devastated many Tribal communities, it has also brought attention to issues long ignored, including lack of clean water access and health disparities. As a result, a unique window of opportunity has arisen to address these issues and achieve universal access to clean water across the United States. This article discusses water security challenges in Indian country through the lens of the law and historic injustices.

Beyond the Pandemic: Historical Infrastructure, Funding, and Data Access Challenges in Indian Country in COVID-19 Policy Playbook (2021)

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted Tribal communities, in part, due to the historical inequities that Tribes have faced for centuries. As sovereign nations, Tribes have the authority to self-govern their people and land. However, the federal government has a special trust responsibility and treaty obligations to Tribes that it often has failed to fulfill. As a result, many Tribal communities live in inferior living conditions as compared to their non-Native counterparts. This Chapter builds on the prior report to explore the historical inequities Tribes experience and how they have been compounded by the pandemic. More specifically, it identifies persistent challenges with infrastructure in Indian Country. It also provides a legislative update on laws directly related to the pandemic as well as laws that have the potential to address some of the issues underlying the pandemic. It concludes by identifying additional recommendations to right these historic wrongs and build on the resiliency shown by Tribes during the pandemic.

Upholding Tribal Sovereignty and Promoting Tribal Public Health Capacity During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Assessing Legal Responses to COVID-19 (2020)

Tribes are sovereign nations with authorities and responsibilities over their land and people. This inherent sovereign authority includes the right to promote and protect the health and welfare of their communities. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought national attention to the health inequities experienced by American Indian and Alaska Native communities. The sovereign legal authority for Tribes to respond to this pandemic has received less attention. This Chapter describes some, but not all, of the urgent legal issues impacting Tribal response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It describes and identifies gaps in federal Indian health policies and highlights how Tribes have exercised their sovereignty to respond and promote resilience in the wake of COVID-19. It also provides examples of intergovernmental challenges. It highlights how ignorance of or animosity to federal Indian law has led non-Tribal governments to infringe on Tribal sovereign rights during the COVID-19 pandemic. It ends by providing a list of recommendations on how law can be better used to support Tribal responses as the pandemic unfolds.

Energy Development in Indian Country: Working Within the Realm of Indian Law and Moving Towards Collaboration (2012)

This Article seeks to outline the major issues related to tribal jurisdiction and energy development in Indian country. Section II explores the legal landscape by considering the unique relationship between the federal government and tribes, defining Indian country, and analyzing the regulatory framework that exists within it. In light of the complex legal backdrop behind energy development in Indian country, Section III discusses what tribes and investors should be aware of if they move forward with development, primarily the leasing process involved. Finally, Section IV discusses the implications of energy development in Indian country and the likelihood of achieving true collaboration in such development.