Water for gaming compacts? Arizona bill would 'attack' tribes 'very existence'

The Associated Press

Bill would require Arizona tribes to resolve water disputes

PHOENIX (AP) — Republican legislative leaders have introduced legislation to require tribal governments in Arizona to resolve longstanding water disputes with the state before negotiating new gambling pacts.

Cosponsors of the legislation, House Bill 244 7, include House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, and Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, the Arizona Republic reports.

The bill's chief sponsor, Prescott Republican Rep. Steve Pierce, said it would help speed up the state's complex and lengthy negotiations with tribes over water rights because tribes want to retain the economic benefits of gambling casinos.

"It needs to be resolved for the tribes and for the state," Pierce said of the water disputes. 

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey's office in recent years has been negotiating new tribal gambling compacts, potentially overhauling them.

Terms of the state's compacts with individual tribes dictate how much gambling revenue is shared with state and local governments.

Ducey during his Jan. 13 State of the State address thanked tribal leaders for the negotiations, and said a deal was "close." 

"It's been a give and take," he said. "We owe it to our tribes and our citizens to get it done."

Under the proposed water legislation, "This state may not enter into, negotiate, execute, extend or renew any tribal-state gaming compact with a tribe that is a party to litigation regarding water rights in which this state is an adverse party."

Pierce told the Republic that he had't heard from Ducey's office about the water bill but that he expects initial opposition from tribes.

That's understandable but the bill would help the tribes, Pierce said. "The sooner they get things resolved, the bills from the lawyers' offices go down."

Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai, Navajo, D-Cameron, said it's certain the tribes will oppose the measure.

"They are going to consider it an attack on their very existence. And it really is."

She said the issues were individually important.

"This bill would try to merge them together to address an Arizona state water crisis that the state itself has not prepared for. Each of those issues needs to be addressed on their own," Peshlakai said.

Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University's Morrison Institute, said a problem with the bill is that tribes don't hold all the cards in the water disputes.

"It is not really in the tribes' power to settle," Porter said. "They could deeply desire to settle, but there are lots of other parties and entities that have to participate."

Porter said a tribe could have a gambling compact tied up as the parties in a water settlement wait for approval from the federal government, for example.

"This bill would change the balance of power ... and give the other parties to a potential water settlement also power over tribes ability to negotiate a gaming compact," Porter said.

Comments (8)

I am part white + part Seminole and I'm not even a part of this debate, though I wish I were, but I wanted 2 give my opinion nonetheless. I do not agree with combining these 2 issues! It's never right 2 attempt 2 blackmail anyone at anytime! The government is using the tribes gambling pacts as blackmail 2 get those water rights and everyone should stand against this as a matter of simple morals and ethics. It is against the law 2 blackmail another human being, it's that simple!

On a personal note; I've wished, my entire life, that I'd been raised within my native heritage but I wasn't so now I'm trying 2 learn more about it.

2 Replies


Good luck on your journey to learn more about your culture. A lot of us are on that journey. Now some colleges have Native American Studies courses and you can earn a certificate in Native studies. Then here at Fresno City you can move on to Fresno State and earn a higher degree in Native Studies. Join activities and participate with Native Communities and can learn a lot. I know personally it has brought such peace within myself and I finally feel I fit in. Generationall Trauma is real and our people are rising by bringing back our Native teachings and culture in many ways. The best way to start is through education. It's never to late to start. I encourage all our Native Brothers and Sisters to seek our Culture out and I hope you all find what you didn't know was missing. Despite all these laws we all must stick together and let the United states continue to take from our people. ✊


You've no idea how bad I wish I could go to school to learn more! I am physically disabled to the point that I rarely even get out of bed. I joined this so I can learn at least some things thru here. The internet, tv, family + doctors r my life these days. I'm a nurse but haven't worked since 2004. I had a bad car wreck. I want my children + grandchildren 2 know about where they come from. My children r very proud 2 say they're Native American Seminole Indians!

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Right. I agree. These issues should not be combined. Water issues are complex. Hands off Republicans.


In addition to being a gross violation of tribal sovereignty, and a third finger salute to the Winters decision, this is just plain stupid from an economic standpoint. Indian gaming is a significant source of revenue for AZ. Mess with that at your own peril, colonizers!


Something needs to be done. Some times you have to strong arm people into doing whats right for them. The rest of AZ and the southwest deserves some respect.


I share this with people I come in contact with, 2 get the word out! People need to stand up for what's right and not let this goverent run over the Indians AGAIN!