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Terrascope Explores Navajo Nation’s Water Insecurity


Four Terrascope students hike through the breathtaking landscape while visiting a local Diné ranch.

Over spring break, roughly 40 Terrascope students, faculty, staff and alumni mentors travelled to the Navajo Nation. The goal was to learn about issues related to water security by talking with people who are experiencing and addressing these issues themselves. We also wanted to become more deeply familiar with Diné (Navajo) culture, tradition, knowledge and belief, particularly as it concerns sources and uses of water. We did all of these things and much more. A few highlights:

  • Meeting with students from Diné College and Navajo Technical University (NTU) and learning from and with them in informal settings (including a day-long hike together through the sacred and historical Canyon de Chelly)
  • Learning about water policy from the Nation’s Chief Hydrologist, and meeting with Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez
  • Lending assistance at a site where the NGO DigDeep is installing a water system for residents who currently need to haul their water from elsewhere
  • Visiting a community where the water is still contaminated by mining efforts originally undertaken to supply uranium for the Manhattan Project
  • Experiencing an immersive introduction to traditional Navajo farming and spiritual practices.
  • Exploring Navajo Dam, which is both the source of much of the water currently used in Navajo Nation and a sacred site deeply connected to Navajo spiritual tradition

The trip, as well as other aspects of the year’s Terrascope experience, was carried out in partnership with the PKG Public Service Center, which is creating long-term opportunities for MIT students to participate in projects in the Navajo Nation.

What was the student’s experience like? The best way to answer that is in their own words in the students’ blogposts. We recommend starting with “Terramotional” and “The Sounds We Hear.”

Elise Chambers, Terrascope