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The Albertan oil sands provide the battlegrounds for the most recent iteration of the centuries-old conflict between the rights of indigenous peoples and the economic priorities of colonizing Europeans in North America. In the Pacific Northwest United States, that conflict has played out in a series of federal court cases stretching back to the 1970s. In the “Culverts Case” of 2016, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a grant of injunctive relief against the state of Washington, which had been found to violate several tribes’ treaty-protected fishing rights by constructing and maintaining culverts that impede river flow. After comparing the treatment of, and protection for, indigenous rights in the United States and Canada, this work examines how the Culverts Case can provide a model for the resolution of the ongoing conflicts between indigenous rights and oil sands development in Canada.

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