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406 Karen L. Smith, “The Campaign for Water in Central Arizona, 1890-1903,” p. 130. See also Smith and Shelly C. Dudley, “The Marriage of Law and Public Policy in the Southwest: Salt River Project, Phoenix, Arizona,” Western Legal History (2:2) Winter/Spring 1989.
182 build a storage reservoir on the Salt River. Settlers of the Gila River and Casa Grande Valleys were convinced that the federal obligation to restore water to the Pima would ensure support for their reservoir demands. So pervasive was this belief that even members of Congress believed the first federal reclamation project would be on the Gila River for the benefit of the Pima.407 In the closing years of the nineteenth century, Congress debated the role and extent of federal support for and involvement in financing reclamation projects across the West. While a series of reclamation bills were introduced in Congress, none provided direct federal support to construct storage reservoirs. One became law in 1894 and provided grants of federal land to individual states, which could then sell the land and use the proceeds to finance reclamation projects.408 Territorial Governor Nathan Murphy was a catalyst in grants of land to the states, opposing direct federal involvement, fearing it would impede local control.409 While Congress made grants to the states, it authorized water resource investigations of western lands. The USGS set out to quantify water supplies, identify potential reservoir sites and map areas that could potentially be irrigated. In 1890, hydrologist Frederick Newell arrived in Arizona to review the Salt and Gila River basins.
Within a year, he was looking at a number of reservoir sites along the Gila River. By 1893, he hooked up with Charles Walcott, Director of the USGS, and Arthur Davis, a 407 Report in the Matter of the Investigation of the Salt and Gila Rivers—Reservations and Reclamation Service, House Report 1506, 62nd Congress, 3d Session. 1913. Washington, DC: GPO, pp. 5-7.
408 This was the Carey Act (“An Act Making Appropriations for Sundry Civil Expenses of the Government for the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 1895, and for other Purposes,” 28 Stat. 422) and it amended the Desert Land Act. The Carey Act became law on August 18,
1894. By 1910, over one million acres of federal land had been granted to the states to help fund reclamation projects. More than seven hundred forty thousand acres was in Idaho alone, which benefited the most from the law. See Hays, 1980, p. 9. Arizona, still a territory, did not benefit from the Carey Act. Land was not to be sold in quantities of more than one hundred sixty acres.
409 The Taming of the Salt (Phoenix, Arizona: Communications and Public Affairs Department of the Salt River Project, 1979), p. 59.
183 hydrologic engineer, and began formulating a national irrigation policy. Such policy did not, however, include Indian Country. While the Indian Service encouraged agriculture in Indian Country and within the Pima Reservation, it did little to secure or protect the water necessary for agriculture to succeed.410 In 1895, Congress appropriated $3,500 for the USGS to conduct an irrigation study for the Pima Reservation. Newell assigned Davis to head the study and in his report to Walcott, Davis noted that outside of forcing upstream water users to “turn back into the river an amount of water equal to that formerly employed by the Indians” the only real option to providing water to the Pima was to build a masonry dam at a site on the Gila River capable of storing at least two hundred thousand acre feet of water. This dam could be on Queen Creek, a tributary of the Gila with twenty-seven thousand acre-feet of storage, or at The Buttes, twenty miles above the reservation on the Gila River with 208,000 acre-feet of storage. The latter site would provide twenty thousand acre-feet of water for the Pima and “leave a large surplus to be sold to settlers on Government lands under the canal system,” demonstrating the liberal nature of government policies that continued to support settlement. This is illustrated in Davis’ statement that it was impractical to return the flow of the river to the Pima. “The Government has taken no steps to protect the prior claims of the Indians to the water,” Davis argued, “and, on the other hand, has acquiesced in its diversions to the lands which it has disposed to other parties along the stream.” There were then some seven thousand acres irrigated under the Florence Canal. This land, Davis noted, “would be rendered barren by its being deprived
of water.” Consequently, it would be “the height of injustice” to deprive present landowners of the water.411 At the same time, the New York-based Hudson Reservoir and Canal Company secured a right of way across the reservation to deliver Salt River water to the Casa Grande Valley.412 As part of its right-ofway agreement, the company agreed to deliver water to Pima
and as Davis had predicted, the difficulty in raising the capital needed to build the dam (estimated at three million dollars) was too great and the company abandoned the site.414 A number of territorial and federal officials sought and expected federal support for a dam on the Gila River. While for the benefit of the Pima, such a project would also 411 Arthur P. Davis, Report on the Irrigation Investigation for the Benefit of the Pima and other Indians on the Gila River Indian Reservation, Arizona, (Washington, DC: GPO, 1897), pp. 3-4, 12, 54. Davis calculated one and a half acres per Indian and with four thousand Indians the total was six thousand acres of land. This was multiplied by one and a half acre-feet per acre to arrive at approximately ten thousand acre-feet of water. For future growth, Davis doubled the amount. Arthur P. Davis, “Irrigation near Phoenix, Arizona,” United States Geological Survey, Water Supply and Irrigation Papers, (Washington DC: GPO, 1897), pp. 65-66.
