This article has been reviewed according to Science X's editorial process and policies. Editors have highlighted the following attributes while ensuring the content's credibility:


peer-reviewed publication

trusted source


Over a million acres of tribal land submerged by dams in the US, study shows

Over one million acres of tribal land submerged by dams in the US
Box Canyon Dam. Credit: IOP Publishing

Dam constructions have flooded over 1.13 million acres (4,570 km2) of tribal land in the US contributing to the historic and ongoing struggle against land dispossession for Indigenous peoples in the United States.

New research, published in Environmental Research Letters, has identified that a region of tribal land larger than the state of Rhode Island has been submerged by dams in the US. The findings raise concerns about the destruction of ecosystems, , and livelihoods.

The new study shows that dams have significantly contributed to land loss of Native people, a factor that has not been fully quantified until now. Over the centuries, colonial settlers and the have acquired over two billion acres from Native nations through various policies, including forced removal, allotment, and the reservation system.

The study considers data from federal Indian reservations and Oklahoma Tribal Statistical Areas (OTSAs) alongside the locations of nearly 8,000 dams across the United States and the size of their reservoirs. The research reveals that 424 dams have flooded 1.13 million acres of tribal land in the US.

Heather Randell, Assistant Professor of Rural Sociology and Demography at Penn State University, says, "The consequences of dam-induced land loss are far-reaching. The disruption of aquatic and not only devastates natural resources but also destroys culturally significant sites. The impact on local communities' livelihoods and displacement from their is equally severe."

Recommendations proposed by the research team include the prioritization of dam removal wherever feasible, along with exploring alternatives such as tribal ownership or funding for dam repairs and improvements in cases where removal is not viable.

"In the wake of recent federal legislation addressing aging infrastructure in the United States, it is important to prioritize removing dams that have flooded tribal land," Randell continues. "This is an opportunity to address historical land dispossession and to respect the sovereignty and rights of Indigenous communities."

More information: Environmental Research Letters (2023). … 88/1748-9326/acd268/

Journal information: Environmental Research Letters

Provided by IOP Publishing

Citation: Over a million acres of tribal land submerged by dams in the US, study shows (2023, August 9) retrieved 4 March 2024 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Explore further

Professor examines new developments in mapping tribal displacement


Feedback to editors