Student Scholarship on McGirt and Aboriginal Title

Clare Blumenthal published “‘We Hold the Government to Its Word’: How McGirt v. Oklahoma Revives Aboriginal Title” in the Yale Law Journal.

Here is the abstract:

This Note analyzes for the first time how McGirt v. Oklahoma could revive aboriginal-title land claims against the United States and create an opening for Land Back litigation. It argues that McGirt directs lower courts to enforce aboriginal title’s congressional-intent requirement strictly and renews the relevance of an overlooked case from 2015, Pueblo of Jemez v. United States. In Pueblo of Jemez, the Tenth Circuit unknowingly demonstrated how insisting on clearer proof of congressional intent to extinguish title would implement McGirt’s holding and remove the jurisdictional bars—sovereign immunity and preclusion—that have prevented aboriginal-title litigation.

Tenth Circuit Briefs in Pueblo of Jemez v. United States [Valles Caldera]


Jemez Pueblo brief sealed

Indian Advocacy Groups Amicus Brief

Indian Law Profs Amicus Brief

Pueblo Nations Amicus Brief

US Response Brief

Gas Company Brief

Lower court materials here.

Opinion in Pueblo of Jemez v. United States

Here is the opinion:

404 DCT Opinion

An excerpt:

THIS MATTER comes before the Court on the bench trial held on October 29-November 20, 2018; November 29-November 30, 2018; December 3, 2018; December 5, 2018; and December 13, 2018. The primary issue is whether Plaintiff Pueblo of Jemez has the exclusive right to use, occupy, and possess the lands of the Valles Caldera National Preserve (“Valles Caldera”) pursuant to its allegedly unextinguished and continuing aboriginal title to those lands. The Court concludes that Jemez Pueblo has not established aboriginal title to the Valles Caldera. Although the evidence proves that Jemez Pueblo has actually and continuously used and occupied the Valles Caldera for a long time, the evidence also shows that many Pueblos and Tribes also used the Valles Caldera in ways that defeat Jemez Pueblo’s aboriginal title claim.

Earlier posts here.

Jemez Pueblo Loses Claim to Valles Caldera National Preserve

Here are (some of) the materials in Pueblo of Jemez v. United States (D. N.M.):

387 Jemez Trial Brief

399 DCT Judgment

An excerpt:

THIS MATTER comes before the Court on the Court’s Sealed Memorandum Opinion, Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order, filed August 31, 2019 (Doc. 398). In the Sealed Memorandum Opinion, Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order, the Court: (i) concludes that Plaintiff Pueblo of Jemez does not have the exclusive right to use, occupy, and possess the lands that encompass the Valles Caldera National Preserve; (ii) quiets title to the Valles Caldera National Preserve in Defendant United States of America; (iii) dismisses the case with prejudice; and (iv) directs the parties to D.N.M.LR-Civ. 54, should they seek to recover any attorney’s fees and costs. See Sealed Memorandum Opinion, Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order at 498. Having disposed of all claims and parties before the Court in this case, the Court now enters Final Judgment. [emphasis added]

Our extensive prior posts are here.

Federal Court Decision on the Use of Native Oral History to Establish Aboriginal Title

Here is the order in Pueblo of Jemez v. United States (D. N.M.):

326-mmo opinion order re oral traditional evidence testimon 11518

Prior posts here.

Federal Court Issues Protective Order re: Sacred Sites in Pueblo of Jemez Land Claim against US

Here are the materials in Pueblo of Jemez v. United States (D.N.M.):

105 Pueblo Motion for Protective Order

108 US Response and Cross Motion

110 Pueblo Reply

113 US Reply

114 DCT Order

This case is on remand from the Tenth Circuit, which allowed the Pueblo’s aboriginal title claims to proceed.

Ninth Circuit Briefs in Agua Caliente Band Water Rights Case

Here are the briefs in Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Coachella Valley Water District:

Water Districts Opening Brief

Agua Caliente Brief

US Briefpdf

2016-02-18 – Dkt 035-1 – Brief Amicus Curiae of the SCA Tribal Chairmen’s Association, et al. in Support of Appellees

2016-02-18 – Dkt 036 – Brief of Amici Curiae Law Professors in Support of Appellee


Lower court materials here, here, and here.