2002 Denver Annual Meeting (October 27-30, 2002)

Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 4:30 PM


RIGGS, Eric M., Department of Geological Sciences and CRMSE, San Diego State Univ, 5500 Campanile Dr, San Diego, CA 92182-1020, eriggs@geology.sdsu.edu

The Earth sciences play a key role in developing equity and stability in nations around the globe, but the geosciences are also instrumental in the economic and social affairs of dependent nations within the borders of the United States, namely Native American Indian reservations. Even though the U.S. Supreme Court decisions during the years 1828-32 initially defined reservations as “domestic dependent nations” and protected the right of Native American reservation communities to act, in principle, as sovereign nations within U.S. borders, the extent of the sovereign power of tribal governments and their relationship with governmental entities at all levels has remained ill defined and legally problematic. These legal complexities are relevant to Earth scientists because of the wide range of geoscience-related activities that commonly occur on tribal land, such as water resource development, environmental protection, mining, etc. Reservations commonly also share the economic development problems (lack of capital, lack of scientific expertise and education) associated with developing countries worldwide. These problems are intertwined with locally-specific issues of cooperation, negotiation, and occasional conflict with surrounding mainstream communities and governing agencies.

The Indigenous Earth Sciences Project at San Diego State University has begun an ongoing series of geology and environmental science workshops in cooperation with local tribes in San Diego county, helping tribes gain an even scientific footing with their neighboring government or quasi-public entities. Tribes in this region are most concerned with water supply and water quality protection and some are working to acquire the in-house geoscientific expertise required to prevent any further erosion of their hold on water rights. Other tribal land use and development decisions also depend heavily on available in-house geoscientific expertise. These issues based in geoscience quickly evolve into larger issues of scientific equity, intellectual independence and sovereignty, and the ethics and legalities of data ownership and access. We will present results from this and related projects, as well as discuss the general issues related to the geosciences and the development of reservation-based scientific infrastructure.