From The Conversation by Monte Mills:
On April 18, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Washington v. United States, which pits the state of Washington against the United States and 21 Indian tribes. The main question in the case is narrow – whether the state must quickly replace hundreds of culverts that allow the flow of water under roads but also block salmon migration. Yet the underlying issue is far broader.
At stake in the case is the Supreme Court’s ongoing role as the nation’s highest arbiter of justice. Despite immense changes, that role remains grounded in a 229-year-old Constitution premised on the supremacy of federal treaties and individual rights.
In previous cases, the Supreme Court upheld the tribes’ rights to fish salmon, spelled out by various treaties entered in the 1850s. But, having insulated those rights from destruction previously, the court must now decide their meaning for the 21st century and beyond. That decision may say more about what justice means in our modern legal system than it does about tribes, salmon or culverts.