JoRee LaFrance

Graduate Student, PhD


Karletta Chief, PhD


Environmental Sciences


Contaminant behavior in the Indige-FEWSS nexus: A case study of food-energy-water interactions in the Little Bighorn River watershed, Crow Reservation, Southeastern MT, USA.

In addressing interrelated issues like soil and water contamination, food and water security, and policy in Indigenous communities, it is important to consider the Indigenous food, energy, water security and sovereignty (Indige-FEWSS) nexus. The aim of this research is to present a case study addressing fate and transport of metal(loid)s, pesticide and/or nutrient contaminants in the Little Bighorn River (LBHR) watershed on the Crow reservation in southeastern Montana, where mining, agriculture, and water treatment processes coexist. The project will address concerns by directly measuring how contaminant concentrations and their various forms differ seasonally with river discharge to evaluate potential long-term health risks (as a result of these contaminants) to the Apsáalooke people, cultural livelihood, and traditional practices. Mining activities contribute to energy production on and off the reservation and fulfill the energy section of the nexus. A previous study (Eggers et al., 2015) showed that private home wells and river water samples were elevated in inorganic contaminants such as uranium, manganese, and arsenic. However, it is still unclear whether the contaminants are deriving from mining activities associated with the energy industry, intense agricultural practices, or natural bedrock weathering. LBHR surface water is transported to land application through the Crow Irrigation Project (CIP), a series of canals that serves as the foundation of the Indige-FEWSS nexus since 1904. The CIP could likely result in accumulation of river derived metal(loid)s in agricultural products and transport to the river of pesticides as well as fertilizer constituents. This case study seeks to gain a comprehensive look at contaminant fate and transport in the LBHR watershed and determine the magnitude of impact on the Indige-FEWSS nexus that supports Apsáalooke people.