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GMAT - Reading Comprehension - Argument Evaluation - Critical Reading

In Winters v. United States (1908), the Supreme Court held that the right to use waters flowing through or adjacent to the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation was reserved to American Indians by the treaty establishing the reservation.

In Winters v. United States (1908), the Supreme Court held that the right to use waters flowing through or adjacent to the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation was reserved to American Indians by the treaty establishing the reservation. Although this treaty did not mention water rights, the Court ruled that the federal government, when it created the reservation, intended to deal fairly with American Indians by reserving for them the waters without which their lands would have been useless. Later decisions, citing Winters, established that courts can find federal rights to reserve water for particular purposes if (1) the land in question lies within an enclave under exclusive federal jurisdiction, (2) the land has been formally withdrawn from federal public lands-i.e., withdrawn from the stock of federal lands available for private use under federal land use laws-and set aside or reserved, and (3) the circumstances reveal the government intended to reserve water as well as land when establishing the reservation. Some American Indian tribes have also established water rights through the courts based on their traditional diversion and use of certain waters prior to the United States’ acquisition of sovereignty. For example, the Rio Grande Pueblos already existed when the United States acquired sovereignty over New Mexico in 1848. Although they at that time became part of the United States, the pueblo lands never formally constituted a part of federal public lands; in any event, no treaty, statute, or executive order has ever designated or withdrawn the Pueblos from public lands as American Indian reservations. This fact, however, has not barred application of the Winters doctrine. What constitutes an American Indian reservation is a question of practice, not of legal definition, and the Pueblos have always been treated as reservations by the United States. This pragmatic approach is buttressed by Arizona v. California (1963), wherein the Supreme Court indicated that the manner in which any type of federal reservation is created does not affect the application to it of the Winters doctrine. Therefore, the reserved water rights of Pueblo Indians have priority over other citizens’ water rights as of 1848, the year in which Pueblos must be considered to have become reservations.

Q1. The passage suggests that, if the criteria discussed in lines 10-20 were the only criteria for establishing a reservation’s water rights, which of the following would be true?

(A) The water rights of the inhabitants of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation would not take precedence over those of other citizens.

(B) Reservations established before 1848 would be judged to have no water rights.

(C) There would be no legal basis for the water rights of the Rio Grande pueblos.

(D) Reservations other than American Indian reservations could not be created with reserved water rights.

(E) Treaties establishing reservations would have to mention water rights explicitly in order to reserve water for a particular purpose.

Q2. The “pragmatic approach” mentioned in lines 37-38 of the passage is best defined as one that

(A) grants recognition to reservations that were never formally established but that have traditionally been treated as such

(B) determines the water rights of all citizens in a particular region by examining the actual history of water usage in that region

(C) gives federal courts the right to reserve water along with land even when it is clear that the government originally intended to reserve only the land

(D) bases the decision to recognize the legal rights of a group on the practical effect such a recognition is likely to have on other citizens

(E) dictates that courts ignore precedents set by such cases as Winters v. United States in deciding what water rights belong to reserved land 

Answer 1.

In this passage, we read about a courts judgment over the usage of water, by people living in the surrounding area of the water body. A decision regarding the reservation for water usage was laid down by the court.

Answer 1. To answer this question you must go back to the lines mentioned in the question and read it. These lines lay down the criteria for reserving water rights. Based on these criteria, which situation among the answer choices would be applicable.

A) When we read lines10-20, we come to know that none of the criteria suggests that one groups' right is more important than another groups' right, hence we can eliminate this option.

B) Nowhere in the passage do we have evidence to support this claim.

C) This is the correct answer choice, as we read in lines 30-32 that the Pueblos lands were neither designated nor withdrawn based on any event, order or treaty. This provides evidence for the answer choice.

D) There is no evidence for this answer, the passage only talks about American Indians Reservations and no other reservations as such.

E) None of the three criteria is suggesting anything along these lines, hence it is the wrong answer choice.

Answer 2.

(A) This is the correct answer choice as we read in the preceding lines 34-37 'What constitutes an American Indian reservation is a question of practice, not of legal definition, and the Pueblos have always been treated as reservations by the United States that grants recognition to reservations that were never formally established but that have traditionally been treated as such'. This is a clear evidence for this answer choice.

(B) We know this answer choice is wrong as it uses the word 'water rights'. The passage is about Reservations which are related to water rights. The passage is not about water rights per se.

(C) This answer choice is wrong because we understand that the passage talks about reservations with regards to water. The main reference in the discussion is about water and the reference to land is secondary.

(D) The passage talks about reservations and the reference to a group is used only for example, there is no direct reference to the rights of groups or citizens.

(E) There is no evidence to show that the court ignored the precedent of Winters v. United States case.