Tribal peoples have faced many water related challenges, many of these challenges can be addressed through active involvement between academia and community level support. These challenges include:

(1) Tribal, cultural, and spiritual understandings about water are misunderstood or simply ignored bydominant Western societies;

(2) Native communities have historically been excluded from water policy and planning processes that directly affect Tribal land and people;

(3)  Customary access and rights to water are often challenged by the state authorities surrounding Native areas, and

(4) water bodies that are critical to cultural and physical wellbeing are being diverted or polluted by outside forces.

Uncertainty about the future availability of water raises concerns and contributes to the desire to determine, the extent and scope of water rights held by sovereign Tribal nations. As a testament to this ongoing assertion of rights, during the 1980s there were more settlements, court decisions, legislative actions, and budgetary appropriations related to tribal water issues than in the previous seven decades combined. By any standard, satisfying the sovereign water rights of Tribal nations has become one of the major resource challenges facing the American West. Control over water resources is one of many essential elements for Tribal nations to begin addressing the myriad of social and economic disparities prevalent on most reservations. In addition, water is central to the spiritual and cultural practices of many tribal people (thereby embodying and providing the foundational structure for traditional Tribal lifeways. Without access to adequate water supplies, Indian reservations in the western United States will fail to provide the permanent land base entitled to sovereign tribal nations through treaty negotiations with the US government.

Previously absent from SKC and the other 36 TCU’s STEM related programs were specific Geoscience disciplines focusing on hydrological and water based sciences. In addition there are only a limited number of undergraduate hydrology programs in the Nation. The new Associates and Bachelors of Science Hydrology Degrees at SKC specifically engages those typically under-represented students in related STEM fields. Currently our nation awards only 20-30 bachelor’s degrees per year in the geosciences to Native American students. Only a small fraction of these students are in the field of hydrology or water resources which highlights the geosciences as one of the least-diverse fields in the sciences. This is of particular significance given that Tribal nations and confederacies have sovereignty over approximately 20% of American’s fresh water resources.

A concerted effort in hydrologic and geologic science that integrates teaching, field research, modeling, and instrumentation is needed to address our water resource challenges.  This effort must tackle the fundamentals of sediment transport and river mechanics, surface water and groundwater flow and chemical processes, and snow and ice dynamics all in synergy with traditional Tribal knowledge of the land and environment). Coupling these areas of inquiry with understanding of how the global climate is changing and how it has changed in the past is needed to predict and manage the response of surface water and groundwater resources to both direct and indirect human forcing of the climate system. Scientific advances must also inform management and restoration practices to ensure sustainable water supplies and aquatic ecosystems for future generations. Our vision is to develop graduates who have a deep understanding of both technical and theoretical hydrological sciences while appreciating the dynamics of climate change and anthropogenic effects on the hydrological cycle; with the notion of preparing the graduate to help solve the pressing water and climate problems facing society using both Western and Tribal scientific knowledge and values.