Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Research 2:1 (February 1992), pp. 51-66. Copyright © 1992 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Used by permission.


Public policy in such areas as the environment is increasingly being shaped by the courts as they resolve conflicts. There is some question whether the courts are able to include in policy decisions those values that are not derived from economic utility. In this article, the values represented by traditional Native American beliefs about nature and particularly water are examined. While Native Americans have won some court battles over water, the judges have usually decided on the basis of contractual and treaty agreements and not on the basis of the preservation of traditional values. Cases arising in the Great Plains reflect this tendency in judicial thinking.