First Advisor

Jeremy Spoon

Date of Publication

Winter 3-20-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Anthropology






Southern Paiute Indians -- Social conditions -- History, Water-supply -- Nevada -- Spring Mountains National Recreation Area -- Management, Water-supply -- Nevada -- Desert National Wildlife Range -- Management, Traditional ecological knowledge, Restoration ecology



Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 129 pages)


In the arid landscapes of the southern Great Basin and northern Mojave Desert, issues surrounding water resource management are often politically contentious. Nuwuvi (Southern Paiute) have known and managed these resources for thousands of years prior to Euro-American arrival in the region. A variety of factors, including federal policies that resulted in the creation of reservations and forced placement in boarding schools, as well as contemporary resource commodification, have influenced Nuwuvi knowledge and practice.

In this thesis, I examined the character of Nuwuvi ethnohydrological knowledge, including management knowledge, of two protected areas: Spring Mountains National Recreation Area (SMNRA), managed by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Desert National Wildlife Refuge (DNWR), managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). In addition, I investigated perceptions of water health and restoration among participants from the two managing agencies and six Nuwuvi Nations. I addressed these topics using the theoretical framework of political ecology and a methodology that included semi-structured interviews and demographic questionnaires with 16 Nuwuvi knowledge holders and four federal agency participants. I conducted text analysis of partial interview transcripts using the inductive coding method in order to identify recurring themes and concepts related to hydrology, management, and restoration.

My results illustrated that Nuwuvi ethnohydrological knowledge, which developed incrementally over time, conceptualized water as a sentient being that required human interaction to remain healthy. There was also evidence that Nuwuvi knowledge of water was changing as a result of political, economic, and social forces. Furthermore, these findings suggest that Nuwuvi and agency approaches to hydrological management and restoration were built upon differing epistemologies, though there was convergence among specific management and restoration techniques. Based on these results, a report of findings from the Nuwuvi Knowledge-to-Action project, including recommendations for collaborative stewardship approaches, was delivered to participants in August 2013.


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