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«Item type text; Electronic Dissertation Authors DeJong, David Henry Publisher The University of Arizona. Rights Copyright © is held by the author. ...»

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C.R. Olberg, “Report on the San Carlos Irrigation Project and the History of Irrigation along the Gila River,” in San Carlos Irrigation Project, Arizona: Report to the Secretary of War, p. 87.

690 Annual Report Southern California and Southern Arizona Reservations, fiscal year 1915, p. 43.

691 See “Letter of C. H. Niemeyer, Clerk, Board of Pinal County Supervisors, to Honorable Carl Hayden,” dated Florence, Arizona, April 16, 1924, in Pima Indians and the San Carlos Irrigation Project, Hearings before the Committee on Indian Affairs on S. 966, pp.


692 It included a fifteen feet wide upstream apron, a six feet wide main section beneath the weir and a fifty-two feet downstream apron.

A large expanse of talus protected the downstream side of the bridge from erosion. The concrete was five feet thick under the weir itself (where the water pressure was greatest) and 1.5’ thick under the bridge piers.

693 Pima Indians and the San Carlos Irrigation Project, Hearings before the Committee on Indian Affairs on S. 966, p. 13.

298 for the dam and bridge.694 As the road from Chandler to Casa Grande neared completion in 1925, the Arizona Highway Department built a small concrete bridge to span the Santan Floodwater Canal on the north bank of the river to connect the highway with the bridge.695 The dam and bridge were completed on June 30, 1925, absent any public dedication.696 Burke christened the structure Sacaton Diversion Dam. Estimated to cost less than $175,000, the dam and bridge totaled $719,793, with more than $346,000 spent on the bridge.697 The first diversion of water occurred on April 3, 1926.

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694 43 stat. 33. Olberg was sent back to the Los Angeles office to begin designing Coolidge Dam, which had been approved by Congress in June 1924. Annual Report Southern California and Southern Arizona Reservation, fiscal year 1925, p. 77.

695 Indians of the United States: Hearing Before the Committee on Indian Affairs, House of Representatives, p. 1003, 1006. The 1921 Indian Appropriation Act included an additional $225,000 for construction of the dam. See 41. Stat. 408.C.C. Fisher, Report on the San Carlos Project (Department of the Interior, United States Reclamation Service, 1920), p. 254. C.R. Olberg, Plans for Construction, Sacaton Dam and Bridge, (United States Department of the Interior, Indian Irrigation Service, 1922), p. 22.

696 See Annual Statistical Report, 1926, p. 3. A smaller bridge spanned the Pima-Sacaton Branch Canal on the south bank. A plaque on the dam simply states the structure was built “with the efficient labor of the Pima and Papago Indians of Southern Arizona.” Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1925, p. 21.


See Survey of Conditions of the Indians in the United States, Part 6, January 1930, 71st Congress, 2nd Session (Washington, DC:

GPO, 1930) p. 2466. The gates and hydraulic machinery to operate the dam was not installed until the winter of 1926 and the dam was not considered operational until that fall. The buildings to house the transformers needed to electrically operate the gates and light the bridge were not completed until June 1927. Annual Report Southern California and Southern Arizona Reservation, fiscal year 1927, p.


299 authorized. While the annual diversion of natural flowing water at Ashurst-Hayden averaged 84,434 acre-feet, at Sacaton Dam it was just 1,639 acre-feet.698 Additional groundwater was available to the Pima, although they received far less they expected and for which they had a statutory right. Groundwater was neither as good a quality nor culturally compatible to the Pima, who retained a deep attachment to the waters of the Keli Akimel—Gila River. Consequently, the FCGP benefited off-reservation farmers at the continued detriment of the Pima. Superintendent Albert Kneale later described the project—Sacaton Dam in particular—as “a failure so far as diverting water from the Gila River for irrigation purposes.” While “a most excellent dam[,] had there been any water to divert [it] would have demonstrated its serviceableness.”699 With Ashurst-Hayden Diversion Dam (and especially after the 1929 completion of Coolidge Dam 100 miles upstream), there was little water to divert at Sacaton Dam. Within a few years the dam silted over and lost its effectiveness.700 The FCGP circumscribed the intent of Congress and did nothing to protect Pima water rights. Having water rights for 35,000 acres, the Pima struggled to farm one-fifth of the land. H. A. Brett, Assistant Engineer for the reservation, noted a 48% decrease in acreage due to “repeated crop failure.”701 Sells admitted the division of water was “manifestly unfair to the Indians.” The Indian Rights Association argued that “settlers control[led] the only canal available to carry water so that, during the past two years, very 698 “Irsfeld to Six,” dated Florence, Arizona, October 9, 1926, in SCIP files. See Annual Statistical Report,1925, p.16. Data collected from the annual reports of Distribution of Waters of the Gila River, Gila Water Commissioner, 1934-1955, in SCIP files.

