© 2017 Montana Land and Water Alliance

In Greek mythology, Icarus is

the son of a master craftsman, Daedalus, the creator of the Labyrinth.  Icarus and his father attempt to escape from Crete by means of wings that his father constructed from feathers and wax. Icarus’ father warns him first of complacency and then of “hubris”, or pride and ambition, asking that he fly neither too low nor too high, so the sea’s dampness would not clog his wings or the sun’s heat melt them. Icarus ignored his father’s instructions not to fly too close to the sun; when the wax in his wings melted he tumbled out of the sky and fell into the sea.

This is the tragic theme of failure at the hands of hubris.  There is nothing wrong with ambition or setting one’s sights high. But when an otherwise good cause is infected with greed and advanced by fundamental mistruths–feathers and wax—it can only fly too close to the sun, its wax destined to melt and the feathers fall away.

What a perfect analogy for the CSKT Compact, and how interesting that we have in this story a labyrinth, and wings constructed of wax and feathers to look sturdy and usable but which fail under the heat of scrutiny. The labyrinth is certainly like the complex maze of theories, rules, and pages of the CSKT Compact that the public and legislators had to wade through and try to understand.  And the waxes that hold the contraption together—a wish list of things the treaty and laws supposedly give to the tribes and allow the state and federal government to do—are cloaked in the feathers of hubris.

This is an observation, and by no means are the citizens here done with the correct task of protecting water rights from the schemes and plans of the tribe, state, and federal government under the spell of hubris.  But the wax and feather maze of the compact has melted, and now brings certain litigation:

  1. Property takings. On its face, the Compact plan for the Flathead Irrigation Project (FIP) is a taking of property rights in water of thousands of FIP irrigators including tribal members. No one has to wait for the taking and damage to occur–it exists on its face. This is why the state wanted to exempt itself from any liability involving costs, damages, and attorney’s fees.
  2. Constitutional Violations. The State of Montana has violated numerous clauses of its own constitution in the Executive, Judiciary, and Legislative articles. These issues have been identified and legally documented in the last five years and pave the way for numerous actions that can proceed now. This is also why the state wanted to exempt itself from liability for damages.
  3. Civil Rights Violations. The violations of the civil rights of Montanans by certain governmental officials is also evident in the entire compact proceedings…all that wax that held the feathers together by its existence violated the civil rights of every person in Montana and could compel actions by large groups of citizens. If a man can be said to have property in his rights, then avoiding financial liability for civil rights violations is also what the state intended.

Whatever is next in the court arena, the state, the tribes, and the United States may have trapped themselves in their own labyrinth and hubris…the compact ball of wax and feathers that cannot be supported by fact, law, history, or sunlight.