Restoring Flood Water Farm Plots in the Eastern Checkerboard of the Navajo Nation: Integrating Ecology, Culture, Community

Date and Time: 
Friday, 13 April, 2012 - 21:20 to 21:40
Conley, Craig - New Mexico Highlands University

Small farm plots growing corn, beans and squash (the three sisters) once dotted the landscape of the Eastern Checkerboard of the Navajo Nation. While an unlikely landscape for farming, these farm plots were part of an agricultural system well adapted to the characteristics of the environment and the culture. Much of this agriculture has disappeared, replaced by sagebrush and gullies. In an effort to revive this agricultural system, three Navajo communities located on the eastern edge of the Navajo Nation are working to restore historic floodwater farm sites and make them productive again. In 2008, an initial survey of the Ojo Encino, Torreon and Counselor chapters identified 38 historic flood water sites. Only a handful of these are still producing crops on an irregular basis. This study examines the ecological and cultural opportunities and challenges of restoring a dryland agricultural system to the landscape and communities of the Eastern Checkerboard.