Tribal officials: Colorado River talks ‘nowhere near sufficient’

By Jennifer Yachnin | 06/12/2024 01:16 PM EDT

Leaders praised the Biden administration for making strides toward inclusion but lamented they still lack parity with states.

Delanna Mart stands on a dock at a lake on Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation.

Delanna Mart stands on a dock at a lake on Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation on July 25, 2022, in Fort Duchesne, Utah. Rick Bowmer/AP

BOULDER, Colorado — Native American tribal leaders with a stake in the Colorado River Basin have regular meetings with top Interior Department officials, can claim progress toward major water rights settlements, and often appear on panels at key conferences with federal and state leaders.

It’s a significant improvement compared to decades of exclusion of Indigenous people on decisions over the 1,450-mile-long river that supports 40 million people across seven states.

But it’s also not enough, according to officials from some of those tribes — who argue their role still falls short of equal footing with states.


“The reality is that the level of engagement, from my perspective, is nowhere near sufficient given that our water, our livelihoods, our people’s future is at stake,” said Dwight Lomayesva, vice chairman of the Colorado River Indian Tribes, a federally recognized tribe of about 4,300 members whose reservation includes land on both sides of the Colorado River between California and Arizona, and includes members who are Mohave, Chemehuevi, Hopi and Navajo.