DEQ gets input from Community members about natural resources and the environment
July 6, 2018
Aaron J. Tohtsoni
Gila River Indian News
The Department of Environmental Quality held a public meeting in the Maricopa Colony on June 14 to get input from Community members on how to better manage the Community’s natural resources.
“We want to make sure that the work we do is driven by your values, what your vision is for us as a department,” said Althea Walker, Environmental Education Outreach Specialist.
“We want to know what you want us to do, what you want us to protect, what you want us to restore and what you want us to preserve. Please be open and share with us so we can take it back into our work that we do and make sure it’s the work that you want us to do.”
After an opening talk from Walker and the introduction of the DEQ staff facilitators, groups were formed to start the open discussions regarding cultural values and environment issues and ways that DEQ can address these issues when they work on various projects in the Community.
Some of the issues that concerned Community members was the lack of respect for the environment in the form of illegal dumping across the Community. They also stated that stemming from the illegal dumping is pollution in the air that leads to asthma and bronchitis issues.
Another topic that was discussed by many groups was the topic of natural resources. Community members feel that the Pee Posh wetlands should be open for spiritual healing, a quiet place to walk and a learning place for young children. Community members applauded DEQ for restoring the wetlands and described them as “amazing” but wishes it was more accessible.
They also talked about needing natural resources to keep cultural values alive. There was mention of needing materials for basket weaving and cradleboards. Also, the lack of mesquite and tamarack wood for traditional burials was a concern that was voiced.
It was brought up that in certain districts, Community members are not allowed to cut certain plants that are needed for these traditional uses.
Another major issue that was expressed had to do with water. Community members wanted to see water quality standards increase and have notifications entailing water contamination as soon as possible. The Community also discussed the need to have flood controlling in certain areas of the river.
A major narrative from the night was elders reminiscing about how the area and land used to be in year’s past and the hope that DEQ can bring back that environment to safely raise the next generation of Akimel O’otham and Pee Posh.
DEQ will be holding a second public meeting on July 14 at the Huhugam Heritage Center starting at 8 a.m. for breakfast and the public discussion starting at 9 a.m.