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Montana Judge Rejects Challenge To Blackfeet Water Compact

Sign saying "Welcome to Blackfeet Indian Country."
Will Marlow (CC-BY-NC-2)
Sign saying "Welcome to Blackfeet Indian Country."

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A federal judge has rejected a legal challenge to a water-rights compact between the Blackfeet Indian Tribe, the state of Montana and the U.S. government.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris said in a ruling Friday the lawsuit challenging the Blackfeet tribe's business council's authority to negotiate and ratify the compact is a matter of tribal law that must be taken up in tribal court. 

Morris says tribal sovereignty would effectively be destroyed if federal courts start interpreting tribal law and constitutions.

The compact lays out the tribe's water rights and its jurisdiction of those rights on the reservation.

Five tribal members claimed the compact is invalid because the business council wasn't authorized to negotiate it and because less than a third of eligible voters cast ballots in the referendum to adopt it.

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