NWAL 2016 Tribal Summit - Preconference breakout session. Nov 9, 2016.

A Successful 2016 Summit

On November 9-10, 2016, more than 100 people gathered at the South Point Hotel Casino in Las Vegas for the second annual Native Waters on Arid Lands (NWAL) Tribal Summit. Conference speakers and other attendees came from communities and reservations located across Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, California, New Mexico, Utah, South Dakota, Montana, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Ohio to share in two days of workshops and talks related to water resources and climate change on tribal lands.

Wednesday, Nov. 9

On Wednesday, a pre-conference breakout session introduced Summit attendees to a series of climate change projections for nine reservations in the Southwestern US, and presented an overview of the climate adaptation programs, trainings, resources and funding opportunities that tribes may access through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP).

Joe Jojola from the Bureau of Indian Affairs speaks at the preconference breakout session. Nov 9, 2016.

Joe Jojola from the Bureau of Indian Affairs speaks at the NWAL Summit’s preconference breakout session. Nov 9, 2016.

The conference formally opened with a blessing from Clayton Honyumptewa of the Hopi Tribe, and an overview of tribal water rights by Heather Whiteman Runs Him. Whiteman Runs Him is a staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder, CO, and discussed several foundational cases in tribal water rights, approaches for quantifying rights, emerging issues, and case studies from different reservations.

Heather Whiteman Runs Him speaks about Tribal Water Rights at the 2016 NWAL Summit. Nov 9, 2016.

Heather Whiteman Runs Him speaks about Tribal Water Rights at the 2016 NWAL Summit. Nov 9, 2016.

During the two-day conference, a series of breakout sessions covered a variety of topics related to the use of tribal water resources in a changing climate. Speakers included representatives from the Agua Caliente Band of Cahulla Indians, Ute Indian Tribe, Gila River Indian Community, Yerington Paiute Tribe, Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, Duck Valley Shoshone-Paiute Tribe, Jicarilla Apache Tribe, Colorado River Indian Tribes, Hopi Tribe, White Mountain Apache Nation, Pueblo of Zuni, Navajo Nation, and the Salt River Maricopa Indian Community (the full program for the 2016 Tribal Summit is available here).

The first breakout session, titled “Groundwater and Surface Water Relationships Affecting Reservation Environments,” explored challenges related to water rights and water quality on tribal reservations. Some presenters discussed ongoing legal disputes related to groundwater and surface water rights, and methods for quantifying those rights. For others, problems related to pollution and chemical contamination of water sources were of more immediate concern.

Tom Davis, Chief Planning & Development Officer for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahulla Indians (Palm Springs, California) speaks during Session 1. Nov 9, 2016.

Tom Davis, Chief Planning & Development Officer for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahulla Indians (Palm Springs, California) speaks during the first breakout session. Nov 9, 2016.

The second breakout session, “Invigorating Tribal Economies through Innovative Water Resource Use,” focused on new ideas and opportunities for using tribal water resources in economically beneficial ways. Examples discussed by the session speakers included fisheries projects, water leases, and improved water conveyance/delivery structures for agriculture. One key theme that emerged from this session was that is important for tribes to secure and quantify their water rights in order to effectively manage water resources to invigorate tribal economies.

Thursday, Nov. 10

The second day of the Tribal Summit began with a presentation about Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCU) programs, and an overview of the internships and opportunities that are available to students who are interested in hydrology, water resources, range management and other disciplines.

John Phillips (FALCON) presents information on Tribal Colleges and Universities. November 10, 2016.

John Phillips (FALCON) presents information on Tribal Colleges and Universities programs and internships. Nov 10, 2016.

A breakout session titled “Tribal Rangeland and Livestock Conservation Practices,” introduced attendees to challenges faced by ranchers on tribal lands, such as land tenure issues, rangeland habitat degradation, and funding cuts. To deal with these challenges, presenters discussed solutions such as habitat conservation measures, water pipelines, livestock associations, livestock inventories, impoundments for capturing feral and escaped animals, range management plans, a traditional fisheries recovery project, and more.

A breakout session titled “Traditional Knowledge and Ecology” explored best practices in Native American agriculture for climate resiliency that incorporates traditional knowledge. Speakers from the Hopi Corn Project, the Black Mesa Water Coalition, the Zuni Project and the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community Garden discussed projects that utilize and adapt traditional knowledge for modern-day agricultural practices.

During a session on traditional knowledge, presenters discussed projects that combine traditional knowledge with modern agriculture.

During a session titled “Traditional Knowledge and Ecology”, presenters discussed projects that combine modern and traditional knowledge in agricultural practices. Nov 10, 2016.

