Midnight Rider: The EPA and Tribal Self-Determination

Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma added a rider to an otherwise benign transportation bill making it illegal for tribes residing within Oklahoma to operate environmental protection programs without first negotiating with the state government of Oklahoma. The rider eroded the federal trust relationship and infringed on Native self-determination. Oklahoma’s tribes and Native American leaders from around the nation worked to get the new law overturned, but the EPA decided to help tribes work within the confines of the new law. Despite the EPA’s stance on the law, the tribes continued to challenge it as they had in the past when hurt by paternalistic federal policy.