Native American Sovereignty

May 5, 2017 • Volume 27, Issue 17
Should Indians have more control over their land?
By Christina L. Lyons


Protesters demonstrate in Washington, D.C. against the Dakota Access Pipeline (Getty Images/Justin Sullivan)
Protesters demonstrate in Washington, D.C., on March 10, 2017, against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which runs near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota. Tribal members say the controversial oil project infringes on their sovereignty and will desecrate sacred land and pollute groundwater. (Getty Images/Justin Sullivan)

Native American lands contain $1.5 trillion in untapped coal, oil and other energy resources. The potential bounty is raising hopes among many Indians that energy development can help tribes reduce poverty on their reservations, where unemployment averages 19 percent. But development also is raising fears that it will threaten Indians' traditional way of life and harm the Earth. In addition, the dispute is raising tough questions among Indians, lawmakers and others about energy development and the limits of tribal sovereignty. The Navajo and like-minded tribes want federal regulations relaxed so Indians can develop their energy resources, providing jobs and other benefits. But other tribes argue the federal government remains obligated under treaties to protect Indian land from commercial exploitation. They are further worried about the Trump administration as it relaxes regulations on the energy industry and federal lands. Meanwhile, controversy has arisen over some tribes' disenrolling of members. Critics say the practice is a power grab by tribal leaders, but defenders say tribes have a right to decide who is a member.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Native Americans
Nov. 19, 2021  Native American Rights
May 05, 2017  Native American Sovereignty
Apr. 28, 2006  American Indians Updated
Jul. 12, 1996  Native Americans' Future
May 08, 1992  Native Americans
Jan. 18, 1991  Is America Allowing Its Past to Be Stolen?
Feb. 17, 1984  American Indian Economic Development
Apr. 15, 1977  Indian Rights
Nov. 08, 1972  Preservation of Indian Culture
Aug. 24, 1966  American Indians: Neglected Minority
May 26, 1954  Changing Status of American Indians
Apr. 13, 1949  Problems of the American Indian
Apr. 22, 1929  The Administration of Indian Affairs
Civil Rights: Native Americans
Climate Change
Domestic Issues
Economic Development
Electric Power
Energy and the Environment
Energy Policy
Fair Housing and Housing for Special Groups
Historic Preservation
Land Resources and Property Rights
National Parks and Reserves
Oil and Natural Gas
Powers and History of the Presidency
Regulation and Deregulation
Tribal Government
Unemployment and Employment Programs