“Wild Rivers with Tillie” explores importance of rivers to tribes

Tillie Walton speaks at Prescott College Jan. 27. (Photo/Stan Bindell)

Tillie Walton speaks at Prescott College Jan. 27. (Photo/Stan Bindell)


Tillie Walton speaks at Prescott College Jan. 27. (Photo/Stan Bindell)

PRESCOTT, Ariz. — Prescott College Alumna Tillie Walton hosted a screening at Prescott College Jan. 27 for a new documentary series that highlights her experiences of river exploration in the American West, and the importance of rivers to our way of life.

“Wild Rivers with Tillie,” produced and directed by Dan Duncan, will begin airing on public television stations Feb. 1.

Navajo, Hopi and other Native Americans play a prominent role in the series that is about the beauty and need to preserve rivers throughout the world while also showing Tillie Walton’s adventures rafting the wild rivers of the world.

Walton is a conservationist, hydrologist and river guide.

The first episode is about the Colorado River, which is dear to the Navajo, Hopi and other tribes. The Navajo and Hopi tribes currently have lawsuits regarding their water rights to the Colorado River.

There are 10 episodes in this first season of “Wild Rivers with Tillie.” Watch as she explores the impact of the rivers on people and wildlife.

Walton is the Founder of Aquarius Water Experience (AWE) Foundation, a nonprofit organization elevating the importance of water and rivers through experiences that inspire awe and wonder, reconnecting us to ourselves and our planet.

Dinah Pongyesva from Hopi Cultural Preservation Office; Delores Wilson Aguirre, a Navajo community activist from Tuba City; Havasupai Tribal Councilman Stuart Chavez; Havasupai Councilwoman Carletta Tilousi and late former Havasupai Chairman Rex Tilousi talk about the importance of the Colorado River during the episode. Jack Pongyesva from the Grand Canyon Trust also gives his input.

Walton said having Native Americans involved was crucial for this project because no one can speak better for the river than those who are intimately connected to it and their homelands than the sovereign tribal nations.

“I feel that Native Americans have a special understanding of the world and the importance of honoring the water and land. I wanted to help share that message to people who otherwise might not have the opportunity to consider that,” she said. “What I have found in doing the show is that no matter your political leanings or cultural upbringing, everyone who is connected to the river cares deeply about it and that water connects us all.”

Walton said they have been incredibly blessed to have the involvement of many Native American leaders and friends.

“I’ve been blown away with everyone’s willingness to share and teach and generosity of spirit,” she said.

Walton said they have a huge connection of gratitude for the Native Americans in the documentary.

“As we’ve been doing this project, I’ve come to understand a little more what tribes across the world are doing for humanity and the planet as a whole on the planet — through their prayers, traditions on the land, and doing so much behind the scenes that we can’t even begin to know that helps maintain the balance,” she said. “The Native American Voice and the Voice of the Youth are crucial leaders; leaders for raising awareness over the preciousness of water and rivers and the health of our planet.”

The Colorado River is one of the largest rivers in the world. It flows through Grand Canyon National Park where it is the home for eight native fish. There are 11 tribes that have historic connections to the lands and resources found within the park. Walton shows how drought has caused the river to drop 140 feet in the area near the Hopi and Navajo reservations. The episode also discusses how clans migrated through this area.

“All the money in the world will not save you if you do not have clean water and clean air,” Pongyesva said in the episode.

Walton talks about how this area is the homeland of many tribes, but the episode also touches on the problems that uranium mining have caused the Colorado River.

Havasupai Councilwoman Carletta Tilousi calls for the water to be protected.

This episode also points to the water of the Havasupai as they are known as the people of the blue green water, but pollution and climate change threaten their water. Walton said the threats to the river show the need for more conservation. She said some crops take a lot less water than other crops. She said cotton and alfalfa are some of the crops that use a lot more water than other crops. She said it also means that homes and buildings must be constructed to be more water efficient.

Walton said the future of protecting the river lies with youth and tribes. One example that she gave is how tribal high school kids along the Snake River have lobbied to have dams removed along that river.

“The torch is with you. You have the power. Youth and tribes are the two most powerful leaders to answer this,” she said.

Walton urges people to get involved with community groups, such as Grand Canyon Trust and Sierra Club, to help protect the Colorado River and other rivers. The Colorado River is home to eight native fish.

It is not surprising that Walton made the Colorado an episode in this series about 10 rivers since she graduated from Prescott College. Some of the other rivers that she explores during her first season are Devil’s River in Texas, Snake River in Wyoming, Washington and Oregon, Yampa River in Colorado and Rio Grande in Texas.

“Wild Rivers with Tillie” is airing at various times on PBS this spring.

Donate to nhonews.com Report a Typo Contact