Water Returns to the Pima

Water Returns to the Pima

After the largest tribal water settlement in U.S. history, some Pima are encouraging a return to traditional farming and foods for better health.

For centuries, the Pima Indians of Arizona relied on water from the Gila River for the livelihood of their traditional farming community. But during the late 1800s water was diverted to other parts of the state, and by the early 1900s their fields were dry, devastating the tribe. Poverty, obesity and diabetes became chronic problems. Currently, more than 50 percent of the adult population has diabetes.

Now, after many years of litigation, the tribe is getting some of its water back and some members are hoping to revive the farming culture that once fed and kept this community healthy. In 2004, the Pima won a large water-rights settlement (the largest tribal water settlement in U.S. history). Canals are being dug and tribal members are teaching others how to grow traditional crops. This is a moving New York Times video account of a community working to improve the well-being of its members.

Length: 4:35

Producers: Patrick Farrell and Randal C. Archibold

Photography: Monica Almeida