Hopi Tribe Starts Trial Tuesday To Adjudicate Water Rights

Published: Monday, September 10, 2018 - 5:34pm
Paul Atkinson/KJZZ
A Hopi farm. The Tribe is surrounded by the Navajo Nation.

The first in a series of trials looking at water rights for the Hopi Tribe starts on Tuesday. But the results will take a while.

The current proceeding, in the Superior Court of Arizona, Maricopa County, will look at the Tribe’s past and present uses of water in the Little Colorado River Basin.

“The court is required to study the tribe, understand its history [and] culture, and make a determination what water is necessary for the tribe to have a permanent and livable homeland,” said Colin Campbell, an attorney representing the Tribe.

A trial to look at future water uses will start in December 2019. A third trial examining ranch lands to the south of the Hopi Reservation will start in 2020 at the earliest.

These proceedings are part of the General Stream Adjudication process that’s been going for decades.

On a parallel track are possible settlement talks between the Hopi Tribe, the Navajo Nation, and the federal government. Negotiations have started and stopped over the years. Campbell said that in the last month, the federal Indian Water Rights Office started exploring a new attempt at a settlement.

He thinks having Jon Kyl back in the U.S. Senate may help, because any settlement would require federal legislative action. Kyl worked on Native American water rights settlements during his previous stint in the Senate.

“I think having a senator who's knowledgeable about the issues is a reason for hope,” Campbell said.

Kyl’s ability to push legislation from the inside would depend on how long he stays in the Senate. Kyl is filling the seat of the late Sen. John McCain and has promised to stay only through the end of the current Congress.

If you like this story, Donate Now!