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Deering Water is Life project celebrates Tribal water management

July 15, 2016

The National Tribal Water Center (NTWC) and ANTHC’s Alaska Rural Utility Collaborative (ARUC) recently completed the final Water is Life project in Deering in late June. The Water is Life project is an education and awareness campaign that aims to increase community pride in ownership of water and sanitation systems. The Deering Water is Life project was a partnership between NTWC, ARUC, the City of Deering and the Native Village of Deering.

During the second week in June, the Water is Life project team, James Temte, Bailey Gamble and Marleah LaBelle, traveled to Deering with mural artist Andrew Morrison for a visioning meeting. This meeting provided a forum for community members to share their thoughts, ideas and vision for what they want to see as reflective of their village painted on one of the community’s water tanks. Between 50 and 60 community members attended to share their ideas and talk about what water means to them.

Morrison listened to Deering community members describe their subsistence way of life and the land they depend on. Morrison, who has family ties to Hydaburg, was also the mural artist with the National Tribal Water Center’s first Water is Life project in Ft. Belknap, Montana.

Deering’s Inupiaq name is “Ipnatchiaq,” meaning “between bluffs.” The final design centered on an image of a bluff, a caribou herd, an elder and the Deering School’s mascot, the northern lights. The week of the mural painting also included community events such as Water Bingo, a movie night and a water tank mural project for local youth. Nearly all of the 40 children living in Deering participated in the kid’s mural painting on one of the water tanks. The mural was presented on June 24, with nearly everyone living in Deering in attendance at the event, which included a ribbon cutting, barbeque and water bottle gifts for children.

“The main purpose of the mural is to use art to celebrate water and create teachable moments,” said James Temte, NTWC Director. “We have something that we can use to start a conversation around water.”

The project’s goals and objectives were to increase the local community’s understanding of water’s health benefits and risks and foster stewardship of both the local water and water infrastructure.

The Water is Life project in Deering was also featured in the Alaska Dispatch News: Deering residents collaborate with artist to capture the impact of water on daily life.

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