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USGS Navajo Land Use Planning Project (NLUPP)

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Utilizing traditional knowledge and the Native perspective:

Building relationships through outreach and collaborative science research:
  • Increases our ability to understand changing environmental conditions
  • Promotes scientific inquiry within Native Communities
  • Influences strategies and methods of scientific inquiry

Children next to a hand pump water well Castle Butte Spring near Dilkon, Arizona. Children living nearby helped us with our water analyses.
A history of land use and its relation to climate is necessary input for modeling, interpreting, and explaining the landscape changes that are the focus of our work. Research on historical accounts by early Spanish explorers and Indian Service (BIA) annual reports, combined with Navajo oral history, provides descriptions of past landscapes and vegetation, and to record knowledge of extreme events for comparison with the climatic record. Traditional people on the Navajo Nation live a subsistence lifestyle that is closely tied to, and dependent upon landscape conditions. Native traditional knowledge, an integral part of this lifestyle, is a compilation of information based on teachings and experiences of living within a specific ecosystem that is passed on from generation to generation. It is knowledge of the environment that includes seasonal changes in weather, the relations of different parts of the ecosystem and the resources they offer. This knowledge has been critical for efficient and successful hunting, gathering and planting. Oral accounts include descriptions of events, activities, and relationships that tie people to particular places at particular times. Very specific accounts are rich in the details of places, plants, animals and events, which serve as valuable climate markers for calibration with other direct and proxy records. The oral accounts by the Navajo people will provide important land use history information, and has aided researchers in focusing on issues relevant to the use of tribal resources.
(image source: Margaret Hiza-Redsteer, USGS Flagstaff, AZ)

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