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Renewable energy development is the nexus-point for self-determination



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Renewable energy development is the nexus-point for self-determination


Arizona Law Review ‘10

Bethany C. Sullivan, J.D. Candidate, University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. “NOTE: Changing Winds: Reconfiguring the Legal Framework for Renewable-Energy Development in Indian Country,” 52 Ariz. L. Rev. 823, Fall [JSN] [Language edited – Indigenized]


Improving tribal ability to develop renewable energy would not only alleviate some of these economic pressures, but would also resonate with many tribes' traditional values regarding sustainable use of the Earth's resources. The Navajo Nation Code itself pronounces the "duty and responsibility of the Dine [the Navajo people] to protect and preserve the beauty of the natural world for future generations." n19 Technologies such as wind-and solar-based energy generation comport readily with this ethic and stand in stark contrast to the historic exploitation of Indian natural resources through coal mining and hydroelectric dams - uses that left permanent scars on the landscape. n20

Not only do practical and moral considerations support the development of tribal alternative energy projects, but Congress also has a legal imperative to do so. This imperative stems from the federal government's long-standing trust responsibility for American Indians. n21 Congress, embracing this responsibility without qualification, has stated that it is the "principal goal of Federal Indian policy ... to promote tribal economic development, tribal self-sufficiency, and strong tribal government." n22 For the last several decades, federal Indian policy has been firmly anchored in the concept of self-determination. This concept [*828] encompasses notions of tribal [indigenous] growth and self-sufficiency as directed by each tribe [nation] itself, representing a distinct shift away from federal control and management of tribal resources and services. n23 The role envisioned for the federal government is on the sidelines, working to assist tribes in their path to self-determination. n24 However, while the effect of this policy can be seen in the growth and development of tribal governments, courts, and business enterprises, the reality is that most tribes are still far from embodying self-determination to the fullest. n25

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