Tiller’s Guide to Indian Country - Third Edition

VI and Oklahoma, and the tourism industry of those states rests largely on the presence of Indian tribes within their borders. The Natural Resources Sector Natural resources continue to provide the backbone of many tribal economies. Although tribes throughout the country own abundant quantities of natural resources, for the most part these tribal resource owners still do not benefit directly from the value added to the raw materials produced from their lands. Oil and gas, coal, sand and gravel, agricultural crops, and raw seafood are produced as raw products on Indian lands and manufactured into commercial, salable products by non-Indian enterprises. Very notable and somewhat singular exceptions are the commercial timber enterprises operated by tribes from the Olympic Peninsula to the Great Lakes and throughout the timbered mountains of the Southwest. Increasingly, however, as tribes embrace the principle of sustainability in developing their economies, they seem to be turning more and more to retaining control of the entire production cycle of their resources. Private operators have mined forests, overgrazed grasslands, and have over-harvested such natural food sources as game animals, wild rice, shellfish beds, and salmon runs. Tribes are increasingly making investments in sustainable practices in managing their own agriculture, timber, grazing, and game and fisheries resources. Although the means and tools are different, the fight to protect and preserve the land and its life-sustaining waters is waged by tribes today as fiercely as their forefathers fought to preserve what remains to them. Developing modern economies is increasingly seen as the most promising way to preserve their ancient cultures, languages, and ways of life. Water Rights Settlements A significant change I noted in introducing the 2d edition ten years ago was the number of tribes that were entering into water rights settlements to firm up and quantify their rights to precious and increasingly scarce water to support their economies and to ensure the permanent viability of their homelands. The first half of the year 2015 has brought both historically unprecedented rainfall throughout the southern plains and what may prove to be a 1,000-year drought for California and much of the Southwest. Through flood and drought, in the past ten years, Congress has continued to approve Indian water rights settlements for tribes throughout the country. The Soboba Band of California has achieved a settlement of its rights to waters of the San Jacinto River basin. The Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Reservation have settled their claims to waters arising on the reservation and to the Owyhee River. Congress approved a settlement providing 600,000 acre-feet of water and some $461 million for water facilities on the Crow Reservation in Montana. The White Mountain Tribe of Arizona achieved a settlement that provides a 19th Century priority date for significant rights to water from the Salt River, plus $126 million for infrastructure development including a 60-mile pipeline to provide drinking water throughout the reservation. In New Mexico the Nambe, Pojoaque, Tesuque, and San Ildefonso Pueblos concluded more than 40 years of litigation with a settlement of their water rights claims and construction of a regional water system to serve both Indian and non-Indian communities. The Taos Pueblo of New Mexico achieved a separate settlement that provides the Pueblo with an aboriginal (pre- dating European contact) priority date to water from an existing federal project. Finally, Congress approved a settlement that provides the Navajo Nation with rights to serve the western portion of the Navajo Reservation with water from existing federal projects. As this 3d edition goes to press, Congress is considering additional water rights settlements. All these water rights settlements of the last ten years are much more detailed and complicated than indicated in the above cursory descriptions of them here. Each of them provides a measure of certainty both to the tribes and their non- Indian neighbors regarding sources and quantities of water available for present and future development. Some of them provide authority for the tribes to market water that is surplus to their current needs, which is another growing trend throughout the western United States. Significantly, the dollar amounts associated with these settlements provide a measure of the previously unrecognized economic value of tribal water rights. Changes in oil and gas industry In 2005, I noted that while oil and gas production continued on Indian lands, the industry had largely shifted its efforts to more promising and more exciting prospects offshore and in foreign countries. In 2006, however, Congress exempted the process of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act and precipitated a domestic “oil boom” that has been reminiscent of Gold Rush days in California and Alaska. Ten years ago, communities on both coasts and the Gulf of Mexico were looking to site terminals for importing liquefied natural gas to meet increasing U.S. demand and decreasing domestic supplies. Today, due to the drilling boom utilizing fracking technology, the U.S. boasts a 100-year supply of natural gas and ranks first in the world among countries producing crude oil. From the sprawling Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota; throughout the Ute, Apache, and Navajo lands of the Four Corners region; and from Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast Indian tribes have benefited from this latest boom time in the oil and gas fields. Green Economy and Renewable Energy A further significant change in tribal economies over the last ten years has been the extent to which tribes throughout the country have embraced the green economy. From the Yukon to San Diego County tribes have invested in forms of renewable energy on scales from residential to industrial. The Campo Kumeyaay Nation (formerly Campo Band of Mission Indians) on the Mexican border of California was the first tribe in the country to install an industrial scale wind energy farm that produces enough energy for 30,000 homes a year. The Gwithyaa Zhee Gwich’in Tribal Government of Fort Yukon, Alaska is installing a solar system to reduce its annual fuel oil costs by 50 per cent. Tribes from New York to Oregon have built, acquired, or assumed licenses for hydroelectric plants.The Moapa Paiute Tribe of Nevada is constructing an industrial scale solar plant to provide 200 megawatts of power to southern California. The Jemez Pueblo is exploring the prospect of developing commercial scale geothermal power in the Valles Caldera region of the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico. Resistance from established investor-owned utilities to the development of renewable energy appears to be giving way to cooperative enterprises with tribes throughout the country. Development as a two-sided coin The monumental change in the magnitude and scope of tribal economies over the past ten years has not been an unalloyed blessing. The oil and gas boom resulting from hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling has been accompanied by all the vices proverbially associated with the gold rush frenzies of the 19th and 20th Centuries. The distribution of wealth from development has been uneven. 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