Symposium Reflects on Montana v. United States 30 Years Later

Montana Panel
Professor Barbara Creel (`90) moderates a panel consisting of, l-r: Urban Roth, Michael Eakin and F. Woodside Wright.

Thirty years to the day after Montana v. United States was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, judges, tribal leaders, law professors, lawyers and students gathered to reflect on the impact of that ground-breaking decision at a symposium in Albuquerque. The day-and-a-half gathering was organized by Indian law faculty at the University of New Mexico School of Law.

The symposium, titled, Montana v. United States: Pathmarking the Field of Indian Law for Three Decades and Counting, encouraged discussion about how the litigation originated and unfolded, how the case has impacted Indian law doctrines and what potential pathways lie ahead for tribes and states in view of Montana's enormous continuing influence.

Montana AudienceThe case, decided on March 24, 1981, addressed several important issues concerning tribes' treaty rights, property interests and sovereign governing authority on Indian reservations. Despite its modest beginnings as a dispute over who controls access to a highly prized trout fishery on the Big Horn River within the exterior boundaries of the Crow Reservation, Montana since has served as juggernaut for a number of unprecedented changes to core doctrines of federal Indian law, all of them detrimental to tribes.

Montana AudienceDuring the symposium, a silent auction of items donated by Leonard Grossman to the UNM School of Law raised funds for the Toby Grossman Scholarship, which is awarded annually by the school's Indian Alumni Council to an Indian law student.

The symposium, which took place at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino on Isleta Pueblo, was sponsored by the UNM School of Law and its Indian Law Program.

April 13, 2011