The Supreme Court reportedly overturned the Ninth Circuit’s judgment on Thursday, voting 5-4 to hold that the federal government need not take proactive measures to ensure that the Navajo Nation has access to water.
In the case Arizona v. Navajo Nation, it was contested whether the 1868 treaty that created the reservation obligated the federal government to supply the Navajo Nation with water.
The majority justices ruled that the treaty does not in fact require “assessing the Tribe’s water needs, developing a plan to secure the needed water, and potentially building pipelines, pumps, wells, or other water infrastructure.”
Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Amy Coney Barrett joined Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh in the majority opinion.
Gorsuch joined the dissenting opinion of Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ketanji Brown Jackson.
In another recent case, Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians v. Coughlin, Gorsuch similarly dissented from the majority opinion to support Native American tribes, writing a lone dissent in support of tribes’ “unique status in our law.”