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River Rally 2005

by Jolene Catron

Did You Know?
• The Shoshone & Arapaho Tribes hold over 500,000 acre feet of Federally reserved water rights.
• In 1990 the Tribes dedicated some of their “futures water” for instream flow to protect the Wind River, a right which the Wyoming Supreme Court then overturned in 1992.
• Wyoming allows Wind River water to be used twice. The State declares the Tribes' futures water “surplus” to the Tribes needs, and allows it to be diverted for irrigation, even though it has been proven that the extra water is not actually needed for sustainable crops. As a result, the Wind River is drained dry.

In May, a delegation from Wind River Alliance attended the River Network’s national River Rally in Colorado. This national gathering in river country attracted over 500 participants from 48 states for four days of networking and learning. Wind River Alliance had a large presence and played a key role in this year’s River Rally. WRA staff and Governing Council members were queried by many other Tribal representatives about how to start and successfully operate a non-profit organization. “We talked with many Tribal people who see the critical role a non-profit organization can play on a Reservation. There is great interest in starting other groups modeled after WRA,” said Governing Council member Richard Baldes.

WRA Governing Council member Jolene Catron worked to bring the highest number of Tribal representatives ever to the 10th annual River Rally. Catron helped organize a full day Tribal Caucus the day before the main conference began. Fiftyfive Tribal representatives participated. The morning was filled with introductions and descriptions of ongoing work on water issues confronting Tribes. Over lunch, people continued conversations about their work. “It was very exciting to see the networking among Tribal people from across North America—that why we set aside an entire day for the Tribal Caucus”, said Catron.

Later in the afternoon, the group focused on the need to capture the energy and information exchange of the caucus for the future. A plan to form a national network —the Indigenous Waters Network — was devised. The idea of the Indigenous Waters Network (IWN) was embraced by the River Network, which is acting a sponsor for the new group. A Steering Committee was created to guide the new organization. Wind River Alliance Governing Council members Jolene Catron, Wes Martel and Jason Baldes are on the Steering Committee, along with representatives from the Taos Pueblo, Navajo Nation, Columbia River and Yukon River tribes.

IWN will play an important role in this time of funding cuts to Tribes. IWN will help expand Tribal capacity to protect their waters by serving as a clearinghouse for ideas, information and advice. IWN is a grassroots coalition, promoting networking of Tribal professionals, nonprofits, and citizens to provide training, share resources, providing granting opportunities. A listserve and webpage are in the process of being developed. “It’s an idea whose time has come”, said Catron.

For more information on IWN contact Jolene Catron at ouia@yahoo.com