Russian Mission creates mural with Water is Life project to celebrate Tribal water management

May 27, 2016

Earlier this month, the community of Russian Mission, Alaska celebrated Tribal water management through a series of “Water is Life” events that included paint marbling with school children, a water bingo night, a movie night, and a mural unveiling. The Water is Life project is a partnership between the National Tribal Water Center, the Alaska Rural Utility Collaborative (ARUC), the City of Russian Mission, Iqurmiut Traditional Council and the Russian Mission School. Through the events, the Water is Life project promotes pride and ownership in Tribal drinking water and water systems, and celebrates the healthy Alaska Native cultural values and traditions surrounding water. A visioning meeting was held in Russian Mission in early March to kick off the Water is Life project, during which people in the community reflected on their history, traditional values, and shared stories that connected the community to water culture. The water mural painting titled, “A River Flows Through Us”, was painted by Alutiiq artist Linda Infante Lyons. Funding for the mural was provided by the Healthy Alaska Natives Foundation. “It is interesting how these things in the mural began to connect,” Lyons said. “The composition started to revolve around a central figure, how traditions are maintained and a sense of connectivity and continuity, which relates to the flow of water and all the transitions that water goes through within the environment and in a community.” James Temte of the National Tribal Water Center, Marleah LaBelle of the Alaska Rural Utility Collaborative and Bailey Gamble of the Rural Energy Initiative worked on paint marbling with the children in the school. Community members came out for an evening of water bingo that included trivia questions on the local water system in Russian Mission and healthy water habits. Movies relating to the topic of water as a resource were shown during the community movie night. Temte shared, “I love how traditional values, art, games, and community celebrations foster social change in a very positive way. The purpose of these programs is to create teachable moments and messages that resonate with the community.” The project’s goals and objectives were to increase the local community’s understanding of water’s health benefits and risks and foster stewardship of both the local water and water infrastructure. The National Tribal Water Center worked with the community of Fort Belknap, Montana in 2015 for the first Water is Life project. The next Water is Life project will take place in Deering, Alaska in June. For more information about the National Tribal Water Center, please visit

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