Reason to Know Decision out of Colorado Court of Appeals [ICWA]

The Colorado Court of Appeals analyzed the regs on the reason to know issue, a similar argument to the In re Z.J.G. case from Washington. And as in Z.J.G., the Department is arguing for a narrower interpretation. However, the Court of Appeals reasoned:

Recall that the federal regulation and the Colorado statute implementing ICWA’s “reason to know” component distinguish between information that the child is an Indian child, 25 C.F.R. § 23.107(c)(1); § 19-1-126(1)(a)(II)(A), and information indicating that the child is an Indian child, 25 C.F.R. § 23.107(c)(2); § 19-1- 126(1)(a)(II)(B). These two provisions cannot have the same meaning because that would make one superfluous.


As a result, divisions of this court have repeatedly recognized that, where a district court receives information that the child’s family may have connections to specific tribes or ancestral groups, the court has “reason to know” that the child is an Indian child — even where the information itself does not establish that the child fully satisfies the definition of an Indian child

Washington v. Cayenne — WA SCt Petition for Review — Treaty Rights

This is a criminal case in Washington state with possible implications for any tribe with preserved treaty hunting and fishings. The crime was committed by Cayenne (allegedly, I suppose) off the reservation, involving a violation of state fishing laws (i.e., gillnetting). The trial court issued an order upon conviction that the tribal member could not use gillnets even on the reservation because of this off-reservation crime. The Washington Court of Appeals reversed that aspect of the punishment.

Now the State is petitioning the State Supreme Court for review.The State AG filed an amicus in support of the petition. Some of the arguments made by the AG are troubling in the least.

Here are the materials:

Continue reading

Blumm et al. on the McCarren Amendment and Indian Water Rights

Michael Blumm, David Becker, and Joshua Smith (all of Lewis & Clark) just posted, “The Mirage of Indian Reserved Water Rights and Western Streamflow Restoration in the McCarran Amendment Era: A Promise Unfulfilled.”

ABSTRACT: Western state water law has been notorious for its
failure to protect streamflows. One potential means of providing
the missing balance in western water allocation has always been
Indian water rights, which are federal rights reserved from state
laws. These federal water rights normally have priority over
state-granted rights because they usually were created in the
19th century, well before most Western state water allocation
systems were even established.

Over two decades ago, in 1983, Justice William Brennan assured
Indian tribes that their reserved water rights would not be
compromised by subjecting them to state court adjudications under
the so-called McCarran Amendment, an appropriations rider given
expansive interpretation by the Supreme Court in the 1970s and
1980s. Justice Brennan’s belief that state courts – comprised
largely of elected judges – could treat tribal claims
evenhandedly, despite the high stakes and entrenched interests
involved in Western water rights adjudications, has never been

This study aims to begin to fill that gap by examining the
results of six Western water right adjudications – five of which
were decided by state courts – involving the Klamath, Wind,
Yakima, Gila, and Snake Rivers, as well as Pyramid Lake. The
results suggest that Justice Brennan’s optimism was quite
misplaced: in none of the cases studied did a court order
restoration of streamflows necessary to fulfill the purpose of
the tribe’s reservation. Instead, the state courts created a
number of new legal principles to limit or diminish tribal water
rights, in an apparent effort to reduce the displacement of
current water users.

The paper concludes that in the McCarran Amendment Era tribes
must resort to extrajudicial means of restoring streamflows
necessary to fulfill the purposes of their reservations. It shows
how some tribes have employed settlements – and even state law –
to achieve partial streamflow restoration, which is all that now
seems possible in an era in which their claims are usually judged
by skeptical state court judges who face reelections in which
entrenched water users exert considerable influence.