“First in Time, First in Right”: Indigenous Self-Determination in the Colorado River Basin
This article adopts the premise “first in time, first in right” to bring Indigenous knowledge about the Colorado River Basin and the natural world more broadly out of the mainstream’s obscurity to reposition these perspectives at the foreground of the region’s water cultures. To initiate what is in essence a decolonization of Colorado River Basin water knowledge, I examine texts representing various tribal affiliations and genres to consider how their particular use of story engages the historic and ongoing environmental injustices they have faced and continue to negotiate in their fight to preserve their sacred lands, identity, and access to reliable, clean water. Such a decolonization occurs through these texts’ use of narrative to work within and against the scientific and instrumental discourses and their respective genres that have traditionally constructed and dictated mainstream Colorado River knowledge and activity. My treatment of narrative within the Ten Tribes Partnership Tribal Water Study (2018) and the Grand Canyon Trust’s “Voices of Grand Canyon” digital project (2020) sheds greater light on the essential relationships the Basin’s nations and tribes have with the Colorado River. Through these counternarratives to the West’s dominant water ideologies and cultures, the Basin’s tribal nations draw attention to past and ongoing struggles to secure equitable water access while amplifying their resilience and determination that defines their calls for environmental justice.
Colorado River; Environmental justice; American Indian Sovereignity; Water Rights; Grand Canyon; Ten Tribes Partnership
Adamson, Joni and Salma Monani. “Cosmovisions, Ecocriticism, and Indigenous Studies.” Introduction. Ecocriticism and Indigenous Studies: Conversations from Earth to Cosmos, edited by Salma Monani and Joni Adamson, Routledge, 2017, pp. 1–19.
Ahasteen, Jack. “Control the Water and You Have Everything.” Cartoon. Navajo Times, 21 May 2020. navajotimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Jacks-5-21-20.gif
Ahasteen, Jack. “$600 Million Care Act Water Line.” Cartoon. Navajo Times, 28 May 2020, navajotimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/WATERLINE5282020.gif
Arizona v. California. 9 Mar. 1964. Law of the River, Bureau of Reclamation, www.usbr.gov/lc/region/pao/pdfiles/supctdec.pdf
Beale, Walter H. A Pragmatic Theory of Rhetoric. Southern Illinois UP, 1987.
Casey, T. Timothy. “Not in Our Lands: A Canadian Comparative Case Study of Indigenous Resistance Strategies to Natural Resource Development in British Columbia and the Arctic.” Indigenous Environmental Justice, edited by Karen Jarratt-Snider and Marianne O. Nielsen, U of Arizona P, 2020, pp. 160–178.
Colorado Plateau Foundation, 2020, www.coloradoplateaufoundation.org/. Accessed 11 Feb. 2021.
“Colorado River Basin Ten Tribes Partnership Tribal Water Study: Study Report.” Lower Colorado Region, Bureau of Reclamation, 13 Dec. 2018. www.usbr.gov/lc/region/programs/crbstudy/tws/finalreport.html. Accessed 11 Feb. 2021.
“Colorado River Basin Tribes.” Tribal Water Uses in the Colorado River Basin, www.tribalwateruse.org/. Accessed 11 Feb. 2021.
Dillon, Grace L., editor. Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction, U of Arizona P, 2012.
“Drought in the Colorado River Basin.” Department of the Interior, www.doi.gov/water/owdi.cr.drought/en/. Accessed 11 Feb. 2021.
“Environmental Justice.” United States Environmental Protection Agency, 5 Oct. 2020, www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice. Accessed 11 Feb. 2021.
Estes, Nick. Our History if the Future: Standing Rock versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance. Verso, 2019.
Fitzgerald, Stephanie. Native Women and Land: Narratives of Dispossession and Resurgence. U of New Mexico P, 2015.
Gemein, Mascha N. “‘Seeds Must Be Among the Greatest Travelers of All’: Native American Literatures Planting the Seeds for a Cosmopolitical Environmental Justice Discourse.” ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, vol. 23, no. 3, 2016, pp. 485–505. doi.org/10.1093/isle/isw044
Gilio-Whitaker, Dina. As Long As Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, From Colonization to Standing Rock. Beacon P, 2019.
House, Jr., Ernest. “Enhancing Tribal Water Sovereignty.” DU Water Law Review Symposium, University of Denver Sturm College of Law Water Law Review, 30 Mar. 2018, duwaterlawreview.com/events/symposium-2018/.
Jarratt-Snider, Karen and Marianne O. Nielsen. Introduction. Indigenous Environmental Justice, edited by Karen Jarratt-Snider and Marianne O. Nielsen, U of Arizona P, 2020, pp. 3–15.
