top of page

 Indigenous Water Sovereignty


During 2018 and 2019, Water-Culture Institute is documenting how Indigenous communities are confronting threats to their water sovereignty.  The study focuses on four major types of water threats: (a) dams, (b) mines, (c) oil/gas, and (d) water grabs; and a wide variety of "water sovereignty strategies ranging from art activism to legal challenges, education, invoking international conventions on biodiversity, and many more.

Along with analyzing water threats and opportunities, we will also assess the organizations active in supporting Indigenous water sovereignty, ranging from UN agencies to research institutes to NGOs and national agencies.

Why Is this Study Needed?

In spite of stronger rights declarations (e.g., UNDRIP), a new era of mega dams, mines and conventional energy development are threatening the rivers, lakes, aquifers and coastal resources that Indigenous communities depend upon.  There is a need to take stock of how destructive projects can be modified or stopped.

The lessons will be found both within Indigenous experience but also within the international water policy norms that continue to justify environmental and cultural injustice as an inevitable price of progress.  This study aims to clarify and strengthen norms of biocultural rights and water sovereignty, and help ensure that UNDRIP provisions are respected in real-world water policies.

Project Outputs

The project will produce two reports on Indigenous Water Justice: (1) a Global report providing an overview of issues, organizations, and cases, and analysis of tools and strategies for reclaiming Indigenous water sovereignty, and (2) a regional report for the Southwestern United States  on efforts to protect Indigenous waters within this region. Through the process of gathering information and consulting with Indigenous water experts, we aim to strengthen the global network of Indigenous water activists and organizations.   

Who's Doing the Study?

This project is conducted by Darlene Sanderson (Cree/Russian) and Mona Polacca (Havasupai/Hopi-Tewa), co-chairs of Indigenous World Forum on Water and Peace, and David Groenfeldt, Director of Water-Culture Institute.  Financial support is  generously provided by the Christensen Fund.

bottom of page