Through the lens of environmental history, I study and teach the law and policy relationship between the Indian nations, the United States, the states, and the rivers that flow through the reservations in the west.
The foundation law for my study is the 1908 Supreme Court decision, Winters v United States (1908), a decision that outlined what came to be known as the Winters Doctrine. Simply stated the decision declared the tribes' right to all water necessary to turn a nomadic culture to agrarian pursuits. This reserved water right, reserved by the tribe by implication, would continue through time regardless of whether the tribe used the water or not. Unlike non-Indian, state-sanctioned water appropriation, Indian reserved water rights may remain unquanitified.
Finally exercised, the Indian reserved water right will determine water appropriation in the west. Tribes wrestle with the decision to quantify their reserved right, knowing that nothing will be more important in fixing the fluid boundaries of Indian sovereignty in this new century. It is my hope that my work may be useful in that endeavor.