November 17, 2023 — In a news release issued Monday, the Native American Rights Fund and the Walton Family Foundation announced the creation of the Tribal Water Institute. It will provide Tribal Nations resources and training to advocate for their water rights and develop water policy solutions. The Walton Family Foundation is making a three-year, $1.4 million commitment to launch the Institute. It will be housed within the Native American Rights Fund.
“Addressing the West’s significant water challenges requires an all-hands on deck approach. Tribal Nations must be included in water decision making,” said Moira Mcdonald, Environment Program Director of the Walton Family Foundation. “Tribal Nations often have the most senior water rights in the Colorado River Basin and throughout the West. But they are under-represented in federal and state policy discussions. That is unjust and unwise. We need to listen to their voices. More inclusive decision-making will lead to greater benefits for the environment and society as a whole.”
The Native American Rights Fund has a long history of representing Tribal Nations on water rights. The Tribal Water Institute will double their water staffing. They will be able to take on more casework. It will also build a pipeline of new leaders and develop research and forward-thinking policy proposals.
“As the nation’s largest and oldest non-profit dedicated to advancing the rights of Native Americans, the Native American Rights Fund has been at the forefront of key legal battles across Indian Country,” said Native American Rights Fund Staff Attorney David Gover. “The Tribal Water Institute helps fill a critical gap. It will provide legal support, train water attorneys, develop policy ideas, and educate state and federal decision makers. By increasing law and policy expertise within Tribal Nations, we can help Indian Country ensure water is available for generations to come.”
Learn more about the Tribal Water Institute at https://narf.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/narf-tribal-water-institute.pdf. The Tribal Water Institute has outlined several key focus areas, noting that:
Tribal Nations are underrepresented in management discussions, and federal and state policy proposals consistently ignore tribal needs and limitations. However, many Tribal Nations do not have the capacity to develop and bring forward water proposals. Instead, they are placed in a reactionary position, which is to the disadvantage of their sovereign interests.
To meet this moment, NARF is excited to announce that it is creating the Tribal Water Institute (TWI). The Tribal Water Institute will be a first-of-its kind project that builds on NARF’s expertise, expansive network of allies, and emphasis on coalition building. With strategic actions based on years of experience, it will help address the shortage of Water Law expertise across Indian Country, bolster educational efforts, and provide thoughtful leadership in advocating for tribal water rights.
IMAGE AND ARTICLE SOURCE: Walton Family Foundation via CISION PR Newswire.