In a lunchtime talk, Chairman Harold Frazier of the Cheyenne River Sioux spoke about opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, and the potential impacts to sacred grounds and water resources.

Left to right: Vicki Hebb, Helen Filmore, Harold Frazier (Chairman of Cheyenne River Sioux) and Maureen McCarthy at the 2016 Tribal Summit.

Left to right: Vicki Hebb, Helen Filmore, Chairman Harold Frazier (Cheyenne River Sioux) and Maureen McCarthy at the 2016 Tribal Summit. Nov 10, 2016.

A final synthesis session led by Native Waters team member Derek Kauneckis of Ohio University asked participants to share insights regarding key takeaways from the Tribal Summit. The Summit closed with a blessing from Robinson Honani of the Hopi Tribe.

An in-depth report on the proceedings and outcomes of the 2016 Tribal Summit is available here. The Native Waters team would like to thank everyone who was able to join us in Las Vegas. We hope to see you again next year!

2016 Project Update

As the Native Waters on Arid Lands (NWAL) project enters its second year, we are working with nine tribal partners in the Great Basin and American Southwest to address important questions related to climate change and landscape use patterns on tribal reservations. During the course of the past year, we have worked to fine-tune our project plan, develop a scope of work, and begin data collection. Here are some key milestones and research activities completed by the NWAL team during 2015-2016.

Selecting tribal partners

The NWAL team selected a diverse group of nine tribal partners for in-depth study. Of the 28 tribes/reservations located within the proposed geographic research area, we looked at criteria such as: size of reservation (land area and population), water entitlements, existing working partnerships (FRTEP, 1994 and others), existing agriculture, economic reliance on agriculture, year of establishment, and others. The nine tribes/reservations that we selected are:

  1. Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe
  2. Navajo Nation
  3. Hopi Tribe
  4. Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of Duck Valley
  5. Colorado River Indian Tribes
  6. Ute Indian Tribe of Uintah and Ouray
  7. Zuni Tribe
  8. Walker River Tribe
  9. Gila River Tribe

Developing research questions

To learn about the impacts of climate change and evaluate adaption options for sustaining water resources and agriculture on these reservations, the NWAL team developed a set of research questions in the areas of (1) climatic and ecological change, (2) traditional knowledge, (3) agricultural economics, and (4) production agriculture infrastructure. Sample research questions include:

  • How have the climate and landscape patterns changed over last 2000 years?
  • How is the climate projected to change on reservation lands and in the drainage basins they depend on in next 50-100 years?
  • How is traditional knowledge reflected in current agriculture practices?
  • What are the infrastructure barriers to sustaining, improving, and/or modifying current agricultural practices?

Collecting data

NWAL researchers are working with each of the nine tribal partners to seek answers to our research questions. Using secondary data sources, researchers are gathering information related to land tenure, water rights, climate data, ecological systems, watersheds, economics, traditional knowledge, traditional agricultural practices and infrastructure, and tribal governance. In coming years, NWAL researchers will supplement this secondary data with primary data from focus groups, interviews, and face-to-face or online surveys with members from each tribe. This information will help the NWAL team to better understand historical and modern-day conditions on the reservations, and will help identify information and resource needs that will help tribes adapt to climatic changes.

Next steps

The NWAL team is currently working on a knowledge management system/data portal for sharing information. We are developing integrated research/outreach plans for each of four program areas (Climate Science and Adaptation; Agricultural Production Economics; Traditional Knowledge and Agriculture; Agricultural Irrigation and Infrastructure). We are developing a Native Waters Advisory Group (NWAG), to be made up of representatives from each of the nine reservations in the study area.

Finally, we are preparing for the second NWAL Tribal Summit, which will be held in Las Vegas on November 9-10, 2016. Please join us for two days of workshops and talks on topics such as tribal water rights, strengthening tribal economies through innovative water use, tribal rangeland and livestock conservation practices, traditional knowledge and ecology, and more!

water scarcity on the reservation

Water Scarcity on the Reservation

Thank you!

Thank you to those that attended the recent Tribal Summit at the South Point Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Click here for the Agenda.

NW Save the Date to Post Onlin_08.11.2015

Save the Date


November 5-6, 2015
South Point Hotel & Casino
Las Vegas, Nevada 

Native Waters on Arid Lands project seeks to build capacity among tribal communities in the Great Basin and American Southwest to enhance climate resiliency of water resources and agriculture. For more information on the Tribal Summit, view the Tribal Summit Program and Agenda (PDF).

Vicki Hebb
, Summit Organizer University of Nevada Cooperative Extension
(605) 222-2062

Staci Emm, Extension Educator University of Nevada Cooperative Extension
(775) 945-3444 (Ext. 10)