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Articles by Maria Parazo Rose

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In 1849 and 1868, the Navajo Nation signed two treaties with the United States. The treaties created a reservation that would serve as a “permanent home” for the Navajo so long as the tribe allowed settlers to live on most of its traditional territory, which include much of what is currently New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. The treaties also established that the government would provide the Navajo with “seeds and agricultural implements” to raise crops on the reservation. 

After 20 years of litigation, representatives for the Navajo Nation appeared before the Supreme Court on Monday to argue that those treaties require the federal government to provide water to their reservation, likely from the much-contested Colorado River. On the opposing side were lawyers for the Biden administration and a group of western states, who argued that a decision in favor of the Navajo Nation would upend the legal landscape around the Colorado River at a time when states are already scrambling to cope with drought. The outcome of the case could determine the future of water access on the Navajo reservation.

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