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Your Call

Supreme Court conservatives reject Navajo Nation's water rights case

Native News Online

On this edition of Your Call, we discuss the recent 5-4 Supreme Court decision against the Navajo Nation in a major water rights case.

Writing for the conservative majority, Justice Brett Kavanaugh said the tribe's 1868 treaty does not require the US government to ensure water access for the Navajo people.

More than 150 years later after that treaty was signed, a third of the 170,000 people who live on the reservation do not have running water and 15 percent don’t have the piping for water. Almost half of homes do not have access to basic sanitation and Native households are 19 times more likely than white households to lack indoor plumbing, according to the Tribal Clean Water Initiative.

What precedent does this set and how are tribes responding?


Heather Tanana, citizen of the Navajo Nation, visiting professor at UC Irvine School of Law, and associate faculty member for John Hopkins Center for Indigenous Health

Monte Mills, professor at the University of Washington School of Law, director of the University of Washington Native American Law Center, author of law review articles and textbooks, including American Indian Law, Cases and Commentary, and Native American Natural Resources Law, and co-author of A Third Way: Decolonizing the Laws of Indigenous Cultural Protection

Web Resources:

Native American Rights Fund: Supreme Court: US not responsible for water rights; Navajo Nation still battling for water

ProPublica: Supreme Court Keeps Navajo Nation Waiting for Water

ProPublica: How Arizona Stands Between Tribes and Their Water

Northeastern University Law Review: Protecting Tribal Public Health from Climate Change

UW News: Q&A: Navajo Nation water rights case an opportunity to reaffirm treaty obligations, UW law professor says

AZ Central: As the Supreme Court debates a Navajo water rights case, climate change adds new questions

Rose Aguilar has been the host of Your Call since 2006. She became a regular media roundtable guest in 2001. In 2019, the San Francisco Press Club named Your Call the best public affairs program. In 2017, The Nation named it the most valuable local radio show.
Bee Soll is a producer with Your Call at KALW, and a producer, writer, and editor at KCBS Radio in San Francisco. She is a former reporter for Crosscurrents and contributor at KPFA Radio.