Here are (many of) the materials in Cherokee Nation v. Lexington Insurance Co.:
Here are the materials in Suquamish Tribe v. Smith (W.D. Wash.):
Robin Kundis Craig has posted “Tribal Water Rights and Tribal Health: The Klamath Tribes and the Navajo Nation During the COVID-19 Pandemic” on SSRN. The paper is forthcoming in the St. Louis University Journal of Health Law & Policy.
Public health measures to combat COVID-19, especially in the first year before vaccines became widely available, required individuals to be able to access fresh water while remaining isolated from most of their fellow human beings. For the approximately 500,000 households in the United States and over two million Americans who lacked access to reliable indoor running water, these COVID-19 measures presented a considerable added challenge on top of the existing risks to their health from an insecure water supply.
Many of these people were Native Americans, whose Tribes often lack fully adjudicated, quantified, and deliverable rights to fresh water. To highlight the critical role that water rights played in Tribes’ capacities to cope with the pandemic, this essay compares the Klamath Tribes in Oregon, who after 40 years of litigation have fairly securely established themselves as the senior water rights holders in the Klamath River Basin, to the Diné (Navajo Nation), whose reservation—the largest in the United States—covers well over 27,500 square miles of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico but largely lacks quantified water rights or the means to deliver water to households. While access to water was not the sole factor in these two Tribes’ vastly different experiences with COVID-19, it was an important one, underscoring the need for states and the federal government to stop procrastinating in actualizing the water rights for Tribes that have been legally recognized since 1908.
Fletcher published a paper as part of a symposium on John Fabian Witt’s book American Contagions: “Pandemics in Indian Country: The Making of the Tribal State.”
Here are the materials in Shawnee Tribe v. Yellen (D.D.C.):
Prior post here.
My draft paper, “Pandemics in Indian Country: The Making of the Tribal State,” part of a symposium on John Fabian Witt’s American Contagions book hosted by the St. Thomas Law Journal, is available on SSRN.
This Essay is inspired by the fascinating narrative told by John Fabian Witt theorizing how epidemics make states and how states can also make epidemics. The two stories centered in Peshawbestown, Michigan of the 1881 smallpox outbreak and the 2020-2021 COVID-19 pandemic seems to play into that story. The state (acting through the local and federal government) made the 1881 outbreak fatal, while the epidemic (acting through the tribal and federal government) made the state (in this case, the tribe) in 2020-2021. The story here seems to be one of sovereignty. In the smallpox era, the tribes exercised almost no sovereignty. Now they are practically self-governing; the incredible success of the Grand Traverse Band is a ringing endorsement. The tribe is acting like a capable and responsive government. But I argue there is more going on here. Sovereignty – whether liberal or authoritarian, in Witt’s words – is the first step in the analysis, but not the last. Culture is the second step.
This Essay intends to gently disrupt Professor Witt’s theory by superimposing Anishinaabe political theory on American Contagions. The very notion of sovereignty is foreign to Anishinaabe. Western political theory insists on the power of a sovereign entity to enforce a social contract or else society will collapse. Anishinaabe political theory does not. The difference matters.
Frank Pommersheim asked us to post his keynote speech from this year’s NAICJA conference, “An Emeritus Prose Podcast: The Pandemic Checkpoints of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe: A Teaching Essay.”
Here it is:
In the Spring of 2020, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (CRST) began implementing a series of limited vehicle checkpoints within the boundaries of the reservation as part of its comprehensive public health response1 to limit the spread of COVID-19. One of the checkpoints was located on a state highway running through the Reservation. There was an immediate uproar in South Dakota. Many people, both Native and non-Native, contacted me and asked, ‘Frank, can the Tribe really do this?’ My answer was ‘yes.’
As the questions about this Tribal public health initiative became increasingly heated, the merits of the health policy were increasingly subsumed in political rhetoric concerning the ‘rights’ of non-Natives and the authority of the state to quash the Tribe’s efforts. The calls kept coming. My answer of ‘yes’ remained the same. Yet the supporting legal analysis was not so easily summarized. No (federal) statute or Supreme Court case unequivocally said yes or no. The answer of ‘yes’ required a careful exegesis of both Supreme Court precedent and the law of the CRST.