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The confluence of the Little Colorado and Colorado Rivers is an Indigenous socio-ecological landscape, revolving in large part around water resources. Substantial surface and groundwater use within the Little Colorado River (LCR) basin threatens the water sources of the confluence, springs in the LCR basin, and specifically the Hopi Sipapuni—a sacred site of cultural emergence. To address concerns about diminished flows of sacred springs, we engaged in praxis through collaborative, reciprocal, community-based research processes. Through the lens of anticolonial theory, we ask: Can federal policies be employed in an anticolonial pursuit of water and sacred site protection? How do Indigenous grassroots organizers envision protection and work to re-Indigenize water management? Semi-structured interviews with Indigenous community organizers and federal land managers were coupled with policy analysis of the National Historic Preservation Act/Traditional Cultural Properties, the ongoing LCR Adjudication, and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Findings point to multifaceted, complex, and contradictory themes that elucidate the continued influence of colonization on water governance and the degree to which protection solutions can be anticolonial. Criteria were generated for anticolonial protective pathways that highlight the centrality of reciprocal relationships, Indigenous Knowledges, and meaningful inclusion. While details about protection pathways for the confluence and Sipapuni are many, the salient finding is that the struggle for water protection in the LCR is the struggle for protection of inherent Indigenous rights.
Parts of the Southwestern United States report arsenic levels in water resources that are above the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s current drinking water limits. Prolonged exposure to arsenic through food and drinking water can contribute to significant health problems including cancer, developmental effects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity, and diabetes. In order to understand exposure risks, water sampling and testing have been conducted throughout Arizona. This information is available to the public through often non-overlapping databases that are difficult to access and in impracticable formats. The current study utilized a systemic compilation of online databases to compile a spreadsheet containing over 33,000 water samples. The reported arsenic concentrations from these databases were collected from 1990-2017. Using ArcGIS software, these data were converted into a map shapefile and overlaid onto a map of Arizona. This visual representation shows that arsenic levels in surface and ground water exceed the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s drinking water limits for many sites in several counties in Arizona, and there is an underrepresentation of sampling in several tribal jurisdictions. This information is useful for water managers and private well owners throughout the State for determining safe drinking water sources and limiting exposure to arsenic.
Concentrations of dissolved uranium (U) and arsenic (As) above drinking water standards in unregulated water sources pose various human health risks. Although high natural background concentrations may occur in some environments (Runnells et al. 1992), anthropogenic contamination concerns are especially troublesome on the Navajo Nation (NN), where past U mining activity may have contaminated water supplies. This research investigated U and As groundwater contamination issues in unregulated wells in the western portion of the NN. Objectives of this research were to provide insights to human health risks by assessing the spatial extent and seasonal variability of U and As concentrations while effectively communicating the potential contamination risks to the local Navajo people. Eighty-two unregulated wells were sampled in 2018; nine of these sources exceeded the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for drinking water standards for U (30 µg/L), and 14 exceeded the MCL for drinking water standards for As (10 µg/L). U and As levels were highest in the southwest portion of the study area and seasonal variability was observed in a subset of wells, especially shallower hand dug wells and hand pumps. The results were compiled into a report that was presented to NN chapters included in the study as well as the Navajo Department of Water Resources and the NN Environmental Protection Agency. Implications for regional water quality patterns can help to direct policy recommendations for well monitoring, water use, and remediation targets.
It is well established that climate change is already causing a wide variety of human health impacts in the United States and globally, and that for many reasons Native Americans are particularly vulnerable. Tribal water security is particularly threatened; the ways in which climate changes are damaging community health and well-being through impacts on water resources have been addressed more thoroughly for Tribes in coastal, arid, and sub-arctic/arctic regions of the United States. In this article, Crow Tribal members from the Northern Plains describe the impacts of climate and environmental change on local water resources and ecosystems, and thereby on Tribal community health and well-being. Formal, qualitative research methodology was employed drawing on interviews with 26 Crow Tribal Elders. Multiple determinants of health are addressed, including cultural, social, economic, and environmental factors. The sense of environmental-cultural-health loss and despair at the inability to address the root causes of climate change are widespread. Yet the co-authors and many other Tribal members are actively prioritizing, addressing, and coping with some of the local impacts of these changes, and are carrying on Apsáalooke [Crow] lifeways and values.