699 Kneale, p. 398. “[T]his was a diversion dam in name only, for there was nothing to divert.

700 Historic American Engineering Record, San Carlos Irrigation Project, pp. 134-135.

701 Annual Report of the Irrigation Service, fiscal year 1919, pp. 34-36. This acreage did not include lands west of the Phoenix and

Maricopa Railroad (Santa Cruz, Gila Crossing and Maricopa Colony). The acreage was broken down as follows: Blackwater Project:

1,245.4 acres; Agency Project: 1,231.5 acres; Sacaton Project 2,783.1 acres; and Casa Blanca Project, 2,433 acres. See also Annual Statistical Report, 1920, p.18. Of this land 2,500 acres was leased to the government. See Ibid, 1923, p. 25.

300 little water has been allowed to reach the Pima land.”702 The sinking of new wells off the reservation compounded matters and directly deprived the Pima of their water.703 For the first time, Pima lands were leased to outside growers. Indeed, the FCGP did not provide the boon to the Pima economy as some thought.

When Homer Snyder (R-NY), Chairman of the House Committee on Indian Affairs, inquired of Reed in what state of completion the irrigation project was on the reservation, Reed could only remark that it was “a long ways from being completed.”704 Despite the diversion dams, water remained insufficient and Pima rights to the use of the water were tenuous at best. Crops planted early in 1925, died from lack of water later in the year. The following year, Pima farmers in Casa Blanca, Sacaton Flats and Progressive Colony were “forced to give up farming operations to a large extent because of lack of water.” Indian farmers in Blackwater had water “for only about 150 acres.”705 A five-year program to restore agriculture on the reservation failed, with many Pima “divorced from field and home” looking for work. By 1930, nearly $1,500,000 had been expended on the on-reservation FCGP.706 While some officials boasted the Pima had been “generously provided for,” the reality was the irrigation works were “idle gestures.”707 702 Annual Report of the Board of Directors of the Indian Rights Association, 1922, p. 36. The Indian Rights Association detailed the activities of former Pima Agency Superintendent Frank Thackery, who had a financial interest in the 2,000 acre Shannon Ranch just above the reservation. Thackery not only diverted water from the river for this ranch, but he also sank wells that lowered the flow of the Gila River, further depriving the Pima of their water. See Annual Report of the Board of Directors of the Indian Rights Association, 1918, pp. 22-23.

703 William Alexander Brown, Vice President of the IRA, lamented to H.M. Lord, director of the Bureau of the Budget, that the Pima were “now more helpless” than ever. Brown admonished Lord to consider a $500,000 appropriation to immediately begin building the necessary canals to deliver additional water to the reservation. Not less than $250,000, Brown reasoned, should be immediately appropriated to begin the construction of a delivery system Annual Report of the Board of Directors of the Indian Rights Association, 1922, pp. 25-26.

704 Indians of the United States: Hearing Before the Committee on Indian Affairs, House of Representatives, p. 1003.

705 “B.P. Six, Superintendent of the Pima Reservation, to N. W. Irsfeld, Engineer, United States Indian Service,” dated Pima Agency, Sacaton, Arizona, October 4, 1926, in SCIP files.

