I have been playing catch up all weekend since I went on a short travel for work last week. I attended a workshop at the Colorado River Indian Tribes Reservation in Parker, Arizona with my boss. The purpose of the workshop was to showcase the Ahakhav Preserve at CRIT. From their website:
The 'Ahakhav Tribal Preserve was established in 1995 and currently consists of 1,253 acres of wilderness area and a 3.5 acre park. The preserve is centered around a reconstructed Colorado River backwater, which offers a variety of activities including fishing, canoeing, birding, and swimming. The preserve also maintains a 4.6 mile fitness trail as well as playground and picnic facilities located in the park. The preserve serves many purposes. One is to provide recreational and learning opportunities to the surrounding community as well as visitors. The other is to serve as a revegetation area for endangered and threatened plants and animals native to the Lower Colorado River Basin. The Lower Colorado is an area that faces many problems, from damming that causes changes in natural stream flow, to a variety of invasive species. The preserve is an ongoing project to study methods of revegetation and restoration that may be used though out the area.
The CRIT reservation community includes four distinct Tribes - the Mohave, Chemehuevi, Hopi and Navajo. There are currently about 3,500 active Tribal members. They have a substantial water right to the Colorado River and they have the first priority.
The beginning part of the workshop was held at the Blue Water Casino/Resort where they had tribal members and an elder talk about the vision and purpose of the preserve. They shared that the tribal elders got together and expressed concern to the tribal council because mesquite trees were becoming harder and harder to find. They described the mesquite tree as the tree of their life. As babies they use the root of the tree to make the structural part of the craddle board. Throughout their life it provides food from the beans which are ground into a flour, it's super sweet and yummy, and provides warmth as they burn the wood in their fireplaces. Then at the end of life they practice open air cremation and the ceremonial wood that is used is the mesquite tree. Because of climate change and invasive species encroachement the mesquite trees have been dwindling.
In the afternoon we went to the preserve and had lunch followed by a tour where we rode on a haywagon pulled by a John Deere tractor. It was great fun and the weather down there was awesome, well over 70. They have completed 9 sections of the preserve and have had great success in establishing all kinds of native trees including the mesquite, willow, cottonwood and others. They have started the plowing and leveling process for their 10th parcel.