This study focuses on water quality and quantity impacts from natural resource development on watersheds originating on Crow tribal lands in southeastern Montana. Field research analysis will focus on the surface water quality in three adjacent watersheds. This study will determine impacts to water quality from reclaimed coal mine spoils surface runoff and produced water discharge from coal bed methane wells within the watersheds. A secondary research objective is to determine a baseline assessment of surface water in watersheds prior to proposed mine development, particularly on tribally owned and allotted tracts. Historical data from state agencies will also be compared to data collected within watersheds on tribal lands. Water quality impacts from mining development may be more pronounced than that of coal bed methane as the reclaimed mining sites have demonstrated lasting impacts on the nearby surface water quality in the study area. Historical and current samples have demonstrated increased sodium absorption ratio and sodium levels downstream of a mine site in a tributary to the primary watershed. A sample from a pond in another reclaimed mine site contained the highest sodium adsorption ratio levels of all surface water samples. Coal bed methane development impacts may have been transient in the primary watershed surface water based on sample results. Historical oil and gas development appears to be impacting surface water quality within the southernmost watershed. Analysis has shown the increasing degradation of water quality in watersheds downstream and across the state boundary of Montana into Wyoming where natural resource development has occurred.
Emerging contaminants in Tribal water have been unexplored until implementation of the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR) campaigns, which mandated the analysis of up to 30 new contaminants in drinking water every five years. As additions to the Safe Water Drinking Act (SDWA), the UCMR1 – 3 were created to assess contaminants which have not yet been assigned a maximum contaminant level (MCL) but may be regulated in the future to protect human health. While a handful of Tribes (n = 6) participated in UCMR1, public water systems (PWS) within reservation boundaries were intentionally included in representative nation-wide sampling beginning with UCMR2 after a period of Tribal consultation. Still, less than 3% of Tribal PWS were surveyed. The results from UCMR2 revealed that samples from all surveyed Tribal PWS fell below the method detection limits. Target analytes shifted to metals, perfluorinated chemicals, hormones, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), dioxane, and chlorate under UCMR3. Detectable levels of metals (chromium, hexavalent chromium, strontium, and vanadium), chlorate, and dioxane were observed, and in some cases, at concentrations greater than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) recommended health reference limit (HRL). The presence of elevated levels of vanadium, strontium, 1,4-dioxane, perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS), and chlorate defines a new set of emerging contaminants that needs to be considered with regards to risk, reporting and monitoring, and water treatment in Tribal drinking water.
The Portage Waterway in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula supports traditional Anishnaabe walleye (or ogaawag in the Anishnaabe language) spear-harvesting for the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC). Through reserved Indian treaty fishing rights, KBIC is highly involved in the waterway’s stewardship and annual community spear-harvest. Tribal leadership and fisheries personnel have long documented that annual harvests are far below sustainable quotas. The objectives of this research were to 1) understand the values and concerns of KBIC tribal members on Anishnaabe walleye (ogaawag) spear-harvesting, 2) examine water temperature patterns during the spring 2018 harvest to seek insight on how harvests may be optimized, and 3) integrate Anishinaabe gikendaasowin or traditional knowledge with science and education. We conducted an online survey in February 2018, containing 27 questions, to gain preliminary insight on KBIC’s perspectives of the annual walleye (ogaawag) spear-harvest. Nearly all respondents highly value the spear-harvest tradition personally and on behalf of the community. Similarly, nearly all agreed that it is important for the KBIC to manage its own fishery resources, and that the Tribe’s Natural Resources Department effectively does so. Respondents also expressed concerns about factors that could impact their harvests, including environmental changes and confrontations with non-Native residents. From May 1 to May 19, 2018, we deployed 13 Onset HOBO Pro V2 temperature dataloggers across the Portage Waterway to measure spring warming patterns in locations popular for spear-fishing. This period encompassed the entire KBIC spear-harvest season, with dataloggers recording water temperature every two hours. Temperature data show that management of the harvest season may need revision, as embayments and sloughs where spear-fishing largely occurs warmed significantly earlier than other parts of the waterway. As the presence of walleye (ogaawag) in shallow waters depends on temperature, some parts of the waterway should be opened for harvesting earlier. Our findings will be prepared in a formal recommendation for KBIC leadership in efforts to increase harvests for the Tribal community that rely on walleye (ogaawag) as a sacred and traditional food source
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