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Open AccessEditor’s ChoiceArticle

Breaching Barriers: The Fight for Indigenous Participation in Water Governance

1
Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University, Campus Box 8008, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA
2
Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond, 410 Westhampton Way, Richmond, VA 23173, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Water 2020, 12(8), 2113; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12082113
Received: 30 May 2020 / Revised: 16 July 2020 / Accepted: 22 July 2020 / Published: 25 July 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Transboundary Water Governance: New Sights and Developments)
Indigenous peoples worldwide face barriers to participation in water governance, which includes planning and permitting of infrastructure that may affect water in their territories. In the United States, the extent to which Indigenous voices are heard—let alone incorporated into decision-making—depends heavily on whether or not Native nations are recognized by the federal government. In the southeastern United States, non-federally recognized Indigenous peoples continue to occupy their homelands along rivers, floodplains, and wetlands. These peoples, and the Tribal governments that represent them, rarely enter environmental decision-making spaces as sovereign nations and experts in their own right. Nevertheless, plans to construct the Atlantic Coast Pipeline prompted non-federally recognized Tribes to demand treatment as Tribal nations during permitting. Actions by the Tribes, which are recognized by the state of North Carolina, expose barriers to participation in environmental governance faced by Indigenous peoples throughout the United States, and particularly daunting challenges faced by state-recognized Tribes. After reviewing the legal and political landscapes that Native nations in the United States must navigate, we present a case study focused on Atlantic Coast Pipeline planning and permitting. We deliberately center Native voices and perspectives, often overlooked in non-Indigenous narratives, to emphasize Indigenous actions and illuminate participatory barriers. Although the Atlantic Coast Pipeline was cancelled in 2020, the case study reveals four enduring barriers to Tribal participation: adherence to minimum standards, power asymmetries, procedural narrowing, and “color-blind” planning. We conclude by highlighting opportunities for federal and state governments, developers, and Indigenous peoples to breach these barriers. View Full-Text
Keywords: tribal recognition; Indigenous rights; environmental justice; clean water act; wetlands; Lumbee; Haliwa-Saponi; Coharie; Meherrin; pipelines tribal recognition; Indigenous rights; environmental justice; clean water act; wetlands; Lumbee; Haliwa-Saponi; Coharie; Meherrin; pipelines
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MDPI and ACS Style

Emanuel, R.E.; Wilkins, D.E. Breaching Barriers: The Fight for Indigenous Participation in Water Governance. Water 2020, 12, 2113. https://doi.org/10.3390/w12082113

AMA Style

Emanuel RE, Wilkins DE. Breaching Barriers: The Fight for Indigenous Participation in Water Governance. Water. 2020; 12(8):2113. https://doi.org/10.3390/w12082113

Chicago/Turabian Style

Emanuel, Ryan E.; Wilkins, David E. 2020. "Breaching Barriers: The Fight for Indigenous Participation in Water Governance" Water 12, no. 8: 2113. https://doi.org/10.3390/w12082113

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