Members of Native American tribal communities from the Western United States convened Oct. 23 and 24 to discuss water usage, climate change, agriculture and tribal food sovereignty. This was Native Waters on Arid Lands project’s fifth annual Tribal Summit, held at the Atlantis Casino Resort.
Native Waters on Arid Lands is a five-year project partnering tribal communities with university extensions and researchers to support education, policies and shared experiences.
Trent Teegerstrom, the Associate Director of Tribal Extension Programs at the University of Arizona, said, “The Tribal Summit is a chance to connect tribes in the western states. This is an opportunity to bring their expertise and experience in agriculture to help support each other going into the future.
“Adding in the various university extensions to assist in that process as well as provide climate data adds to the goal of successful agricultural self-reliance.”
Educators, researchers and tribal leaders led discussions and lessons discussing the problems and successes they have had. Some of the issues discussed were access to quality water on reservations, shared oral histories on past climate events to help predict the future, other tools for accessing climate data, crop choices for drought conditions, solar education and soil/water testing.
One of the working sessions held at the summit focused on the potential for hemp production on reservations which is relevant since the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill that federally legalized hemp production.
“I am attending today with six others from my tribe to hear what the Summit has to offer about food sovereignty and how we can be more self-reliant,” said Philip Sky Johnson, a member of the Land and Water Committee with the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe.
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Food sovereignty was one of the themes of the second day of the Summit, with hands-on lessons about solar energy and water testing. Attendees and speakers discussed their experience with hoop houses to grow food not usually found on the reservations. Several conversations were held discussing what crops grow best in each climate.
There was an emphasis on success for the next generation’s self-reliance, education and available tools to combat the changing climate.
“Before every summit, we hold a youth day engaging students from Pyramid Lake High School. We held a career panel this year for students thinking about college with the tribal college faculty, extension educators and other environmental professionals,” said Education Program Manager at the Desert Research Institute, Meghan Collins. “Students were able to ask questions about their daily lives, their goals or achievements and what they love about their job. It was an impactful way to have an authentic conversation between students and people that work for the environment.”
For more information on Native Waters on Arid Lands, visit: http://nativewaters-aridlands.com