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Sovereignty For SurvivalAmerican Energy Development and Indian Self-Determination$
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James Robert Allison III

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780300206692

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300206692.001.0001

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Postwar Energy Demands and the Southwestern Experience

Postwar Energy Demands and the Southwestern Experience

(p.37) 2 Postwar Energy Demands and the Southwestern Experience
Sovereignty For Survival

James Robert Allison

Yale University Press

This chapter demonstrates the flawed minerals leasing regime in action. Postwar changes in global energy production and escalating demand from the booming Sunbelt South brought multinational energy companies to the vast coal reserves of the American West. There, they exploited a legal regime that placed authority over public and tribal minerals in the hands of unprepared federal officials, who allowed energy firms to cheaply secure millions of tons of minerals. By 1971, this system was so dysfunctional that the federal government halted further leasing of public minerals, though Indian mineral development continued unabated. No group had more experience with this broken system than the Navajo and Hopi tribes. The second half of the chapter thus demonstrates how energy companies worked with federal agents and tribal leaders to lock up reservation minerals for minimum royalties. It discusses the pressure to develop exerted by federal officials, the inexperience of tribal leaders negotiating energy deals, and the lack of knowledge among ordinary tribal members about mining’s impacts. While some tribal members resisted development, that resistance came too little, too late. These southwestern fights, however, prepared a generation of tribal leaders and consultants for their more successful battle on the Northern Plains.

Keywords:   Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, Navajo tribe, Hopi tribe, Black Mesa, Stewart Udall, Peter MacDonald, Alvin Josephy

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