Of Surplus Lands and Landfills: The Case of the Yankton Sioux

32 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2009

See all articles by Judith Royster

Judith Royster

University of Tulsa College of Law

Date Written: 1998


Using the case of the Yankton Sioux as a case study, this article explores the intersections of allotment, reservation diminishment, and environmental protection of tribal lands and resources. In late 1993, the Southern Missouri Recycling and Waste Management District of South Dakota obtained a state permit for a solid waste landfill on land acquired from a non-Indian within the boundaries of the 1858 Yankton Sioux Reservation. The Yankton Sioux Tribe objected to the landfill on environmental grounds.

First, the district court held that the Tribe could not regulate the landfill, even though it was located within the Tribe's territory. Next, the Environmental Protection Agency granted the Waste District's request to waive the federal liner requirement for the landfill, and the EPA's action was upheld in federal court. Finally, the United States Supreme Court essentially mooted the Tribe's governmental concerns by holding that the property on which the landfill was located was no longer a part of the Tribe's reservation. In little more than four years after the state landfill permit was granted over the Tribe's objection, the Yankton Sioux Tribe had thus lost regulatory authority, federal protection, and the land itself. What the tribe got in return was a waste dump that it considers unsafe but cannot regulate, and a reservation that is comprised of checkerboarded parcels within the 1858 boundaries.

Keywords: Indian, allotment, diminishment, tribal environmental protection

JEL Classification: K10, K11

Suggested Citation

Royster, Judith, Of Surplus Lands and Landfills: The Case of the Yankton Sioux (1998). South Dakota Law Review, Vol. 43, p. 283, 1998, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1331589

Judith Royster (Contact Author)

University of Tulsa College of Law ( email )

3120 E. Fourth Place
Tulsa, OK 74104
United States

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