American Bar Association
Native American Resources

Native American Resources


Fracking and Tribal Sovereignty: The Pawnee Nation Claim

In 2015, the Pawnee Nation approved a moratorium on fracking. A 5.8 magnitude earthquake shook the region on September 3, 2016. In March 2017, the Pawnee Nation filed a claim in tribal court, seeking damages from several oil companies, alleging hydraulic fracturing (specifically, wastewater injected into disposal wells) caused an increase in earthquakes, damaging tribal buildings and land. This case could be consequential, in that it was brought in tribal court (falling under Montana exceptions for tribal civil jurisdiction over non-members). It brings to the forefront discussion over tribal sovereignty, and tension between tribes’ concerns about harms to the environment and royalties generated by energy and mineral resources (which many tribes rely on).

Podcast available on Section Recordings page

Message From The Chair

Welcome to the 2016 - 2017 ABA year of the Native American Resources Committee!

Since the 1980s, the Native American Resources Committee (Committee) has been recognized as a national forum for lawyers representing federally recognized tribes, tribal entities, indigenous peoples, and businesses engaged in development or other commercial activities within or near Indian country, Alaska Native villages, and other lands of indigenous peoples (collectively, tribal lands).

The Committee focuses on broad-ranging current and emerging environmental, energy, and resource issues affecting tribal lands, including but not limited to regulation of reservation activities, resources, and the environment; traditional, renewable, and alternative energy development; land use, land rights, leasing, and permitting; climate change impacts and legislative initiatives and policies; financing and economic considerations; collaborative efforts between tribes and states or developers; treaty and subsistence rights; Indian water rights; environmental justice; cultural and sacred site protection; and cross boundary and international initiatives, agreements, and processes affecting the rights of tribes and other indigenous peoples. The Committee seeks to open dialogue among its members and others to promote the exchange of ideas and to raise awareness of not only the unique issues related to tribal lands, but also the unique challenges confronting tribes and other indigenous peoples and third parties seeking to do business on tribal lands. The Committee also fosters education on new developments, laws, and policies affecting tribes, tribal entities, and other indigenous peoples and their lands and resources.

Finally, the Committee strives to encourage and increase participation in the committee and the Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources (Section), particularly by Native American attorneys and newly admitted attorneys interested in the field of Indian and tribal law.

The Committee has a vital need for volunteers willing to take a more active role in committee leadership, communications, and interactions with other SEER and ABA groups. Several of our vice-chair positions have not been filled this year. If you are interested in helping out, or know someone who is, please do not hesitate to reach out. We can guarantee that your participation will add value to your membership in both the Committee, SEER, and the ABA. Current leaders of the Committee include:

Committee Chair: Ronnie Hawks

Vice Chairs:

Committee Newsletters: Dean Suagee

Programs: Cynthia R. Harris

Electronic Communications and Social Media: Vacant

Social Media: Patrick M. Kennedy

We look forward to working with you over the next year!


Ronnie Hawks
2016-2017 Committee Chair
ABA Native American Resources Committee

Committee Description

The Committee is a forum and educational resource for lawyers representing tribes, tribal entities, indigenous peoples, and businesses engaged in development or other commercial activities around Indian country, Alaska Native villages, and other lands of indigenous peoples. The Committee focuses on broad ranging current and emerging environmental, energy, land use, resource and environmental justice issues. The Committee encourages participation in the Committee and Section by Native American attorneys and attorneys interested in the field of Indian and tribal law.

Committee Resources

    The Evolution of Natural Resources Law and Policy

    The Evolution of Natural Resources Law and Policy

    ISBN: 978-1-60442-430-0 Product Code: 5350182 2010, 451 pages, 6 x 9, Paperback Natural resources law is a dynamic and challenging field of practice, with a rich and colorful history that reaches back to the beginning of the country. This book considers current challenges in the law and offers ideas ...

Join Us

2017-2018 Native American Resources Leadership

View the full roster of Native American Resources Committee leadership.

Committee Newsletter Archive

An archive of the committee's newsletters is available.

The Native American Resources Committee released a new committee newsletter in August 2015. Be sure to read the latest issues.

Committee Chair(s)


Suagee, Dean

Committee Roster  

Programs, Meetings and Events

Section Events

Links of Interest

Inter-Tribal Organizations--National
General Purpose
National Congress of American Indians (NCAI)
Inter-Tribal and Membership Organizations
Specific Purposes (alphabetical order)
more links...

Modified by Peter Clark on August 14, 2017

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