American Indian Natural Resources Law

Elective Course
Course Number: LAW 619
Credits: 3

This course covers the intersection of two of the most interesting and critical areas of the law, particularly for those of us west of the 100th meridian. Regardless of the specific area of his or her practice, any attorney working in the western United States is more than likely to encounter fascinating issues (if not decades-long conflicts) over the rights to use scarce natural resources such as water, the sharing of common resources such as the public lands, and the role of the region’s first populations in deciding those issues. In fact, now is a time of incredible opportunity to help define (or re-define) the standards and policies by which the next generations will view these issues as the traditional concepts of natural resources law fade and are replaced by new approaches, often centrally involving tribal views. This course begins with the roots of both natural resources and federal Indian law, which both grow from the nation’s complicated history with its environment and first peoples and includes how our nation’s three sovereigns (federal, state and tribal governments) exercise authority over tribal lands, particularly with regard to the regulation of natural resources (such as hunting and fishing) and environmental issues; the day-to-day challenges faced by tribes in trying to use their lands; water and the complicated nature of tribal reserved rights; and tribal usufructuary rights, which have been exercised by tribes since time immemorial, guaranteed by century-old treaties, and are now the source of vigorous debate, new legal approaches, and opportunities for cross-boundary collaboration. Throughout each of these topical areas, the course aims to establish strong foundational concepts and then build understanding through more modern day examples, case-studies, and, depending on the schedule, guest lecturers and field trips.