Impacts of environmental changes to the middle Rio Grande landscape on Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo's cultural and ceremonial sustainability

Andrea Lee Everett, University of Texas at El Paso


Given future climate scenarios, this thesis investigates how plausible climate changes will further impact the Native American community of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo’s (Tiguas) cultural continuity and access to riparian ecosystem services along the Rio Grande River (specific to Tigua tradition; riparian vegetation used in ceremony, i.e. Gooding’s and Coyote willow). The project aims to (1) describe and understand the relationship between regional climatic changes, anthropogenic changes, and major events in Tigua history, (2) identify rates and patterns of riparian vegetation changes, (3) evaluate impacts on cultural and provisioning ecosystem services relevant to Tigua culture, and relate these to climate and anthropogenic drivers, (4) project future patterns of cultural and provisioning ecosystem services under several potential scenarios of climate change, and (5) illustrate past, present, and potential future interconnections between external drivers, regulating services, and outcomes related to human behaviors, habitat structures, and ecosystem functions. The approach was to use satellite imagery and geographic information systems (GIS) to quantify past patterns of land use/land cover (LULC) change from 1973 to 2013 especially focused on changes in the riparian zone, and qualitatively assess how these patterns might continue into the future along with the implications for the Tigua Tribe. Five LULC classification maps were constructed to identify rates, patterns and drivers of vegetation changes, using Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) to select times representing differing climatic conditions, at roughly 10 year intervals. The classified maps were used to quantify and map long term land cover change, specifically in the broader context of climate change. Through various analyses, statistical patterns were calculated on each classified landscape and were compared to each other through time to reveal LULC change. LULC change analysis revealed there has been a steady decline in the riparian landscape for the past 40 years. LULC change analysis also revealed that anthropogenic influence on the landscape has had a significant effect on Tigua society. Resource intensive landscape modification for agriculture, border protection, water impoundment and rock quarrying have had feedbacks on the decline in riparian ecosystem. Vital plants are dwindling with inadequate habitat conditions needed for survival. Land cover types such as barren, shrubland, and urban are expanding, leaving fewer places for collection of critical plant species necessary to sustain Tigua culture. If habitat locations, volume, and capacity of these species change, Tiguas will not be able to perform a variety of ceremonies needed for the sustainability of the Pueblo and traditions will be severely compromised.

Subject Area

Geographic information science|Cultural Resources Management|Environmental Studies

Recommended Citation

Everett, Andrea Lee, "Impacts of environmental changes to the middle Rio Grande landscape on Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo's cultural and ceremonial sustainability" (2016). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10250363.