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UNESCO Chair in Environmental History

Grand Coulee Dam

UNESCO Chair in Environmental History: Water and Indigenous Peoples 

In 2014, Eastern Washington University partnered with the University of Arizona, host of the UNESCO Chair in Environmental History. UNESCO Chair goals will be two-fold with research-based initiatives and applied activities. In both arenas, the emphasis will be on policy-building that is inclusive and allows all stakeholders a voice. Inherent in policy research and development is the value given to traditional knowledge and lifeways, for example water delivery systems such as qanats or the falaj that have been sustainable. Policy research will draw from a number of disciplines including but not limited to history, political science, Native American Studies, natural resource economics, law, biology, and hydrology.

Research initiatives will raise the visibility of contemporary, global and regional water issues such as trans-boundary water conflicts and the intersection of indigenous water rights with the competing interests of agriculture, industry, and recreation. Through conferences and symposia, these areas of concern will be vetted as the UNESCO Chair and Center for Water and Indigenous Peoples will serve respectively as an "honest broker" and neutral ground for the affected water users.

On another level, however, the Chair and Center will also showcase the work of regional sovereign nations, including the Colville, Kalispel, Nez Perce and Coeur d'Alee tribes. For example, as the Columbia River Treaty between Canada and the United States is renegotiated, the role of the Colville Indians and their interest in securing adequate in-stream flow to maintain a healthy salmon population will be offered as a model for other indigenous peoples. Juxtaposed with regional examples will be those drawn from the international arena, ranging from the Andes to Australia.

Concomitant with this focus will be a curriculum component as the host institution in concert with its partners will develop curriculum that familiarizes students with current issues surrounding water and indigenous peoples. The teaching component will center on the creation of a distance education platform that will offer training in water management/ governance to global network partners.

To see the complete UNESCO proposal, click here.

To see a complete list of partners, click here.

For more information, contact:

Dorothy Zeisler-Vralsted, Professor
Co-Director, UNESCO Project in Water and Indigenous Peoples
Department of Political Science and International Affairs
Eastern Washington University
Cheney, WA

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