Professor Krakoff's Brief Argues the Definition of "Indian Land"

February 8, 2010

Professor Sarah Krakoff, an expert in natural resources and Indian law, recently filed an amicus brief in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, en banc, arguing in favor of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Navajo Nation. Other Colorado Law Indian law professors also signed the brief. The case, Hydro Resources, Inc. v. Environmental Protection Agency, addresses whether a proposed uranium mine is within Indian country. The Navajo Nation intervened in the suit, as the area in question is populated entirely by Navajo and their spouses and much of the surrounding land is held in trust for the Navajo Nation.Professor Krakoff became familiar with the area in question when she worked as a lawyer on a Navajo reservation before coming to Colorado Law. She says the area looks just like the rest of the reservation.“I thought it was important to weigh in on this case as an academic,” said Professor Krakoff, “if this community isn’t considered a dependent Indian community, it’s hard to imagine any community outside a reservation would be.”Hydro Resources, Inc. argues that “dependent Indian community,” part of the federal statutory definition of Indian land, refers to the individual piece of land in question. Professor Krakoff’s brief argues that the definition proposed by Hydro Resources, Inc. does not conform to any commonly accepted meaning of the term “community.” Instead, she proposes that the Tenth Circuit consider the area surrounding the proposed uranium mine, and determine that the demographics of this area qualify it as a “dependent Indian community.”“As long as the judges exercise their normal amount of judicial restraint, this should be considered a dependent Indian community,” said Krakoff.The case, originally argued before a panel of the Tenth Circuit in January 2010, is currently pending before the Tenth Circuit en banc.