‘It’s the bloodline for the reservation’: Tribal scientists work to connect Crow Nation to clean water

Crow water
Crow water

Emery Three Irons at his family home along the Little Bighorn River. Working with other tribal members and scientists, Three Irons wants to track the exact sources of pollution in the river over the coming year. Emery Three Irons, a Crow tribal member, stood in tall, lush grass one day in late May, contemplating a cream-colored house. After 20 minutes of reflection, he approached two 5-year-olds standing on the front steps, eating popsicles and playing with a puppy. “Is your grandpa awake?” he asked them, his soft voice barely rising above the thrum of the nearby interstate. “Go ask him, Ivan,” the girl said to the boy. “No, you go ask him,” the boy responded, before they both disappeared into the house.

Three Irons followed them into the living room to meet with Everette Walks, an Apsáalooke grandfather. Walks’ house is on the Apsáalooke, or Crow, Nation in Montana, not far from the Wyoming border. While the kids played hide-and-seek, Three Irons peered underneath the kitchen sink and surveyed a set of exposed pipes, speaking with Walks in the Apsáalooke language about connecting one of the property’s two wells to a working pump. For three months, Walks, who works nights at the Rosebud Mine at Colstrip, his wife, Kim, and their grandchildren had lived in the house without running water. When Kim broke her arm a few months ago, she had to have surgery. “Not having water makes it harder,” Everette said.

The visit was part of a new project for […]

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