Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren asked senators Wednesday for more funding, and time, for a pipeline project that would create a reliable water supply for 250,000 people across Arizona and New Mexico. The project would deliver 37,767 acre-feet of water annually from the San Juan River basin through 300 miles of pipeline to 43 Navajo chapters, the city of Gallup, New Mexico, as well as the Teepee Junction area of the Jicarilla Apache Nation.
Colorado tribes are worried that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month against the Navajo Nation in a Colorado River water rights case may narrow the federal government’s broad, historic responsibility to provide them with aid. In Navajo Nation vs. Arizona Dept. of the Interior, the tribe was seeking to sue the federal government to require it to assess the tribe’s water rights along the Colorado River and help to create a plan to develop them for the 170,000 tribal members who live there.
The largest Native American reservation in the United States has lost a key legal battle to protect access to a waterway that is critical to its citizens’ spiritual practices — and their survival.
All but one member of the Supreme Court’s conservative majority ruled Thursday against the Navajo Nation in its fight to ensure that the federal government is legally obligated to address the tribe’s need for water from the dwindling flows of the Colorado River.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Monday on a case that focuses on water access for the Navajo Nation but could impact battles for the resource across the West.
For 20 years, the Navajo Nation’s fight for water has been circulating through lower courts. The foundation of the case reaches back more than 150 years, involving the treaties that established the reservation, decades of court decisions and the United States’ legal responsibilities to the Navajo Nation.
The Supreme Court on Monday appeared closely divided on whether to side with the Navajo Nation in the tribe’s high-stakes fight against the Biden administration and four states to protect its right to water from the drought-stricken Colorado River.
While the court could decide the case on narrow procedural grounds, some of the more moderate conservative justices questioned whether a ruling for the Navajo would obligate the federal government to build a vast network of pipelines and pumps to deliver water to the tribe or upset the delicate balance struck by the 40 million people who rely on the massive waterway that travels among seven states and Mexico.
The Supreme Court is extremely strict about what can be brought into its chambers during oral arguments. In addition to obvious items like guns and knives, visitors must leave just about every other personal item outside when they enter. Cameras, cell phones, laptops, and the like are left outside—even if you’re a reporter. No snacks or drinks can be brought in. Not even water.
The Supreme Court says it will hear a water dispute involving the U.S. government and the Navajo Nation. The high court said Friday it would review a lower court ruling in favor of the Navajo Nation, which spans parts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. The government signed treaties with the Navajo Nation in 1849 and 1868 that established the reservation. It was later expanded westward to the Colorado River, which forms the reservation’s western boundary.
The Navajo Nation can pursue its lawsuit seeking to force the federal government to secure water from the Colorado River for the reservation, the Ninth Circuit said Wednesday, reversing a lower court’s dismissal of the tribe’s breach of trust claim.
The tribe doesn’t seek a judge’s determination of its rights to the river, which the Interior Department says would fall under the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circut.
Arizona tribal officials told a Senate committee Wednesday that the federal government can help address a crisis with water infrastructure on their lands through more funding, and less meddling.
Navajo Department of Water Resources Director Jason John and Colorado River Indian Tribes Chairwoman Amelia Flores made the comments during a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on water infrastructure for Native communities. Leaders of Oregon and Alaska tribes also testified at the hearing.
Washing your hands is one of the simplest preventative measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in fighting the spread of the coronavirus. But for thousands of Navajo and Hopi people, a preexisting water shortage now puts them at serious risk during the pandemic.