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Wind River Alliance - Greetings

My name is Jolene Catron and I am the Executive Director for Wind River Alliance. I apologize at not introducing myself to you sooner—I have been spending the past several months getting acquainted with the Wind River Alliance programs and history, and reintroducing myself to the Wind River watershed’s community members and leaders. I am originally from New Mexico, and am an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. I moved to the Wind River Reservation in 1997, and lived in Arapahoe. After a few years, my daughter, Anjalene, and I relocated to Lander, and we have built a life there, which includes my partner, Clarence and our 3-year-old son. In the past, I have worked as a water rights specialist with the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Office of the Tribal Water Engineer, as a team member of the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Water Research Technical Assistance Office, and am a founding member of two organizations, the Wind River Alliance and the newly formed Indigenous Waters Network.

The Governing Council of Wind River Alliance has a vision of a healthy watershed. What does that mean? John Wesley Powell, scientist geographer said that a watershed is “that area of land, a bounded hydrologic system, within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water course and where, as humans settled, simple logic demanded that they become part of a community.” Basically, a watershed is an area of land and ALL its communities, as defined by geography not political boundaries, which drains water into a common place. The Wind River Indian Reservation and the surrounding communities are part of the greater Wind River watershed, in that all its water drains into the Big Wind River.

Why is Wind River Alliance advocating for a healthy watershed? Simply put, a community is only as healthy as its water. Water is our first medicine. Depending on your age, water makes up about 70 percent of the human body. Water is life. Take a look around your community and compare it to your water (drinking water included). What do you see? Are your waterways filled with trash? Are your neighborhoods filled with trash? Do the water levels drop so severely in the summer that the water is unfit to swim in due to high bacterial levels? Do you have to buy your drinking water? How does your community reflect the health of your water? How well do we share water? These are all issues of which Wind River Alliance is concerned.

I am honored to have taken over the helm of Wind River Alliance. I was fortunate to be a part of a core group of people who met in December 2000 and visioned a future for Wind River Alliance. In the beginning our focus was and has always been to involve youth in the work we do. I have been busy ensuring that I steer WRA in this direction. For the past 4 years, Wind River Alliance has been involved in a week-long youth leadership camp every summer that focuses on water resources. With the leadership from members of the Young Warriors Society, we have taken youth from the Reservation and camped in teepees in various areas around the Reservation. The camp incorporates tradition and cultural history to enrich the students’ learning and underscore the cultural and scientific interrelationships of water, land, plants, animals, earth and sky. I am looking at ways in which we can expand the focus of the week-long camp to include a year-round outreach to the community, and build alliances within other educational entities that include watershed science as part of their curriculum (this will also ensure a more integrated, well-rounded watershed education for our youth).

This next year brings many challenges to the health of the Wind River watershed and to the Wind River Alliance. We are concerned about the incoming effects of coalbed methane production on reservation and surrounding lands, we are paying attention to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) public participation opportunities in order to provide comments towards actions being taken that affect our natural environment, we are looking at ways in which we can effectively disseminate technical information gathered in the production of an Environmental Protection Agency-funded report, focused on Community Health and Water Data. We are looking at the challenges from global climate change, and drought. Most importantly, we are looking at ways in which Wind River Alliance can promote a healthy Wind River watershed, and by that, assist in restoring health and justice to our communities.

Won’t you consider a monetary donation to the Wind River Alliance? Our organization is a 501(c)3, charitable organization, which means that your donation is tax exempt. The Wind River Alliance is a membership organization (membership is free!); we are funded by generous donations from our membership and grant and foundation support.

Our office is located upstairs in the Wind River Tribal College, in Ethete, Wyoming. My door is always open, so please drop on by for a visit. On behalf of the Governing Council of Wind River Alliance, I thank you for your interest and support in making the Wind River watershed a healthy community.

Jolene M. Catron