Tribes fight for water, funding

Darlene Aviso has been delivering drinking water to residents in the Navajo Nation for nine years. Every morning she fills her truck with well water from Bonaventure Indian Mission and School./Maria Esquinca/News21

Mines, pollutants imperil supplies

By Lauren Kaljur and Macee Behler | News21

ROW AGENCY, Mont. — When John Doyle first noticed signs of trouble in the Little Bighorn River, he was still a young member of the Apsaalooke Nation in southeastern Montana. Stagnant water would pool in some areas, filling with algae. It wouldn’t freeze, even in the cold of winter. Later, catfish would turn up with quarter- size white sores. Doyle knew something had gone seriously wrong with the river — from which tribal members would drink, swim and practice religious ceremonies.

He took his observations to officials from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. After several months, he went to them again. And again. Looking back, Doyle, now 68, recognizes he was naive to think the government would take quick action. The tribe’s wastewater was leaching into the river. He now understands that the tests, studies and maze of bureaucratic hurdles to address such water issues take time and money. Three decades later, Doyle managed to raise enough funds to move and replace the sewage pond and safely separate the sewage pipes from clean-water lines, which had been placed side by side. The river still teems, however, with virulent strains of E. coli and nitrates.

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