Review: Tribal Water Rights: Essays in Contemporary Law, Policy and Economics

Article excerpt

Review: Tribal Water Rights: Essays in Contemporary Law, Policy and Economics By John E. Thorson, Sarah Britton and Bonnie G. Colby (Eds.) Reviewed by Ryder W. Miller San Francisco, USA John E. Thorson, Sarah Britton, and Bonnie G. Colby (Eds.) Tribal Water Rights: Essays In Contemporary Law, Policy, and Economics. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2006. 291pp. ISBN: 0-8165-2482-3 (trade cloth) Acid free paper. US$50.00.

In these assembled essays, Thorson, Britton and Colby (who also edited Negotiating Tribal Water Rights) present the intricate and detailed field of American Indian tribal water laws in the last two centuries. They have included in this volume essays by practicing attorneys, and scholars in the fields of law, economics, public policy, and conflict resolution. The book is dense with legal precedents and legal decisions, and tells of the history of how Native Americans fared with the American expansion into the West. The examples of water claim contentions focus on the western United States, and present the historical legal framework that has developed since those early times in American history.

In the seminal 1908 case, Winters v. United States, "The Supreme Court established the legal basis for Indian water rights, holding that by setting aside lands for Indian reservations, the federal government had also reserved sufficient water to fulfill the purpose for which the reservation was created." (p. 22) Thus, Native Americans have established sovereign rights and also legal channels to defend their needs, but these unfortunately do not always work.

The case studies presented are complicated but understandable to the lay reader. The number of cases and concepts described, and concerns discussed, show how complicated such legal and regulatory proceedings can be. …