By Alexis Waiss
Cronkite News 

Justices grapple over Navajo water rights, government's duty to tribe


Last updated 5/17/2023 at 1:43pm

Alexis Waiss/Cronkite News

Navajo President Buu Nygren stands behind Navajo Code Talker Peter MacDonald, in wheelchair, outside the Supreme Court, where justices heard the tribe's challenge to the federal government's handling of tribal water rights.

WASHINGTON-Supreme Court justices pressed government attorneys in March on their argument that the treaties that put the Navajo on reservation lands implied an intent-but not a duty-for the government to provide water to the tribe.

"Could I bring a good breach-of-contract claim for someone who promised me a permanent home, the right to conduct agriculture and raise animals, if it turns out it's the Sahara Desert?" Justice Neil Gorsuch asked Frederick Liu, the assistant to the solicitor general, who was arguing the case.

It came during a two-hour hearing over the Navajo Nation's claim that t...

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