United Nations human rights official Victoria Tauli-Corpuz criticized the handling of the Dakota Access Pipeline project in a recent special report, saying that she was struck by the ineffective communication between tribes and governments across the country, particularly when it came to development and energy projects on or adjacent to Indian reservations. In her report, Tauli-Corpuz said there has been widespread failure to adequately communicate and consult with indigenous peoples on issues “affecting their land, territory, and resources.”

Energy development is just one of many strategies tribes pursue to generate economic prosperity and become more sustainable. Tauli-Corpuz noted: “In this era, when many of the world’s remaining natural resources are largely found in indigenous peoples’ territories, there are increasing violations of their basic rights to self-determination. Achieving sustainable development cannot be delinked from the need to respect and protect the basic human rights … of indigenous peoples.”

Panelists at the 42nd Annual Indian Law Conference April 6-7 in Scottsdale, Arizona will look at the importance of environmental preservation and how culture and identity supports stewardship of the environment. Register today at www.fedbar.org/indianlaw17. Speakers Angela Bibins (Water Protector Legal Collective); Jan Hasselman (Earthjustice); Doug MacCourt (Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, U.S. Department of Energy); Pilar Thomas (Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP); and Brandy Toelupe (Tilden Toelupe LLC) will assess the implications and tradeoffs of new energy technologies and policies.

Consider Native American cultural values, community values, and how knowledge aids in the development of technical energy resource management. On April 6-7, panelists will discuss how federal policy has changed in order to allow for tribes to have enhanced autonomy over management of their natural resources.

Sovereignty, also known as self-determination, must be acknowledged and strived for.  But what are roadblocks to tribes capitalizing on their energy wealth? What is the relationship between federal agencies and Indian energy development? The reality is, a complex bureaucracy raises the cost of energy development on Indian lands, and new energy regulations can make it problematic for tribes to tap into their resources. Any attempt to explore or develop resources on tribal lands must endure costs and complex regulations.

Energy development is a key revenue generator to fund education, infrastructure, and other public services on Native American lands. Some also view energy development as a path to promoting tribal self-determination. This April, join the Federal Bar Association for a panel co-sponsored by the National Native American Law Students Association (NNALSA) titled, “Energy Development, DAPL, and Tribes—What’s Next.” Sign up today at www.fedbar.org/indianlaw17.


Stacy Slotnick, Esq. holds a J.D., cum laude, from Touro Law Center and a B.A., summa cum laude, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She performs a broad range of duties as an entertainment lawyer, including drafting and negotiating contracts; addressing and litigating trademark, copyright, patent, and other IP issues; and directing the strategy and implementation of public relations, blogging, and social media campaigns.