Keepers of
the River

“The Colorado River is sacred, water is life, the peoples are the keepers of the River, and we take full responsibility to care for the River.” So begins the vision of Tribes that live and rely on the Colorado River and have united to protect its cultural and ecological resources.

The Ten Tribes

The Ten Tribes Partnership is a coalition of Upper and Lower Basin Tribes that have come together to claim their seat at the table and raise their voices in the management of the Colorado River as water challenges persist. Formed in 1992, the goal of the Ten Tribes Partnership is to increase the influence of tribes in Colorado River management and provide support for the protection and use of tribal water resources.

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Water is Life

Since time immemorial Native Americans have had historical and cultural connections to water. For Tribes, water is life – It not only sustains them, supports agriculture and farming, native wildlife and riparian plants, food and sustenance, but is sacred to Tribal people.

The Colorado River is the primary source of water for 40 million people and 90 percent of the nation’s vegetable production, and yet we are using more water than the natural flow provides.

“Water is life. Water is the giver and sustainer of life. Water is a sacred and spiritual element to the Tribes of the Partnership…. The Partnership will embrace and own the stewardship of the Colorado River and lead from a spiritual mandate to ensure that this sacred water will always be protected, available and sufficient.” – Ten Tribes Partnership Vision Statement

Tribes of the Colorado River Basin


The Upper Basin states, including Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, collectively contribute the vast majority of water coming into the Colorado River Basin. The Upper Basin is reliant on seasonal precipitation like winter snowpack and spring water runoff. But water supply in the Colorado River is strained due to the impacts of climate change, persistent drought and population growth.

The Lower Colorado River Basin is critical to the future of agriculture in the region and provides water for 24 Tribal nations, five of which are members of the Ten Tribes Partnership. Member Tribes that reside in the Lower Basin include the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, Colorado River Indian Tribes, Chemehuevi Indian Tribes, Quechan Indian Tribes and Cocopah Indian Tribes.

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Photo: Over the Canyon

Cocopah Indian TribeChemehuevi Indian TribeFort Mojave Indian TribeColorado River Indian TribesJicarilla Apache NationNavajo NationFort Yuma Quechan Indian TribeSouthern Ute Indian TribeUte Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray ReservationUte Mountain Ute Tribe


Colorado River Basin Ten Tribes Partnership Tribal Water Study

Drought has been a common occurrence on the Reservation throughout history, and the future impacts of climate change present concerns for the future livelihood and health of the region. Tribal lands suffer during frequent drought cycles that reduce available water supplies, especially since tribal water storage has not been developed.


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Plants and Animals of the Basin

Latest News

Colorado River tribes seek approval from Congress to put water on the market in Arizona

On the Arizona-California border, where the Colorado River pushes against Headgate Rock Dam, churning water pours into a wide canal and runs across the desert, flowing toward the farmlands of the Colorado River Indian Tribes.

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What happens if some of the most secure water in Arizona comes up for grabs?

Opinion: What’s the reaction to the prospect of leasing the Colorado River Indian Tribes’ water in Arizona? Publicly, it may be crickets. But privately, many have thoughts.

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Historically Left Out, Colorado River Tribes Call For More Sway In Western Water Talks

Earlier this year, Arizona — one of seven southwestern states that rely on the Colorado River — was in the midst of a heated discussion about water. “It’s time to protect Lake Mead and Arizona,” the state’s Republican governor, Doug Ducey, said in his state of the state address...

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Arizona tribes’ role in drought negotiations marks turning point for inclusion, experts say

Sprouting through the cracked floor of the Sonoran Desert, tepary beans thrive in the dry heat and carry with it centuries of resilience from the indigenous Pima people of southern Arizona.

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