Reconstructing a Livelihood: The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and its Landmark Water Rights Settlement

Thursday, January 7, 2010: 3:00 PM
Del Mar Room (Marriott)
Philip Cody Marshall , Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Located in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community reservation covers approximately 56,000 acres, and is bordered by the suburbs of Scottsdale, Mesa, and Tempe.  Non-Indian settlement in the Salt River Valley began in the mid-nineteenth century, and quickly led to the siphoning off of the limited water supply the Pima-Maricopa relied upon for millennia.  Central to their livelihood, the loss of their water rights to non-Indian neighbors relegated the Pima-Maricopa to poverty and second-class citizenship for the majority of the twentieth-century.

This paper will focus on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRP-MIC) and the complex process of regaining their water rights. More specifically, the paper will cover the issues after the water rights settlement in 1987, and the process of the federal, state, and tribal governments working together in order to transport the allotted water to the reservation.  The design of the per annum water agreement led to water coming from several different sources (i.e. Central Arizona Project, Salt River Project, and the City of Phoenix), which meant the construction of a new water delivery infrastructure (i.e. canals, irrigation channels).  The paper will demonstrate that years of negotiations between the SRP-MIC, federal, and state governments led to an influential water settlement that set an example for future water settlement negotiations with other Indian communities and state governments.

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