Landmark Water Rights Decision Topic of Symposium

More than 200 people, including about 70 pueblo and tribal leaders and many state and federal officials and leading scholars, gathered for a three-day symposium that marked the centennial year of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Winters v. United States, which established a right to water to support Native American and federal reservations.

The Utton Transboundary Resources Center and the American Indian Law Center presented the symposium, titled, "The Winters Centennial: Will Its Commitment to Justice Endure?", to review the legal and cultural history of the decision and assess its current and projected impact on Indian and federal water rights in the 21st century.

At the beginning of the symposium, speakers re-enacted the oral arguments in Winters and more recent U.S. Supreme Court reserved rights cases: Arizona v. California and United States v. New Mexico. Two prominent historians then put the cases in perspective for 20th and 21st century America. Subsequent speakers explored the effect of these cases on several recent water rights disputes and settlements.

On the second day, after morning field trips to three pueblos, panel discussions and breakout sessions looked at the current state of the reserved rights doctrine and its effect on tribes, river basins and non-Indian reserved rights. A concluding plenary on the third day offered various perspectives from scholars, lawyers, and Indian leaders on the challenges ahead in fulfilling the promise of Winters, followed by a lively interchange with the audience.