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Skull Valley Crossroads: Reconciling Native Sovereignty and the Federal Trust


Lincoln L. Davies


University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law

August 12, 2008

Maryland Law Review, Vol. 68, No. 2, pp. 290-376, 2009
U of Utah Legal Studies Paper No. 08-12

Abstract:     
It has been long-recognized that a deep tension pervades federal American Indian law. The foundational principles of the field - on the one hand, the notion that tribes keep their inherent right of sovereignty and, on the other, that the federal government has a power and duty to protect them - clash on their face. Despite years of criticism of this conflict, the two principles continue to coexist, albeit uncomfortably. Using the example of the Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians' controversial proposal to store high-level nuclear waste on their land, this Article revisits the tension in these doctrines, weighs prior proposals attempting to reconcile them, and concludes that, ultimately, sovereignty and the federal trust are not reconcilable. Finding sovereignty superior -morally, historically, and politically - the Article thus offers a new model for promoting native sovereignty: allowing tribes to be treated similarly to states.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 88

Keywords: Tribal sovereignty, self-determination, federal trust doctrine, federal trust responsibility, plenary power, Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians, tribal economic development, environmental justice, environmental racism, neo-colonialism, tribal-state relations, nuclear waste

JEL Classification: K10, K19, K30, K39, K40

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Date posted: August 19, 2008 ; Last revised: June 29, 2009

Suggested Citation

Davies, Lincoln L., Skull Valley Crossroads: Reconciling Native Sovereignty and the Federal Trust (August 12, 2008). Maryland Law Review, Vol. 68, No. 2, pp. 290-376, 2009; U of Utah Legal Studies Paper No. 08-12. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1229663

Contact Information

Lincoln L. Davies (Contact Author)
University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law ( email )
332 S. 1400 East Front
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0730
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.law.utah.edu

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