S.E. Ruckman: Oklahoma tribes working to protect water rights

"Not more than a few months went by that I learned that two of the Five Civilized Tribes had filed a case in federal court to prevent the State of Oklahoma from selling water storage rights to a municipal party. The two tribes contend that a treaty negotiated over a hundred years ago gave them say-so over the water in question. That’s the beauty of treaties; they can reconstitute and reverberate with life when necessary.

After reading the case filing, I learned that plaintiff tribes were demanding their treaty territory be preserved. Their right to be free of state jurisdiction was established by the Treaty of Washington which gave the two tribes ownership of water in the Sardis Reservoir (in south central Oklahoma). Like most federal Indian cases, the non-Native sides desire unilateral authority while the tribal interests hinge on sovereign fulfillment.

The sleeping water issue has risen like a Gila monster prodded from under a rock in Oklahoma. Akin to sounding a bugle horn, an editorial from a mainstream paper reminded readers in a paternalistic tone that while the two tribes were well able to defend their interests, the state’s long term welfare was at stake. Great consequence hovered."

Get the Story:
S.E. Ruckman: Ownership of water a line drawn in the sand (The Native American Times 3/6)

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