For thousands of years, the Native American people of Southern California drew on their understanding of the natural world to thrive. In addition, the people understood they were connected to an interacting natural system and that they had an obligation to the rest of the universe’s creatures. This rich knowledge of how nature works and how to use the resources without depleting them was a result of intense observation, patience and a sense of kinship with the natural environment.
Today, the Morongo tradition continues through the Morongo Environmental Protection Department. Today’s resource managers have much to learn from the ancient systems of the past and the Department has incorporated traditional knowledge with today’s modern technologies in order to best manage the natural resources of the Morongo Indian Reservation. Among the department programs are: Tribal Air, Tribal Water, Pollution Prevention, and Resource Conservation. The department also supports a Native American internship program for both college and high school students to gain professional work experience on a variety of environmental projects to encourage environmental careers.
Regulatory Jurisdiction of tribal lands is administered by the Tribe and the Federal Government. In the case of federal environmental laws, the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proclaimed “Indian policy” on November 8, 1984, stating that EPA or tribes, rather than states will implement federal environmental statutes (i.e. Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act etc.). The goal for both EPA and the Tribe is to build the Morongo Environmental Protection Department’s capacity so that the Tribe can administer sections of the federal programs, which ensure federal compliance and reinforces the Tribe’s sovereignty.