Water Compact: Chronology

The Blackfeet Nation has been working to resolve its water rights for more than 30 years. This chronology highlights the major events and milestones leading up to the current negotiated settlement.

  • 1970

    • U.S. files federal court water rights cases for all Montana Tribes
    • State of Montana files a competing water rights adjudication in state court
    • U.S. and tribes challenge Montana’s jurisdiction over Indian water rights
  • 1980

    • U.S. Supreme Court decides in 1984 that the state of Montana has the right to determine Indian water rights in state court.
    • Federal court decides in 1986 that state court has jurisdiction to decide Blackfeet water rights
    • Tribe initiates water rights negotiations with the Montana Reserved Water Right Compact Commission
  • 1990

    • Negotiations falter and state files a motion to begin litigation of Blackfeet water rights
    • Negotiations begin again in 1992; Montana Water Court issues a stay of litigation
    • Numerous public negotiation meetings and technical meetings between the Blackfeet Nation and the state of Montana are held.
  • 2000

    • Montana Water Court issues annual stays of litigation while negotiations proceed
    • A water compact is completed in 2007
    • Blackfeet Tribal Business Council authorizes water compact for approvals by the state of Montana, the United States, and by Tribal member vote. Montana Legislature ratifies the compact in 2009
    • Water settlement legislation is introduced in 2010 to ratify the compact and to provide funding for water related projects and other purposes
    • Water settlement legislation is reintroduced in 2011, 2013, and 2015.
    • Testament in support of the settlement bills is provided before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in 2010, 2011, and 2013; the U.S. testifies in opposition to the amount of federal funding and other issues.
    • Negotiations with the Department of the Interior to reach agreement on funding and other issues proceed throughout this period.
  • 2016

    • The Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act is reported out of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee; the first settlement in five years to move forward in Congress
    • United States Congress approves the Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act
    • President Obama signs the Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act into Law
  • 2017

    Tribal Members approve the ratification of the Blackfeet Water Compact by a 50-point margin

  • 2018

    Water Department Established via Resolution

  • 2021

    Funding officially deposited into Blackfeet Settlement Trust Fund

  • 2022

    First funding request delivered from Blackfeet Tribal Council to BIA for approval

  • 2025


    • Represents a benchmark of finality on the Compact, where funds have been delivered in full and are fully accessible to the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council
    • Additional Funding Becomes Available through Blackfeet Water Settlement Implementation Fund