Kelley, Klara and Harris Francis. “COVID-19 Crisis is Partly a Water Crisis.” Navajo Times, 21 May 2020, navajotimes.com/opinion/letters/letters-covid-19-crisis-is-partly-a-water-crisis/. Accessed 11 Feb. 2021.
Krech, Shepard. The Ecological Indian: Myth and History. Norton, 2000.
Lyons, Scott Richard. “Rhetorical Sovereignty: What Do American Indians Want from Writing?” College Composition and Communication, vol. 51, no. 3, February 2000, pp. 447–468. doi:10.2307/358744
Nelson, Cody. “‘This Land is All We Have Left’: Tribes on Edge over Giant Dam Proposal near Grand Canyon.” The Guardian, 12 Aug. 2020, www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/aug/12/navajo-nation-dams-big-canyon-pumped-storage-project.
Powell, James Lawrence. Dead Pool: Lake Powell, Global Warming, and the Future of Water in the West. U of California P, 2008.
Reisner, Marc. Cadillac Desert: The American West and its Disappearing Water. Viking, 1986.
Roosevelt, Franklin D. “Dedication Ceremonies—Boulder Dam.” 30 Sept. 1935. National Archives Catalogue, Archives.gov, catalog.archives.gov/id/197523.
Silko, Leslie Marmon. Ceremony. 1977. Penguin, 2006.
“Stopping Grand Canyon Escalade.” Grand Canyon Trust, 2020, www.grandcanyontrust.org/stopping-grand-canyon-escalade.
“The Ten Tribes Partnership.” Tentribespartnership.org, 2020, tentribespartnership.org/.
Udall, Bradley and Johathan Overpeck. “The Twenty-First Century Colorado Hot Drought and Implications for the Future.” Water Resources Research, vol. 53, iss. 3, March 2017, pp. 2404–2418. AGU, doi.org/10.1002/2016WR019638
“US Senate Passes Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement Act.” Native News Online, 9 June 2020, nativenewsonline.net/currents/u-s-senate-passes-navajo-utah-water-rights-settlement-act.
“The Voices of Grand Canyon.” Grand Canyon Trust, 20 Feb. 2020, www.grandcanyontrust.org/native-american-stories-grand-canyon.
Whyte, Kyle Powys. “Indigenous Experience, Environmental Justice, and Settler Colonialism.” SSRN, 25 Apr. 2016, dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2770058
Williams, A. Park, et al. “Large Contribution from Anthropogenic Warming to an Emerging North American Megadrought.” Science, vol. 268, iss. 6448, 17 Apr, 2020, pp. 314–318. doi.org/10.1126/science.aaz9600
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
The Copyright Holder of the submitted text is the Author. The Reader is granted the rights to use the material available in the RIAS websites and pdf documents under the provisions of the Creative CommonsAttribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0). Any commercial use requires separate written agreement with the Author and a proper credit line indicating the source of the original publication in RIAS.
The University of Silesia Press provides immediate open access to journal’s content under the Creative Commons BY 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Authors who publish with this journal retain all copyrights and agree to the terms of the above-mentioned CC BY 4.0 license.
- Author’s Warranties
The author warrants that the article is original, written by stated author/s, has not been published before, contains no unlawful statements, does not infringe the rights of others, is subject to copyright that is vested exclusively in the author and free of any third party rights, and that any necessary written permissions to quote from other sources have been obtained by the author/s.
If the article contains illustrative material (drawings, photos, graphs, maps), the author declares that the said works are of his authorship, they do not infringe the rights of the third party (including personal rights, i.a. the authorization to reproduce physical likeness) and the author holds exclusive proprietary copyrights. The author publishes the above works as part of the article under the licence "Creative Commons Attribution - By the same conditions 4.0 International".
ATTENTION! When the legal situation of the illustrative material has not been determined and the necessary consent has not been granted by the proprietary copyrights holders, the submitted material will not be accepted for editorial process. At the same time the author takes full responsibility for providing false data (this also regards covering the costs incurred by the University of Silesia Press and financial claims of the third party).
- User Rights
Under the Creative Commons Attribution license, the users are free to share (copy, distribute and transmit the contribution) and adapt (remix, transform, and build upon the material) the article for any purpose, provided they attribute the contribution in the manner specified by the author or licensor.
If the article was prepared jointly with other authors, the signatory of this form warrants that he/she has been authorized by all co-authors to sign this agreement on their behalf, and agrees to inform his/her co-authors of the terms of this agreement.
I hereby declare that in the event of withdrawal of the text from the publishing process or submitting it to another publisher without agreement from the editorial office, I agree to cover all costs incurred by the University of Silesia in connection with my application.