Evelyn Pickering was awarded the Marshall Foundation Dissertation Fellowship in December, and presented her work to the Graduate College and the Marshall Foundation, along with four other recipients, on April 2. In March, Evelyn was also awarded an individual research grant from the Ruth Landes Memorial Research Fund. Both of these awards were granted to support her doctoral dissertation (title: “Reaching Environmental Sovereignty through Cultural Resilience: The Blackfeet Water Compact”).
Abstract: Although water rights have dominated a century of legal, environmental, economic, and political discourse on Native American dispossession, cultural relationships with water are far older. This dissertation research will analyze the Blackfeet Water Compact and its immediate effects on the Blackfeet Tribe through the socio-historical lens of water dispossession; individual and community solutions to conflicts generated by colonization from the perspective of cultural resilience; and the potential for promoting cultural revitalization and environmental sovereignty. This research will investigate the correlation between cultural resilience, water repatriation, and environmental sovereignty. For the Blackfeet, water is a cultural resource that is central to the group's identity and cosmology as it sustains notions of being in the world, forms of knowledge acquisition and transfer, and social ordering schemes. A century of water development on the Blackfeet Reservation created physical and spiritual barriers to traditional water use and veneration, shifting the materiality of water from natural bodies of water to dams and irrigation canals. The research will apply concepts from Indigenous philosophy, cultural resilience theory, historical trauma theory, decolonization theory, and Indian water rights law to fully assess the impact of government-mandated resource extraction on Blackfeet water rights and cultural reproduction. Research outcomes will contribute a new understanding of the interplay between environmental sovereignty and cultural resilience among the Blackfeet and Indigenous communities worldwide. This project constitutes a unique opportunity to work with Blackfeet tribal leaders and water users to reach the community through education and to determine community concerns and needs for infrastructure and other projects. While the central themes of this project have current theoretical relevance, they also represent actual challenges that Native Americans have faced since the establishment of Indian reservations. The Blackfeet Tribe appreciates and supports this research because it emphasizes the cultural and philosophical significance of water to the Blackfoot. (Anthro News Digest date: 4/12/2019)