706 See 39 stat. 561, 974; 41 Stat. 3, 408, 552, 1225; 42 Stat. 33, 1141, 1174; 44 Stat. 453; and 45 Stat. 1562.

707 Annual Report of the Board of Directors of the Indian Rights Association, 1917, p. 57. Kneale, pp. 396, 398.

301 Twelve years after its 1916 inception, the FCGP was merged into the San Carlos Irrigation Project (SCIP). In the years that followed, farmers above the reservation retained de facto rights of possession to a majority of the water, leaving the Pima without a full measure of the water to which they had a moral and legal entitlement. Insufficient water, lack of financing, bureaucratic restrictions and land fractionation resulting from the failed policy of allotment, and a “piecemeal” irrigation system resulted in much of the irrigable land on the reservation lying idle or being leased to non-Indian farmers.708 In the coming years, the Pima received an average of 35% of all water passing Ashurst-Hayden dam (54,657 acre-feet per year). Their neighbors in the Florence-Casa Grande Valley, meanwhile, received an average of 65% of the water (99,437 acre-feet per year). While the Pima pumped an additional 62,336 acre-feet of groundwater annually (59% of all groundwater), they failed to receive the quantity of natural flow water guaranteed them under the FCGP. Even after the San Carlos Irrigation Project—and the federal courts in 1935—further divided the water on project lands, the Pima received a lesser quantity (44% of the total water supply available within the SCIP area) than that to which they were entitled.709 The Florence-Casa Grande Project, while successful in gaining support for Coolidge Dam and the San Carlos project, failed to alleviate the need for water on the reservation. By disregarding the issue of Pima reserved rights to the water in the first decades of the twentieth century, Congress delayed the necessity of dealing with the 708 Porter J. Preston and Charles A. Engle, “Report of Advisors on Irrigation on Indian Reservations,” p. 2465.

709 See Table 6, “Natural flow water diverted from Gila River,” Table 7, “Natural flow and stored water delivered to Indian Reservation and San Carlos Irrigation and Drainage District Canals;” Table 8, “Deliveries of pumped well water;” Table 9, “Deliveries of water to Indian Reservation and San Carlos Irrigation and Drainage District canal;” and Table 10, “ Deliveries of water to Indian and District farms;” all in San Carlos Irrigation Project: Engineering Studies of Land and Water Resources (San Carlos Irrigation Project, Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1956), in SCIP files.

302 matter. By abdicating its fiduciary role in protecting Pima water rights, Congress confirmed the prophetic statement of Assistant Commissioner of Indian Affairs Edgar Merritt who declared that by ignoring the issue of Indian water rights, the United States would one day see Indian tribes take their claims to the federal courts for action.

The belated efforts of the government to restore irrigation works intended to set the Pima on the road to the economic prosperity they had once known did not materialize.

These efforts were both too late and too ineffectual, as by 1920 non-Indian farmers upstream and just above and below the reservation controlled the water to such a degree that, despite a new irrigation system, the Pima had too little water to farm the land as they once had. The failure of the FCGP—and the related irrigation projects on the reservation—to restore their agrarian economy and the water necessary to sustain it brought an end to the initial phase of Pima water rights history. By 1925, the Pima would begin legal action in the federal courts. The modern Pima water rights era began,

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American social and political thought shifted dramatically in the middle of the nineteenth century. Rooted in the romanticism of antebellum America and influenced by the growing acceptance of naturalism, this shift resulted in a new definition of governance based on economic liberalism. This liberalism was most evident in federal policies governing land and resources in the West and represented a distinctly American footprint of social thought and action.

This shift in social thought influenced the beliefs of many Americans regarding the West that gravely impacted the Pima and other tribal nations. These beliefs included a perception that the resources of the West were bountiful and endless, giving rise to a social attitude of improvidence that was demonstrated by emigrant and settler alike.

Furthermore, the popular belief that settlement of the West awaited only the requisite American spirit and determination pervaded emigrant thought. It was, moreover, the national destiny to subdue, subjugate and settle the land and develop the resources of the West. But while in theory the West was settled under laissez faire governance—shaping these social beliefs—in reality it was economic liberalism that facilitated settlement and shaped social thought.

This economic liberalism was demonstrated by a myriad of federal actions, including the pre-emption acts that Congress periodically enacted to validate settler land

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clearest examples of liberalism, providing settlers with legal (i.e., federally-sanctioned) rights in acquiring title to the land and making use of the water. When the National Reclamation Act is considered it is clear that federal policy—not laissez faire governance—enabled settlement of the land and provided settlers with the means of putting scarce water resources to beneficial use under local prior appropriation laws. All of this was facilitated with a complete disregard of Indian priority rights. As a result, American Indians—including the Pima—were displaced from the land and denied their rights to the use of western streams.

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