Environmental Management

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 262–270 | Cite as

Local Cultural Knowledge and Water Resource Management: The Wind River Indian Reservation

  • Cathleen Flanagan
  • Melinda Laituri


Ecology and culture comprise interacting components of landscapes. Understanding the integrative nature of the landscape is essential to establish methods for sustainable management. This research takes as a unifying theme the idea that ecological and cultural issues can be incorporated through management. As a first step in developing integrative management strategies, information must be collected that compares and contrasts ecological and cultural issues to identify their areas of intersection. Specifically how can local cultural knowledge enable water resource management that reflects cultural and ecological values? This research examines Native American cultural knowledge for setting water resource management priorities in the Wind River Indian Reservation in central Wyoming. A cross-cultural approach is adopted to assess the relationship between indigenous cultural knowledge and Euro-American perspectives through a comparative examination of the Wind River Water Code and Wyoming Water Law. This research indicates that cultural perspectives provide a rich arena in which to examine management issues. Understanding and identifying cultural practices may be an important first step in collaborative resource management between different cultural groups to prevent conflict and lengthy resolution in court.

Local cultural knowledge Water resources Native Americans Watershed management Indigenous knowledge 



Thanks are given to all the Shoshone and Arapaho tribal elders and members who participated in the interview process. A great deal of thanks goes out to Mr. Wes Martel for his assistance in this research project. He coordinated tribal meetings with the tribes, sponsored introductions to tribal government councils and the tribal community, and provided insight into the past and present resource management concerns faced on the Wind River Reservation. Mr. Don Aragon, Coordinator of the Wind River Environmental Quality Council, provided information associated with tribal water and natural resource management programs. Additional thanks are given to Merl Haas, Theresa White, and the Addison family for their hospitality and their invitations to participate in tribal ceremonies. Much appreciation is expressed for the detailed and helpful anonymous reviews of a previous draft of this manuscript.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cathleen Flanagan
    • 1
  • Melinda Laituri
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Earth ResourcesColorado State UniversityUSA

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