image title

ASU professor recognized for contributions to Indigenous studies

ASU researcher recognized for her work with indigenous studies.
Her father's tales of Indian boarding schools fueled this woman's research.
March 3, 2016

K. Tsianina Lomawaima’s analysis of American Indian sovereignty, boarding schools garners accolades

Stories about your parent’s childhood are usually life lessons hidden as clever anecdotes providing a glimpse into a time past.  However, for K. Tsianina Lomawaima, a professor at Arizona State University’s School of Social TransformationThe School of Social Transformation is an academic unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences., they helped provide the basis for her research in Indigenous studies. 

“My dad and his brother grew up at one of the off-reservation boarding schools run by the federal government,” Lomawaima said. “He told me and my sister some interesting stories from school.”

Those same stories that lead her to research the relationship between the federal government and American Indian sovereignty have also lead to recognition from the American Educational Research Association and the National Education Association for her research. 

K. Tsianina Lomawaima

Her father’s stories about the Chilocco Indian School in Oklahoma piqued her attention about American Indian boarding schools run by the federal government. However, Lomawaima, pictured at left, was frustrated by both a lack of research into what the topic meant and the one-sided nature of most research.

“At the time, most of the research presented the narrative of Natives as victims and I knew there was more to this story,” she said. “Although [my dad] had a very negative experience there, he looked back and said there were some useful things he learned there too.”

Lomawaima confirmed the role Indian boarding schools played in federal policies designed to “erase and replace Indian culture” by training American Indian students to be “better” citizens of the United States. However, she also revealed how American Indians used the schools to create their own intellectual spaces.

Lomawaima used her first investigation into Indian boarding schools to learn more about the political context in which these schools operated. Her subsequent studies about Indian boarding schools have shaped more than the discussion about Native American education, they have also shed more light about the relationship between American Indians, their tribes and the federal government.

“You get a very different view of things looking at the rhetoric of policy, the reality of practice, and how Native Americans experienced it,” Lomawaima said.

Over the past thirty years, Lomawaima’s research focused on the debates surrounding the definition of American citizenship and how public policy shapes that discussion. In particular, she studies how these debates in the early 20th century shaped our view of American Indians as citizens of the United States.

Her work influences many of her colleagues and peers.

While considered a giant in the field of Indigenous studies, Lomawaima continues to support and mentor future generations of scholars. Bryan Brayboy, the ASU President’s Professor of Indigenous Education and Justice and a colleague of Lomawaima’s in the School of Social Transformation, describes Lomawaima as a mentor who has helped shape his own intellectual growth.

“She helped show me, as an emerging scholar, how to engage with the academic community through her example of rigor and integrity,” said Brayboy. “As a senior researcher, I continue to rely on her for advice and guidance.”

Lomawaima’s contributions to American Indian scholarship, in addition to drawing respect from her colleagues, are drawing recognition from communities of scholars too. This year, she was appointed as a Fellow of the American Educational Research Association. She also became, with Henrietta Mann, one of the two first American Indians elected to the National Academy of Education.

The recognition is nice, but as an Indigenous historian Lomawaima wants to continue her research about how public policy shapes our conception of American citizenship and how people experience these notions of citizenship. For her, this research extends beyond Indigenous peoples.   


Top photo: American Indian girls pray beside their beds at the Phoenix Indian School in 1900. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Media relations specialist, Media Relations and Strategic Communications


image title

Future of the Colorado River Basin

Do you believe water is a finite resource?
Forecasting the future of Arizona's water needs.
March 3, 2016

Experts share the good, the bad and the hopeful at panel hosted by ASU's Decision Center for a Desert City

The Colorado River provides water for nearly 40 million people in seven western states, irrigating millions of acres of farmland, and generating thousands of megawatts of electricity.

And though an official declaration of water shortage on the Colorado River has never been declared, and that careful planning has ensured Arizona and Colorado are well-supplied with water, residents need to know it’s a precious resource.

That was the message Thursday as the water chieftains of Arizona and Colorado spoke before a crowd of about 100 at the Water/Climate Briefing Annual Keynote Event held by Arizona State University’s Decision Center for a Desert City.

Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, and his counterpart from Colorado, James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, held a discussion moderated by Wellington “Duke” Reiter, special advisor on urban initiatives to ASU’s Office of the President.

Among the topics: The states of the Colorado River Basin are developing strategies to address water needs but the question remains, can an over-allocated Colorado River Basin achieve water sustainability?

“What California does is curtailment,” Buschatzke said. “What we’ve done since the 1980s is conservation. … We took the slow and steady path. But they’re in a crisis. … Our goal is for that not to happen (in other states).”

Colorado’s population is projected to go from current 5.3 million residents to 10 million between 2050 and 2060. To prepare for that increase, the state came up with a flexible water plan last year with measurable objectives, guided by local users, Eklund said.

“We have more interest, more data, and more planning tools than we’ve ever had,” he said.

Arizona’s conservation policies have left the state with water security, Buschatzke said. When he is asked by California water managers why Arizona doesn’t have mandatory curtailment policies, Buschatzke tells them, “We don’t have to.”

Cooperation between basin states is critical, Eklund said. “We have to work together on these compacts, because if we go it alone there are no winners,” he said.

Water managers are well aware that the endless legal battles before the 1990s didn’t achieve anything.

“For many years the way the river worked was litigation,” Buschatzke said.

People at a conference.

Arizona Department of Water Resources director Tom Buschatzke (center) speaks with Colorado Water Conservation Board director James Eklund (right) and moderator Wellington "Duke" Reiter, special adviser on urban initiatives for ASU, during the DCDC Annual Keynote: "A Conversation about Solutions for Water Sustainability in the Colorado River Basin," on Thursday, March 3.
Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now


Water managers have dumped historical data sets used to predict rainfall and snowpack because they’re not representative of what’s happening now. Arizona’s Department of Water Resources uses rainfall records going back to 1988 — what Buschatzke called a stress test period — plus models that incorporate climate change.

Predicting future water supplies is difficult in Colorado, Eklund said. Between climate change and a vacillating snowpack, “it’s a constantly changing thing that you can’t use to predict the future,” Eklund said.

Colorado residents have sat up and paid attention, Eklund said. If it rains, municipal water suppliers notice a significant drop in use because customers didn’t water their lawns. “There’s a really reactive ratepayer base,” he said.

In Arizona, municipalities are banking water underground. “There is some resiliency there in having water in the ground,” Buschatzke said.

Still, there is some concern that not enough people are aware water is such a precious resource.

“We have a long way to go on market penetration on that issue,” Eklund said. The Colorado native talked about arguments with his wife — a Bostonian — on whether to have a lawn or not. “We have a real disconnect between what people understand about the resource and reality,” he said.

“I agree with James,” Buschatzke said. “They just don’t understand where their water comes from.”

Sustainability and benefits can take different forms, Eklund said. He talked about how Coloradans go to Las Vegas and are horrified by the apparent waste of the Bellagio fountains. Attracting tourists is Nevada’s lifeblood, he said.

“That provides more economic benefit to the people of Nevada than growing a field of alfalfa.”


Top photo by Petr Kovar/