Title page for ETD etd-05072009-225418

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Tomblin, David Christian
Author's Email Address dtomblin@vt.edu
URN etd-05072009-225418
Title Managing Boundaries, Healing the Homeland: Ecological Restoration and the Revitalization of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, 1933 – 2000
Degree PhD
Department Science and Technology Studies
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Barrow, Mark V. Jr. Committee Chair
Allen, Barbara L. Committee Member
Hull, Robert Bruce IV Committee Member
Patzig, Eileen Crist Committee Member
  • Ecological Restoration
  • Eco-cultural Resources
  • Natural Resource Management
  • Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Boundary Work
  • Native Americans
  • White Mountain Apache Tribe
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs
Date of Defense 2009-04-27
Availability unrestricted
The main argument of this dissertation is that the White Mountain Apache Tribe’s appropriation of ecological restoration played a vital role in reinstituting control over knowledge production and eco-cultural resources on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in the second half of the twentieth century. As a corollary, I argue that the shift in knowledge production practices from a paternalistic foundation to a community-based approach resulted in positive consequences for the ecological health of the Apachean landscape and Apache culture. The democratization of science and technology on the reservation, therefore, proved paramount to the reestablishment of a relatively sustainable Apache society.

Beginning with the Indian New Deal, the White Mountain Apache slowly developed the capacity to employ ecological restoration as an eco-political tool to free themselves from a long history of Euro-American cultural oppression and natural resource exploitation. Tribal restoration projects embodied the dual political function of cultural resistance to and cultural exchange with Western-based land management organizations. Apache resistance challenged Euro-American notions of restoration, nature, and sustainability while maintaining cultural identity, reasserting cultural autonomy, and protecting tribal sovereignty. But at the same time, the Apache depended on cultural exchange with federal and state land management agencies to successfully manage their natural resources and build an ecologically knowledgeable tribal workforce.

Initially adopting a utilitarian conservation model of land management, restoration projects aided the creation of a relatively strong tribal economy. In addition, early successes with trout, elk, and forest restoration projects eventually granted the Tribe political leverage when they sought to reassume control over reservation resources from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Fish and Wildlife Service. Building on this foundation, Apache restoration work significantly diverged in character from the typical Euro-American restoration project by the 1990s. While striving toward self-sufficiency, the Tribe hybridized tribal cultural values with Western ecological values in their restoration efforts. These projects evolved the tripartite capacity to heal ecologically degraded reservation lands, to establish a degree of economic freedom from the federal government, and to restore cultural traditions. Having reversed their historical relationship of subjugation with government agencies, the Apache currently have almost full decision-making powers over tribal eco-cultural resources.

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