Winters v. United States (1908)Indian Reserved Water Rights Under the Winters Doctrine- An Overview

Under Winters, when Congress reserves land (i.e., for an Indian reservation), Congress also reserves water sufficient to fulfill the purpose of the reservation. 

United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians + United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians summary (1980)

Congress’s Act of 1877 “reclaiming” the Black Hills constituted a “taking”–the Supreme Court recognizing the theft of the Black Hills.

United States v. Dann, 470 U.S. 39 (1985)

The Indian Claims Commission (ICC) awarded $26 million in compensation for lands, but the funds have not been distributed. The US alleged that Mary and Carrie Dann were trespassing without a permit by grazing livestock on their ancestral lands which were involved in the ICC proceedings. The Dann sisters argued that they have aboriginal title to the land and did not require grazing permits, and a Court of Appeals held that because payment had not occurred, aboriginal title had not been extinguished–in favor of the Dann sisters.

Isleta Pueblo case: “A tiny tribe wins big on clean water”City of Albuquerque v. Browner (1993) 

Isleta Pueblo established water quality standards with the EPA under new Clean Water Act rules that set an arsenic limit many times cleaner than the federal standard to protect water for ceremonial use. The upriver City of Albuquerque sued the EPA, and the EPA won on behalf of Isleta Pueblo, upholding their right to clean water for ceremonies.

Bear Lodge Multiple Use Association v. Babbitt (1998)

A group of climbing guides sued the National Park Service over their voluntary climbing ban during the month of June at Mato Tipila / Devils Tower. The voluntary ban was upheld, and the climbing guides lost the case.

Minnesota v. Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa Indians + Minnesota v. Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa Indians summary (1999)

The Supreme Court upheld the Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa Indians’ usufructuary rights guaranteed by the 1837 treaty. An 1850 Executive Order, an 1855 treaty, and Minnesota’s admittance to the Union did not extinguish Mille Lacs Band’s rights.

Washington State Department of Licensing v. Cougar Den, Inc + Washington State Department of Licensing v. Cougar Den, Inc. summary (2019)

The Supreme Court held that the “right to travel” provision of the Yakama Treaty of 1855 preempts a state fuel tax.

Herrera v. Wyoming + Herrera v. Wyoming summary (2019)

Wyoming’s admission to the Union did not abrogate the Crow Tribe’s 1868 hunting rights.

McGirt v. Oklahoma + McGirt v. Oklahoma summary (2020)


“4th Circuit Uranium Mining Ruling Narrows Federal Preemption”

Article describing the relationship between federal mining law and state mining/environmental law.

United States v. Curtis-Nevada Mines, Inc. (1980)

Appellate court ruled per the Surface Resources Act that the owner of unpatented mining claims does not have the right to exclude members of the public from using the surface of the land for recreational purposes.

California Coastal Commission v. Granite Rock Co. (1987)

The Supreme Court upheld the California Coastal Commission’s right to impose a permit requirement on an operation of an unpatented mining claim in a national forest. State regulation of activities on federal lands is upheld.

South Dakota Mining Association Inc. v. Jack Cole (1998)

In 1996, voters in Lawrence County placed a ban on mining activities in the Spearfish Canyon area into the county zoning law. This case found that the 1872 Mining Act preempts, or supersedes, this ordinance:

“The ordinance’s de facto ban on mining on federal land acts as a clear obstacle to the accomplishment of the Congressional purposes and objectives embodied in the Mining Act. Congress has encouraged exploration and mining of valuable mineral deposits located on federal land and has granted certain rights to those who discover such minerals. Federal law also encourages the economical extraction and use of these minerals. The Lawrence County ordinance completely frustrates the accomplishment of these federally encouraged activities. A local government cannot prohibit a lawful use of the sovereign’s land that the superior sovereign itself permits and encourages. To do so offends both the Property Clause and the Supremacy Clause of the federal Constitution.”

People v. Rinehart (2016)

California banned a particular gold mining technique (suction dredging), and the Supreme Court of California upheld this ban, despite the 1872 Mining Act. States can regulate mining activities.

Virginia Uranium, Inc. v. Warren (2019)

Uranium mining ban on private land in Virgina is upheld. States have the power to regulate mining on private lands within their borders.

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