Indigenous Rights to Water & Environmental Protection

45 Pages Posted: 20 Nov 2018

See all articles by Robert T. Anderson

Robert T. Anderson

University of Washington School of Law

Date Written: November 13, 2018


This article examines the rights of Indian nations in the United States to adequate water supplies and environmental protection for their land and associated resources. Part I of this article provides a brief background on the history of federal-tribal relations and the source and scope of federal obligations to protect tribal resources. Part II reviews the source and nature of the federal government’s moral and legal obligations to Indian tribes, which are generally referred to as the trust responsibility. Indian reserved water rights and the difficulty tribes experience in protecting habitat needed for healthy treaty resources is discussed in Part III. Part IV reviews the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy and the shortcomings of federal law in protecting tribal reservations and resources. Part V concludes with recommendations for enhanced and improved access to justice as well as substantive changes in the law to advance environmental protection for Indian tribes in the United States.

Keywords: indian water rights, treaty rights, trust doctrine, implied rights, native americans, intergovernmental relations, environmental law, administrative law, dakota access pipeline, DAPL, winters doctrine, historic preservation, indian reservations, tribal consultation

Suggested Citation

Anderson, Robert T., Indigenous Rights to Water & Environmental Protection (November 13, 2018). Harvard Civil Rights- Civil Liberties Law Review (CR-CL), Vol. 53, No. 2, 2018, University of Washington School of Law Research Paper Series, Available at SSRN:

Robert T. Anderson (Contact Author)

University of Washington School of Law ( email )

Seattle, WA
206.685-2861 (Phone)


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