Opinion

Harrison Tsosie: Water rights an exercise of Navajo sovereignty





"As Navajo people pause to reflect on the Nation’s progress in the 144 years that have passed since the signing of the Treaty in 1868, my thoughts turn to another important decision facing the Nation. The Navajo Nation is currently considering whether to approve a settlement of the Navajo Nation’s water rights claims in the Little Colorado River Adjudication. Unfortunately, non-lawyers who are misinformed about the settlement are flooding the media with inaccurate and misleading statements. As the Nation’s chief legal officer, I feel it is my obligation to set the record straight.

The question facing the Nation is this: Should the Nation continue to litigate its claims in state court where a decision will be many more years in coming and the only result can be limits on Navajo uses, or should the Nation settle its claims now, protect the waters of the LCR that are rightfully ours from being taken and developed by outsiders, and start putting water to use with water delivery projects funded in the settlement?

First, let’s review the litigation option. In 1979, the State of Arizona initiated this Adjudication, a massive lawsuit filed in state court in St. Johns, Arizona, that joins over three thousand parties that claim rights to use water from the Little Colorado River, its tributaries and the groundwater within that basin. Previously, the Navajo Nation filed a similar action in federal court and fought the State of Arizona all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to keep the litigation of the Nation’s water rights out of state court."

Get the Story:
Harrison Tsosie: Navajo Water Settlement Is an Exercise of Sovereignty (Indian Country Today 6/4)

Another Opinion:
Leo Manheimer: Navajo Water Commissioner Manheimer Stresses Need for Good Agreement in Water Rights Case (Indian Country Today 6/2)