American Indians Water Rights and Dam Problems

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American Indians, Water Rights, Dams, and Problems In many parts of the United States there has been controversy over water and the building of dams and their effects on Native Indians and their rights. Although there have been many treaties and laws set in place to protect American Indians rights to water and land use there has been an increased ignorance of these legal decisions. In southwestern America, where water is scarce, dams are causing problems with Native Indians and their rights to the usage of land and water. The creation of dams upsets the natural eco-balance found in these rivers including natural spawning areas and plant growth to help keep the river healthy. With the ecosystem disruptions, the lands flooded by the dam can often cover sacred lands to American Indians. Even though the United States claims that water use on reservations is a priority dam water usage for non-Indians has caused even greater discontent for American Indians by creating a water shortage on reservations, changes in natural resources used by Indians, a depressed economic state on reservations, limitations on water rights they are entitled to, and the protection of these rights under federal law. To understand the problems American Indians face with dams and water rights one must know what their rights are. The American Southwest water rights battle has been a long struggle for American Indians. These debates began as early as the settlers moving westward. As white settlers moved west in the nineteenth century, rules were implemented over the usage of the water. The rules were knows as the “doctrine of prior appropriation”, which are still in use in every western state today. This priority right establishes your place in line in water usage even in drought. There are four principles that are to be abided by. First is the “first in time, first in right”. This means that
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