Environmental Law & Policy Alerts – Update from Somach, Simmons & Dunn

U.S. Supreme Court Affirms Creek Reservation Status, Upholding Treaty Obligations and Recognizing Indian Country for Jurisdictional Purposes
The latest Supreme Court opinion on Indian law could have implications for jurisdiction over water rights administration and other natural resources in the West.  In the 5-4 decision McGirt v. Oklahoma, No. 18-9526, issued on July 9, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a significant portion of Eastern Oklahoma resides within “Indian country” because Congress had not acted to withdraw or disestablish the reservation that it created with its treaties with the Creek Nation.  The decision soundly affirms that Congress must act to change Native American treaty rights and reservation status, not states, and that no matter how inconvenient the outcome, Congress must be held to its “promises.”  Justice Gorsuch concluded the opinion by writing:  “If Congress wishes to withdraw its promises, it must say so.  Unlawful acts, performed long enough and with sufficient vigor, are never enough to amend the law.” … Read More
Written by Ramsey L. Kropf, Brittany K. Johnson and Melissa Quintero