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WATER RITES AND WATER RIGHTS: CHARACTERIZING CULTURAL VALUES IN WATER PLANNING ACTIVITIES ON THE CHEROKEE RESERVATION, BY THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA AND BY THE UNITED STATES FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

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Abstract

“Water Rites and Water Rights” examines how characteristics of cultural values are expressed and reinforced in water-related activities through a comparison of three case studies: cultural practices on the Cherokee Reservation; water plans of the State of Oklahoma; and Federal water legislation in the United States. Contestations over the ‘appropriate’ use of water are often grounded in differences in the norms of different cultural groups. History has repeatedly shown that water planning at the State and Federal levels neglects to incorporate Indigenous perspectives within water planning practice, resulting in projects that threaten the cultural continuity of Tribal communities for the sake of the “greater good.” This tendency to exclude Indigenous involvement generates a narrative that normalizes American cultural values as the status quo, restricting the possibilities of what water planning in the United States could look like that centers the cultural values that contribute to an Indigenous worldview. Using ethnographic fieldwork and archival research, this dissertation identifies the means, desirables, and conceptions that inform the cultural values present in water-related activities. This analysis reveals that cultural practices on the Cherokee Reservation take on a relational approach between humans and water bodies, prioritizing the health and well-being of both entities to ensure mutual survival. In contrast, State and Federal water planning activities take a technical approach, emphasizing control over water as it passes through the water cycle to meet consumptive and conservation needs. With growing uncertainty about climate and the environment, it is time to center the values of Indigenous peoples as the original stewards of the lands and waters to help address collective water needs and to protect the worldviews of Indigenous peoples.

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196 pages

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2023-08

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Cultural Values; Water Resources Planning

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Tomlan, Michael

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Baugher, Sherene
Minner, Jennifer

Degree Discipline

City and Regional Planning

Degree Name

Ph. D., City and Regional Planning

Degree Level

Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document

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dissertation or thesis

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