The Tenth Circuit held on September 30, 2020 that aboriginal water rights are alive and well in the state of New Mexico. The federal district court had concluded that Spanish colonization extinguished the rights of Jemez, Santa Ana, and Zia Pueblos to the waters of their aboriginal territories, simply by asserting dominion over the area. The Tenth Circuit rejected this, holding that a sovereign must act affirmatively to extinguish aboriginal rights. This finding is consistent with U.S. Supreme Court caselaw, and affirms the sovereign rights of Native nations to the natural resources they never renounced. Mr. Williams, Mr. Berkey, and Ms. Simon contributed to drafting of an amicus brief on behalf of the pueblo of Ohkay Owingeh.
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