Davis did not think it feasible to deliver water from the Salt River Valley to the Pima Reservation through what he termed a “highline canal.” 412 The Land Act of March 3, 1891 (26 Stat. 1096-97, section 2) had provided the company with the rights to the Box Canyon site at the confluence of the Salt River and Tonto Creek. Hudson proposed to build a dam capable of storing 757,000 acre feet of water. See The Taming of the Salt, p. 59.
413 Act of February 15, 1897, 29 Stat. 527. See also “Hudson Reservoir and Canal Company,” House Report 2049, 54th Congress, 1st Session, May 28, 1896. The original bill did not ensure Pima living along the route of the canal access to “water sufficient for all domestic and agricultural purposes” and was amended by the Senate to include such a provision. See Congressional Record, Senate, June 6, 1896, vol. 28, 54th Congress, 1st Session, p. 6184. The House concurred in February of 1897 (ibid, vol. 29, p. 1630).
414 The economic depression of the 1890s may well have doomed this project from the beginning. The Hudson damsite was eventually sold and later became the site of the Salt River Project’s Roosevelt Dam. This proposal is interesting as it indicates a Congressional intent to deliver Salt River Valley water to the reservation.
185 encourage the development of off-reservation lands.415 Territorial Governor Louis C.
Hughes energetically encouraged the United States to construct a storage dam on the Gila River. Playing on the water needs of the Pima, Hughes envisioned a project that would irrigate five hundred thousand acres of land in the Gila River and Casa Grande Valleys.
This would “supply all the land required by these Indians for all time to come” and allow “a bonus” of off-reservation land to be “served with water from the proposed reservoir.” Hughes foresaw more than four million families making their homes in Arizona.416 Inspector William Junkin encouraged the Indian Service to protect Pima water rights “before encroachments of the white men have deprived [them] of their prior rights.” Special agent Franklin Armstrong reminded Secretary Ethan Allen Hitchcock the Pima “must have water for irrigation or starve.”417 While Congress appropriated $20,000 for the USGS to evaluate and study two proposed dam sites it refused to commit to any project.418 “Until the time comes when the Government is ready and willing to come to the assistance of [the Pima],” Agent J. Roe Young complained, “I consider any further discussion of the subject unnecessary.”419 Even Walcott noted the “matter of obtaining a permanent [water] supply for these Indians is one which has been before the Department in one form or another for fourteen years.” While Congress introduced a bill 415 Davis, Report on the Irrigation Investigation for the Benefit of the Pima and other Indians on the Gila River Indian Reservation, Arizona, 24.
416 Annual Report of the Governor of Arizona to the Secretary of the Interior, 1894 (Washington, DC: GPO, 1894), p. 19.
417 “Frank C. Armstrong, Special Agent, to The Secretary of the Interior, dated November 23, 1901,” in “Conditions of Reservation Indians, Letter from the Secretary of the Interior, dated February 21, 1902,” in House Document 406, 57th Congress, 1st session (Washington, DC: GPO, 1902), p. 56.
