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Blackfeet Indian Tribe v. Montana Power Company
United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
838 F.2d 1055 (1988)
In 1904, a federal statute authorized the Secretary of the Interior to grant right-of-way easements for pipelines transporting oil and gas through Native American lands. The statute limited the term of a pipeline right-of-way to 20 years. In 1948, Congress enacted a broader statute under which the Secretary of the Interior was empowered to grant rights-of-way through Native American lands for all purposes, subject to tribal consent. A 1960 regulation promulgated pursuant to the 1948 act allowed for a right-of-way term of up to 50 years. Between 1961 and 1969, the Secretary of the Interior granted five 50-year rights-of-way to the Montana Power Company (MPC) (defendant) for pipelines running through the reservation of the Blackfeet Indian Tribe (the tribe) (plaintiff). The tribe consented to each right-of-way grant. However, in 1981, the tribe raised objections to the 50-year terms, arguing that the 1904 statute’s 20-year limitation was applicable. The tribe brought suit in federal district court, which entered judgment for MPC. The tribe appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Anderson, J.)
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