The mineral wealth beneath Native American lands has been an enduring source of controversy with respect to treaty relations between Indian Tribes and the United States government and the contours of the United States' trust duties to the Tribes. Whereas in past years the process by which minerals like coal have been converted to capital amounted to blatant exploitation of America's indigenous populations, Indian governments have acquired more control over the extraction of their minerals throughout the twentieth century. That this control remains severely limited both by federal regulations and the United States government's complicity with powerful representatives of the mineral industry is exemplified by the Navajo Nation's longstanding struggle to obtain a market rate for its coal resources. This Note examines the Navajo Nation's claim that the United States breached its trust duties of care, candor, and loyalty by intervening to the Navajo's detriment in the negotiation of a mining lease between the Navajo and Peabody Coal, the world's largest private sector coal company. This litigation has stretched on for decades, but today the case is set to be heard, for the second time, by the United States Supreme Court. This Note seeks to examine the previous iterations of Navajo Nation v. United States in the context of the Federal-Tribal trust doctrine and in light of recent trends in the Supreme Court's dispositions of cases implicating federal Indian law. Ultimately, it concludes that the Supreme Court's current approach to the trust doctrine is inconsistent with controlling precedent and inimical to tribal sovereignty and self-determination.
Kimberly C. Perdue,
The Changing Scope of the United States' Trust Duties to American Indian Tribes: Navajo Nation v. United States,
U. Colo. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholar.law.colorado.edu/lawreview/vol80/iss2/6