418 “Junkin to Noble,” dated Pima Agency, September 30, 1890, pp. 2-3, in Reports of Inspections, Roll 36. See also Indian Appropriation Act of 1 July 1898, 30 Stat. 571.
419 Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1897, p. 115.
186 appropriating $1,000,000 to study the San Carlos site, it failed to enact it, instead appropriating another $30,000 for the “support of the Indians at the Pima Agency.”420 The $30,000 appropriation was critical because of events both upstream of and far removed from the reservation. The entire Gila River watershed had undergone great ecological change in the nineteenth century. Beginning with the near extinction of the beaver from the Gila watershed, erosion, gullying and silting had significantly increased with the loss of upstream mountainous forest canopies. Other factors that impacted the flow of water and disrupted its natural recharge included forest fires and the destruction of native grasses through overgrazing.421 But there were other changes adding to the stress of the Pima. Using available surface water the Pima grew enough food on which to subsist but they were completely marginalized from the local economy. Hay—or alfalfa—was becoming the primary cash crop in central Arizona with barley the main cereal crop. With access to outside markets by rail and wheat planted in the Salt River Valley, wheat declined in value in Pinal and Maricopa counties. The Pima were unaware of these changes and, with water shortages and lower water demands, continued to cultivate wheat.422 After 1890 the Pima were limited to a single winter crop.423 The completion of the Florence Canal in 1889, left the Pima dependent on the underflow that was forced to the surface in various locations along the river. The largest of these underground shon, or
springs, was located near Blackwater and helps explain why many Pima moved to the east end of the reservation at this time. Seepage water, also found at Sweetwater near the center of the reservation and Komatke on the west end, was “not very good” and resulted in reduced yields.424 The Pima grew less than two-thirds of their normal crop.425 Drought was fast becoming the norm. While not a new phenomenon, the fact that drought was prefaced with increasing upstream diversions made conditions on the reservation even harsher. What water was left in the river increasingly failed to make it to the reservation or came as floods in short ephemeral bursts. Seepage into the sandy alluvium claimed more water than what actually arrived on the reservation.426 Summer crops failed eleven times between 1892 and 1904 and winter crops failed five times between 1899 and 1904, marking the years between 1892 and 1904 as the years of starvation. A Pima calendar stick for 1898-99 noted: “There was no crop this year.” By 1900, agency physician George J. Fanning reported “more than the usual number of deaths among the Indians during the past year, owing, I believe, to a lack of water.” The result was an increased “state of semi-starvation and scurvy.”427 While not completely dependent on cultivated crops for food, the Pima diet was changing rapidly.
Pima children especially suffered from malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies. An 424 These alluvial springs were found in areas where the underground aquifer narrowed due to bedrock. Near Blackwater, the Gila River is forced between the Sacaton Mountains on the south and the Santan Mountains on the north. In the Komatke area the Gila River narrows between the Salt River (South) Mountains on the north and the Sierra Estrella Mountains on the southwest. The result is that the underground flow of the river is forced to the surface. See Willis T. Lee, “The Underground Waters of Gila Valley, Arizona,” Water Supply and Irrigation Paper No. 104. House Document 742, 58th Congress, 2d Session (Washington, DC: GPO, 1904).
Southworth interviews, statement of Ho-Ke Wilson, p. 45.
425 Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1890, p. 5. See also “Arthur Tinker, United States Indian Inspector, to John Noble, Secretary of the Interior, dated Pima Agency, May 29, 1890,” p. 1, in Reports of Inspections, Roll 36. William Wallace noted crop yields declined. “Some times we do not get a crop.” Southworth interviews, statement of William Wallace, p. 6.
426 “Gila River Priority Analysis, Water Distribution Chart # 3.” 427 “Report of George J. Fanning, Agency Physician, to Elwood Hadley, United States Indian Agent,” in Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1900, p. 197.
188 elderly couple was found dead in their home without food of any kind in their storehouse.